Nebraska Governor Faces Backlash Over Remarks on Investigative Reporter’s Chinese Heritage

( – Republican Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen has come under fire for an allegedly xenophobic comment about a Chinese journalist working for Flatwater Free Press. During a September radio interview, Pillen was asked about an article authored by Yanqi Xu, who is in the United States on an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” visa. She has been in the country working on two master’s degrees since 2017. Xu’s original visa was nearing its expiration during the pandemic, so she enrolled in a second master’s degree program to study data analytics since she could not travel back to her home country.

Xu wrote a lengthy investigative report about the high levels of nitrate that were detected in the soil at 16 of the governor’s hog farms. Responding to the question about the report, Governor Pillen said that he did not and would not read it, adding that “The author is from communist China. What more do you need to know?”

Xu maintains that she wrote the investigative piece to urge the governor to offer a solution to the elevated nitrate problem. She said that “high nitrate can seep into the groundwater” and the levels detected on his farms exceeded the federal limit five-fold. Hog farms are typically havens for increased nitrate levels due to the compound’s presence in hog excrement. Xu said that she was shocked that Pillen chose to attack her instead of addressing the concerns outlined in the report. Pillen’s daughter, who is the CEO of Pillen Family Farms, provided comment for Xu’s story, claiming that the company was committed to being environmentally conscious. However, the governor refused to respond to multiple requests for comment.

Nebraska Journalism Trust’s executive director, Matt Wynn, issued a statement condemning the governor’s remarks. He requested an apology from the governor through email and multiple phone calls to his office but did not receive a response. Wynn spoke very highly of Xu and defended her investigative report.

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