Hoekstra Drops Racist Campaign Ad, While Still Landing Jabs With New One

Hoekstra Drops Racist Campaign Ad, While Still Landing Jabs With New One

Gale Courey Toensing

Former Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, has removed a campaign ad from his website after it was widely criticized as racist.

Both Hoekstra’s withdrawn ad and his new ad attack Democratic incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as “Debbie Spend It Now.” The first ad was shown in Michigan during the Super Bowl. It shows an attractive Asian woman riding a bicycle through a rice paddy. Speaking to the viewer in Chinese-accented English, she says, “Thank you, Sen. Debbie Spend It Now. 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 Spend It Now.” She rides off screen and Hoekstra appears in an interior scene with a fire burning in a fireplace in the background. “I think this race for U.S. Senate is between Debbie Spend It Now and Pete Spend It Not. I’m Pete spend It Not Hoekstra and I approve this message.”

The ad came under instant attack nationwide for its not-so-subtle references to the rice paddies of Viet Nam – as if Vietnamese people and Chinese people are interchangeable in a kind of “they-all-look-alike” racist notion – and its fear-mongering image of the Chinese people as the “yellow peril” who have “taken” U.S. money and jobs – rather than the reality that China has invested more than $2 trillion in the U.S. and it was U.S. businesses that exported American jobs to China to maximize profits from cheap labor costs because of the lack of environmental and workplace safety regulations.

Hoekstra’s new ad references the old ad in a number of ways:  He indirectly slams the media’s negative response to the first ad by using the word “race” in his criticism. The ad also uses the same sort of non-identifiable generic music. Hoekstra appears in front of the same interior fireplace and both ads are shot against a sickly orange sky. The new ad has Hoekstra’s voice over a shot of the Capitol, saying, “In spite of what the media says, this race is really our chance to tell Washington to spend it not: not on Obamacare, not on a failed stimulus, not on another Solyndra. Citizens against Government Waste rate Sen. Stabenow hostile and me, Pete Hoekstra, a superhero,” he says modestly.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a self-described private, non-partisan, non-profit organization representing more than one million members and supporters nationwide, according to its website. CAGW's mission is to eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government, the website says. The organization has campaigned on behalf of the tobacco industry and in favor of Microsoft and against open source software, according to Sourcewatch.

Both Hoekstra and Citizens Against Waste in Government have been linked to former Republican lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, who ripped off American Indian nations for more than $82 million. In 2005, Gun Lake Tribe Chairman D.K. Sprague raised questions over a link between Hoekstra, who opposed the tribe’s casino, and Abramoff, who contributed $2,000 contribution to Hoekstra’s election campaign. And in 2008, NPR reported that the Democratic staff of the Senate Finance Committee issued a 2006 report of its investigation of Abramoff, which found "a pattern of CAGW producing public relations materials favorable to Mr. Abramoff's clients." CAGW denied it, NPR said.

The Hoekstra campaign also pulled down a website associated with the China ad and inspired Clark Durant, one of Hoekstra’s Republican challengers, to run his first campaign ad earlier than planned, according to Interlochen Public Radio (IPR).

According to IPR’s website, Durant said Hoekstra’s first ad "demeans people. It misleads people. What Pete does is take a Chinese-American and then mocks the whole process. It drips in cynicism, and that's what people are so sick and tired of."

Hoekstra has gained the endorsement of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and many other state elected officials, according to IPR. Durant has the support of billionaire and former state G.O.P. chair Betsy DeVos, Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, and former U.S. Senator Spence Abraham, according to Durant’s website.

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