Nebraska governor doubles down on comment calling Chinese reporter a ‘communist’

Nebraska governor doubles down on comment calling Chinese reporter a ‘communist’Nebraska governor doubles down on comment calling Chinese reporter a ‘communist’
via YouTube/Jim Pillen for Governor
Michelle De Pacina
October 23, 2023
Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen has responded to the national backlash he received after calling Chinese investigative reporter Yanqi Xu a “communist” while dismissing her critical report about his hog farming operation. 
Pillen’s response: On Friday, Pillen told reporters that he stands by his comments following a press conference in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“My comments were my comments,” Pillen said. “That’s what I have to say about it.”
When confronted by reporters, Pillen said that he did not want to talk about “any sideshows.”
“I’m 100% focused on the state of Nebraska and the people in Nebraska defending agriculture, growing agriculture and selling it all over the country… I’m not going to talk about any reporter. I’m not going to talk about any sideshows. I’m focused on my job,” he said. 
About the report: Xu’s report with the Flatwater Free Press (FFP) raised concerns about the environmental impact of Pillen’s hog farms on drinking water. Xu found data for 16 of his hog farms that showed high nitrate levels. 
Xu, who works for FFP, grew up in China and has lived in the U.S. since 2017. She pursued American journalism and earned her master’s degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia. 
Pillen’s comments: When radio station KFAB asked Pillen to comment on the report, the governor did not respond directly to the article but instead criticized Xu’s background.
“Number one, I didn’t read it. And I won’t,” Pillen previously said. “Number two, all you got to do is look at the author. The author is from communist China. What more do you need to know?”
The backlash: The FFP, the Asian American Journalists Association and many journalists and officials across the nation have since stood up for Xu’s work, calling Pillen’s remarks “racist” and demanding an apology. 
“I hope that he takes the time to reflect on his response and understand why it may make many thousands of Nebraskans feel less welcome here,” Matt Wynn, FFP’s executive director, previously wrote in a letter. “As an employer, that infuriates me. As a believer in democracy and a free press, it saddens me. As a Nebraskan, it embarrasses me.”
After hearing Pillen’s recent remarks about the issue, he told the Nebraska Examiner on Friday, “The opportunity is still there for an apology. I think it is the right and decent thing to do.”
Responding to the water problem: When a reporter raised concerns about the nitrate levels and unsafe drinking water in Nebraska, Pillen said he is in the process of formulating policies and intends to establish a comprehensive master plan for water quality improvement. 
“What we have in the plan to talk about how we’re going to make sure that the water levels continue to rise. We have the most sustainable aquifer in the world. And I wanted to make sure that Nebraskans understand how we had some nitrates and what we can do to improve it. We’ll have a master plan that’ll have a great impact,” Pillen said.
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