SEATTLE — A new attack ad by President Trump’s re-election campaign portrays Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as too soft on China and includes an image of former Washington Gov. Gary Locke that appears to falsely suggest that he is a Chinese official, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other local news outlets reported last week.
The 60-second ad shown on YouTube claims that the former vice president has failed to confront China over the coronavirus pandemic and includes clips of Biden toasting Chinese leader Xi Jinping and criticizing Trump’s travel ban on China. A clip briefly shows Biden in 2013 on stage in Beijing with Locke, who was the U.S. ambassador to China at the time.
Born and raised in Seattle, Locke served as governor of Washington from 1997 to 2005 (two terms), U.S. secretary of commerce under President Obama from 2009 to 2011, and ambassador to China from 2011 to 2014. In each case he was the first Chinese American to serve in that capacity.
“During America’s crisis, Biden protected China’s feelings,” the ad asserts, despite the fact that Trump initially praised China’s response to the outbreak. The ad’s theme: “Biden stands for China … while China cripples America.”
Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh defended the ad on Thursday, saying, “The shot with the [U.S. and Chinese] flags specifically places Biden in Beijing in 2013. It’s for a reason.” The campaign contends that Biden, who was accompanied on that trip by his son Hunter, helped his son profit from Chinese investments.
Murtaugh did not address the inclusion of Locke in the ad.
“President Trump and his team are fanning hatred and it needs to stop now,” Locke said in a statement. “Hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian American community are on the rise. And the Trump team is making it worse. Asian Americans are Americans. Period. We defend our country in wars, build businesses and create jobs, serve in all levels of our government, and are treating patients on the frontlines of this crisis as we speak.
“There is one priority that matters in America right now: stopping this virus and saving lives. So I have no tolerance for the same old politics of distraction and division. We need leaders who understand we can only get through this crisis together — as Americans of every creed, color, and background.”
Paul Igasaki, former chief judge of the Administrative Review Board at the U.S. Department of Labor and former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, commented on Facebook, “Asian Americans are well familiar with this form of racism. Even the most dedicated American public official can never be an American in Trump’s eyes. Asian Americans need to turn in force to take out Trump and his party.”
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the ad “a repugnant depiction of a great American, who Joe Biden is honored to have the support of” and “speaks to exactly why the vice president is determined to win this battle for the soul of our nation.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted that he was infuriated by the inclusion of Locke in the ad. “Gary Locke is as American as the day is long. Trump rewriting history as if he effectively responded to the virus is utter garbage. We lost 70 days and thousands of lives due to his incompetence and disregard for what was happening overseas.”
Trump recently stated that Asian Americans are not to blame for the coronavirus, but he and other administration officials have been faulted for referring to the disease as the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus,” contributing to an atmosphere in which Asian Americans have been verbally and physically assaulted across the country.
In a statement on Friday, Biden didn’t specifically mention the campaign ad, but called attacks on Asian Americans “disgusting and racist acts.”
“The casual racism and regular xenophobia that we have seen from Trump and this administration is a national scourge,” Biden said. “Donald Trump only knows how to speak to people’s fears, not their better angels. He only ever seeks to place blame, instead of claiming responsibility.”