Donald Trump’s nativist comments about Mexican rapists and drug dealers crossing the southern border has become something of a litmus test for where the Republican Party stands with Latino immigrants and Latino voters.
As Republican presidential candidates are counting on the Latino vote in 2016, many have already been asked their opinion of how Trump’s statements could affect minority outreach. Some, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), have distanced themselves from the real estate mogul. Others, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have openly embraced Trump’s comments. But it took weeks for candidates to respond, and advocates aren’t necessarily satisfied.
“Why didn’t Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican and whose children are Mexican-American, be livid about this and come out swinging immediately?” Felix Sanchez, head of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, told CNN last week. “Why didn’t [Marco] Rubio and [Ted] Cruz look at this and say ‘We’re Cuban but this is a Mexican-American community, let’s align with the Mexican-American community…and go after this issue?”
Here’s where Republican officials currently stand on Trump’s remarks:
People defending Trump
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX):
Of all the Republican presidential candidates, Cruz has been Trump’s staunchest supporter. On Saturday, Cruz told “Meet The Press”’ Chuck Todd, “I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. …The Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty’s wrong.”
Last week, during an interview with Fox and Friends, Cruz declared, “When it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump,” adding that he believes “NBC is engaging in political correctness that is silly and that is wrong.” Cruz also said he doesn’t think Trump should apologize for “speaking out against the problem that is illegal immigration.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA):
King defended Trump’s “scrappiness” last week, reiterating the point that Trump made about Central American children getting raped and sexually assaulted when they cross the southern U.S. border. “I’d say in Donald Trump’s defense, someone’s doing that to these kids that are being raped and abused,” King said. “And, when they’re coming across Mexico, it’s a reasonable assumption to conclude the people doing that are Mexicans.”
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ):
Just one day after warning a crowd in New Hampshire that they should be wary of “the candidate running for public office who has the quick and easy answer to a complicated problem,” Christie noted that Trump is “a good guy” when asked about whether Trump’s comments are bad for Republicans. Christie stated during a Fox News segment Monday that he was “not personally offended” by the comments and that he would know how to handle such situations since he had won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2013 election.
People with mixed feelings about Trump
The Republican National Committee:
Hours after Trump made the initial statement, Republican National Committee Director Sean Spicer said his statements were “not helpful to the cause” of making the Republican party inclusive to Latino voters. Party officials have not offered an official apology.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):
According to CNN, when asked about Trump’s statements over the weekend, Paul said, “I don’t know what he’s been saying, but uh, he apparently is drawing a lot of attention.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA):
Santorum took issue with the way Trump phrased his comments, but stood up for the points that he raised. “While I don’t like the verbiage he’s used, I like the fact that he is focused on a very important issue for American workers and particularly, legal immigrants in this country,” Santorum said on CBS’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA):
It’s unclear exactly where Jindal lands on the specific points raised by Trump. “I don’t view people as members of ethnic groups or economic groups,” Jindal said during the Fourth of July picnic attended by Bush and other Republican presidential candidates, according to an ABC affiliate. “This president has done too much to divide us, so obviously I disagree with [Trump’s] comments. I think we need to look at people as individuals.”
People condemning Trump
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL):
During a Fourth of July picnic in New Hampshire, Bush told the New York Times that he “absolutely” took Trump’s remarks personally, given his family ties. Bush’s wife, Columba, is from Mexico and their children have been raised to celebrate their multicultural roots. Bush said that Trump is “not a stupid guy, so I don’t assume he thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. He’s doing this to inflame and incite and to draw attention, which seems to be the organizing principle of his campaign.”
Last week, Bush told an audience in Spanish that Trump’s comments don’t “represent the values of the Republican Party,” Island Packet reported. But in English, Bush reportedly gave a “milder version,” stating, “I don’t agree with him. I think he’s wrong. It’s pretty simple.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):
Rubio condemned the real estate mogul’s comments in a statement released last week. “Trump’s comments are not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive,” Rubio wrote. “Our next president needs to be someone who brings Americans together — not someone who continues to divide. Our broken immigration system is something that needs to be solved, and comments like this move us further from — not closer to — a solution.”
Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX):
During an interview with ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Perry said he was “offended” by Donald Trump’s remarks, adding, “I mean he’s going to have to defend those remarks. I never will. And I will stand up and say that those are offensive, which they were.”
In response, Trump tweeted that Perry “failed at the border. Now he is critical of me. He needs a new pair of glasses to see the crimes committed by illegal immigrants.”
Just last year, Perry made similar inflammatory remarks, telling Glenn Beck in an interview that there had been “over 3,000 homicides by illegal aliens over the course of the last six years.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
Graham stated in a Boston Herald Radio interview posted on Monday that Trump’s comments were not “helping the cause” and were “hurtful and not helpful” since most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants are “hardworking decent people.”
“It’s incumbent on the rest of us to say, hey no that’s not the Republican party that I want,” Graham added.
Former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY):
Pataki, a largely unknown GOP candidate, appears to be hoping that his stance on Trump might help get him noticed in a crowded field. In a letter asking other Republican presidential candidates to denounce Trump’s “unacceptable” remarks, Pataki wrote, “Stand up for our party, for the ideals that made America great, and stand for the basic decency and integrity entitled to every American, no matter their heritage or nationality.”
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R):
“I think he made a severe error in saying what he did about Mexican-Americans,” Romney said on Saturday, during the same Fourth of July picnic attended by Jindal and Bush. Romney’s father is Mexican, though the former presidential candidate previously promised to make life so miserable that undocumented immigrants would “self-deport.”
Thus far, the only thing Trump seems to regret is the negative effect on his bottom line from the string of business partnerships that have dumped him.
In the days since Trump’s initial comments, major television networks like NBC, Univision, and Ora TV all released public statements condemning his remarks. Companies have also followed suit stating that they stand with Latinos and Latino immigrants, including Macy’s and Serta. The Latino-owned Craft Brewer 5 Rabbit Cerveceria has even cheekily rebranded the remaining beer that it’s selling at the Chicago Trump Tower’s Rebar as “Chinga Tu Pelo,” (or F**k your hair in censored terms), in reference to Trump’s semi-real hairpiece. NASCAR also announced that it would not return the Trump National Doral Miami resport for postseason award banquets.
Admitting that he hadn’t expected the fallout from his comments to be “quite this severe,” Trump stated during Sunday’s Fox & Friends, “this is certainly not good. I lose customers, I lose people.”
But Trump has shown no signs of letting up. Last week, Trump cited a 2014 Fusion article which found that up to 80 percent of Central American migrants crossing Mexico to the United States are sexually assaulted, stating to CNN host Don Lemon, “Somebody’s doing the raping, Don. The thing is women being raped, well, then who’s doing the raping?”