HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. - There are just days until the polls close for the 2022 midterms, and one California representative running for reelection is facing calls to resign, over an ad that demonstrators say pushes harmful stereotypes about Asian-Americans.
Michelle Steel is a Republican candidate running for reelection in California's 48th Congressional District, which serves Orange County, against Democrat Jay Chen. In one of Steel's campaign ads, a clip of her opponent is shown, implying that he wants to force Chinese propaganda on schoolchildren, with a voiceover saying that Steel is, "fighting to ban communist propaganda in our schools."
Protesters gathered outside her office over the weekend, demanding an apology from Steel for the rhetoric pushed in the ad.
"The images consider Chinese-Americans, Asian-Americans, [that] they're all spies; they're all foreigners," said Zig Jiang of the Chinese American Equalization Association. "They do not belong here. That's the main message."
The ad, paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee was even called out by CNN's Jake Tapper, who called it, "the most dishonest TV campaign ad, perhaps we've ever seen."
Experts say not only is the ad dishonest, but it's hurtful to an Asian-American community that's been suffering recently from a rise in anti-Asian hate.
"It really is outrageous, in terms of, frankly, how dangerous it is," said Christian Dyogi Phillips, assistant professor of political science at USC. "Asian-Americans as a national group are very supportive of expanding healthcare, access to abortion, affirmative action. All of these issues that don't really line up with Michelle Steel's record."
Phillips said the strategy might not be surprising from a white, male, GOP candidate, but it is from Steel, a Korean-American.
"They spent a lot of money to have a lot of people take a look at what focusing on the issues would do in terms of motivating the people in the district to vote for Steel, and made the calculation that the issues aren't where it's at for her," Phillips said.
In the end the demonstrations didn't prompt Steel to resign or apologize. Her supporters even countered protesters with signs that read, "Jay Chen is a racist."
"Michelle Steel and Jay Chen are both AAPI leaders. We respect them both," said Charley Lu from I - Chinese American Political Action Committee. "But this continued rhetoric, we need to stop it."
FOX 11 has reached out to both the Steel and Chen campaigns and has not heard back.