In 2006, Joe Biden, then a powerful U.S. senator and future vice president, smeared Indian Americans as mostly working at the convenience store 7-11. At the time, NBC (and the other networks) completely ignored the story. This week, when obscure Republican Congressman Don Young referred to Hispanic migrant workers as "wetbacks," NBC's Today show devoted a full segment to the story.
Reporter Kelly O'Donnell on Friday explained how the Alaska Representative gave an interview to a local radio station and "used an offensive slur to describe" some Latinos. She then took this as an excuse to highlight the GOP as out of touch: "Young's comments come at a time when the Republican Party is struggling to connect with minorities after failing to do that in the 2012 presidential election where 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Obama." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
O'Donnell featured a clip from Mike Allen of the liberal Politico: "This is a 'we don't get it' moment at a time when the Republican Party needs it least. This is just one congressman but it gives critics and people who are skeptical of the party a new reason to say it hasn't changed."
NBC's not exactly consistent. On June 17, 2006, Democratic Senator Biden mocked, "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent....I’m not joking."
NBC avoided the story.
More recently, on March 19, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid linked the accidental deaths of seven Marines to sequester spending cuts. After discussing a training event in Reid's home state of Nevada, the Senator manipulated the tragic events: "But one of the things in sequester is we cut back in training and maintenance."
NBC, along with CBS and ABC, all ignored the controversial remarks.
The comments made by Reid and Biden came from powerful, prominent members of the Democratic Party. However, NBC showed no interest in either. Yet, Don Young's "wetback" remark– and the broader narrative about an out-of-touch GOP– receive prominent play on NBC. (Today aired the Young segment 11 minutes into the program.)
A transcript of the March 29 segment is below:
NBC GRAPHIC: Congressman's Controversial Comments: Alaska's Rep. Apologizes for Saying "Wetback" in Radio Interview
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: A congressman from Alaska is under fire this morning for something he said in a radio interview, and he's not exactly making the type of apology you might expert. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is in Washington for us this morning. Kelly, good morning to you.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Savannah. Now, we are talking about one of the most senior members of Congress, Republican Don Young who does like to say what he thinks. There are only four members who have been there longer. He turns 80 in June, and in this instance he was talking about immigration and how jobs in America have changed. In an interview released by Alaskan radio station KRBD, Thursday, Congressman Don Young is talking about Latinos who once worked on his family's ranch in California, and he used an offensive slur to describe them.
DON YOUNG: My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine.
O'DONNELL: Late Thursday, Young tried to explain why he had used the word wetback, a slur that referred to Mexicans who illegally crossed the river into the U.S., saying "I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect. Migrant workers play an important role in America's work force and earlier in the said interview I discussed the compassion and understanding I have for these workers and the hurdles they face in obtaining citizenship." Alaska has only one member of the House, and Young has served his state since 1973, long known for his outspoken style. Young's comments come at a time when the Republican Party is struggling to connect with minorities after failing to do that in the 2012 presidential election where 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Obama.
MIKE ALLEN (Politico): This is a "we don't get it" moment at a time when the Republican Party needs it least. This is just one congressman but it gives critics and people who are skeptical of the party a new reason to say it hasn't changed.
O'DONNELL: And he's a congressman who has been known to attract controversy from time to time. Now, he won his own re-election with nearly 70 percent of the vote back in November, but he's facing some new questions, ethics questions, about whether he did not properly report some gifts. Don Young is a legend and he is a controversial figure all in the same. Matt?