Racist font? NJ Republican leader defends anti-Kim mailer
TRENTON — The head of the state Republican Party defended a campaign mailer that used a font sometimes associated with Chinese restaurants to attack Congressional candidate Andy Kim.
The mailer, paid for by the New Jersey Republican State Committee, was headlined "Something is real fishy about Andy Kim" across a row of dead fish at a market. The mailer uses the exotic red font to spell Kim's name and phrase "real fishy."
Kim, who is of Korean descent, is challenging Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur in the state's 3rd Congressional District. MacArthur was leading his challenger by just a point, according to a Monmouth University poll in August. This is one of the districts that Democrats are trying to wrest from the GOP in order to take control of the House.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the executive director of the Democratic State Committee, told the New Jersey Globe news site that the mailer was a "despicable" tactic that represented "racist, dog whistle politics."
Interestingly, MacArthur is the father of two Korean children.
New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt told New Jersey 101.5 morning host Bill Spadea on Wednesday that bringing attention to Kim's nationality was not the intention of the mailer.
"We vet our messages for content and try to fact check everything so we don't say anything we're not supposed to. It's the first time we've been called out on the way something looks or appears. It's good to put on our radar screen," Steinhardt said.
Steinhardt said that a public relations firm designed the advertisement and it was reviewed by their legal team "so that we're not accused of falsely misrepresenting someone's record."
The flier first started to get attention after it was tweeted by Matt Friedman, a reporter for Politico NJ.
Writing in the New Jersey Globe, critic Amy Wilson says the lettering in the mailer is similar to fonts called "Wonton" or "Chop Suey," which she says been used to "depict Asians since at least the time of the Yellow Peril."
"Is This Racist? Verdict: Oh god, yes – absolutely," she writes. "This is a horrifying use of a font to exoticize and Orientalize an Asian candidate."
The race between Kim and MacArthur had turned ugly before this mailer. Kim has been criticized for inflating his resume and MacArthur's campaign has accused Kim of lying about being in the military.
Kim is running on a platform on expanding affordable health care access. MacArthur is running as a champion of President Donald Trump's signature tax law. MacArthur was the only congressman from New Jersey who voted for the tax bill.