Actress apologizes for Hoekstra’s racist Super Bowl ad

Lisa Chan took to Facebook to apologize for her portrayal of Chinese women in an ad for U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra. 


David Holmes


Published Feb 16, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 9:17 pm CDT

In case you missed it, Pete Hoekstra, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, used his 30 seconds of precious (and expensive) Super Bowl airtime to insult an entire ethnic group.

In the campaign ad, a young Chinese woman speaks in broken English about how Hoekstra’s opponent, the incumbent Debbie Stabenow (or as he calls her, “Debbie SpendItNow”) spends so much borrowed money from China that “your economy get very weak. Ours get very good,” over a soundtrack of ominous, vaguely Asian music.

Now, Lisa Chan, the 21-year old-actress who played this supposed threat to American exceptionalism, has apologized on Facebook:

“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.”

It’s a much more sincere statement than the non-apology provided by the Hoekstra camp. A spokesperson told Politico, “I think the viewer of an ad is going to recognize satire. I wouldn’t agree of the characterization [of the ad] as racial.”

The spokesperson added:

“You have a Chinese girl speaking English — I want to hit on the education system, essentially. 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.”

So the Hoekstra team doesn’t think ithe ad is racist. In fact, it basically says it’s flattering toward Chinese citizens, while doubling down on the whole “Chinese people are going to take our jobs” trope.

Chan’s pledge to make up for her actions should be taken seriously. She is the president and CEO of The Strive, a nonprofit geared at empowering at-risk youth. Hopefully, the next time we see her on television, she’ll be promoting an organization like that—not a candidate who uses stereotypes and scare tactics to get elected.

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*First Published: Feb 16, 2012, 5:21 pm CST