How Spanish-language media reacted to Steve King’s comments — and why it’s bad for the GOP

July 26, 2013

Top Republican leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers have denounced Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for suggesting recently that many undocumented high school graduates are “hauling … marijuana across the desert" as they illegally cross into the United States.

Images of cantaloupes have figured into the responses of some critics of Steve King's comments. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

In his comments to a conservative Web site, King suggested that legalizing undocumented immigrants will not occur because of the high number of undocumented immigrants who carry drugs across the border.

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said in the interview. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

King's comments have further damaged the GOP brand among Hispanic voters already wary of Republican politicians who've made similar comments in the past. With apologies to the "Worst Week in Washington," one might even suggest that the Republican brand had "La semana peor en Washington."

To wit: Several Hispanics and immigrant advocacy groups used sarcasm to belittle King's comments this week on Twitter and Instagram. As we've seen in recent days in the response to Anthony Weiner's recent admissions (see Danger, Carlos), sarcasm and humor has a way of further discrediting and refuting a politician's behavior and comments — as these photos demonstrate:

But most concerning to the Republican Party has to be how the whole episode played out this week on the closely-watched Spanish-language national TV newscasts on Univision and Telemundo.

On "Noticiero Univision," the higher-rated of the two programs, Washington reporter Lourdes Meluza showed Thursday evening how House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) singled out King for admonishment at his weekly press conference. But her story also included footage of young Latinos delivering cantaloupes to King's Capitol Hill office in protest.

"We brought them to compare them with the size of our legs and to say how ridiculous his comments are," one student holding a cantaloupe told Meluza.

 

The report on "Noticiero Telemundo" — a program co-anchored by Jose Diaz-Balart, the brother of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) — featured video Thursday evening of reporters chasing King through the halls trying to get him to clarify his comments. (The Telemundo site doesn't provide embed code for the video.)

Correspondent Lori Montenegro's report featured comments from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spoke Thursday at a rally with evangelical leaders seeking changes in immigration laws and said he agreed with Boehner's comments. But her report also featured comments from a political analyst, who suggested that supporters of immigration reform won't be able to determine whether King's sentiments were made isolation once the House finally votes on immigration bills.

"We'll see, or have an opportunity to see, when the time comes for House lawmakers to vote on immigration reform," the analyst said.

And, Montenegro noted, the longer the immigration debate continues in the House, the more time King and other like-minded Republicans will have to define how the GOP feels about the issue. (A point The Fix's Rachel Weiner also made Thursday.)

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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