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Haley's new New Hampshire ad features mother of US student who died after North Korean imprisonment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is making part of her closing argument to New Hampshire before Tuesday's primary with supportive words from the mother of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died in 2017 after being imprisoned by North Korea.

In the three-minute television ad scheduled to air Monday, Cindy Warmbier says that Haley, while serving as U.N. ambassador at that time, “told us to be loud and fight back, to fight for justice, to fight for ourselves, and to fight for Otto.”

The words are from Cindy Warmbier's speech at Haley's presidential campaign launch in Charleston, South Carolina, nearly a year ago. Cindy Warmbier's 22-year-old son, who was released by North Korea while in a coma after almost a year and a half in captivity, died days after returning to the United States in June 2017. The University of Virginia student from Ohio had been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor on subversion charges related to trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group.

Haley is hoping that a strong performance in New Hampshire will give her a boost in her home state of South Carolina, which has historically been influential in determining the eventual nominee. The South Carolina primary is Feb. 24.

Haley, who finished behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Monday's Iowa caucuses, has framed her campaign's next chapter as a “two-person race” between Trump and herself.

In releasing the ad, Haley's campaign noted that while Trump “played an important role in bringing Otto’s body home and holding North Korea accountable,” the then-president overshadowed that accomplishment by speaking positively about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, publicly absolving him of wrongdoing that led to Warmbier's death. Trump said in 2019 he took Kim “at his word” that Kim was unaware of the alleged mistreatment of the American student.

Haley, who had left his administration by that time, contradicted her former boss, posting on social media that “Americans know the cruelty that was placed on Otto Warmbier by the North Korean regime.”

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP