The nation may have reacted with shock over U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez’s leaked Native American whooping cry – which she also animated with her hand – during a political speech on Saturday, but many Californians know it’s hardly the first time the congresswoman has made jaws drop.
Before she announced her candidacy to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, she sent heads shaking when she mocked California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a fellow Democrat who is vying for the seat, for not speaking Spanish and, thus, being unable to communicate with much of the state's population.
In 2010, Sanchez went on a tear on her opponent at the time, Republican Van Tran, saying in a Spanish-language TV interview that the Vietnamese community and the GOP were conspiring to take her congressional seat. She called Tran “very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic.”
Tran denounced what he said was Sanchez’s “racial rampage.”
In 2000, Sanchez managed to get herself disinvited as speaker at the Democratic National Convention, of which she was vice chairwoman, after making the widely criticized decision to hold a Hispanic Unity USA PAC fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
In each of these instances, she apologized or, in the Playboy Mansion incident, changed the venue.
The long-term lawmaker, 55, is known for letting the chips fall where they may.
“Knowing Loretta all these years, I can say she is consistent,” an the Sacramento Bee quoted former Sanchez campaign chairman and confidante Wylie Aitken as saying. “She will say what’s on her mind, because with Loretta, what you see is what you get.”
Sanchez takes pride in her unfiltered style, saying that she doesn’t hide behind scripts and handlers like other politicians, and that means there’ll be missteps sometimes.
“Sooner or later, we make mistakes,” she told a crowd at another political event over the weekend, referring to her headlines-making insult involving Native Americans. “Because you know what? We’re all humans.”
“In this crazy and exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I said something offensive, and for that I sincerely apologize.”
Sanchez said that Native Americans "know that I have always had their backs. And they know what many of you don't know—that like so many Mexican Americans, I am proudly Native American on my mother's side."
Sanchez especially lets loose, said Fred Smoller, a political science professor at Chapman University, when she is fighting an uphill battle, as she is now against Kamala Harris, who is seen as the frontrunner in the race to succeed Boxer.
“That’s exactly when she gets feisty,” Smoller said, according to the Sacramento Bee. “‘I am the outsider … and I am representing people the establishment would ignore.’"
“She has that independent streak, the Loretta character where she isn’t undisciplined, but she also isn’t controlled,” he said. “It’s part of her authenticity. There is little virtue in being something she’s not: stilted or scripted.”
The latest gaffe is seen as a significant setback for Sanchez, who has seen many Democrats in her state and around the country line up behind Harris, a more careful public speaker and campaigner.
Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and Asian-Indian mother, told reporters, "I don’t know what to say to that. That’s shocking.”
At the now infamous speech, Sanchez was telling the crowd how, when expecting to meet with a supporter who on the telephone had identified himself as Indian-American, she envisioned seeing a “woo-woo-woo-woo, right? Cause he said 'Indian American.’”
To her surprise, he was not the stereotype she had expected, she told them.
Sayu Bhojwani, New York City's former commissioner of immigrant affairs, told the Los Angeles Times that Sanchez’s remarks, which he heard in person at the Saturday event, demonstrate that "racial insensitivity is not the purview of Republicans or whites, but is pervasive across party and ethnic lines."
"I was taken aback, as many others in the audience were, at her insensitivity, which immediately alienated non-Indian guests as well," said Bhojwani, who is of Indian descent, according to the Times.
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