Lansing Hoekstra's broken English ad draws more criticism

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- A coalition of black ministers in Detroit called Monday for U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra to apologize for his Super Bowl ad featuring a young Asian woman speaking broken English to describe the impact of the Democratic incumbent's economic policies.

The request came a day after an Asian-American group called the ad "very disturbing."

The Michigan Republican began taking heat after his ad targeting Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow as "Debbie Spenditnow" ran statewide Sunday during the Super Bowl. Some detractors said the ad was racially insensitive, while national GOP consultant Mike Murphy tweeted that it was "really, really dumb." Foreign Policy magazine managing editor Blake Hounshell called the ad "despicable."

The Rev. Charles Williams II of Detroit's King Solomon Baptist church, where Malcolm X spoke in the 1960s, joined with several other Detroit pastors calling for Hoekstra to pull the ad.

"The Asian woman speaking in this video would be no different than him having a black person speaking in slave dialect," Williams 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."

The 30-second ad created by media strategist Fred Davis of California-based Strategic Perception Inc opens with the sound of a gong and shows the 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."

Hoekstra defended the ad, calling it a "home run" during an interview Monday with Detroit radio WJR-AM's Paul W. Smith. He said it's only "insensitive" to the spending philosophy of Stabenow and Democratic President Barack Obama.

"Clearly China is one of many countries benefiting from our irresponsible spending. To highlight that is absolutely appropriate," Hoekstra said. The ad doesn't mention China directly.

The ad is scheduled to run statewide for the next two weeks on cable TV shows aimed at GOP voters.

A barrage of criticism hit Hoekstra's Facebook page early Sunday evening, but most of the negative comments were deleted by Monday morning. On YouTube, the ratings buttons on the ad were disabled after it aired, although another copy of the ad placed there by others was getting a mostly negative response.

On Facebook, Hoekstra said those "trying to make this an issue of race demonstrates their total ignorance of job creation policies." The Holland Republican scheduled a Monday morning conference call with reporters to discuss his campaign and what he views as Stabenow's big-spending policies that he says have led to China gobbling up U.S. debt and jobs.

The nonpartisan Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote group's Michigan chapter said it was "deeply disappointed" by the ad.

"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.

Two of Hoekstra's GOP opponents, Clark Durant and Gary Glenn, issued statements questioning if the current front-runner is the right candidate for Republicans to support.

Hoekstra planned to spend Monday at a meet-and-greet with supporters at a private home in suburban Detroit before addressing an evening county GOP meeting in south-central Michigan.

Stabenow, the two-term senator Hoekstra hopes to challenge, planned to hold a conference call to "discuss evidence that the Chinese are strong-arming Michigan businesses" into handing over intellectual property and technology as the cost of doing business in China.

Her campaign has not responded directly to the ad.

Published: Tue, Feb 7, 2012