It’s a good thing we have Chris Matthews on hand to “whitesplain” Hispanic identity for us, amirite? Not only does Matthews question whether to use the word “Hispanic,” he then — deliberately or not — feeds into birther-style paranoia about their legitimacy. Newsbusters has the clip:
AMANDA TERKEL: …you started to see in the debate last night where they drew more contrasts on policy, starting to preview a little bit more –
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Who’s out to get who?
TERKEL: Uh, I think Ted Cruz. You already saw he’s starting to get Marco Rubio. Didn’t call him out by name but started to preview, you know, you don’t want someone’s who’s soft on immigration, you don’t want someone supporting sugar subsidies, for example. So, Trump and Carson, they didn’t go after each other. But –
MATTHEWS: Sugar subsidies are worthy of a presidential debate now.
TERKEL: – it’s going to get nastier.
MATTHEWS: I couldn’t believe that last night.
TERKEL: I was surprised it was mentioned too, but, you know, he is clearly watching Rubio.
MATTHEWS: So you’re trying to insinuate that Marco Rubio, a fellow, uh, Spanish surname, I’m not sure the right word is Hispanic for them, because they are Cuban nationals or whatever, or come from Cuba. But, uh, is he going to insinuate that he is still basically for what he calls amnesty?
TERKEL: I think he is. And, I mean Rubio got very, very lucky last night in that he did not have to jump into the immigration debate. He skated by, he got some slightly easier questions. And you saw Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Donald Trump get in there on immigration. But Rubio didn’t have to do it, but he’s going to have to, obviously.
It’s an absurd statement to make, on two levels. Hispanic and Latino are terms that refer to cultures from predominantly Spanish-language cultures. Not only does Cuba qualify, but so does Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, among other Caribbean cultures. For that matter, so does Venezuela, Colombia, Central American nations, and so on. What’s more, Matthews knows better; he’s just trying to insinuate that Rubio and Cruz aren’t authentically Hispanic because they’re Republican, not because they have Cuban ancestry.
On top of that, Matthews then calls both Rubio and Cruz “Cuban nationals,” and follows up by saying they “come from Cuba.” That’s flat-out false. Neither Rubio nor Cruz “come from Cuba,” nor are they Cuban nationals; they’re both American nationals. They have parents who come from Cuba, but Rubio was born here, and Cruz was born in Canada to a mother who was a natural-born US citizen. It would be very, very difficult to believe that Matthews is unaware of a small coterie of activists who claim that neither candidate is eligible for the presidency because of the circumstances of their births, and it certainly appears as though Matthews is trying to troll that issue as a way to damage Rubio and Cruz.