Texas county commissioner candidate apologizes for doctored image of Asian American opponent’s face

  • Lesley Briones and Benjamin Chou are battling for the Democratic nomination to represent Precinct 4 in the Harris County Commissioners Court in Texas.
  • Chou accused Briones’ campaign of doctoring an image of Chou in an ad released last week, which Chou slammed as “racist” for “whitewashing” his skin.
  • The stunt has drawn backlash from Chou’s campaign, LGBTQ-plus organizations and the Asian American community.
  • In her recent apology, Briones blamed the incident on an unnamed graphic designer and said that she instructed her team to take the ad down.
  • The pair will face off against each other during Tuesday’s runoff election.

A candidate for the Harris County Commissioners Court in Texas has apologized to her Asian American opponent and the larger Asian American community after releasing an ad that contained a doctored image of her rival.

Lesley Briones, who is running against Benjamin Chou in the Democratic nomination to represent Precinct 4, initially deflected blame on an unnamed graphic designer and doubled down on accusing the latter of spreading lies.

The ad in question, which was released last week, allegedly distorted Chou’s eyes, nose and lips. The openly gay, Chinese American candidate said it “whitewashed” his skin and followed a long history of “doctoring images of people of color to make them look angry or menacing.”

Chou accused Briones of stooping to perpetuating racist stereotypes that have been used to attack Asians for more than 150 years.

“With anti-Asian hate rising, Briones should know better than to redraw my eyes and face to suit her campaign,” Chou said. “During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Houstonians of all backgrounds should be celebrating diversity instead of changing our features to fit someone else’s narrative.

“The Briones Campaign owes an apology to not just the Asian community but to all Harris County voters for her vicious, hateful propaganda,” he added.

Image via Daniel Cohen / @mrdancohen

The image has also drawn backlash from local LGBTQ-plus organizations, including the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorses Chou, and the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus, which endorses Briones.

Briones maintained that the doctoring was committed by an unidentified graphic designer in her apology issued on May 22. This time, Briones clarified that she gave the instruction to take the ad down.

“The graphic designer, without any direction from the campaign, used a Photoshop filter to remove my opponent’s smile and apply a black-and-white filter,” she said. “As soon as I was notified, I instructed my team to remove the ad; it was taken down within minutes.”

Briones also said the designer is no longer part of the campaign. She then apologized to Chou and the Asian American community for the harm the ad has caused.

“Good leaders take responsibility and demand accountability; that graphic designer no longer works from the campaign. I apologize to my opponent that this event occurred and to the Asian-American community for the pain it has caused,” she said.

Still, Briones denied allegations of racism, pointing out that she herself is a woman of color raising three Mexican American children.

“Unfortunately, my opponent has attempted to capitalize on this incident by making unfounded claims of racism against me. As a woman of color who is raising three Mexican American daughters, I reject his charges in the strongest of terms.”

Briones and Chou will face off against each other during Tuesday’s runoff election. The winner will battle incumbent Republican R. Jack Cagle in November.

 

Featured Image via Afrocentrik Television (left) and FOX 26 Houston (right)

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