Amid spring-loaded babies and Ferris Bueller flash-backs, there was one Super Bowl ad that had few people laughing. While it ran only in Michigan, U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra’s campaign ad featuring an Asian woman speaking broken English is being criticized around the country today.
In the ad, Hoekstra, a former U.S. House Representative, dubs his Democratic Senate rival Debbie Stabenow “Debbie Spend It Now” for supporting policies that cause American jobs and investments to be outsourced to China.
“Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us,” says a young Asian woman riding her bike through rice paddies at the beginning of the 30-second ad. “You’re economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you Debbie ‘Spend It Now.’”
Watch the ad HERE.
It is the racial undertones of the ad that have critics up in arms. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said she was “appalled” by the ad and called for Hoekstra to take it down and apologize.
“I am appalled at the Hoekstra campaign’s offensive and insensitive Super Bowl ad that relies heavily on negative Asian stereotypes,” Chu said in a statement. “Politics of fear and division will never bring the American people together around the solutions they so desperately need, and I am calling on former Rep. Hoekstra to take down this atrocious ad and issue an apology immediately.”
The Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote’s Michigan chapter also condemned the ad as “very disturbing.”
“It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign chose to use harmful and negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment,” the group said in a statement Sunday.
Hoekstra responded to the barrage of criticism Sunday night, writing on his Facebook page that “Democrats trying to make this an issue of race demonstrates their total ignorance of job creation policies.”
He said today that he thinks the ad has been “very effective.”
“It’s a very straightforward message,” Hoekstra told the Detroit Free Press. “There’s nothing racist in this ad. This is all about holding Debbie accountable for her reckless spending.”
Despite the controversy, Hoekstra used the ad to fundraise Monday afternoon, sending an email to supporters saying the ad is “is only insensitive to Debbie Stabenow” and asking them to “make an urgent donation.”
“The Democrats will stop at nothing to change the subject from Debbie’s big spending, job killing record,” Hoekstra wrote in the fundraising message. “That’s why she’s got her people doing what liberals always do when things get tough—calling me a racist.”
Michigan GOP spokesman Matt Frendewey said the ad was “meant to be satire.”
“The biggest issue the ad raises is Sen. Stabenow’s record,” Frendewey said. “I think Debbie Stabenow has a serious spending problem and this ad raises that.”
The $150,000 ad buy is set to air across Michigan for two weeks.
This post was updated at 4:30 P.M. to include Hoekstra’s fundraising letter and Chu’s response.