APIAVote, Rep. Honda Challenge LA Times Story on AAPI Donors

Leaders of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), a non-partisan non-profit civic engagement organization, today once again called for responsible reporting and portrayal of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civic participation in the media.

APIAVote, an organization I am affiliated with, issued its statement today in response to an Oct. 19 Los Angeles Times story on donors to Sen. Hillary Clinton from New York City’s Chinatown — a story that irresponsibly painted a picture of a trend without the facts to support it.

Clinton was quoted in Newsday today saying: “I am pleased to have a lot of first-generation American support as well as people who have been longtime involved in the political process … I’m going to keep reaching out to everybody in our country. I want to be a president to everybody.”

Congressman Mike Honda issued a statement:

I am appalled by the irresponsible and biased portrayal of the Asian American immigrant community, published by the L.A. Times today. The reporting unfairly attributes selected individual cases to an entire ethnic community in a major metropolitan area. Such an unfair, sweeping, and negative portrayal has a significant chilling effect on the civic participation by all Asian Americans, who merely want their fair chance to participate in the American political process.

While I sincerely hope the reporting is airtight, the story lacked responsible sensitivity and, at times, even strained to turn the commonplace into the mysterious. For example, the story describes “…a woman named Chung Seto, who came to this country as a child from Canton province…” Anyone who has ever spoken with Ms. Seto, who I’ve known for many years, knows that she’s as New York as one can get. The story, however, paints her as a mysterious foreign figure, when in fact she has been a longtime established leader within the New York Democratic Party and is well respected in Democratic circles nationally.

APIAVote does not condone any illegal participation in the American political system and those who do should be held accountable. Improper activities warrant attention, though recent media coverage has continuously mischaracterized the involvement of Asian Americans, as an entire community, in the electoral process. Undue scrutiny on a specific ethnic subgroup is considered negligent journalism; APIAVote leadership re-emphasizes the need for unbiased reporting on allegations of political misconduct.

“We are alarmed by the potential impact of irresponsible reporting and the harm it may have on legitimate political participation by members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said Lisa Hasagawa, APIAVote Board Member. “It is imperative that the media approach these serious allegations with deliberation, focus and the highest levels of journalistic integrity. As the Asian American and Pacific Islander community embraces their right to participate in the civic process, it is important that the greater balance and responsibility be taken when addressing this important issue.”

“In the past, Asian Americans have been criticized for not participating enough in the political process. It is ironic, we are being attacked for doing exactly what citizens are supposed to do: exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities,” stated Noelani Kalipi, APIAVote Board Member.

Immigrants who have permanent resident status have the right to exercise their right to participate in the political process by legally donating to campaigns. Vida Benavides, Chair of APIAVote, cautioned the media “for suggesting that legal permanent residents who donate to campaigns should be suspect because they have not yet earned their right to vote is misleading and is irresponsible reporting.

“Both political parties have long relied on ethnic networks for fundraising. There is nothing unusual about demographic groups with distinct concerns to voice their opinions through the electoral process just like all other citizens,” said Daphne Kwok, APIAVote Board member.

“Many Chinese Americans from Chinatown, Flushing and Brooklyn are prominent and long time donors to many educational, non-profit and political causes,” affirmed Jeanette Moy, APIAVote Vice Chair. “As a born and raised New Yorker, I am personally and professionally alarmed by the broad mischaracterization on the emergent political involvement of the AAPI community.”

The Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) is a national non-partisan, nonprofit organization that encourages and promotes civic participation of Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the electoral and public policy processes at the national, state and local levels.

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