Bice: U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil gets roasted on Twitter for making fun of China-manufactured masks

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For members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation not named Ron Johnson, it's hard to get the public to pay attention to what they're saying.

In the past 24 hours, however, U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil was able to break through in a single tweet, winning the attention he was craving.

Not that it went as planned.

With a mere 16 words, the second-term Republican managed to suggest he can't read English, doesn't know how to put on a mask and angered an important industry in Wisconsin.

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Steil's tweet was part of the Republican pushback against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's policy requiring members to wear masks when attending House floor sessions and distributing masks manufactured in China.

"Speaker Pelosi sent out N-95 masks to every House office," Steil tweeted, including a picture of the mask and an inspection certificate. "Unfortunately, I can’t read the instructions."

It didn't take long for the self-assured post to become a self-own.

First, the Janesville Republican didn't post a picture of the KN95 (not N-95) instructions, which are apparently on the outside of the packaging. The product certificate, which he did include in the picture, was written in both Chinese and English, meaning most members of Congress should be able to understand them.

"So brave of you to admit you can’t read English," Kevin Kruse, a historian at Princeton University, responded to Steil.

"You need instructions to put on a mask?" wrote Jerome Burke.

"The point of it was not about whether he can read English or not," tweeted Shen Shiwei. "It was the xenophobia."

One individual noted that this mask brand, Powecom KN95, is sold exclusively by Bona Fide Masks, a fourth-generation family business based in New York.

Several offered Steil help by linking to videos showing that the mask needs to go over both the mouth and the nose. One tweeted the instructions after searching for them on Google.

"Do you always fact-check jokes, or is this a part-time job?" asked Khan Krum Gaming.

"I just noticed that the label in my pants has French and Spanish on it, and now I've got both legs jammed down the left trouser leg," joked No Ads Dupree.

In no joking mood was Will Hsu, president of Hsu Ginseng Enterprises in Wausau. His company is one of the biggest ginseng producers in Wisconsin.

Noting he was a state resident and a U.S. citizen, Hsu accused Steil and other members of Congress of having an "anti-China stance" that he said has cost Wisconsin ginseng farmers big bucks during the current trade war.

"But please, keep complaining about masks and goods made in China," Hsu tweeted.

In all, some 14,400 people commented on Steil's post, and another 9,000 either retweeted it or retweeted it with commentary. It attracted more than 13,700 likes.

Steil, who lived in China for six months in 2014, responded on Friday to the heavy criticism.

"When a democratic China buys Made in the USA products for the National People's Congress with English instructions featuring a bald eagle, let me know," Steil tweeted the Journal Sentinel.

Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 313-6684 or dbice@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at fb.me/daniel.bice.

More: Bice: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's 10 most controversial statements of 2021

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bryan Steil gets roasted for tweet making fun of China-made masks

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