By Gilda Balan, Correspondent
This was the case in Nebraska, whose Governor Jim Pillen all but accused investigative reporter Yangqi Xu of being a “communist.” All because the reporter from China had written a report that was critical of Pillen’s hog farming operations.
Xu’s report originally came out in the Flatwater Free Press (FFP), but was republished by several other news outlets. The report raised environmental concerns about the governor’s hog farms having an effect on drinking water.
Xu’s investigative report found data showing 16 of Pillen’s hog farms had high nitrate levels.
When asked by local media to react to the report, the governor instead referred to Xu being a communist from China. He said he did not read the reporter’s work.
Said Pillen: “Number one, I didn’t read it. And I won’t. 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?”
Pillen was clearly unaware that there is no county named Communist China. What there is, is known as the People’s Republic of China.
FFP executive director Matt Wynn issued a statement expressing outrage at the governor’s racist statement, the kind that foments hate and hate crimes.
“Had Governor Pillen spoken to the facts Yanqi found, I wouldn’t be writing this now,” he said, adding, “Elected officials deserve the chance to respond to findings. We offered every opportunity for him to do so before we ran the story. He declined them all…”
The FFP executive added: “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.”
“As an employer, that infuriates me. As a believer in democracy and a free press, it saddens me. As a Nebraskan, it embarrasses me,” he concluded.
The Asian American Journalists Association stood behind Xu’s report.
State Senator Megan Hunt also took to social media in support of Xu, calling the governor’s remarks racist and demanding an apology. “Governor Pillen needs to apologize and do something to address the racism that is in his heart,” Hunt posted on social media.
For her part, Xu said she found it disheartening that Pillen failed to respond to her report. Instead, the governor only addressed one thing – where she is originally from.
Xu has been living in the US since 2017 and earned her Master’s degree in American journalism at the University of Missouri – Columbia. Her work on examining nitrate level and its possible link to childhood cancer had previously won her a national award.