Latino Columnist 'Nauseated' by 'Racist' Halperin Queries Testing Cuban Heritage of Ted Cruz

Bloomberg TV host Mark Halperin drew a serious rhetorical beating from Washington Post-syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette over his prove-you’re-a-Cuban line of questioning to Ted Cruz on his program With All Due Respect. (The “respect” seemed to be missing, or as phony-sounding as it can be during an argument.)

The interview came on April 30, but the columnist just picked up the argument. Would a liberal Latino get this line of questioning? And notice that Halperin has a grim visage during these questions, like it’s an interrogation, not a friendly chat. (Nice edits via Digitas Daily):

Navarrette wrote “I wasn’t just uncomfortable. I was actually nauseated. As a Hispanic, I felt like I was watching a college fraternity have fun with racial stereotypes, like when staging a "border party" where people show up in serapes and fake mustaches. And as someone who doesn't adhere to a party line to the point where I've been accused of being a "coconut" (white on the inside, brown on the outside), I was furious enough to -- as Sarah Palin once said approvingly about Cruz -- chew barbed wire and spit out rust.”

For his part, Cruz greeted the questions with a smile as if Halperin was asking like a positive question. But Navarrette just let Halperin have it. His line of questioning should be seen as racist and demeaning:

Halperin made it personal, and the interview careened into a ditch. He told Cruz that people are curious about his "identity." Then, the host asked a series of questions intended to establish his guest's Hispanic bona fides. What kind of Cuban food did Cruz like to eat growing up? And what sort of Cuban music does Cruz listen to even now?

I've known Ted for more than a decade and I could tell he was uncomfortable. But he played along, listing various kinds of Cuban food and saying that his musical taste veers more toward country.

I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche -- all to prove the Republican is really Cuban.

Just when I thought I'd seen the worst, it got even more offensive. Earlier that day, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, had entered the presidential race. So, Halperin said: "I want to give you the opportunity to directly welcome your colleague Sen. Sanders to the race, and I'd like you to do it, if you would, en español."

What nerve, treating a U.S. senator like a trained seal! Who does this guy think he is, trying to evaluate how well a Hispanic speaks Spanish? And what does that have to do with being authentic anyway?

You know who, by their own admission, don't speak espanol well? Housing Secretary Julian Castro and his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, both friends of mine. You could bet Halperin would never put those questions to the Castros because, as Democrats, they're assumed to be closer to the masses than Cruz is.

I kept thinking to myself: "What if, instead of watching a Washington insider who is also an MSNBC contributor, I was watching Fox News' Bill O'Reilly demand that one of the Castros say a few words in Spanish so O'Reilly could determine if he is legitimately Hispanic?"

The left would go apoplectic. They'd call O'Reilly a racist, and they'd be right.

Again, Cruz just brushed off the command he welcome Bernie Sanders in Spanish. "You know, I'm going to stick to English, but I appreciate the invitation, señor."

Navarrette concluded: “I will also stick to English, Señor Halperin. You crossed the line. This was bad journalism, bad form, and bad manners.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis