Twenty-three local and regional community leaders wrote a letter to California Democratic congressional candidate Jay Chen calling on him to apologize for commenting on the accent of Rep. Michelle SteelR-Calif.
The letter led by Steel’s California Republican colleague Rep. Young Kim was sent Monday amid a race that is getting more heated as November draws closer.
“I’ve dealt with racist attacks my whole life, but it won’t stop me from proudly sharing my voice,” Steel said in a press release. “Like so many immigrants, my accent is my story and my opponent’s attacks are offensive to all immigrants.”
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The leaders wrote in their letter that, as immigrants and descendants of immigrants, they were “deeply hurt” by Chen’s “recent comment mocking the accent of Congresswoman Michelle Steel.”
Chen, a Democrat running against Steel, made headlines after Fox News Digital reported on a video of him speaking at an April 7 meet and greet in the Congregation B’nai Tzedek synagogue in Fountain Valley, California, where he made the comments about Steel’s accent .
“Yeah, so she just had another town hall the other day. And, umm, it’s tough. Like, we’ve transcribed it,” Chen said.
“You kind of need an interpreter to figure out exactly what she’s saying,” the Democrat added, drawing laughter from the crowd. “The more she speaks, the better for us.”
The officials wrote that “many in this community have worked hard to learn and speak English, albeit with an accent” and that the “idea” Chen “would use their accent and heritage as a punch line to a joke is ugly and heartbreaking for the entire AAPI community . “
“We expect better from someone running for public office, and from someone whose own family could be subject to the same racism,” the letter reads. “We are calling on you to immediately and publicly apologize for your racist attacks, not just to Congresswoman Steel, but to the entire Asian American community.”
The letter signatories was made up of several current and former California leaders, including former state Sen. Ling Ling Chang and Assemblyman Phillip Chen, as well as local leaders Cerritos Mayor Pro Tem Chuong Vo and ABC Unified School District Board president Soo Yoo.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California called on the House Democrats’ national campaign arm to pull Chen from their “Red to Blue” program “in light of his racist attack” on Steel.
“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee needs to immediately disavow and remove Jay Chen from their ‘Red to Blue’ program in light of his racist attack on Rep. Michelle Steel,” McCarthy said in a previous statement to Fox News Digital. “Disgraceful remarks like those uttered by Jay Chen have no place in our nation’s political discourse and the DCCC must act unless they approve of these racist remarks.”
The unfolding race has become more bitter as Chen and Steel trade blows in the press.
A spokesperson for Chen previously told Fox News Digital his “parents traveled to this country from Taiwan in search of the American Dream” and that Chen’s father endured racism after arriving to the states.
“It’s disgusting that Michelle Steel and Kevin McCarthy are slinging false and hateful attacks to distract from their own lies,” the spokesperson said regarding Steel and McCarthy’s statements on Chen’s comments.
“Steel opposed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and then lied to her constituents, touting the very investments she voted against,” the spokesperson accused. “She claims she is tough on China, but voted against legislation that will empower America to compete on the global stage.”
A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesperson also flagged California Democrat Rep. Judy Chu’s tweet defending the Steel’s opponent.
“I am disturbed by Michelle Steel’s willingness to exploit a legitimate rise in anti-Asian hate to attack a political opponent [and] member of our community, “Chu tweeted. “Jay Chen knows anti-Asian discrimination firsthand and would never tolerate it, much less perpetuate it.”
The DCCC staffer also told Fox News Digital that the signatories on the letter, who are all immigrants, were all Republicans and said that Westminster, California Mayor Tri Ta, who signed the letter, works as an official-side community outreach staffer for Steel.
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The race is likely only to heat up more as November approaches and Steel looks to defend her seat as a freshman member of Congress as the national attitude towards Democrats sours.
Chen’s campaign did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the letter.
Fox News Digital’s Cameron Cawthorne contributed reporting.