A longtime aide and confidant to Jon Huntsman told BuzzFeed that the former Utah Governor and presidential candidate never would have signed off on a controversial new anti-China commercial that was cut by the candidate's former adman, Fred Davis.
"I doubt that is an ad that Governor Huntsman would have ever approved for his own campaign," the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
The ad, which aired in Michigan during the Super Bowl for GOP Senate hopeful Pete Hoekstra, depicts a young Asian woman flanked by rice paddies and speaking in broken English: "You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs."
Huntsman, who served as U.S. Ambassador to China, has stayed mum on the commercial, which was made by the same Republican ad guru who masterminded early pro-Huntsman commercials showing the soon-to-be-candidate riding a motorcycle through the Utah mountains. But throughout the campaign, Huntsman distinguished himself from his Republican rivals by adopting a nuanced, cooperative tone in his China rhetoric, acknowledging the need to work closely with the United States's biggest lender.
And yet, as Davis's anti-China ad has drawn allegations of fear-mongering and racism in recent days, another former Huntsman campaign official has publicly defended it. John Weaver, chief strategist in Huntsman's presidential campaign, attributed to the backlash to professional jealousy by political consultants who didn't land the Hoekstra account.
“I think the ad and the strategy behind it is very sound," Weaver told Politico. “There’s nothing racist about the ad, but there’s a lot of truthfulness about it. You have to be really naive to believe that viewpoint is not held in China, where they receive our manufacturing jobs and we go into debt for them.”
Speaking to BuzzFeed, the Huntsman aide tried to distance his longtime boss from the former campaign officials standing up for the commercial.
"As for Governor Huntsman, the campaign is over, so whatever John Weaver says at this point, he is speaking for himself and not for Governor Huntsman," the aide said.
Davis did not respond to a request for comment, nor did several of Weaver's loyalists who served on the campaign.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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