WASHINGTON – OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocate on May 4 released the following statement in response to Don Blankenship’s campaign video for the West Virginia GOP Senate race:
Don Blankenship and Elaine Chao
“It is extremely disappointing and disgusting that Don Blankenship has resorted to race-baiting for his campaign against Sen. [Mitch] McConnell. Calling individuals ‘China people’ is unacceptable and his allusion to the senator’s wife and her family is clearly xenophobic.
“Resorting to fear-mongering at the expense of the Chinese American community is unethical and absolutely unnecessary. We demand that the ad be stopped and that Mr. Blankenship issue an apology.”
OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates is a national organization of community advocates dedicated to improving the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Blankenship was running against Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for the Republican nomination, with the winner challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin in November. Both McConnell and President Trump have urged West Virginians not to vote for Blankenship because he would have no chance of defeating Manchin.
A super PAC aligned with McConnell has been airing negative ads against Blankenship.
In his ads leading up to the May 8 primary, Blankenship has been targeting the Senate majority leader and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, an immigrant from Taiwan whose father, entrepreneur and philanthropist James Si-Cheng Chao, is the founder and chair of the Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping, trading and finance enterprise.
Politico also reports that some ethics experts have raised concerns about Chao’s numerous appearances with her father in interviews with Asian media, as they may send the message that the Foremost Group has high-level government connections.
One of Blankenship’s ads declares, “Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”
When asked about his choice of words, Blankenship has denied that “China people” is a racial slur.
Another TV spot called McConnell “Cocaine Mitch,” an apparent reference to a 2014 report that drugs were once found aboard a shipping vessel owned by Chao’s family.
In an interview with Politico, Blankenship said that McConnell “has a lot of connections in China” and that Chao is “from China, so we have to be really concerned” about whether they are putting America’s interests first.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, issued the following statement:
“Asian Americans Advancing Justice is outraged and exasperated that once again, as midterm elections start to heat up, a candidate for elected office believes that saying blatant racist statements is appropriate. This most recent ad is yet another example in a long line of political advertising used to incite animosity or race-based fear of Asian Americans and other communities of color.
“It is clear this ad uses the myth of Asians being perpetual foreigners as a way to raise fear and concern. This is the same kind of tactic that led to shameful moments in U.S. history such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“Americans have had enough of this stereotyping and fear-mongering. We reject these racist remarks. America and Americans are better than this.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, said in a statement, “There’s no mystery to what Mr. Blankenship is doing. It is intentional race baiting. I condemn his comments and urge him to stop going down this hateful and divisive path. Unfortunately, one of President Trump’s legacies seems to be the lesson that stoking racial resentments and xenophobia are effective tools for winning an election. But the consequences of that tactic are serious and stretch far beyond election day.
“Already, Asian Americans are experiencing higher rates of hate crimes, and it is in large part because of the exact sentiment espoused by Mr. Blankenship. By using racially insensitive rhetoric to target Secretary Chao and her family in order to take cheap shots at Sen. McConnell, Mr. Blankenship is perpetuating the hateful stereotype that being Chinese means you cannot also be a patriotic American. That this kind of rhetoric has been used to justify persecution of Jews and Catholics, the imprisonment of innocent Japanese during World War II, and more, and should give anybody pause.
“It’s ironic that Mr. Blankenship’s remarks come at the start of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, when Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders of all backgrounds celebrate our contributions to a country that welcomed us not for our race or religion, but because of our fidelity to the ideals of democracy and pluralism – the exact ideals which Mr. Blankenship is undermining through his bigoted attacks. We must be stronger than those who use race to divide us and I hope others will join me in condemning this speech before the Trump-style campaign of division, fear, and hate becomes the norm.”
Blankenship, a former coal baron, has baggage of his own, having spent a year in prison because of a 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 workers.
The latest primary results showed Morrisey in first place, Jenkins in second and Blankenship in third.