Journalist Tom Brokaw tried—and failed—at an apology after claiming Hispanics should learn to “assimilate” to American life, speak English, and that Republicans fear having “brown grandbabies.”
Brokaw, an NBC journalist, appeared on Meet The Press yesterday alongside Kristen Welker, Hugh Hewitt, and Yamiche Alcindor to discuss the government’s “longest shutdown in history,” which ended on Friday, a fight predominantly over immigration.
“I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation…that’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time,” he said in a video shared in a tweet. “They ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English and that they feel comfortable in their communities.”
Alcindor responded right away, said this idea is “troubling.”
Activist Andrea Leon Grossman pointed the exchange out in a tweet:
“On the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinarily important new constituency in American politics—Hispanics who will come here and all be Democrats,” he said, according to another video shared on Twitter. The full video, including the comments that received backlash, was unavailable on NBC’s site or their YouTube account as of Monday morning. “It’s the intermarriage and cultures conflicting with each other.”
Many responded with their frustrations at his comments:
This assimilation comment by @tombrokaw is utterly ridiculous. And on his first point, Tom, it’s called WHITE FEAR. They are scared to death of Latinos, Blacks, Asians and Native Americans becoming the majority by 2043. We need to call it what it is. I’ve been saying it for YEARS https://t.co/OemBaJPFd3— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) January 28, 2019
Really? My family and I speak perfectly in English, Spanish, and the languages of our indigenous people--the FIRST languages spoken in America. We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us.— Go to Hell 59 Times (@ltlkoala11) January 27, 2019
Assimilate? Dear @tombrokaw just how many Native American languages do you speak? Navaho? Yupik? Cherokee? I'll wait.— 💜catrina💜🍀🐈♌️ (@LuckyCat7) January 27, 2019
On Sunday, Brokaw apologized after supposedly experiencing a Twitter malfunction that he referred to as “whack”:
my tweet portal is whack— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) January 28, 2019
i hv been trying to say i am sorry i offended
and i so appreciate my colleague
“i feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture … from my days reporting on cesar chavez to documenting the many contributions of hispanics in all parts of our culture,” he wrote at the beginning of a series of tweets as part of his apology. “i’ve worked hard to knock down false stereo types [sic]. in my final comment in Meet i said ALL sides hv to work harder….at finding common ground – which i strongly believe dialogue not division.”
my twitter acct failed me at the worst time.— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) January 28, 2019
i am sorry, truly sorry, my comments were offensive to
many. the great enduring american tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished. yamiche, thank u for your comments.
let’s go forward together.
finally, i am sorry - i never intended to disparage any segment of our rich, diverse society which defines who we are.— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) January 28, 2019
The apology was long and clearly took a lot of effort, but people on Twitter weren’t having it, especially given the current political climate:
@tombrokaw, kids in cages & dying in DHS custody, DREAMERS in limbo & used as pawns, Mexicans being called “rapists and criminals”...raises bar on what offends me these days. What you said was patronizing and re-enforces negative stereotypes. Glad it was not your intention. Sigh. https://t.co/wsVIF7KGg6— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) January 28, 2019
According to a 2018 Pew report, about 86 percent of Hispanic parents say they speak Spanish with their children. At the same time, young Hispanics are increasingly speaking English, according to a 2016 Survey by Pew.
It is reflective, if anything, of the “linguistic diversity” of America, as journalist Jose Antonio Vargas tweeted it at Brokaw:
Dear @tombrokaw:— Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting) January 27, 2019
I'm sure you know that the United States of America does not have an official language. The USA speaks in many tongues––then as now. That linguistic diversity is part of our strength, especially in a globalized economy. https://t.co/qnrOafoFKi
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists released a statement condemning the comments and the apology by Brokaw, while applauding Alcindor for “fact-checking” him on the spot with her description of assimilation:
“Assimilation is denying one culture for the other,” said Hugo Balta, NAHJ president and senior producer at MSNBC (NBC’s cable news network). “Hispanics are no less American for embracing their country of origin or that of their ancestors … being bicultural and bilingual is a strength in an increasingly multi-ethnic, multilingual society.”