Ex-ambassador says Trump campaign fanning hatred with new ad

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke is denouncing President Donald Trump for a new campaign ad that seems to falsely imply Locke was a Chinese official.

Trump’s Republican reelection campaign released an ad Thursday that accused former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, of being too cozy with China. It featured an image of Biden and Locke on a stage with U.S. and Chinese flags in the background.

Locke, an Asian American, said Friday that Trump and his team are “fanning hatred” at a time when hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans are on the rise. He said in a statement that “the Trump team is making it worse” and that “Asian Americans are Americans. Period.”

Locke was an ambassador during the Obama administration and also served as U.S. commerce secretary. He served as governor of Washington from 1997 to 2005.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh defended the ad on Twitter, saying it “specifically places Biden in Beijing.”

The spread of the coronavirus, which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, has spurred attacks on Asian Americans across the U.S. The Trump administration, which has been accused of being too slow to react to the spread of COVID-19, has referred to the coronavirus both as the “Wuhan virus” and the “Chinese virus.”

Biden on Friday issued a statement calling attacks against Asian Americans “disgusting and racist acts,” though he didn’t directly mention the Trump campaign ad.

“The casual racism and regular xenophobia that we have seen from Trump and this Administration is a national scourge. Donald Trump only knows how to speak to people’s fears, not their better angels. He only ever seeks to place blame, instead of claiming responsibility,” Biden said.