On July 20, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Peter Yu spoke at a campaign event in Golden where he said hate crimes against Asian-Americans were being exaggerated for political gain by Democrats.

“Do you know how many times I wake up in the morning and am fearful of going outside? Never,” Yu said at the event, hosted by the Colorado Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBT advocacy group. “Do you know how many times I’ve been attacked in the last year and a half because of COVID-19? Zero. Do you know how many people have spit on me or looked at me weird? None. The truth is, if you want to see racism, you’ll see it.”

“The racism thing? It’s a lie,” Yu continued at the 12-minute mark here.

Howard Chou, co-founder and chair of Colorado Democrats Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Initiative, criticized Yu’s comments as being irresponsible and harmful not only to the AAPI community but to the Black and Indigenous people of color community as well.

“Racism is very real,” Chou said. “Violence against AAPI is real. Yet Republican Senate candidate Peter Yu wants to perpetuate a myth that racism doesn’t exist and wants to blame survivors and victims.”

In his response, Chou said Yu should apologize and retract his comments.

“As someone who has experienced hateful violence first hand and seen it expressed toward my whole family, I find Peter’s statements very shameful and shows in volume how out of touch he is,” Chou said. “Peter does not speak for me nor many members of our AAPI community and should apologize and retract his statement immediately.”

When reached for comment, Yu clarified that he personally has experienced racism and that he does know racism exists. Yu wanted to be clear that he takes issue with the politicization of racism against Asians in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I was referring to #StopAsianHate, I was implying that the racism against Asians during COVID has been politically exaggerated to a larger degree than what is happening across the country.”

Yu also explained what he meant when he said racism was a lie.

“When I said that racism is a lie, I was referring to the narrative that ‘America as a whole is racist or that we have systemic racism,’ which is perpetually being pushed by the left and the media,” Yu said. “I am a believer that racism is the product of the person and an individual heart, and not our nation as a whole.”

Hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans increased during the COVID-19 pandemic both nationwide and in Colorado.

“The truth is, if you want to see racism, you’ll see it.”

Peter Yu

Between March 2020 and February 2021 there were 44 hate crimes against Asian-Americans in Colorado. The attacks mirrored a rise in racist rhetoric surrounding COVID-19, including from former president Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) who used terms such as “China virus” and “Kung-Flu.”

In March, a mass shooter in Georgia targeted Asian spas and killed eight people, prompting president Joe Biden to pass a law aiming to address anti-Asian attacks.

However, Yu views the rise in attacks against Asians in the U.S. to be indicative of a grander scale increase of all types of crime.

“Crime has increased against Asians in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Seattle,” Yu said. “However, crime in all these areas, as well as the rest of the country, is up significantly against everyone else as well. It is just being publicized more when the attacks happen to Asians.”

Crime in the U.S. is a hugely complex and often oversimplified issue. While crime rates in most cities have increased from rates during the pandemic, they are still decreasing from 1990s and 2000s levels.

There are compounding reasons for the increase in crime rates other than the decline in COVID case numbers in the three cities Yu mentions, but all three of them reported an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes relating to COVID-19.  But while some national Republican groups claim liberal criminal justice reform efforts are to blame, that does not seem to be the case.

Yu is running to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in 2022. After a failed congressional campaign in 2018, Yu started a non-profit to combat identity politics.

A GOP frontrunner for Bennet’s seat has yet to appear in the race, which experts say will be very difficult for Republicans to win.

Here is the rest of Yu’s statement about the response to his comments about racism against Asian-Americans.

“I have spoken out many times over the years saying that racism does happen in all societies, and I’ve given many examples of my own experiences. I have also made it clear that racism happens between all ethnicities, not just white on minorities,” Yu said. “There are unfortunately bad people who are misled living amongst societies all around the world, and unfortunately they will think and act in ways that are unacceptable. However, this does not mean that every single person is racist nor does it mean that the entire country or world thinks in this manner. You only have to look at the USA Olympic team over the last week and a half. American citizens from all over the world, from all classes, from all races, are competing under the red, white, and blue; and we embrace them all.”