The last time many of us heard from former Michigan congressman Pete Hoekstra, the Republican was getting lampooned on Twitter for comparing a House GOP dispute with Nancy Pelosi to the deadly Iranian protests of 2009. Now Hoekstra is now running for Senate, and last night during the Super Bowl, he aired a campaign ad featuring a young Asian woman speaking broken English and thanking incumbent Michigan senator “Debbie Spent It Now” (Debbie Stabenow) for creating jobs in her country, which is obviously meant to be China (but kind of looks more like Vietnam).
The spot has already invited a barrage of negative reactions, from a coalition of black ministers in Detroit (“The Asian woman speaking in this video would be no different than him having a black person speaking in slave dialect”) and an Asian-American voting group (“It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign chose to use harmful negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment”) to Republican strategist Mike Murphy (“Pete Hoekstra Superbowl TV ad in MI Senate race really, really dumb. I mean really.”)
But Hoekstra’s spokesman insists that the depiction of the Chinese woman isn’t meant to be insensitive:
The Hoekstra campaign called the advertisement “satirical” and explained the broken English in the video as a reflection of China’s increasingly competitive education system.
“You have a Chinese girl speaking English — I want to hit on the education system, essentially. The fact that a Chinese girl is speaking English is a testament to how they can compete with us, when an American boy of the same age speaking Mandarin is absolutely insane, or unthinkable right now,” Hoekstra spokesperson Paul Ciaramitaro told POLITICO.
At least he didn’t compare the backlash against Hoekstra to the Rape of Nanking. Progress.