POLITICS

Bloomberg reporter apologizes for questioning Ted Cruz's 'Latinoness'

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)  (2013 Getty Images)

In what has become something of a pattern, a journalist has apologized to Sen. Ted Cruz for comments or questions that have appeared to measure how Latino he really is and have been derided as discriminatory.

The latest: Mark Halperin, the managing editor of Bloomberg Politics. Halperin conducted an interview with the presidential candidate in recent weeks in which he seemed to interrogate Cruz, whose father is a Cuban immigrant, about how Latino he really was — he asked him to name a Cuban dish, a Cuban entertainer and also requested that he say a few words in Spanish.

The senator reacted politely to each question, sometimes even with a slight smile. He said there was a Cuban cultural presence in his home when he was growing up, and that his favorite Cuban dish is picadillo (ground beef). He said he did not have a favorite Cuban entertainer because, as a Texan, he preferred country music. He declined to speak Spanish.

After the backlash over the interview, which went nearly unnoticed in the public media until syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette recently focused on it and slammed it as “racist,” Halperin issued an apology.

“We wanted to talk with Senator Cruz about his outreach to Latino voters the day after he spoke at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” Halperin said in a publicly released statement.

“My intent was to give the Senator a chance to speak further about his heritage and personal connections to the community through some casual questions. I rushed through the questions and that was a mistake. It led to poor tone and timing. I also understand why some felt the questions were inappropriate.”

“As for asking Senator Cruz to welcome Senator Sanders to the race in Spanish,  that was meant to be the type of light hearted banter that he's done with us before on the show,” Halperin said. “In no way was I asking Senator Cruz to ‘prove’ he was an ‘authentic’ Latino. I apologize to those that were offended and to Senator Cruz. I promise that I will work to make the tone and questions better next time.”

Cruz quickly responded to the apology via his Facebook page.

“Mark Halperin is a serious and fair-minded journalist,” Cruz said. “Today he kindly issued an apology for some silly questions he asked me in an interview. The apology was unnecessary – no offense was taken, nor, I believe, intended – but is certainly appreciated.”

“I'm proud of my Cuban heritage, my father's journey from oppression and prison in Cuba to freedom in America, and also my Irish-Italian heritage on my mother's side. Both are integral parts of who I am today,” Cruz said. 

“The 2016 Republican field is shaping up to be the most diverse in history, and I look forward to a robust and substantive conversation about how we work together to turn around our current stagnation and expand opportunity for everyone to achieve the American Dream.”

The tone and attacks on Cruz, a Tea Party Republican who launched his presidential campaign in March, have been so acidic that even non-fans of Cruz have called them excessive or out of line, forcing apologies.

The author of an essay in The New Yorker took aim at Cruz, saying: "To many Americans, he is the uppity loudmouth.” 

Critics called the essay bigoted, singling out the word “uppity.”

Breitbart noted: “‘Uppity’ is widely seen as a term used against minorities who ‘don’t know their place.'”

The New Yorker responded by removing the controversial passage. The writer, veteran journalist John Cassidy wrote an apology, saying: "The word…has some disturbing historical connotations that I overlooked, and in applying it to a Latino politician, I goofed. If I gave any offense, however inadvertently, I am sorry.”

One of the most assailed attempts to take shots at Cruz occurred on MSNBC, when guest Jamilah Lemieux made fun of the lawmaker’s remarks on a CBS morning show that he grew fond of country music after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because of that genre’s patriotic songs.

Lemieux said, “Nothing says ‘Let’s go kill some Muslims’ like country music, fresh from Lynchburg, Virginia. Someone who obviously does not want to be a polarizing candidate, he wants to bring people together, I mean — really? That’s absurd.”

After a torrent of criticism of Lemieux, MSNBC delivered an on-air apology.

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