MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman and members of his family expressed outrage on Friday at an advertisement targeted at his adopted daughters by a group supporting rival Ron Paul.
An online ad authored by “NHLiberty4Paul” shows footage of Huntsman with daughters Gracie, who was adopted from China, and Asha, adopted from India, when they were infants.
“American values. Or Chinese,” the ad asks to a soundtrack of Chinese music. It calls Huntsman “the Manchurian Candidate” and ends with an image of Huntsman dressed as China’s former communist leader Mao Zedong, and the words “Vote Ron Paul.”
Paul, a Texas congressman, disavowed the ad during an interview on Friday on CNN, but said he could not control the actions of all his supporters.
“I couldn’t even hear it, haven’t looked at it, but people do that, and they do it in all campaigns,” Paul said.
At a campaign appearance in Concord, New Hampshire, Huntsman, who was U.S. ambassador to China until April before jumping into the Republican race, termed the ad “just stupid” and “political campaign nonsense.”
“If someone wants to poke fun at me, that’s OK,” said Huntsman, who trails in most polls in the Republican nominating contest. “What I object to is bringing forward pictures and videos of my adopted daughters and suggesting there’s something sinister there.”
The second oldest of Huntsman’s seven children, Abby Huntsman Livingston, denounced the ad on Fox News Channel’s “America Live” broadcast.
“It is unfortunate that the political conversation has become this vile. In our family, we put ourselves on the national stage and we expect to get everything and anything. Unfortunately, I think this video goes a bit far,” Livingston said. “My two little sisters are the love of my dad’s life.”
Gracie Mei Huntsman, now 12, was found abandoned in a vegetable market in China at 6 months old, and adopted by Huntsman and his wife, Mary Kaye. She has been a fixture on the campaign trail, often referred to by her father as “our senior foreign policy adviser.”
Asha, now 6, was abandoned in a field in India the day she was born, Livingston said.
Also weighing in was Cindy McCain, the wife of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. “I deeply resent the video made using the adopted daughters of@jonhuntsman,” McCain wrote on Twitter. “@ronpaul shame on you. This has shades of 2000 all over it.”
During John McCain’s failed 2000 campaign for the Republican nomination, automated phone calls referred to the Arizona senator fathering an out-of-wedlock “black baby,” apparently in reference to the McCains’ adopted Bangladeshi daughter.
Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Peter Cooney