The Virginia GOP Just Released an Especially Vicious Attack Ad

It targets House Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn, who’s also the mother of actress Olivia Wilde.

Thomas McKinless/AP

The Republican Party of Virginia just released a new attack ad claiming that Leslie Cockburn, the Democrat running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th congressional district, “hates America.”

The ad, first reported on by the Washington Post, was posted on the state GOP’s Facebook and Twitter accounts on Friday. It states that Cockburn “hates” military veterans, Israel, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency tasked with deportation and other immigration matters. 

Cockburn, a former investigative journalist and producer on CBS’ 60 Minutes, is running against Republican Denver Riggleman, a veteran of the US Air Force and a business owner. The incumbent Thomas Garrett, a Republican, decided not to seek re-election after revealing that he was struggling with alcoholism. Political forecasters predict that the district, which includes Charlottesville, is likely to lean Republican. But Cockburn has enjoyed a fair amount of attention during her campaign—not just because she’s the mother of actress Olivia Wilde—and some see her as part of a wave of female candidates that could flip competitive House districts.

Based on comments by John Findlay, the executive director of the Virginia GOP, the statements in the state GOP’s attack ad seem to reference (in the order they appear): Cockburn’s criticism of Riggleman’s actions as a chief of intelligence during the war in Afghanistan; a book Cockburn co-wrote with her husband, Dangerous Liaisons: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship, which is critical of the relationship between the United States and Israel; and a radio interview in which the Democratic candidate compares ICE to the Gestapo. “What more do we need—a tape of her saying she hates apple pie?” Findlay said.

Riggleman has yet to comment on the ad. Cockburn’s campaign manager Louise Bruce criticized the Republican candidate for remaining silent. “Leslie is stunned that Denver wouldn’t condemn the GOP’s baseless attack on her love of country,” Bruce told the Washington Post. “While Leslie and Denver may disagree on the issues…we can all share a common patriotism and devotion to our United States.”


We recently wrapped up the crowdfunding campaign for our ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project, and it was a smashing success. About 10,364 readers pitched in with donations averaging $45, and together they contributed about $467,374 toward our $500,000 goal.

That's amazing. We still have donations from letters we sent in the mail coming back to us, so we're on pace to hit—if not exceed—that goal. Thank you so much. We'll keep you posted here as the project ramps up, and you can join the hundreds of readers who have alerted us to corruption to dig into.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.