Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has fired back at a recent New York Times op-ed that questioned whether he was authentically Hispanic, and conservative Hispanics are pointing to it as yet another example of the media’s malpractice when it comes to covering issues of politics and ethnicity.
The op-ed by Ann Louise Bardach, titled “Why Are Cubans So Special?”, was sharply critical of the Cuba policy supported by Cruz, and his fellow Cuban colleagues in the Senate, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey). Dismissing the Senators as “second-generation white Cuban exiles” — as opposed to the “the overwhelming majority of Latinos in the United States, who are of mixed race or indigenous descent” — Bardach mocks Cruz for not being fluent in Spanish and says that he “has been called as Hispanic ‘as Tom Cruise.’”
Cruz’s communications director, Amanda Carpenter, responded with a letter to the editor. In it, Carpenter wrote, “Your decision to allow an Op-Ed writer to openly mock a person’s ethnicity — as Ann Louise Bardach did when she wrote that Senator Ted Cruz ‘has been called as Hispanic as Tom Cruise’ — is saddening.”
“She was using the comment to bludgeon Mr. Cruz’s principled policy positions regarding United States-Cuba relations,” continued Carpenter, “suggesting that, if he disagrees with her, Mr. Cruz is not truly Cuban — despite his father’s having been imprisoned and tortured in Cuba, and coming to America penniless.”
New Jersey attorney Sam Rosado shared his frustrations with this attitude. “I can relate so easily to that,” Rosado, who is Puerto Rican, told Breitbart Texas. “That my identity is diminished based upon superficial factors, never mind that my parents are born and raised in Puerto Rico, that I grew up in the culture, and that’s how I identify myself, because I don’t speak Spanish fluently and my skin color isn’t what they think Hispanics should look like.”
In Rosado’s experience, these kind of comments often happen in response to his conservative political beliefs. “It’s very telling, and an example of liberals associating identity with politics. They’re going on that route because Cruz doesn’t have the ‘acceptable’ views on immigration, so they make these comments,” he said, adding that he found it “disgusting” to see “so many liberal Latinos and liberal white journalists dictating who is and isn’t Hispanic based on a policy position.”
Daniel Garza, Executive Director of the LIBRE Initiative, had a similar viewpoint as Rosado, calling Bardach’s op-ed “appalling” and “condescending.” Garza described the problem as, instead of “reporting on what we think,” the mainstream media was “reporting on what we should think.” He told Breitbart Texas that he “can’t stand” the “elitism” that was “driving the narrative that [Hispanics] are all leftists, and anyone who deviates from that viewpoint, some how isn’t Hispanic.”
“The New York Times is telling us who is Hispanic? That kind of thinking should be rejected,” Garza said.
The quote about Cruz being “as Hispanic as Tom Cruise” originally came from Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party in October 2012, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, and his words were met with similar outrage at that time.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.