The Republican politician, 67, made the comments about Yanqi Xu, a Chinese immigrant who works for the independent outlet Flatwater Free Press, during a radio interview in September.
He was asked to respond to her article about high levels of nitrate on his hog farms.
‘No 1, I didn’t read it. And I won’t,’ Pillen told local radio station KFAB. ‘No 2, all you got to do is look at the author. The author is from communist China. What more do you need to know?’
Xu, 27, hit out at his comments on Wednesday and said she wanted to hold the governor accountable. ‘I’m still trying to wrap my head around this,’ she told NBC News. ‘I can definitely see the bias there.’
Reporter Yanqi Xu, 27, was left shocked after Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen dismissed her as being ‘from communist China ‘
Pillen, 67, (pictured) made the comments about Xu, a Chinese immigrant who works for independent outlet Flatwater Free Press, during a radio interview in September
Xu hit out at his comments on Wednesday and said she wanted to hold the governor accountable. ‘I’m still trying to wrap my head around this,’ she told NBC News. ‘I can definitely see the bias there’
‘I think it’s important to speak up and it can be really, really hard at first because in some ways, it made you the center of the story,’ Xu added.
‘Especially as a woman of color, if the other person who made such a comment about you is the most powerful person in the state, how do you respond?
‘But I think for me, I found myself coming back to this point of: If I don’t do it, who would?’
On the day of Governor Pillen’s interview, she was out working on a story on his hog farms and found out about his comments when she entered the newsroom the next day.
‘My immediate reaction was, “Oh, wow, he’s finally responding,”‘ Xu said. ‘But I never expected his only actual comment was about who I am and where I’m from. So I was pretty shocked.’
The journalist said she has not had any biased comments against her during her two years working as a journalist in Nebraska.
‘I don’t think that your country of origin defines you,’ she said. ‘When I’m interacting with people, Nebraskans are actually pretty welcoming. And in a lot of ways I felt that I do have a community here.’
Matt Wynn, executive director of the Nebraska Journalism Trust, which created Flatwater Free Press, also came to her defense in a column published on Tuesday after consulting with immigration lawyers to make sure her visa status would not be affected.
‘Yanqi has been in the United States since 2017. … This, she said, is the first time anyone has written her off based on her origin. And it was broadcast, over the air, by the governor of Nebraska,’ he wrote.
The Asian American Journalists Association released a statement in support of the journalist on Wednesday
Congresswoman Judy Chu also slammed Pillen’s comments as a ‘baseless xenophobic attack’ and called on him to apologize to Xu and her outlet
‘As an employer, that infuriates me. As a believer in democracy and a free press, it saddens me. As a Nebraskan, it embarrasses me.’
Xu was grateful to her employer and said: ‘I think it’s also super important for other Chinese Americans or other Chinese immigrants to understand that our newsroom thinks it’s not right for the governor to say something like this.’
She has received plenty of support following the incident and added: ‘I’ve heard so many positive comments and responses already, just from today. And I think that would definitely keep me going.’
The Asian American Journalists Association released a statement in support of the journalist on Wednesday.
It said: ‘The Asian American Journalists Association stands with Yanqi Xu, the Flatwater Free Press journalist who was the target of remarks that attempted to dismiss her reporting because of her country of origin.’
‘Having an independent and diverse press corps is essential to democracy, and Xu, an investigative reporter who grew up in China, deserves to do her job without being judged because of her nationality.’
Congresswoman Judy Chu also slammed Pillen’s comments as a ‘baseless xenophobic attack’ and called on him to apologize to Xu and her outlet.
DailyMail.com has contacted Pillen’s office for comment.