Nevada U.S. Senate Republican candidate Sharron Angle left a group of Latino students stunned last week when she said many of them looked Asian.
“I don’t know that all of you are Latino,” Angle told the Hispanic Student Union during a speech at Rancho High School in Las Vegas. “Some of you look a little Asian to me. I don’t know that. What we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country.”
The evidence of the melting pot, she told the students: “I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly."
Her campaign said today she was trying to prove people cannot judge others based on the way they look. She said a reporter first mistook her as Asian she was in the legislature.
The Latino students had invited Angle to the school to respond to questions about a commercial they claimed negatively portrayed Hispanics.
The commercial, which attacked Sen. Harry Reid’s immigration record by showing images of threatening Hispanic-looking men, have made her come under fire by immigrant groups who accuse her of fear-mongering and demonizing undocumented immigrants.
Her campaign says she’s unfairly being called a racist when she simply wanted to point out Reid’s lax enforcement of immigration laws. Angle also said she wasn’t sure it was Latinos pictured in the ad, which has since been pulled.
“I think that you're misinterpreting those commercials,” Angle said. “I'm not sure that those are Latinos in that commercial. What it is, is a fence and there are people coming across that fence
The students at the meeting responded with stares. Some giggled.
"Some of the kids, they couldn't help but chuckle at that," said teacher Isaac Barron. "To deny they are anti-Hispanic when those are the only people shown in her ads, it doesn't add up."
Hispanics are an increasingly important voting bloc in Nevada, where they make up roughly 25 percent of the population.
Reid, which has tried to brand Angle as "too extreme" in the tight race, is counting on the Hispanic vote to secure his fifth term. He has tailored his message on immigration to the crowd he is addressing. To mainstream audiences, he has touted his votes to beef up border security. To Hispanic crowds, he has vowed to make the road to citizenship more inclusive.
The story was based on reporting by the Associated Press.