Politics & Policy

Sandoval ‘Hispanic’ Scandal Anything but Conclusive

Did Nevada’s GOP nominee for governor, Brian Sandoval, really say he was unconcerned about his family being profiled under a law like Arizona’s SB 1070 because his kids don’t look Hispanic? The answer may never be known for certain and, in any case, may be lost in the churning of never-ending news cycles and the corresponding political fallout.

The remark was first publicized by Adriana Arévalo, television news director for Univision in Las Vegas, in a vitriolic editorial she wrote for Spanish-language newspaper El Tiempo after her station interviewed Sandoval. Arévalo waxed sarcastic about a campaign ad touting Sandoval’s potential to be Nevada’s first Hispanic governor. Then, she added: “He was asked how he would feel if he his children were stopped in the street and asked for their papers. He answered, with a note of pride in his voice, ‘my children don’t look Hispanic.’”

A few days later, journalist Jon Ralston asked Sandoval about the comment on his political interview show, Face to Face. Sandoval seemed surprised and twice denied saying it, prompting Ralston’s producer to contact Univision for confirmation. The station claimed they had video footage of the remark, which led to a request for a copy and Ralston’s follow-up blog post containing some rather pointed questions.

When news of the existence of the video broke, Sandoval quickly issued a statement: “I don’t remember saying it and it is most certainly not how I feel.  If I did say those words, it was wrong and I sincerely regret it.  I am proud of my heritage and my family.” 

The inconclusive video has since been posted, but as reported by Ralston, Univision has said Sandoval made the remark to an anchor/reporter with several witnesses standing by, as a cameraman was shooting background footage for the interview. No audio was taken, so the remark, if there, cannot be heard. Philip Wilkinson, president and chief executive of Entravision Communications Corporation, which owns the station, told the New York Times they stand behind the editorial as written by Arévalo.

The Rory Reid campaign is no doubt delighted to have the press writing about something besides his insalubrious last name. The story has been picked up by Salon, Kos, Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo, the L.A. Times and First Read, and will likely carry into this week. Taken by itself, the matter might not have legs, but this is not the first time Sandoval has stood accused of tripping over his tongue on matters of concern to Hispanics or related to illegal immigration. During the primary campaign, Sandoval said he was open to the prospect of issuing of driver’s licenses to illegals but then later reversed himself. The flip-flop was featured in a Las Vegas Sun story and was also used as fodder for an ad produced by a well-funded anti-Sandoval independent-expenditure committee.

If we ever obtain proof that the former state attorney general made the comment as represented by Arévalo, he will likely want to reiterate his retraction and apology, and add that he trusts law enforcement to behave properly in their dealings with people of all ethnicities rather than insinuating that the best way to avoid unlawful profiling is not to be, or look, Hispanic. Should we not ever get a conclusive answer, which seems far more likely, Sandoval–chosen partly on the presumption that he would win a large percentage of the Latino vote–will still have some rhetorical clean-up to do.

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