- The Washington Times
Friday, April 15, 2022

A Democratic candidate in California was caught on video appearing to mock the Korean accent of GOP Rep. Michelle Steel.

Jay Chen, a Navy veteran who is backed by the House Democrats‘ campaign arm in the race to knock out Mrs. Steel, said she doesn’t speak clearly and it’s so difficult to understand what she‘s saying that an interpreter is needed. 

She just had another town hall the other day, and it’s tough. We’ve transcribed it. You kind of need an interpreter to figure out exactly what she‘s saying. The more she speaks, the better for us,” Mr. Chen said at a campaign event earlier this month.

Mrs. Steel became one of three Korean American women serving in Congress after flipping the Orange County, California, seat that was previously held by Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda in 2020.

Mr. Chen‘s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mrs. Steel accused her opponent of invoking a racist attack on her, calling his remarks offensive to all immigrants.

“I’ve dealt with racist attacks my whole life, but it won’t stop me from proudly sharing my voice,” Mrs. Steel tweeted. “My opponent’s attacks are offensive to all immigrants. You would have thought the child of immigrants would have known that before spreading #AAPI racism.”

Following Mr. Chen‘s comments, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy urged the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to disavow the candidate.

The DCCC responded by tying Mr. McCarthy to White supremacy and extremism.

“This is just more gaslighting and deception from the man who has handed over the keys to his caucus to white supremacists and advocates of racist replacement theory,” said Mandy Mundy, DCCC spokesperson.

Mr. Chen defended his own heritage, drawing on his parents’ experience of coming to the U.S. from Taiwan.

The candidate attacked Mrs. Steel’s record in Congress, disputing her claims that he had been racist against her.

“It’s disgusting that Michelle Steel and Kevin McCarthy are slinging false and hateful attacks to distract from their own lies,” Mr. Chen said. “Steel opposed the bipartisan infrastructure deal and then lied to her constituents, touting the very investments she voted against. She claims she is tough on China, but voted against legislation that will empower America to compete on the global stage.” 

The Republican National Committee demanded an apology from Mr. Chen.

“Democrats are proving once again that unless you fit their narrative and agree with them, you are fair game for racist attacks. Congresswoman Michelle Steel is an inspiration to the Asian Pacific American community and is proof that the American dream is real. Jay Chen‘s despicable comments are totally out of line, and he should apologize for using such racist language,” said Nainoa Johsens, an RNC spokesman.

In other videos Mr. Chen posted, he said Mrs. Steel was “very incoherent,” and accused her of parroting GOP talking points fed to her by her husband.

Mr. Chen has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the California Democratic Party, and Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Ted Lieu, both California Democrats.

Mrs. Steel was born in South Korea and raised in Japan. She served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors before running for Congress.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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