Super Bowl political ad being called racist

2:45 PM, Feb 9, 2012   |    comments
The Hoekstra ad shows Asian actress Lisa Chen riding through rice paddies.
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(WXIA) -- A political ad for a Republican Senate candidate that ran on television stations in Michigan during the Super Bowl is being called racist by Asians across the nation as well as the candidate's fellow Republicans.

Pete Hoekstra's 30 second ad features a smiling young Asian woman speaking in broken English, thanking incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for helping to prop up China's economy. The ad opens with the young woman riding a bicycle through a field of rice paddies.

"Thank you, Michigan Senator Spend-It-Now," the woman says, while smiling into the camera. "Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs."

The ad cuts to Hoekstra sitting in front of a fireplace and characterizing his Senate race as one between heavy federal spending characterized by Stabenow and himself as an alternative. The ad includes a link to a site -- http://www.debbiespenditnow.com -- adorned with Chinese characters, Chinese dragons and other Chinese images.

Thursday morning, the "Debbie Spend It Now" site was removed, redirecting the address to Hoekstra's traditional campaign site.

US Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, called on Hoekstra to take the ad down and apologize in a statement released this week.

"I am appalled at the Hoekstra campaign's offensive and insensitive Super Bowl ad that relies heavily on negative Asian stereotypes," she said in her statement. "I am calling on former Rep. Hoekstra to take down this atrocious ad and issue an apology immediately."

Hoekstra told our sister newspaper the Detroit Free Press that there was nothing racist about his ad.

"It's a very straightforward message," Hoekstra said. "This is all about holding Debbie accountable for her reckless spending."

Hoekstra said the ad was only insensitive to Stabenow. The ad was filmed in California and, according to Hoekstra, featured an actress whose parents are 100 percent Chinese. Hoekstra's campaign spent $75,000 to run it during the Super Bowl on six Michigan stations.

Michigan Republican consultant Nick De Leeuw also took Hoekstra to task for the ad.

"Stabenow has got to go. But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement," De Leeuw said in an online statement. "Racism and xenophobia aren't any way to get things done."  

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