Trump campaign takes heat for ad suggesting former Wash. governor is a Chinese official

Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign took heat for a new campaign advertisement about former Vice President Joe Biden that seemed to suggest Gary Locke, the former governor of Washington, was a Chinese official. 

The roughly minute-long ad, posted Thursday on YouTube, says Biden has "stood up for China" and says Biden worked with his son Hunter Biden on deals with Chinese business partners. 

"Biden stands up for China ... while China cripples America," text on screen reads. 

A little over halfway through, the ad presents a short clip of Locke and Biden standing together against a backdrop of Chinese and American flags during a montage of Biden speaking in China and appearing with Chinese officials like President Xi Jinping. 

A screengrab with Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke from the Trump campaign's advertisement.

Locke, who is Chinese-American, was born in Washington and also served in the Obama administration as U.S. ambassador to China and commerce secretary. The clip used in the Trump campaign's ad appears to be from Biden's 2013 trip to China, when Locke was the ambassador.

Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh defended the ad in response to a reporter's post on Twitter, writing, "The shot with the flags specifically places Biden in Beijing in 2013. It’s for a reason. That’s the Hunter Biden trip. Memory Lane for ol’ Joe."

Locke responded to the use of his image in the ad in a statement, saying Trump and his campaign were "fanning hatred."

"Hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian American community are on the rise. And the Trump team is making it worse. Asian Americans are Americans. Period," he wrote. 

"There is one priority that matters in America right now: stopping this virus and saving lives," Locke continued. "So I have no tolerance for the same old politics of distraction and division." 

Critics on social media denounced the ad as "infuriating" and "repulsive." 

First using an expletive to describe the ad, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wrote on Twitter, "Gary Locke is as American as the day is long. Trump rewriting history as if he effectively responded to the virus is utter garbage."

Biden campaign spokesperson TJ Ducklo called the ad "pretty repulsive" and said the Trump campaign should apologize to Locke and take the ad down. 

Former White House Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu said the ad reinforced myths that Asian Americans owe their loyalties to another country and was an insult to racial minorities. 

"Asian Americans constantly fight the perception that we're not real Americans and owe our loyalties to another country. Gary Locke was born in the U.S. and has served this country with distinction," he wrote

'They look at me and think I'm some kind of virus:' What it's like to be Asian during the coronavirus pandemic

Asian American lawmakers and advocates have warned of a rise in xenophobia and discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic as blame has been directed at Chinese Americans and Asian Americans more broadly for the spread of the coronavirus.

At the end of March, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., told reporters on a press call there had been over 1,000 hate incidents directed at Asian Americans in the "last five weeks" per incident reporting sites from advocacy groups.   

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump campaign slammed for suggesting Gary Locke is a Chinese official