Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Texas county commissioner candidate accused of altering Asian American challenger’s face in new ads

Lesley Briones this week was accused of doctoring her opponent Ben Chou’s eyes, nose and lips, as well as the color of his skin, in a series of negative ads.
(Hill Street Studios/Getty Images)

Story at a glance

  • A candidate for county commissioner in Harris County, Texas this week was accused of changing the facial features of her opponent, who is Asian American, and white-washing his skin in a series of ads posted to social media.

  • The ads released by Lesley Briones’ campaign appear to doctor the eyes, nose, lips and skin of her primary challenger Ben Chou.

  • Briones’ campaign in a statement blamed changes made to Chou’s appearance in the ads on a graphic designer who allegedly Photoshopped an image of Chou without permission.

A candidate for Texas county commissioner has been accused of doctoring her Asian American opponent’s image in a series of negative ads released this week on social media.

Lesley Briones, a former Harris County judge running for county commissioner, on Wednesday was accused of altering her primary challenger Ben Chou’s facial features, including his eyes, nose and lips. The ad also appears to have lightened Chou’s skin.

In a statement, Chou’s campaign said the ad follows a “long history of doctoring images of people of color to make them look angry or menacing.” 

“I am saddened to see my opponent stoop to leveraging racist stereotypes that have been used to attack Asian Americans for more than 150 years,” Chou said Thursday in the statement. “With anti-Asian hate rising, Briones should know better than to redraw my eyes and face to suit her campaign.”

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A report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism published earlier this year found that anti-Asian hate crime had risen by 339 percent last year compared to 2020.

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

Chou and Briones are six days away from facing off in a runoff election for the Harris County Precinct 4 Democratic nomination after neither candidate earned at least 50 percent of votes during a primary election in March.

A spokesperson for Briones in a statement distanced the campaign from the ad, blaming any changes made to Chou’s image on an unnamed graphic designer. It is unclear whether the graphic designer is affiliated with Briones’ campaign.

“A graphic designer used a standard Photoshop filter without our knowledge,” the statement reads. “Within minutes of being notified of the mistake, we took the ad down.”

The statement adds that the ad was a “well-sourced, accurate list of Chou’s lies that he has perpetrated and continued to perpetrate in this campaign.”

Briones in a tweet said Chou was using the ad to duck her campaign’s accusations and distract voters.

“Shame on Ben Chou,” Briones wrote. “Rather than answering for his false attacks and defamatory lies, he is spreading even more lies.”

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