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Iowa Dem under fire for comparing female rival to chick in Senate campaign ad

joni ernst picture.jpg

State Sen. Joni Ernst speaks to supporters at a primary election night rally after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.AP

Republicans are pouncing on a political ad released this week by a male Democratic Senate candidate that compared his female GOP opponent to a chick.

Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley ran the tough ad as his opening salvo in a general election battle against GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst, after the two won their respective party primaries on Tuesday. 

Though he's now facing claims that the ad has sexist undertones, the spot was meant to question Ernst's claims about being able to cut spending. The ad was actually a riff on an ad Ernst released during the primary that made national headlines -- on how her experience castrating hogs gives her the ability to “cut pork” and "make 'em squeal" in Congress. 

“We've all heard the one about pigs squealing," the narrator in Braley's ad says, "but when Joni Ernst had the chance to do something in Iowa, we didn’t hear a peep. In the state Senate, Ernst never sponsored a bill to cut pork, never wrote one measure to slash spending.” 

The ad shows an image of a baby chicken during that segment -- which some called tone deaf. 

“Let’s not forget that national Democrats have made claims of misogyny and unfair attacks against women the centerpiece of their electoral strategy,” Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a written statement.

She added, “Does anyone doubt that if a male Republican candidate ran an ad comparing a female Democratic candidate to a chick, reporters’ inboxes would be filled with outraged press releases demanding that the ad be condemned and taken down? Of course not.”

Ernst and Braley are vying for retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat in the upcoming midterm elections. Ernst beat out five candidates Tuesday to secure her party’s nomination. Braley’s commercial was released Wednesday morning. 

University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle tweeted, "Imagine if a GOP candidate had used a 'chick' in an ad against a female opponent." 

Braley campaign manager Sarah Benzing said about the ad: "That we still haven’t heard a peep from state Sen. Ernst on the substance of our ad shows just how clearly her record does not live up to the image she's portraying on TV. The facts matter, and the truth is state Sen. Ernst talks a lot about cutting pork, but her actions are something else entirely."