Pete Hoekstra ad
An ad from U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra has sparked controversy for using offensive Asian stereotypes in a campaign ad. Screenshot

This year's controversial Super Bowl commercial did not come from a company hocking restaurant deals or a sales service, but a U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan, whose racially-charged campaign spot featured a young Asian woman speaking in broken English about China's booming economy.

The ad from former Rep. Pete Hoekstra opens with a gong, as a woman rides a bike on a road surrounded by rice patties. Once she stops her bike, she thanks the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, for supporting spending policies that increase U.S. borrowing from China. China is the largest foreign holder of American treasuries and holds $1.13 trillion of the U.S.' $15 trillion debt.

Thank you Michigan Sen. Debbie Spent-It-Now. Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good, the woman says. We take your jobs.

Hoekstra's campaign also created a companion website,, which is designed with Asian characters, images of dragons, Chinese flags and Stabenow's face superimposed on a hand fan.

The Michigan chapter of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote slammed the ad for playing on harmful stereotypes of Asians speaking in broken English and has stereotypical Chinese music playing in the background.

It is very disturbing that Mr. Hoekstra's campaign chose to use harmful and negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment, the organization said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a group of black ministers in Detroit Monday also condemned the ad as racially insensitive. One said Hoekstra's ad would be similar to a commercial featuring a black man using slave dialect, according to The Associated Press.

The ad also landed with a thud to some GOP consultants. Mike Murphy, a Republican political consultant, said on Twitter that It's a bad ad and a depressing mistake, given that the Senate seat is key to the GOP's effort to control the chamber.

The campaign defended the ad as satire.

The fact that a Chinese girl is speaking English is a testament to how they can compete with us, when an American boy of the same age speaking Mandarin is absolutely insane, or unthinkable right now, campaign spokesman Paul Ciaramitaro told Politico.

I think that China is our global competitor and the facts are what they are. They hold $1.1 trillion of our debt, their economy is booming, ours is not, Ciaramitaro added. It's not a racial overtone to compare yourself to competitors on the global stage... I think the viewer of an ad is going to recognize satire.

At the end of the ad, the candidate tells viewers that the race is between Debbie Spent-It-Now and Pete Spend-It-Not Hoekstra.

His ad gins up the idea of China overtaking U.S. as the world's top superpower because of overspending and racking up debt, which is a reoccurring theme in GOP politics.

That was the basis for a 2011 ad from Republican Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada, whose spot featured an anchorwoman discussing how increased U.S. spending and a higher federal debt limit allowed China to have a better economy than America, as their independent became a new dependence. As their debt grew, our fortune grew.

Democrats' use of Asia in political ads often hammer Republicans for supporting multinational corporations that outsource and ship jobs overseas.