NBC News' Tom Brokaw apologizes after comments on Hispanics spark backlash

NBC News special correspondent and former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw apologized Sunday evening for remarks he made on "Meet the Press" earlier in the day about Hispanic assimilation, after the comments triggered backlash.

During a panel discussion about the fight for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Brokaw said: "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 continued, "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 did not explain who had told him this.

Brokaw went on to say: "I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. 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."

PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor replied: "I grew up in Miami, where people speak Spanish, but their kids speak English. And the idea that we think America can only speak English, as if Spanish and other languages wasn’t always part of America, is, in some ways, troubling."

The backlash was stronger online.

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Sunday evening, Brokaw tweeted: "i feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture."

He also wrote, "i’ve worked hard to knock down false stereo types... i said ALL sides [have] to work harder at finding common ground."

He wrote later: "i am sorry, truly sorry, my comments were offensive to many. the great enduring american tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished. yamiche, thank u for your comments. let’s go forward together."

However, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists said the apology wasn't nearly enough. "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."

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NBC News did not respond to Fox News' request for comment.

Brokaw anchored the long-running "NBC Nightly News" from 1982-2004.