Washington, D.C. – Hispanic leaders are bristling at the largely tepid response by Republican presidential candidates to Donald Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. Several 2016 contenders have brushed off Trump’s comments while others have ignored them.
Marco Rubio, a Florida senator who is Hispanic, denounced them as “not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive,” after declining for two weeks to address the matter directly. Another Hispanic in the race, Ted Cruz, said trump is “terrific,” “brash” and “speaks the truth.”
It’s an uncomfortable moment for Republicans, who want more votes from the surging Latino population. And it could be a costly moment if more candidates don’t go beyond their Donald-will-be-Donald response and condemn him directly, said Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican who leads the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership.
“The time has come for the candidates to distance themselves from Trump and call his comments what they are: ludicrous, baseless and insulting,” Aguilar said. “Sadly, it hurts the party with Hispanic voters. It’s a level of idiocy I haven’t seen in a long time.”
So far, Trump has paid less of a political price than a commercial one. The leading Hispanic television network, Univision, has backed out of televising the Miss USA pageant, a joint venture between Trump and NBC, which also cut ties with Trump. On Wednesday, the Macy’s department store chain, which carried a Donald Trump menswear line, said it was ending its relationship with him. Other retailers are facing pressure to follow suit.
On Friday, the NASCAR motorsports series said it will not hold its season-ending awards ceremony at the Trump National Doral Miami. The CEO of a top NASCAR sponsor, Camping World’s Marcus Lemonis, had said he would not participate in the award ceremony if it were held at a property owned by Trump, whom he criticized for “recent and ongoing blatantly bigoted and racist comments…in regards to immigrants.”