Much has been said about the controversy swirling around Eva Longoria’s decision to be the executive producer of Lifetime Television’s Devious Maids, a prime-time soap about sexy Latina domestic workers who occasionally sleep with their bosses. Less has been reported about Ms. Longoria’s key relationships with her biggest defenders and America’s most powerful Hispanic NGOs, as well as her relationship with the finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, Henry Muñoz.
The hypocrisy is difficult to swallow. After all, these are the same organizations that battled with Disney over an animated princess’s being insufficiently “Latina” (read, too white) and found sexism and gender insensitivity in their political opponents at every turn, accusing them of launching an all-out “war on women.” Does anyone doubt that the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) would have crucified Devious Maids creator Marc Cherry if a powerful Democratic Latina donor had not been attached to the project?
Still, why risk credibility over a television show? The answer: power and money.
Ms. Longoria is the executive producer and co-host of La Raza’s ALMA Awards and is also a MALDEF board member; both organizations have relied on her Hollywood connections and fundraising prowess, along with her relationship with the Democratic National Committee and the Obama administration. Indeed, La Raza saw its government funding balloon after Obama appointed La Raza’s chief lobbyist, Cecilia Muñoz (no relation to the above Henry), to be his director of intergovernmental affairs. La Raza’s funding more than doubled, from $4 to $11 million. In the 2012 election, Eva Longoria dramatically increased her political clout in the Democratic party by purportedly raising a cool $32 million with Mr. Muñoz for their Futuro Fund PAC, which was dedicated to reelecting Obama. The support she is receiving amid this controversy from the DNC and Hispanic NGOs recalls the kind of cronyism, amiguismo, and back scratching of the countries so many Latinos left behind.
For Longoria, the stakes are high. With one failed show (the NBC dating show Ready for Love) already under her producer belt, she can ill afford a second — it’s practically a death sentence in Hollywood for future projects. The immediate public backlash to Devious Maids needed to be contained. She’s fighting for her professional life with a “double down” strategy, and she’s pulling every lever at her considerable disposal to stave off the harshest criticism. She needs her Washington friends to defend her and preserve the political and humanitarian cred she’s worked so hard to obtain (she earned a masters in Chicano studies just last year).
By helping their beautiful patroness, however, the NGOs and the DNC stand to lose a lot. Both have staked their brands on convincing millions of Americans that they are the voice of the Hispanic community – especially the voiceless low-skill workers, such as housekeepers and domestic workers, who strive to give their children a better life. Already, these organizations are finding themselves behind the public-opinion curve as increasingly tech-savvy Hispanics take to social media to denounce the show’s exploitative stereotypes and organize boycotts. Longoria’s PR machine has had to go into overdrive. Who knew so many maids were on Twitter?
The campaign to save Eva is having some unintended consequences. It’s pulling back the curtain and exposing the nexus between money and Democratic politics. Powerful Hispanic community organizations are putting one Latina over the best interests, empowerment, and advancement of all Latinos.
We just saw the empire Paula Deen built crumble in the span of a few weeks, and Americans are already having a conversation about race, class, and selective outrage. I was a guest co-host on The View when the Paula Deen story broke, and we debated the use of the n-word: Who gets to use it and who gets to be the arbiter in these matters of racial sensitivity and political correctness? As the lone Latina at the table, I called on fellow minorities — be they rappers or, in this case, Hollywood actors who profess to be Chicano activists — to take greater responsibility and to be good examples.
As for Ms. Paula Deen, I bet she’s kicking herself for not starting the Sweet-Potato Pie PAC for Obama’s reelection.
— Rachel Campos-Duffy is an author, pundit, and mother of six. She is the national spokesperson for the LIBRE Initiative, an organization that promotes economic liberty, empowerment, and opportunity for Hispanics.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that MALDEF receives government funding. It does not. We regret the error.