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Ad calling out Trump for anti-Asian rhetoric will air in battleground states

The group behind the ad "Words Matter" says it's speaking to people of color and recent immigrants from battleground states who haven't voted before.
Image: U.S. President Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for a trip to Florida from the White House in Washington
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for a trip to Florida from the South Lawn of the White House on July 31, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

A pro-immigrant group is releasing an ad in battleground states calling out President Donald Trump for racist anti-Asian rhetoric in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 60-second ad "Words Matter," created by Immigrants' List Civic Action, will air on local stations in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin in the weeks leading up to the November presidential election, and has already been posted to social media.

The ad features news stories with headlines like, “Parents fear anti-Asian racism as schools mull reopening” and “Hate crimes, harassment of Asian American rise” alongside Trump repeating refrains like “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” in reference to COVID-19. The ad cites some of NBC Asian America's reporting on the topic.

“Tell Donald Trump words matter,” the ad reads in bolded text at the end.

“The point of ‘Words Matter’ is to highlight the kinds of racist rhetoric that Trump is using when he calls the coronavirus ‘kung flu’ or calls it the ‘Chinese virus,’” Ira Kurzban, an immigration lawyer and the founder of Immigrants’ List Civic Action, told NBC Asian America.

According to the group, the ad is one of several that is set to be released appealing to marginalized or minority groups, including Latinx Americans, Arab Americans and immigrants, in battleground states.

Kurzban said all the states his team selected were places where Trump won by a very small margin in the 2016 presidential election. He believes getting people of color and recent immigrants who haven't voted before to the ballot box in larger numbers will turn the tide in those states.

“We’re trying to get people out to vote because we believe if new Americans vote, we will have a new person in the White House in January 2021,” he said.

Since March, research shows that discrimination against Asian Americans has surged. Asian Americans have reported being coughed on, refused entry by stores and car services, online harassment and physical assault, according to Stop AAPI Hate, an online reporting forum launched in mid-March.

In the months that followed, the forum received hundreds of reports of discrmination or harassment from Asian Americans across the country.

John C. Yang, president and executive director of the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told NBC Asian America in March that he thinks Trump’s phrasing has an impact.

“The deliberate use of terms like “Chinese virus” has definitely fanned the flames of racism toward Asian Americans in this country,” he said. “We have seen people associate the virus with Chinese people as they are assaulting them. It’s outrageous for any elected official to have been dismissive when the evidence of racist attacks continues to climb. Words matter and they often hold more weight when spoken by our politicians.”