Nebraska Governor Is Criticized for Comments on Reporter's Chinese Nationality

Jim Pillen said in a radio interview that he refused to read an investigation into his hog farms by a reporter who he said is from 'Communist China.'

Nebraska Governor Is Criticized for Comments on Reporter's Chinese Nationality

Jim Pillen, of Nebraska, is under fire after he dismissed an article on environmental concerns in his hog farm by saying the reporter was from "communist China."

Yanqi Xu (27 years old) is a reporter who has revealed her findings.

an article published Sep. 7

The Flatwater Free Press published an article detailing nitrate concentrations 'far beyond' the legal limit for drinking water at over a dozen farms that Mr. Pillen owned. The farms brought prosperity to Platte Centre, a village located 60 miles north of Lincoln, Neb. However, they'may also bring risk' to drinking water in the area, according to Ms. Xu.

In an interview with Omaha radio station KFAB, four days after his inauguration, Pillen was asked for comments on the investigation. He replied, 'Number 1, I didn't and won't'. "Number two... just look at the author. He's from Communist China. What more do you want to know?"

In a telephone interview on Wednesday night, Ms. Xu who holds a master's from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and is pursuing a 2nd master's in analytics, stated that the comments of the Governor had left her'shocked' and'saddened'.

'It's disappointing', Ms. Xu stated, noting that she was comfortable in Nebraska, after spending two years there. She explained that she had considered the potential repercussions, as she was in the country with a work permit. She stated that she decided to speak up on behalf of Chinese immigrants. She said that Nebraskans deserved to know. The comment was made about me but, you know, it was much more than me.

She said, "I felt it was the right decision."

The Governor's Office did not respond immediately to Wednesday night's requests for comments.

The Flatwater Free Press is an independent newsroom in Omaha, Nebraska.

In a statement

On Tuesday, the organization said that they had waited weeks to respond to Governor's comments. This was partly because Ms. Xu’s visa was at risk, and the organization didn't want to put it in danger.

In a statement, Matt Wynn wrote: 'We took our time, because this is, frankly, uncomfortable.' He was the executive director of Nebraska Journalism Trust which founded and funds the Flatwater Free Press. "Good journalists like Yanqi don't want be the story. They want to write it."

Mr. Wynn called Ms. Xu a 'courageous reporter' who grew in Guangzhou in China and moved to the United States to advance her journalism career. She published'revealing stories' such as the Sep. 7, investigation for which she combed hundreds of government documents to find out that a dozen Pillen operation violated state regulations.

Her story stated that 16 of the governor’s hog farms recorded nitrate levels more than five times what is considered safe for drinking. According to the, consuming high levels of nitrate may cause cancer and have harmful effects on infants.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Mr. Wynn stated that Governor Pillen refused to comment on the findings in Ms. Xu’s story prior to its publication, and that he did not respond to emails or phone calls requesting an explanation. He claimed that the governor's comments were the first to criticize Ms. Xu based on where she was born.

In a statement, Mr. Wynn stated that he was 'infuriated' by the situation. He added that he was saddened by the situation as a supporter of democracy and free press.

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A statement is released

The Asian American Journalists Association stated on Wednesday that it'stands by Yanqi Xu', noting that a diverse and independent press corps is vital to democracy and Xu as an investigative journalist who grew up China deserves to do her work without being judged based on her nationality. Other


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Media organizations

Social media users have shown their support for Ms. Xu.