The mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, was angry enough at Chris Matthews that he did something very old-fashioned: He sat down to write him a letter.
As has been widely reported, the irascible MSNBC host on Tuesday, while reporting on the possibility that GOP frontrunner Donald J. Trump would skip the Republican debate Thursday night, leaving Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida as the main draws of the debate, said “Who is going to watch a debate between the two Cuban guys?”
According to Gimenez’s letter, which was dated Thursday, “Every single American who has a vested interest in the future of our great nation.”
The mayor opened his letter, “As a proud Cuban-American and the mayor of a county with the largest population of Cuban-Americans in the United States, I was deeply offended by your distasteful remarks about tonight’s Republican debate.”
He added, “Your comments displayed bigotry and ignorance about nationality and what it means to be an American in the 21st century. Politics aside, Senators Cruz and Rubio are both highly qualified Presidential candidates. They are Americans. Period.”
Gimenez – who is known as a political ally of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – continued, “Perhaps our definition of ‘American’ differs, but let me assure you that despite being born in Cuba to Cuban parents, I am every bit as American as you. And so are Senators Rubio and Cruz.”
In his original comments, Matthews was talking to a reporter and an analyst, and he posed the question to them: “Who is going to watch a debate between the two Cuban guys? Who is going to watch a debate between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Who cares? You know they’ve been fighting in this interleague fight over who is the hawkish guy, or whatever. Who is going to watch that Thursday night?”
Gimenez wrapped up his note to Matthews saying, “I don’t expect you to retract your commentary or apologize, but I hope that my words have at least made you reconsider your antiquated and appalling remarks.”
According to CBSMiami.com, the mayor hasn’t heard back from either the anchor or the news network.
But Matthews did apologize on the air on Thursday evening. He said his comments had been misconstrued and "had nothing to do with the point I was making. It came off as condescending, even derogatory. It sounded like I was putting them down because of their background," he said. "I’m sorry I said it. That’s it. I mean it.”
This isn’t the first time Matthews has courted controversy over the ethnicity of Cruz and Rubio. While analyzing the two presidential hopefuls’ performance in a November debate, he wondered on the air whether or not Cruz and Rubio should be considered Hispanic.
“I’m not sure the right word for them is ‘Hispanic’ because they are Cuban nationals, or they come from Cuba,” he said.