Jill Biden makes a dent by comparing Latinos to tacos


That was the message the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and others sent to First Lady Jill Biden at a Latino conference in San Antonio on Monday, in which she appeared to compare Hispanics to tacos.

Addressing the annual UNITOS US conference in Texas, the first lady praised the community’s diversity, saying it was “as diverse as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the flowers of Miami, as unique as the breakfast tacos in San Antonio.” .”

Biden mispronounced “bodegas” while trying to praise the Latino community, and a video clip of his remarks attracted more than 2 million views.

The backlash was swift. In a tweet, the NAHJ organization “encourages @FLOTUS and his communications team to take the time to better understand the issues of our people and communities. We’re not tacos. Our heritage as Latinos has been shaped by many different immigrants, cultures, and food traditions.

“Don’t reduce us to the same thing” The tweet is over.

Tuesday morning, Michelle LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesman He tweeted an apologywrites, “The First Lady apologizes for her words expressing pure admiration and love for the Latino community.”

Most Hispanic and Latino groups have not publicly criticized the first lady’s comments. But that hasn’t stopped some Republicans from seizing the analogy and hammering her and her husband, President Biden.

Representative. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) tweeted a video of Biden’s comments, writing, “Jill Biden says Hispanics are ‘unique’ like tacos and calls bodegas ‘poquitas.’ No wonder Hispanics are leaving the Democrats!

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The average Washington Post poll of Hispanic Americans shows that 49 percent approve of how President Biden is doing his job, more than voters overall. However, his approval rating among Hispanics has declined since last year.

In a series of tweets, Irene Armendariz-Jackson, a Republican running for Congress in a Texas district that includes El Paso, was particularly scathing. “I’m an American born to legal Mexican immigrants,” she said He tweeted that. “I don’t identify as Latina. I don’t identify as po-kuh-ta. I don’t identify as breakfast. I’m a proud American woman. I’m a proud Hispanic woman. Please, enough of this stupid racist hate.”

Daniel Alvarez, communications director for the Republican National Committee, issued a statement accusing Biden and Democrats of taking the Hispanic community for granted.

“Their attempts to ignore it are disrespectful and despicable,” Alvarez said in the statement. “When Jill Biden compares us to tacos, it makes sense why Hispanics are overwhelmingly disapproving of this out-of-touch, failed administration and leaving the Democratic Party.”

Biden’s remarks at the annual conference of Latinos were subject to the usual White House process for such speeches, requiring several White House departments — including the offices of intergovernmental affairs, legislative affairs and public engagement — to sign off on the speech, according to a person familiar with the speech, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics.

As first lady, Biden has emerged as a key administration ambassador for the Latino community and immigration activists. That role has met with a mixed response from activists, who appreciate his directness to the president but say they want more direct access to White House policy officials.

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Biden began learning Spanish In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and during the 2020 campaign, she began weekly meetings with small groups of Latino members of Congress, sharing their concerns with her husband. During the campaign, he crossed the border to deliver Christmas food to asylum seekers in a refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico.

One of Jill Biden’s first acts after her husband’s election was to appoint three Latinos to top members of her team — Anthony Bernal as senior adviser, Carlos Elizondo as social secretary and Julisa Reynoso as chief of staff.

Since then, Biden has participated in the 2022 naturalization ceremony in Bakersfield, California, ahead of Cesar Chavez Day. He toured three cities in October to mark Hispanic Heritage Month, and in May chose Latin America as the destination for his third solo trip, a six-day, three-nation diplomatic visit to the region.

In his comments Monday, one person familiar with the matter said Biden was trying to highlight a point of local pride in San Antonio: the breakfast taco — however disgusting.

In an interview, Yvette Cabrera, NAHJ’s online vice president, said after Biden’s comments, the group’s rapid-response team scrambled to assess its own reaction. The members realized that the first lady wanted to praise the community, but decided that her comments fell on deaf ears, and they decided to give a “proportionate” response – a tweet – rather than a full statement on the group’s website. .

“I understand that her intent was positive — she was trying to appreciate the uniqueness of Latinos — but what she actually did was use a stereotype that doesn’t really represent the diversity of the Latino community in America,” Cabrera said. “It’s disappointing because it felt like an overarching stereotype, and the opportunity for her to explore that diversity and give some examples.”

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Cabrera added that there are countless complex challenges facing society — difficulties in accessing reproductive health care and abortion, for example, or barriers to voting access — that Biden may have been referring to to better demonstrate his understanding of Latinos.

“It would have been great to see him demonstrate his understanding and knowledge of those issues,” Cabrera said.

The first lady isn’t the first political figure to be confused when using food to try to connect with the Latino community. In 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted a photo of himself eating a taco bowl in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

“The best taco bowls are made at Trump Tower Grill,” Trump wrote at the time. “I love Hispanics!”

Mariana Alfaro and Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

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