Philadelphia – The new interim chair of the Democratic National Committee appeared at a gathering hosted by the Hispanic Caucus at the presidential convention and apologized for the leaked party leadership emails that showed an interest in undermining Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee.
Donna Brazile, who was a political commentator for CNN and is replacing DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stood at the podium and said: “I sincerely apologize, my friends, for those of you who took offense and feel betrayed and were betrayed by the ridiculous, insensitive and inappropriate emails by the staff of the Democratic Party.”
“If I have to clear some desks to open up opportunities for others, I will,” she said.
In an interview afterward with Fox News Latino, Brazile said the party is unified and that she is “confident” that Sanders will work with the DNC to defeat Donald Trump despite the leaked the emails.
“I am confident that the Bernie Sanders campaign and the campaign manager, who is a good friend, his strategist, who was one of my former colleagues, we are going to work together to rebuild and make sure we have a victory in November.”
Wasserman Schultz stepped down after Wikileaks released internal committee emails indicating that party leaders were trying to hurt Sanders’ chances of advancing and trying to create conditions – such as limiting the number of debates – to favor Hillary Clinton.
Brazile stressed the importance of getting to the bottom of the email leak.
“This falls on a system that was not only vulnerable to hackers but a system that was not appropriately managed,” she said. “We have to get to the bottom of not just how our system was hacked but to make sure that the material coming out is not misinformation.”
The revelation came at an awkward time – the DNC was about to launch its national convention in Philadelphia, and was hoping for a show of stability and unity, especially after the GOP convention the week before in Cleveland was marred by a headline-grabbing speech by Sen. Ted Cruz that was seen as a stab at Trump.
The Hispanic Caucus featured speakers who praised Clinton and her newly chosen running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, and said that a Clinton administration would be sensitive to the needs and concerns of Latinos.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, warned that Trump’s hardline rhetoric about Mexico and Mexicans would, under a Trump presidency, translate into policies and actions detrimental to all Latinos.
Gutierrez, one of Congress’s most vocal proponents for comprehensive immigration reform – particularly for providing relief to certain undocumented immigrants – recalled when Puerto Ricans experienced similar reactions in the 1950s.
“When Donald Trump says that Mexicans are drug dealers, he’s speaking about all of us,” Gutierrez said. “My parents came as migrants” from Puerto Rico.
“They came with nothing here, they were uneducated,” he said. “And their son got to go to the Congress of the United States.”
Then he asked rhetorically: “They said what about Puerto Ricans?”
“They said ‘They come here to be on welfare,’ that we were criminals…that we brought tropical diseases. In the 1950s, when my parents came here there was no one to stand up and protect them. We are here to stand up and protect.
Outside the hall, Gutierrez told Fox News Latino that it is imperative that Latinos turn out at the polls in November.
The congressman said anyone who cares about a decent living wage, about a woman’s right to choose, and compassionate immigration policy should make it a priority to vote in the presidential election. He said voting for candidates with such stances who are running for local and state offices was also important.
“You have a responsibility to vote,” Gutierrez said when asked what he would say to Latinos. “Donald Trump would love all of you to stay home.”
The morning caucus event featured a tribute to the victims of the mass murder at an Orlando gay nightclub in June. It included a video of the victims’ photos and a moment of silence.
“As an openly gay Latina living in Orlando, this really hit home,” said Vivian Rodriguez, the president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. “We believed it was a safe haven to express ourselves. Many of the victims were outed that evening to their families. Imagine a family finding out the truth about their child through this tragedy and act of hate.”
“No one should be targeted because of who they love,” she said.