There was an awkward moment during last night's Republican presidential debate that has political observers, pundits and journalists buzzing this morning. When moderator Juan Williams prefaced a question for Mitt Romney with the fact that the presidential contender's father was born in Mexico, a portion of the audience began to boo.
"Governor Romney, your father was born in Mexico. You still have family there -- yet you have taken the hardest line of anyone on this stage on immigration reform," Williams said.
The booing seemed to intensify when Williams uttered the line "you still have family there."
This moment, which is causing many to charge that the Republican Party is anti-Mexico, may not help the GOP gain support among Hispanics come November. But did the crowd really boo Mexico?
Watch Williams' question and the resulting boos, below:
It didn't take long for these boos to evolve into enthusiastic praise, as the crowd applauded Romney's response to Williams' question about his stance on immigration.
“I think Latino voters like all voters in this country are interested in America being an opportunity nation,” Romnney said. “I absolutely believe that those who come here illegally should not be given favoritism or a special route to becoming permanent residents or citizens that’s not given to those people who have stayed in line legally. I just think we have to follow the law.”
Salon's editor-at-large Joan Walsh summed up the interaction between Williams and Romney, writing, "...he asked Romney how he squared his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric with his own family’s story of moving to and then from Mexico seeking religious freedom." While Walsh dubbed Romney's statements as "anti-immigrant," the presidential candidate was clear that he favors legal immigration.
Former Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala wrote:
The crowd booed the mere mention of the name of the country of Mexico. Just the name. I might understand it if they booed, say, North Korea or Iran or Texas A&M—centers of evil. But Mexico? Good luck with that Latino vote in November, guys.
Then, when Ron Paul said the Golden Rule should guide our foreign policy, the crowd booed. They booed the Golden Rule. Apparently nobody told them that Jesus wrote the Golden Rule. On second thought, they’d have booed Jesus.
While live-blogging the debate, Andrew Sullivan quipped, "Jeers and boos for someone who has Mexican ancestry. Wow. The rank xenophobia in the GOP base sometimes surprises. And Romney of course aims to please: he'll veto the DREAM Act."
Judging from the above clip there are a few possible causes for the booing. The audience members could, in fact, be showing their dissatisfaction with the fact that Romney's father was born in Mexico. They could also be voicing their displeasure with a country in general that hasn't seemed to curb the tide of illegal immigration into the United States, and even the rampant drug lords that seem to run the border cities. Or, they could be showing their dislike for the question Williams is asking.
A similar incident unfolded at a separate debate back in September, when a few audience members booed a U.S. soldier's question about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Similarly, people debated over whether the individuals were booing the fact that the soldier was gay or if they simply had an issue with the question he was asking.
What do you think? Were select audience members in this most recent debate booing Mexico? Take our poll, below: