Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, February 6, 2012
U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra’s Super Bowl Sunday ad has drawn criticism from Republicans, Democrats, ministers and Asian Americans.
But former U.S. Rep. Hoekstra, a Holland Republican, defended the ad this morning, saying it was meant to draw a clear contrast between him and the senator he’s trying to defeat, Debbie Stabenow.
“We knew we were taking an aggressive approach on this, but we’re in a time when people are fed up with the spending and we wanted to capture that frustration with the spending,” Hoekstra said. “It hits Debbie smack-dab between the eyes on the area where she is most vulnerable.”
But the ad, which features an Asian woman riding a bike by a rice paddy and speaking broken English, draw immediate and critical response.
Black ministers in Detroit and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote group’s Michigan chapter both called the ad racially insensitive. The other Republicans running for the Senate nomination said it proved that Hoekstra is not the best candidate to take on Stabenow in November. Democrats were united in their criticism and even some Republicans called the ad racist, xenophobic and “really, really dumb,” in social media postings.
The Rev. Charles Williams, pastor of the King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, called on Hoekstra to apologize for what he called the “racist” ad and stop running it. If he doesn’t, a group of black pastors in Detroit will begin contacting contributors to Hoekstra’s campaign and ask them to withdraw their support.
“The imagery in the ad is no different than the folks who had to put black-faced paint on and tap dance,” he said. “This whole thing makes me so sad because Hoekstra really doesn’t get it.”
The Rev. Maurice L. Rudds of Greater Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Detroit said, “The politics of racial division is alive and well in Hoekstra’s campaign.”
The Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote’s Michigan chapter released a statement today, calling the ad very disturbing.
“No elected official or candidate for office, regardless of political affiliation, should use stereotypical imagery or language,” the statement said. “The use of these stereotypes is counter to the progress our country has made over past decades to encourage respect for all communities.
The Hoekstra campaign set up a website,www.DebbieSpendItNow.com, that features the ad and includes Chinese writing, paper lanterns, parade dragons and Stabenow’s face on a Chinese fan. It accuses the Democratic senator of “pouring American dollars into the Chinese economy.”