February 16, 2012

Running a campaign ad that draws condemnation from across the aisle is one thing. Getting slammed by the actress appearing in your ad is something else entirely.

Ever since his Asian-themed TV spot targeting Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) ran during the Super Bowl two weeks ago, Republican Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, a former congressman now running for Senate, has come under a torrent of criticism.

Democrats have charged that the spot — which shows a young woman riding a bicycle through a rice paddy and thanking Stabenow in broken English for sending American jobs to China — plays on racial stereotypes. “His racist thoughts are not welcome in the United States Senate,” Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)said of Hoekstra.

Then Clark Durant, Hoekstra’s little-known GOP primary rival, called the ad “demeaning” and ran his own TV spot accusing Hoekstra of hypocrisy.

But the final straw came on Wednesday, when Lisa Chan, the California woman who starred in the spot, wrote a message on her Facebook page apologizing for her part in the ad.

“I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities,” Chan wrote. “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.”

Ouch.

Polls show that Hoekstra is still the favorite to win the GOP nomination in August. But the ad, which is available on YouTube and has been viewed almost 1.2 million times, has been replaced on the Michigan airwaves. And Hoekstra’s DebbieSpendItNow.com site — which played on the Asian theme of the ad — now redirects to his main campaign site.

Pete Hoekstra, for turning a Super Bowl ad buy into a major campaign fumble, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

sonmezf@washpost.com

Felicia Sonmez is a Washington Post political reporter. Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? Chris Cillizza is away, so send your suggestions to outlook@washpost.com.

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