This month, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) began airing a race-baiting anti-immigrant campaign ad that the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce found to be “totally abhorrent and shocking.” The ad targets the immigration stance of Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA), Vitter’s opponent: the narrator says “Thanks to him, we may as well put out a welcome sign for illegal aliens,” as footage of dirty, goofy-looking Latino men slipping through a hole in a fence displaying a neon welcome sign runs across the screen. The men step into a limo with a giant government check they defiantly hang out the window as they zoom away. “I’m going to use the ‘R’ word and say racist,” said the spokeswoman for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We are saying you owe us an apology, we are offended, we expect an immediate apology and we expect this ad to be yanked from the airwaves immediately,” she continued.
Not only did Vitter continue to run the ad, but he defended it during a debate last week, asking “Is it a stereotype that folks coming across the border — that is a problem and they look like that? Dennis that is a fact, that is not a stereotype! Let’s get our heads out of the sand!” This morning on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, joined Vitter in defending the ad. Amanpour repeatedly invited Cornyn to denounce the ad’s racial overtones, which he refused to do, saying only it was “appropriate” to raise the issue of illegal immigration:
AMANPOUR: Some people have called that [ad] racist. I want to know, do you think it’s appropriate to finger Hispanics in that way? Do you think it’s appropriate?
CORNYN: I wish we had time to show Melancon’s ads against Vitter. They’re pretty tough.
AMANPOUR: But let me just ask about this particular ad —
CORNYN: I think border security is a federal responsibility and one that the federal government has simply failed to deal with in an appropriate way. And I think it’s appropriate to raise that issue in the campaign.
AMANPOUR: But do you think it’s appropriate in this way? I mean you’re from Texas. You have a big Hispanic group there. Do you think it’s appropriate? Would you have done that?
CORNYN: I didn’t write the ad.
AMANPOUR: Would you have done it?
CORNYN: I think calling attention to illegal immigration is — for example, this last year, Christiane, 45,000 people immigrated to the United States from countries other than Mexico, including counting like Yemen where this bomb emanated from. It’s a national security issue.
Last year, Cornyn hit back against race-based attacks on then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, saying that Newt Gingrich’s allegations that Sotomayor was prejudiced against non-Hispanics were “terrible,” and “not the kind of tone any of us want to set.” By refusing to denounce Vitter’s ad, and even suggesting it’s “appropriate,” Cornyn has apparently revised his opinion of what is an appropriate tone.