Update: 12:53 p.m. — added comment from Republican Michael Baumgartner.
An aide to Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s campaign is apologizing for a satirical tweet he sent last week that mocked Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
Kelly Steele’s tweet took a photo of a frowning McKenna at an Asian Pacific American Community Summit in Tacoma last week and added the words: “WHY AREN’T THEY SPEAKING ENGLISH? #ASIANS”
That was a reference to a 22-year-old McKenna staffer who resigned in July after it was reported that she had tweeted a similar anti-Asian comment before joining the campaign.
But Steele’s effort to satirize McKenna backfired. His tweet offended McKenna supporters who demanded an apology. A Twitter campaign erupted that included nasty personal insults hurled at Steele. The whole controversy was reported extensively on Thursday by Peter Callaghan, a columnist for The News Tribune of Tacoma. The flap made also made KING-TV last night.
Steele at first defended his tweet as satirical and fair game – Callaghan noted several conversations with Steele “elicited few concessions.”
But Friday morning, Steele apologized in a brief statement.
“My attempt at humor was insensitive and inappropriate and I apologize sincerely to anyone I’ve offended,” Steele wrote.
Cantwell’s Republican opponent, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, issued a statement condemning Steele’s “racist stereotypes.”
“It looks like Cantwell’s team is taking their eye off the ball, and engaging in exactly the kind of political slime that people say they are fed up with. It was insensitive, and just pretty dumb,” Baumgartner said. He added that Cantwell staffers should be spending their time “defending her lackluster record in the Senate over the past decade. With the national debt over $16 trillion and a Senate that hasn’t passed a budget in nearly four years, it’s time for voters to ask what they’ve been getting out of Maria Cantwell’s two terms in office except more debt.”