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New Trump attack ad appears to suggest Washington state’s former Asian American governor is a Chinese official

Outgoing U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke speaks during a farewell news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 2014.
Outgoing U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke speaks during a farewell news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 2014. (Ng Han Guan/AP)
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A new attack ad by President Trump’s campaign that portrays former vice president Joe Biden as too cozy with China to confront the country over the coronavirus pandemic includes an image of Gary Locke, a former governor of Washington state, that appears to falsely suggest he is a Chinese official.

Locke, who is Chinese American and was serving as U.S. ambassador to China at the time, is briefly depicted onstage at a 2013 event in Beijing with Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The clip is interspersed with others of Biden toasting the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, and criticizing Trump as xenophobic for imposing a travel ban on China following the coronavirus outbreak in that country.

“During America’s crisis, Biden protected China’s feelings,” asserts the ad, which prompted swift condemnation by Democrats for its inclusion of Locke.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh defended the online ad in a Thursday night tweet, saying it was used because it “specifically places Biden in Beijing in 2013” on a trip he took with his son Hunter Biden. “Memory Lane for ol’ Joe,” Murtaugh wrote.

The Trump campaign’s contention that Biden helped his son profit from Chinese investments is part of its argument that the former vice president is cozy with China. Hunter Biden traveled with his father on Air Force Two to China in December 2013. Shortly afterward, he joined the board of a just-formed investment advisory firm.

Murtaugh’s tweet did not address criticism that the Trump campaign appeared to be suggesting that Locke is a Chinese official at a time when Asian Americans face rising bigotry and blame for the coronavirus outbreak.

Nor did he address the fact that Trump initially praised Xi for China’s response to the outbreak.

In a statement, Biden spokesman Andrew Bates called the depiction of Locke “repugnant” and said it “speaks to exactly why the Vice President is determined to win this battle for the soul of our nation.”

“It’s also incredibly revealing that this ad comes from a president who spent weeks buying the Chinese government’s spin about containment of the outbreak, despite Joe Biden warning him not to,” said Bates, who also noted that Locke supports Biden’s presidential bid.

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential candidate who is Asian American, said Locke’s inclusion in the Trump ad is “infuriating.”

“Gary Locke is as American as the day is long,” he tweeted. “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.”

American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC, also lambasted the Trump campaign.

“President Trump and his gang of ghouls have never been afraid to trot out racist tropes when they think it suits political goals, but this is a new low — even for them,” said Kyle Morse, a spokesman for the group. “In case the Trump campaign needs a refresher, Governor Locke is a lifelong public servant who blazed trails and inspired Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country.”

Before his appointment as U.S. ambassador to China in 2011, Locke served as commerce secretary under President Barack Obama — positions that followed his eight-year tenure as governor of Washington.