NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw sparked the ire of his leftist allies over the weekend when he said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” episode that Hispanic Americans should “work harder” at assimilating into the United States, which would include learning both standard American English and American civics.
According to Fox News, the 78-year-old Brokaw made his remarks during a panel discussion while speaking about the border conflict permeating across the U.S. Southern border. His statement alluded to the sentiment, held by some Republican voters, that mass immigration from Mexico and Central America ultimatey may disproportionately aid Democrats in future elections.
“On the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important new constituent in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats,” he said.
Brokaw added that, in his view, certain Americans have lingering problems with interracial marriage. “Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, ‘Well, I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.’ I mean, that’s also a part of it. It’s the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other,” he said.
The veteran news anchor then got candidly honest when he shared a viewpoint he has long held: Hispanic Americans must be better at assimilating.
“I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”
Immediately, Brokaw’s comments drew swift condemnations on Twitter with accusations of insensitivity. One NYU professor said that Americans should learn to “assimilate into global society.”
“(Tom Brokaw) my mom worked harder at learning English than most teens in their HS ‘foreign language’ class,” NYU adjunct professor Carolina J. Morena tweeted. “I’m fluent in Spanish & English, majored in French & studied Portuguese. Maybe the US should try harder to assimilate into global society. #ImmigrationIsTheFuture Join us!”
Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro simultaneously accused Brokaw of passing “xenophobia” off as political commentary. “[Tom Brokaw], for a celebrated @NBCNews journalist who spent years chronicling American society you seem stunningly ignorant of the Hispanic community in this country. Unfortunate to see xenophobia pass for elevated political commentary,” the Texas Congressman tweeted.
Aura Bogado, an investigative immigration reporter at Reveal, said Brokaw was “arguing classic white supremacist talking points in a deeply racist rant on national television.”
Julio Ricardo Varela, the founder of LatinoRebels.com, said Brokaw had also engaged in “xenophobia.” “It really was a punch in the gut to a lot of people,” he said. “It was not only factually incorrect, it was also xenophobia in action,” he said.
Speaking on CNN’s “Newsroom,” liberal commentator Maria Cardona said Brokaw showed that he’s a “little out of touch.”
“I’ll give him a pass because he’s probably not up to speed as to where things are today and age, especially with young Latinos in this country,” she said, adding that “Latinos absolutely assimilate.”
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists said in a statement late Sunday that assimilating into American culture means “denying one culture for another.”
“Hispanics are no less American for embracing their country of origin or that of their ancestors … being bicultural and bilingual is a strength in an increasingly multi-ethnic, multilingual society,” said the organization’s president.
According to CNN, Brokaw apologized Sunday night for offending “members of that proud culture.”
“I am sorry, truly sorry, my comments were offensive to many,” he said. “The great enduring American tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished. Thank you for your comments, let’s go forward.”
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists did not accept Brokaw’s apology.
“To assert that the U.S. is not the melting pot that the country prides itself on being, is disinformation as the U.S. has always had immigrants and a mixture of races, religious beliefs and languages in its history. It is these values in fact that makes the country fascinating and has spread the ‘American Dream,’” the group said. “The ‘sorry some Hispanics were offended’ apology tweeted by Tom Brokaw earlier this evening is not an apology at all. It only further demonstrates Brokaw’s lack of understanding of what forced assimilation does to communities.”