NBC News personality Tom Brokaw, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by two women who worked with him in the 1990s, apologised on Sunday for making xenophobic comments regarding Hispanic immigration while appearing on Meet the Press earlier that morning.
The veteran journalist, who chimed in during a roundtable discussion over President Donald Trump’s government shutdown and his demand for a $5.6bn steel-barrier wall on the US-Mexican border, expressed his long-held belief that “Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.”
While discussing the southern border, Mr Brokaw mentioned the fears about Hispanic immigrants among Republicans.
“But the fact is, on the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important, new constituent in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats,” Mr Brokaw said. “Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, ‘Well, I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.’ I mean, that’s also a part of it.”
The 78-year-old journalist then went on to express some of the viewpoints he shared with Republicans on immigration.
“It’s the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other,” he added. “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. You know, 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 the communities. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”
Brokaw: "The Hispanics should be working harder on assimilation." pic.twitter.com/D4QGQhSRZh
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm)
A few moments later, Yamiche Alcindor, a White House correspondent for PBS News Hour, addressed Mr Brokaw’s remarks on assimilation.
“I would just say that we also need to adjust what we think of as America,” Ms Alcindor said. “You’re talking about assimilation. I grew up in Miami, where people speak Spanish, but their kids speak English. And the idea that we think Americans can only speak English, as if Spanish and other languages wasn’t always part of America, is, in some ways, troubling.”
Mr Brokaw’s comments sparked outrage and criticism from Democrats, progressives and journalists alike. On Twitter, Representative Joaquin Castro—a Texas Democrat serving as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus—referred to Mr Brokaw’s statements as “xenophobic” and “stunningly ignorant.”
.@tombrokaw, for a celebrated @NBCNews journalist who spent years chronicling American society you seem stunningly ignorant of the Hispanic community in this country. Unfortunate to see xenophobia pass for elevated political commentary @MeetThePress https://t.co/nKoLhjWdbk
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx)
“[Tom Brokaw], for a celebrated [NBC News] journalist who spent years chronicling American society you seem stunningly ignorant of the Hispanic community in this country,” Mr Castro tweeted on Sunday. “Unfortunate to see xenophobia pass for elevated political commentary.”
Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who became prominent for his writing as a undocumented immigrant in the United States, chimed in too.
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
— Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting)
“Dear [Tom Brokaw]: Define ‘assimilation,’” Mr Vargas tweeted. “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.”
On Sunday evening, Mr Brokaw posted a series of tweets clarifying his statements on Meet the Press that morning and apologised for them.
i feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture
— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw)
“I feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture,” he tweeted. “From my days reporting on cesar chavez to documenting the many contributions of hispanics in all parts of our culture [...] i’ve worked hard to knock down false stereo types. 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.”
Tom Brokaw's representatives did not yet respond to The Indepedent's request for comment.