A beautiful landscape comes into view. An Asian woman pedals her bicycle down a dirt road. Chinese instruments fill the soundtrack as she speaks in broken English. So began the ad, paid for by Peter Hoekstra, a Republican contender for the U.S. Senate in Michigan.
And so began the latest Super Bowl ad controversy over an ad that ran during the game that was broadcast on Michigan stations.
While Mr. Hoekstra defended his commercial as revealing the “reckless spending” of Debbie Stabenow, the incumbent U.S. Senator and a Democrat, critics denounced the spot as racially insensitive.
“Debbie spend so much American money,” the woman said. “You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs.”
The commercial ends with a clip of Mr. Hoekstra, a former U.S. congressman who ran for governor in 2010, dubbing himself “Pete Spend-It-Not,” apparently for his fiscal restraint. It also encourages viewers to visit his new website “DebbieSpendItNow.com,” which has statistics about federal spending beside images of Chinese flags, Yen and stereotypical Chinatown font.
Controversy is common in the Super Bowl commercial lineup. Last year, Groupon took a pounding after it aired an ad that some said took a joke too far, making light of people struggling in Tibet. But it was unclear from Mr. Hoekstra’s ad whether he was aiming for lightheartedness.
Among those outraged by the campaign strategy was Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote, a nonprofit organization in Michigan that released a statement condemning the commercial for encouraging “anti-Asian sentiment” and noted contributions Asian Americans have made to Michigan’s economy.
Ms. Stabenow’s office declined to comment, but issued a statement from Mark Brewer, the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, which described the ad as “shameful” and “deceitful” regarding Ms. Stabenow’s record. The state party also released a web-only ad accusing Mr. Hoekstra of hypocrisy on spending issues.
Mr. Hoekstra could not be reached for comment, but in interviews elsewhere, he did not appear to back down from the message nor the way he delivered it.
“There’s nothing racist in this ad,” he said in comments posted online by the Detroit Free Press.
A press release on Mr. Hoekstra’s website said he spent $150,000 on the ad buy, which will run for two weeks.
For details: New York Times