That Awful Interview of Ted Cruz, and Why We Can Expect More

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

That Awful Interview of Ted Cruz, and Why We Can Expect More

Credit Reuben Navarrette for noticing a glaring double standard.

Watching Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics interview Cruz recently, I wasn’t just uncomfortable. I was actually nauseated . . . 

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?

Navarrette points out that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and his twin brother, Representative Joaquin Castro (D., Texas), don’t speak Spanish well, and that hasn’t harmed their political careers nor their sense of “authenticity.” Reporters can look pretty silly when they make assumptions about their interview subject’s heritage. A little while back, Andrea Mitchell asked Julian Castro about his “Cuban-American background,” to which he replied, “Well, I’m Mexican-American.”

I can understand the desire to go beyond the “tell us about your tax plan” line of questions. But Halperin came across as snide, presumptive, and arrogant, with the underlying tone of the questions suggesting Cruz was somehow faking his status as a Cuban-American.

Jonathan Tobin: “With two Republican presidential candidates of Hispanic background (Cruz and fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio) and one GOP hopeful that is a woman (Carly Fiorina) and another an African America (Ben Carson), the liberal authenticity police will be out in force. But rather than merely ignore them as Cruz, who kept his cool with Halperin did, this insidious bias needs to be shown for what it is: a desire by the media to delegitimize anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideas about identity politics as interpreted through the catechism of liberal ideology.”

BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller observes, “nothing really happened after the interview! Besides Rush Limbaugh, no one on the Internet seems to have noticed this happened for . . . nine days.” Maybe that says something about who’s watching Halperin’s program?

UPDATE: Today Halperin apologized.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ted Cruz responds:

Mark Halperin is a serious and fair-minded journalist. Today he kindly issued an apology for some silly questions he asked me in an interview. The apology was unnecessary — no offense was taken, nor, I believe, intended — but is certainly appreciated.

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