Lisa Chan in Rep. Pete Hoekstra ad

Actress in Hoekstra’s Racist Ad Apologizes for Her Role

Gale Courey Toensing
2/18/12

Actress Lisa Chan has apologized for her role in Debbie Spend It Now, an election campaign ad by Former Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow is the incumbent.

The ad, which aired in Michigan during the Super Bowl at the end of January, showed Chan riding a bicycle through a rice paddy. She stops center frame and speaks to the viewer in Chinese-accented English. “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.”

Chan posted the following an apology on her Facebook page:

“I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.”

According to the Angry Asian Man blog, Chan is 21, from the Bay Area, graduated from University of California – Berkeley with a degree in sociology, founded The Strive, a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth, and recently competed as the reigning Miss Napa Valley in the 2012 Miss California USA pageant. She's also a part-time model/actress.

”I actually agonized over whether or not to post this information. I'm not trying to demonize her – people have already done plenty of that, and I think that takes our attention away from the real culprit, Pete Hoekstra and his blatantly racist fear-mongering. And I hope you, good readers, will keep cool heads about this,” Angry Asian Man wrote on his blog. “I'm not saying Lisa Chan is blameless. I go back and forth between wanting to hang her out to dry for making such an idiotic, destructive choice, and feeling sorry that she was just doing a job, manipulated by a politician's ugly tactics. The truth is, I fall somewhere in the middle, and in the end I'd just like to know how a seemingly intelligent, educated person with a history of community involvement could willingly take part in something so fantastically awful and so harmful in ways that we can't even anticipate. I want to hear her side of the story.”

Hoekstra dropped the ad after a nationwide storm of critics said it was insensitive, racist, xenophobic, and fundamentally wrong in every way. Then he posted a new ad continuing the Debbie Spend It Now theme and boasting that Citizens Against Government Waste “rate Sen. Stabenow hostile and me, Pete Hoekstra, a superhero.” CAGW is a self-described private, non-partisan, non-profit organization with a mission is to eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government, according to its website. The organization has campaigned on behalf of the tobacco industry and in favor of Microsoft and against open source software, according to Sourcewatch.

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