Pete Hoekstra campaign’s racially insensitive Super Bowl ad draws calls for apology

Dylan Stableford

Clint Eastwood's Super Bowl commercial heralding Detroit's comeback may have been the most talked about spot when it aired just after halftime Sunday night. But a local ad paid for by Michigan Republican Pete Hoekstra's U.S. Senate campaign is drawing plenty of day-after attention from the national media after several groups have called it racially insensitive.

The ad, which ran statewide during the Super Bowl, features a young Asian woman riding a bike through a field of rice paddies and speaking broken English while thanking Hoekstra's opponent, Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, for her "reckless spending."

"Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow," the woman says. "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."

"It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra's campaign chose to use harmful negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment,"the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group said in a statement.

On Twitter, Time magazine columnist and GOP consultant Mike Murphy called the 30-second spot "really, really dumb."

Several Detroit ministers condemned the ad, too.

"The Asian woman speaking in this video would be no different than him having a black person speaking in slave dialect," the Rev. Charles Williams II said in a statement Monday. "If Pete Hoekstra does not see any wrong in this commercial, he doesn't deserve to be in the race."

On Monday, Hoekstra defended the commercial.

"Clearly China is one of many countries benefiting from our irresponsible spending," Hoekstra told Detroit's WJR-AM. "To highlight that is absolutely appropriate."

A message left by Yahoo News at Stabenow's D.C. office was not immediately returned.

"Politicians like Hoekstra run shameful, deceitful ads like these when they cannot defend their own records," Michigan Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer said in a statement provided to Yahoo News. "Hoekstra ran up our debt to countries like China by voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, and for trillions in unfunded giveaways to billionaires and special interests."

Many comments criticizing the ad appeared on Hoekstra's Facebook page Sunday night but were deleted, according to the Associated Press. On Facebook, Hoekstra added: "[Those] trying to make this an issue of race demonstrates their total ignorance of job creation policies."

During a conference call with reporters later Monday, Hoekstra continued to stand by the ad.

"We knew we were taking an aggressive approach on this, but this is a time when the people of Michigan and across the country are fed up with the spending," he told reporters.  "It hits Debbie smack dab between the eyes where she is vulnerable with the voters of Michigan."

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