A political advertisement that ran on Michigan TV during the Super Bowl is stirring up a racial controversy this morning.
Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican U.S. Representative for Michigan's 2nd congressional district and challenger for one of Michigan's U.S. Senate seats in November, ran an ad last night that was aimed at Democrat Debbie Stabenow, the incumbent Senator.
The ad features a young Asian woman on a bike, peddling past rice paddies toward the camera as stereotypical Chinese music plays in the background.
In broken English, the woman thanks "Debbie SpendItNow" for spending so much American money and "borrowing more and more...from us."
"Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs," she continues with a smirk.
Hoekstra told the Michigan CBS affiliate, WWMT, that the ad was aimed at Stabenow's spending record and that he wants to start a debate about policies that will bring work back to Michigan. "If you're going to produce an ad, you're going to do it right," Hoekstra said. "But the message is not about show. It is about content and Debbie's record, nothing more, nothing less."
Politico reports that the Hoekstra campaign is calling the ad "satirical" and that the broken English in the ad is meant to display how a Chinese girl speaking English isn't surprising but a young American boy speaking Mandarin would be "absolutely insane."
"I think the viewer of an ad is going to recognize satire...I wouldn't agree of the characterization [of the ad] as racial," Paul Ciaramitaro, a Hoekstra spokesperson, told Politico.
Still, the ad has drawn the ire of Asian-American groups in Michigan. The Michigan chapter of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group's said it was "deeply disappointed" by Hoekstra's message.
"No elected official or candidate for office, regardless of political affiliation, should use stereotypical imagery or language," the group said in a statement on their website. "The use of these stereotypes is counter to the progress our country has made over past decades to encourage respect for all communities."
Mike Murphy, a GOP consultant, summed up most of the criticism of the ad in a Tweet last night.
"Pete Hoekstra Superbowl TV ad in MI Senate race really, really dumb. I mean really," he said.
The ad is expected to run for the next two weeks targetting GOP voters in Michigan markets.