Suburban Express subpoenaed after sending out offensive ad

CHICAGO -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office is investigating a Champaign area-based bus company that recently sent out an email ad some thought disparaged Asians.

Madigan's office said Monday it subpoenaed Suburban Express to determine if the company violated the Illinois Human Rights Act after it told riders in an ad that they "won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses."

The University of Illinois called the email "bigoted" and Madigan expressed concerns that the ad by the company that serves University of Illinois students "may reflect that Suburban Express is discriminating against potential customers."

There was no answer at the Suburban Express office Monday night and the Chicago Tribune couldn't reach the company's owner for comment.  On its Facebook page, the company issued a statement, titled "Apology."

"We made a remark based on the fact that our competitor mostly handles Chinese international students," the apology read. "The remark is being interpreted as a slap in the face of all non-caucasians for some reason, and that it [sic] not how it was intended."

"We must concede that we disagree with the way the University of Illinois is being run. U of I is a state school that is funded by taxpayers and is built on land granted by the people of the State of Illinois. As such, we believe that the mission of the University of Illinois should be providing high-quality, affordable education to the citizens of Illinois," the message continued.

But Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar criticized the company's message, writing on Facebook: "This is not an apology. This is an unbelievably offensive and bigoted response. Shame on you. Since you serve O'Hare International Airport, I am going to call for a hearing on your business practices. In them meantime, you may want to issue a real apology."

Dear Suburban Express: This is not an apology. This is an unbelievably offensive and bigoted response. Shame on you....

Posted by Ameya Pawar on Monday, December 4, 2017

After the backlash to the initial statement, the company issued a new apology, calling the ad "incredibly inappropriate and harmful":

Suburban Express Email Apology On December 2nd 2017, Suburban Express sent out an email discount promotion with...

Posted by Suburban Express on Monday, December 4, 2017