LANSING, Mich. — The portrayal of a young Asian woman speaking broken English in a Super Bowl ad run by Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra against incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow is bringing charges of racial insensitivity.
Republican Party consultant Nick De Leeuw flat-out scolded the Republican candidate for the ad.
“Stabenow has got to go. But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement,” De Leeuw wrote on his Facebook page. “Racism and xenophobia aren’t any way to get things done.”
The nonpartisan Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group’s Michigan chapter said it was “deeply disappointed” by the ad, noting that the Asian American community is a major contributor to Michigan’s economy. In 2010, Michigan’s 236,490 Asian Americans made up 2.4 percent of the state’s population, up 35 percent from 2000.
“It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign chose to use harmful negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment,” the group said in a statement. [See the ad on YouTube.]
Hoekstra campaign spokesman Paul Ciaramitaro said the ad is meant to be satirical. Hoekstra’s Facebook page, which got a barrage of criticism on the ad, snapped back that those “trying to make this an issue of race demonstrates their total ignorance of job creation policies.” On YouTube, the ratings buttons on the ad were disabled after it aired.
“Democrats talk about race when they can’t defend their records,” Ciaramitaro said. “The U.S. economy is losing jobs to China because of Stabenow’s reckless spending policies. China is reaping the reward.”
The 30-second ad was filmed in California and never mentions China directly. It opens with the sound of a gong and shows a young Asian woman riding a bike on a narrow path lined by rice paddies.
Stopping her bike, the woman smiles into the camera and says, “Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spends so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow.”
The scene then shifts to Hoekstra telling viewers near a cozy fire, “I think this race is between Debbie Spenditnow and Pete Spenditnot.”
The Hoekstra campaign set up a website, www.DebbieSpendItNow.com, that features the ad and includes Chinese writing, paper lanterns, parade dragons and Stabenow’s face on a Chinese fan. It accuses the Democratic senator of “pouring American dollars into the Chinese economy.”
Democrats were quick to challenge the premise of the ad, referring to Hoekstra’s 18 years in the U.S. House and the fact that he joined a Washington-based law and lobbying firm last year.
“Hoekstra’s ad is nothing more than a hypocritical attempt at a Hollywood-style makeover because the fact is, Pete spends a lot,” Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said.
In response to the Hoekstra ad, the state Democratic Party launched a website, hoekstrahoax.com.
Hoekstra’s campaign spent $75,000 to air the ad statewide Sunday. It aired in the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas before the Super Bowl began and during the game in the Traverse City, Flint, Lansing and Marquette media markets, the campaign said. The ad is set to run over the next two weeks on cable TV.