Harris Co. commissioner candidate accuses opponent of photoshopping racist attack ads

Two candidates heading into the primary run-off election on Tuesday are going head-to-head over allegedly racist ads. 

Both candidates are Democrats, facing off for the Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner nomination. 

"When I saw that my eyes, my lips and my face had been altered, I thought to myself this can’t be real. This is ridiculous," said Ben Chou.

The allegedly racist ad Chou is referring to, is a photoshopped picture blasted from his run-off opponent, Judge Lesley Briones. 

MORE: Texas Attorney General GOP primary runoff: Ken Paxton faces George P. Bush

The two are vying for the Democratic nomination for Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner, a seat currently held by Republican Jack Cagle. 

"You will see in the background here, are bricks, where as if you search online, it would be a stock photo of the Great Wall of China," Chou said. 

"When I first saw the series of doctored images of my face, it brought me back to a place from memories of my childhood. There would often be kids who’d run around, peeling their eyes back, as a way to mock our appearance; as a way to say our facial features were less than others; as a way to make us feel inferior," Chou continued. 

MORE: Hotly contested House District runoff likely to be close

Chou claims that Briones has not called to apologize to him or publicly acknowledge the ad’s racist undertones, since its release on social media last week.

"As a candidate, you take ownership of what happens to your campaign. If you were seeking to be a leader, a representative of Precinct 4, which is the home to Chinatown, to Little Saigon, to Koreatown, and to the Gandhi District, our Asian American population is 13%; the largest Asian American population in Harris County. If you want to represent us, then have some class and say that you take ownership of the ads that your campaign put out. Do not try and belittle and put this on someone who works for you," Chou said. 

In a statement response, Briones said, 

"After a series of negative ads by the Ben Chou campaign, which included faking a Chronicle headline and filtering a photo of me, our campaign responded to these attacks. Without my knowledge and without any direction from the campaign, an overzealous graphic designer altered a photo of Ben Chou with a Photoshop "Happiness" filter to remove his smile, and made the photo black and white. I ordered that the ad be taken down within minutes of learning about it. The person who made the alteration has been let go from the campaign. I have apologized publicly to Ben Chou and our Asian American community. I reject all accusations of racism. I am a proud woman of color who has a long history of championing equality, diversity, and inclusion. Our campaign remains focused on the issues: Protecting the right to be safe in our homes, the right to vote, and the right to choose – for all Precinct 4 residents."


According to a tweet from Briones, her candidacy is backed by other sitting commissioners including Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.

Garcia declined an on-camera interview Monday, but released a statement saying, "I applaud Lesley’s quick actions to let go of a campaign staffer, apologize to Ben, and to denounce any characterizations of racism. I know Lesley’s integrity and remain unmoved. I am proud to continue to support her campaign for Commissioner of Precinct 4. I had hoped that Ben would have led a more substantive issues-based campaign, rather than reaching the ridiculous conclusion that there is any similarity whatsoever between Lesley and Donald Trump."