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Hoekstra under fire for racially tinged ad in MI Senate race

U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra has been accused of racism for a campaign ad against Michigan's incumbent senator, Debbie Stabenow. The ad features a young Asian woman riding a bicycle through a rice paddy – speaking broken English – and mocking Stabenow. Politico's Maggie Haberman reports.


Michigan Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra's campaign came under scrutiny Monday for a controversial Super Bowl ad targeting Democratic opponent Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Hoekstra's campaign aired an ad on Sunday depicting an Asian woman speaking in broken English, facetiously thanking Stabenow for encouraging federal spending.

Hold Debbie Stabenow accountable for her reckless spending.

"Thank you Michigan 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," the woman says in the ad.

The backdrop is meant to evoke China. In a statement announcing the ad, Hoekstra decried "our reliance on foreign countries like China," a top buyer of American debt.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman who unsuccessfully pursued his party's gubernatorial nomination in 2010, appears at the end of the ad to tout his own fiscal hawkishness. The ad additionally directs viewers to a website featuring a variety of generic Asian imagery in connection to Stabenow.

The website includes Chinese script -- "Xianzai Daibi Hua" -- that roughly translates into "Now Debbie Spend."

RELATED: Chinese shrug at Super Bowl ad

Hoekstra's campaign paid $75,000 to air the ad in markets throughout Michigan during the Super Bowl, according to an Associated Press report on Sunday. It is his first ad in the Senate race.

The Michigan chapter of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote said in a statement that the ad "plays on harmful stereotypes of Asians speaking broken English and has stereotypical Chinese music playing in the background."

An Asian woman is speaking in Pete Hoekstra's campaign ad that aired on Super Bowl Sunday, facetiously thanking Stabenow for encouraging federal spending.

"It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra’s campaign chose to use harmful and negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment," the group said Sunday.

The ad faced additional criticism from both Democrats and Republicans alike.

"Pete Hoekstra had a wardrobe malfunction this Super Bowl weekend and it was not pretty," said Shripal Shah, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman.

Republican consultant Mike Murphy, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter: "Pete Hoekstra Superbowl TV ad in MI Senate race really, really dumb. I mean really."

A primary challenger's of Hoekstra also called the ad "disappointing," accusing Hoekstra's record of undermining the message of the ad.

"The team is describing it as satire, but there’s absolutely no way this doesn’t just fan the flames and come off as racist," wrote Jazz Shaw on the prominent conservative blog Hot Air.

Comments on the YouTube page for the ad have been disabled in the meanwhile. Spokespeople for Hoekstra didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

NBC's John Bailey contributed.