Published Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 | 10:43 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 | 11:44 p.m.
Sharron Angle’s attempt to backpedal from a campaign commercial that got her roundly blasted for negative portrayals of Hispanics is earning her a fresh round of knocks this weekend.
At a forum with the Las Vegas’ Rancho High School Hispanic Student Union on Friday afternoon, Angle was asked about a commercial she aired about Harry Reid’s immigration record. In it, she used stock images of menacing-looking Latino men to drum up fear about illegal migrants crossing the border.
Angle told the assembled high school students — mostly Latinos — that she wasn’t sure the people featured in the commercial were Latinos at all.
“She said that they were just people crossing the fence, but they weren’t Latinos. And then she said some of us don’t even look Latino, we could be Asian,” said Debbie Rios, 16, a junior at Rancho who was sitting in the front row at the assembly, which drew about 50 to 60 people. “She dodged the question; she didn’t really answer it.”
The images in question are almost certainly of Latinos. According to the Associated Press, the picture used was purchased from Getty Images and the caption describes the men featured as Mexicans from Mexico.
The Angle campaign has since removed the ad from television and the Internet — it appears, for concerns over misrepresentation and copyright. Getty images are not supposed to be used for advertising purposes; also, according to the photographer, Chris Floyd, while the shot was taken in the town of Altar, Mexico — a staging town for border crossings — there's no indication the men pictured ever crossed into the U.S.
The Hispanic Student Union at Rancho High School had invited Angle to speak to the club at the beginning of the school year and was excited when she accepted the invitation.
Angle has a checkered relationship with the Hispanic community. She stresses her family ties to the community — Angle has a daughter-in-law who is Latina. But she advocates an enforcement-only approach to immigration, a stance that doesn’t usually sit well with Latinos, who as a bloc advocate comprehensive immigration reforms that include a pathway to citizenship for the country’s undocumented population.
Leaders in the Latino community have accused Angle of fearmongering and demonizing illegal immigrants. They have compared her commercial to past advertisements geared toward stirring up an anti-minority vote, such as the Willie Horton ads that helped George Bush Sr. best Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election.
The Reid campaign has jumped in the fray, saying Angle’s unwillingness to own up to the substance behind her ad only adds to an already existing pattern of “pathological” lying.
“Every one of her immigration ads have been fact checked by people all over the country,” Reid said Saturday after a rally with Latino voters. “Every fact checker said that they are absolutely lies.”
The Angle campaign says she is being unfairly impugned by all this talk of racism, when she was simply trying to call Reid out on lackadaisical enforcement of the country’s immigration laws.
“Sharron has said several times before that illegal immigration is not about race. It is about the rule of law in this country. It would be a misinterpretation to think that one group of people should be singled out,” Angle campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen said Saturday.
“The issue is that we must stop illegal immigration by security our borders, both northern and southern, and by enforcing our immigration laws,” he said. “Harry Reid does not want to end illegal immigration; he is pro-amnesty.”
But that’s not the impression the students were left with.
“Overall, I think the students were disappointed,” said Isaac Barron, the club’s faculty advisor and a social studies and history teacher at Rancho High.
Students submitted questions, fishbowl-style, but were not allowed to ask follow-ups, which made for some skewed discussion, they said.
For instance, they were able to talk about Millenium Scholarships, which help Nevadans attend college but which Angle says should be limited only to U.S. citizens, but could not discuss the DREAM Act, a measure that would make undocumented college students and military enlistees who were brought to the U.S. as children eligible to pursue U.S. citizenship.
In Nevada, Hispanics have been a growing part of the electorate — 15 percent in 2008, according to exit polls. For the most part, the high school students who met with Angle on Friday are too young to vote — they can only express their opinions to parents and others who are eligible to vote.
Students said they just didn’t feel like Angle cared about their concerns.
“She doesn’t support Hispanics. She calls us all immigrants,” said Marina Ochoa, 17, a senior at Rancho High who was also at the gathering with Angle. Ochoa is a citizen but says she has relatives who are undocumented. “She has no mercy for them. And she has no heart for us,” she said.