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Placer County brewery apologizes for anti-Asian phrase in Facebook post

Hillenbrand Farmhaus Brewery deleted its social media pages after using the phrase "Chinese Virus" to advertise holiday sales.

NEWCASTLE, Calif. — A Placer County brewery deleted its Facebook page, deactivated comments on its Instagram page and apologized to its customers after a post using anti-Asian rhetoric caused some controversy. 

Hillenbrand Farmhaus Brewery advertised a “Chinese Virus” special, which was later edited it to the “Donald Trump” special for gift cards and growler sales. But as soon as the initial post was published, backlash was swift among the Asian American community.

The phrase is stigmatizing, and advocates say, contributed to an increase of Asian hate crimes this year. Patric Hillenbrand, owner of the brewery, said he regretted the post was hurtful and did not know the phrase is associated with violence against Asian people.

He added his business has a long history of supporting Asian women and children who are victims of sex trafficking, and it was hurtful to be called a racist due to a poorly worded social media post. 

He did, however, admit it was fair to call it ignorant, and in statement, he apologized.

“I will offer my sincere apology to the Asian community for my ignorance, but I will neither dignify nor validate the accusations of racism with anything more.”

Read the full statement below

Let me start by saying that it was painful for me to hear from you that our social media posts were hurtful to the Asian community. I regret that very much. What was more painful to hear is that I am racist or xenophobic, or that I mocked Asian people.

I have a long history of supporting Asian people and Asian causes through volunteer work, donation and fund raising. I have personally donated in excess of $100,000.00 to a Cambodian organization for the fight against the human trafficking of vulnerable Asian women and children.   I have used Hillenbrand Farmhaus Brewery on numerous occasions to raise money for funding the rescue of Asian women and children who were victims of trafficking.  We have raised over $120,000.00 for that cause at the brewery.  In addition to raising and donating money, I have been in the trenches in Cambodia and volunteered countless hours working to fight for Asian women and children who were either victims of trafficking or high risk targets.  

So for people—who don’t even know me—to call me a racist, or anti-Asian is ridiculous.

As for the comment on social media, it was not intended to be hurtful or disrespectful... I truly had no idea it was a term associated with violence against Asian people... a fact of life that I have worked hard to oppose.  

It is fair to say that my comment was ignorant, but extremely unfair to say it is racist. Racism should be measured by more than a poorly worded social post. Racism is not words. It is thoughts and beliefs.  Against the accusation of racism, my actions speak louder than words. 

I will offer my sincere apology to the Asian community for my ignorance, but I will neither dignify nor validate the accusations of racism with anything more.

Editor's note: The original version of this story claimed the brewery deleted its Instagram page. That information has been updated.

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