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Tom Brokaw says Hispanics 'should work harder at assimilation.' It doesn't end well for him.


'What @tombrokaw said on national TV today was hard to watch and absorb'

Rob Kim/Getty Images

Typically praised in the mainstream media, veteran NBC broadcaster Tom Brokaw found himself on the wrong side of controversy over the weekend after he claimed Hispanic immigrants do not work hard enough to assimilate to American culture, including by learning the English language.

What did Brokaw say?

During a discussion about immigration on "Meet the Press," Brokaw said:

A lot of this, we don't want to talk about. But the fact is, on the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important, new constituent in American politics: Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats. Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, "Well, I don't know whether I want brown grandbabies."

I mean, that's also a part of it. It's the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other. I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. That's one of the things I've been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities. And that's going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.

What was the reaction?

Brokaw was raked over the coals for what many characterized as racist and "xenophobic" comments.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), whose brother is running for president, reacted on Twitter: "@tombrokaw, for a celebrated @NBCNews journalist who spent years chronicling American society you seem stunningly ignorant of the Hispanic community in this country. Unfortunate to see xenophobia pass for elevated political commentary."

Hispanic journalist Julio Ricardo Varela said: "What @tombrokaw said on national TV today was hard to watch and absorb. It really was a punch in the gut to a lot of people. It was not only factually incorrect, it was also xenophobia in action. Hope @MeetThePress addresses this."

And despite "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd not addressing the comments on air, PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who was on the panel with Brokaw, later condemned the comments.

"I would just say that we also need to adjust what we think of as America," she said. "You're talking about assimilation. I grew up in Miami, where people speak Spanish, but their kids speak English. And the idea that we think Americans can only speak English, as if Spanish and other languages wasn't always part of America, is, in some ways, troubling."

Brokaw was not only denounced for his comments toward Hispanic people. But, as Twitchy noted, many Republicans took exception with Brokaw's claim, which he made without evidence, that Republicans don't want "brown grandbabies."

How did Brokaw respond to the outrage?

Through his Twitter account Sunday evening, Brokaw offered a pseudo-apology.

After being criticized again for not outright apologizing, Brokaw later explicitly apologized.

He also apologized to Alcindor, who he called "a wonderful colleague and an important voice."

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