Aides to top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell voiced outrage on Tuesday after a left-leaning group suggested he supported China over the US due to his Taiwanese wife.
McConnell, who faces re-election next year, is married to former US secretary of Labor Elaine Chao (趙小蘭). She was born in Taiwan to parents who fled China and immigrated to the US as a child.
Progress Kentucky, a pressure group opposed to McConnell, posted a message on Twitter that noted that the Senate Republican leader was married to Chao and quipped: “May explain why your job moved to China.”
The group also linked to a press release in which Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) thanked Chao’s father, businessman James Chao (趙錫成), for business deals that helped benefit China’s shipbuilding industry.
The comments were roundly condemned by Republicans and Democrats, and the group issued an apology late on Tuesday, telling a local radio station its messages “included an inappropriate comment on the ethnicity” of Elaine Chao.
Jesse Benton, a spokesman for McConnell’s re-election campaign, had earlier called Elaine Chao and her family “shining examples of the American Dream,” who traveled to the US with little and built successful businesses.
“It is unconscionable that anyone would use blatant race-baiting for political gain,” Benton said in a statement. “Progress Kentucky should be ashamed of themselves. We hope all Americans can agree that these disgusting tactics have no place in American politics as we try to bring people together to solve our difficult problems.”
A spokesman for Progress Kentucky had earlier told Louisville radio station WFPL, which first drew attention to the Twitter posts, that tweets should not be seen in the same way as official statements by the group, but the group’s executive director Shawn Reilly later issued a statement saying: “We apologize to the secretary for that unnecessary comment and have deleted the tweets in question.”
“In addition, we have put a review process in place to ensure tweets and other social media communications from Progress Kentucky are reviewed and approved prior to posting,” the statement said.
China is a frequent bugbear in US political ads, which highlight US economic anxieties.
Pete Hoekstra, a Republican who unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat in Michigan last year, came under fire for a commercial that featured an Asian girl praising his opponent in broken English.