A coalition of Asian-American businesses and organizations in Missouri on Sunday criticized what they called racist and xenophobic political ads in the state attorney general race.
One ad shows one Chinese businessman bragging to another in Mandarin about how he was able to buy a Missouri farm after state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican candidate for attorney general, helped change a state law allowing Chinese ownership of farms. The ad is paid for by Tea Party Patriots. A similar ad is paid for by State Conservative Reform Action PAC.
“The ad is clearly meant to elicit fear among Missouri voters and depicts Chinese and Asian Americans as ‘the enemy,’” the Asian-American groups said in a joint release. “The ad echoes the ‘Yellow Peril’ sentiment from darker times in our nation’s history which led to abhorrent legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese American internment camps.”
Another ad suggests that Schaefer’s competitor, Josh Hawley, supported terrorism by providing legal work to a Muslim client. It refers to a case handled by a firm where Hawley worked that defends religious liberty. The firm defended a Muslim murder convict’s right to grow a beard for religious reasons while in prison, although the firm has been quoted saying Hawley didn’t work on the case.
The ad is paid for by Citizens to Elect Kurt Schaefer Attorney General.
“A major objective of the ad is to take advantage of anti-Muslim rhetoric and scare voters into fearing Muslim communities, including those of South Asian American and Asian-American heritage, which puts the lives of families and children in these communities in danger of possible hate crimes,” the Asian-American groups said.
The groups behind the joint release were the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis, OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates St. Louis Chapter, the Missouri Asian American Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association of Metro St. Louis and Asian American Bar Association of Kansas City.
Scott Dieckhaus, Schaefer’s campaign manager, said the anti-Hawley ads are “not in any way xenophobic or intended to cause fear of any group of people. Our ads point out … Hawley has chosen to defend people who have done evil things.”
Hawley’s campaign spokesman, Scott Paradise, said, “These ads are run by a third-party group and we are not associated with them.”
Caroline Fan, president of the St. Louis Chapter of OCA, said the ads were attempts to score political points at the expense of groups that the candidates do not feel are important to the election.
“I’d like to hear about concrete, substantive, beneficial policies that both candidates want to implement, not this crass xenophobia,” she said.