SACRAMENTO – State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs, on Thursday commended Lisa Chan — the actress from the controversial TV advertisement of U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra — after she issued an apology for portraying a caricature of a Chinese woman.
The 21-year-old Bay Area resident posted the following statement on her Facebook page Wednesday:
“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.”
A graduate of UC Berkeley, Chan founded The Strive, a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth, and represented Napa Valley in the 2012 Miss California USA Pageant.
“Ms. Chan deserves a lot of credit for having the wisdom and courage to apologize for being used in this manner,” said Yee. “It’s a shame that Mr. Hoekstra – someone nearly three times her age and who served in the United States Congress – lacks the decency and common sense to do the same.”
Yee was critical of the California-based company that produced the ad. “Fred Davis of Strategic Perception also owes the Asian American community an apology for attempting to use stereotypes in an attempt to win votes. Such ignorance and bigotry has no place in our political discourse.”
The week before, Hoekstra pulled his commercial and a related website after criticism from Asian American leaders, yet he has refused to apologize.
First aired during the Super Bowl, the ad attempted to go after Michigan incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s economic policies. It opens with the sound of a gong and shows Chan with a bicycle on a path surrounded by rice paddies. She says, “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 website, which has since been taken down, used several Chinese cultural symbols, such as the Great Wall, to attack Stabenow.
“Pete Hoekstra’s ad and marketing ploy was not only offensive, but a blatant attempt to demonize Asian culture,” said Yee. “Matters of geopolitics are no excuse for baseless attacks on the culture and language of millions of loyal American citizens.”
Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) also weighed in, saying, “While I’m pleased to see Lisa Chan apologize for participating in a racist political ad, we’ve heard nothing from Pete Hoekstra nor the Republican National Committee. No surprise there.”