Newt Gingrich said this past weekend that the U.S. should abolish bilingual education so that people aren’t speaking “the language of living in a ghetto.”
But last night on Hannity & Colmes, Gingrich claimed his statement “did not refer to Spanish.” Gingrich insisted, “What I meant is very clear,” but then wouldn’t say which language he was referring to.
Gingrich said, “Now, I’ll let you pick — frankly, ghetto, historically had referred as a Jewish reference originally. I did not mention Hispanics, and I certainly do not want anybody who speaks Spanish to think I’m in any way less than respectful of Spanish or any other language spoken by people who come to the United States.”
Gingrich made his comments in the context of bilingual education. Overwhelmingly, that means English/Spanish education. Peter Zamora, co-chair of the Hispanic Education Coalition, understood what Gingrich meant: “The tone of his comments was very hateful. Spanish is spoken by many individuals who do not live in the ghetto.”
UPDATE: Jeffrey Feldman notes that Gingrich got his history wrong.
COLMES: You spoke over the weekend to the National Federation of Republican Women. You’re quoted as having said, The American people believe English should be the official language. And then you went on to say that people should learn the language of the country and not the language of living in a ghetto, referring to Spanish. Is that your definitive comment or was that a misquote? Were you not properly quoted?
GINGRICH: Well, that did not refer to Spanish. The point I made was that we ought to have a program of intensive education so that every person who comes to America learns English as rapidly as possible. And I’ve talked to experts who believe that an intensive program, young people could learn to be relatively fluent in four to six months, and older people could learn in a year.
COLMES: What do you mean language in the ghetto?
GINGRICH: What I meant is very clearly, Alan. I’ll let you pick the right word for me. We should not have a program which traps people into not being able to speak English by failing to teach them the language that is the prominent language of prosperity, the dominant language of government, the dominant language of politics. Now, I’ll let you pick — frankly, ghetto, historically had referred as a Jewish reference originally. I did not mention Hispanics, and I certainly do not want anybody who speaks Spanish to think I’m in any way less than respectful of Spanish or any other language spoken by people who come to the United States.