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Haley to air New Hampshire ad with mother of student who died after North Korea detention

Nikki Haley’s campaign will begin airing a three-minute TV ad in New Hampshire on Monday featuring the mother of an American college student who died in 2017 after being detained by North Korea the previous year.

The ad is an effort to highlight Haley’s foreign policy experience and the personal relationship she built with Otto Warmbier’s mother, Cindy Warmbier, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

“My son, Otto, was invited to North Korea on an organized tour. He was taken hostage, tortured, and murdered by the government of North Korea,” Warmbier’s mother says in the ad.

During Haley’s time as ambassador to the United Nations, she built a strong relationship with the Warmbier family after their son’s death.

Otto Warmbier is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo on March 16, 2016. - Kyodo/Reuters
Otto Warmbier is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo on March 16, 2016. - Kyodo/Reuters

“She told us to be loud and fight back. To fight for justice. To fight for ourselves. And to fight for Otto. We passed laws in Otto’s name, seized North Korean assets, and helped close down illegal businesses run by the North Koreans,” Warmbier will tell New Hampshire voters, adding that Haley demonstrated strength and compassion in supporting her traumatized family.

“I will tell you how she promised me she would do everything she could to make sure the world never forgot Otto,” Warmbier says.

The new ad is just one piece of the massive investment Haley and her allies have made in the New Hampshire primary, spending roughly twice as much on advertising there as former President Donald Trump’s political network since the start of the 2024 White House race. But Trump and his allies have used recent weeks to ramp up spending in the state to counter signs of momentum for the former South Carolina governor.

Cindy and Fred Warmbier, parents of Otto Warmbier, in Washington, DC, on December 18, 2019. - Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Cindy and Fred Warmbier, parents of Otto Warmbier, in Washington, DC, on December 18, 2019. - Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Warmbier has not been a regular facet of Haley’s campaign, but she did introduce Haley in South Carolina when she launched her campaign last year.

Haley is seeking to draw a contrast between her stance on North Korea and that of Trump, who has boasted of the letters he exchanged with dictator Kim Jong Un during his presidency.

While Trump was critical of Kim in the immediate aftermath of Otto Warmbier’s death, he said he did not hold Kim responsible during their second meeting.

“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump said at the time. “I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen, it just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.”

Those comments prompted Warmbier’s parents to clearly state that Kim and his “evil regime” were responsible for the death of their son.

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