January 28, 2019
To: Robert Greenblatt, President, NBC
cc: Noah Oppenheim, President, NBC News
cc: Chuck Todd, Host, Meet the Press
As Latino leaders active in politics, social justice, and the media, we could not let Tom Brokaw’s xenophobic and uneducated comments pass by without comment. Brokaw’s Sunday morning appearance featured comments that were completely unacceptable, and his subsequent tweets fell short of a real apology and acknowledgment of the extent of the ignorance of his comments. We expect more from someone who has spent his career covering and studying American history and culture, which appears to have some significant gaps about the Latino, Latinx and Hispanic communities and experience in the United States.
Though he has apologized, we are asking that:
- Chuck Todd and Meet the Press production and booking team to integrate more regular and newer Latinx voices into the program to represent ourselves and our experiences;
- The network makes a significant contribution to National Association of Hispanic Journalists to continue cultivating the bench of diverse reporters and analysts; and
- Mr. Brokaw, Meet the Press and the network take actions to better educate themselves about the diversity of the fastest growing demographic in the country, including putting resources behind a series that highlights the diverse and complicated history and contributions of the community in the U.S.
For a man who claims to be a storyteller of American history, Brokaw’s comments did nothing more than repeat the ugly history of racist and xenophobic tropes that nearly every immigrant or ethnic group has had to endure. It is unacceptable that a major network news program would give a platform to one of their most well respected personalities to repeat and extend these untrue and harmful stereotypes to Latinos. In California and Texas, Latinos submit more applications to college than any other racial group. By age five, English acquisition among U.S. born children of Latin American immigrants is 100%, higher than for previous waves of immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.
Our people and families come from places like Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, and Central America where decades of American foreign policy has lead to unsafe, unstable communities. We have had the courage to move, to seek freedom and opportunity in America. Our people and our families come from places like Puerto Rico- that in the 21st century, are still colonies of the United States — suffering from financial crisis and inattention in the face of increasing effects of climate change, without the full benefit of American citizenship. Our people and our families have inhabited the Southwest for many generations, since before manifest destiny was even a twinkle in the “settler’s” eyes. In fact, the 1911 Constitution of the State of New Mexico protected the right of its citizen to speak in English or Spanish. To assimilate means to be bilingual.
Indeed, we are a proud, diverse culture. Our food, music, and culture from the many countries we come from is woven into the tapestry of America. Despite decades of calls for assimilation, we have instead created the Latino American experience. Hispanic Americans are the quickest growing demographic in the country. Latinxs are proud multi-generational citizens and newly arrived immigrants, without whom this country could not run and surely would be less rich for our absence.
Mr. Brokaw’s comments are more than just out-of-touch musings. Mr. Brokaw’s comments are part of a legacy of anti-Latino sentiment that is spreading freely in 2019. His comments were made at a time when the President and his allies in the right-wing media inflame his base by spreading lies about our community and he and his Administration have promulgated some of the most regressive anti-immigrant policies we have ever seen in this country. Not to mention, depictions of our community in popular culture continue to portray us in some of the most offensive terms.
Tom Brokaw’s comments also highlight another major oversight by NBC and Meet the Press: the consistent lack of representation of regular Latinx voices on the show. At a time when most every week there are issues that are impacting this community disproportionately — immigration, political crisis in Venezuela and Central America, the impact of the Latino vote on politics in the U.S. — the network has done a woefully inadequate job of including more diverse voices that can speak about the current Latinx experience. It’s not for lack of a bench, there are plenty of operatives, reporters and analysts that could be more regular guests on the show, many have signed on to this letter.
We cannot let these comments pass. This has happened too many times and it’s time we not let another egregious insult to our community go by without consequence. Our response to these xenophobic attacks will not be to hide or repress who we are or to be embarrassed or ashamed of our culture. To the contrary. We love this country. We are 100% American and 100% Latino. We are America, just the way we are.
Adrian Saenz, Senior Advisor, Latino Victory Project
Alejandra Castañeda, Deputy Political Director, Priorities USA
Amanda Renteria, Chairwoman, Emerge America
Andrea Ramos, Training Manager, ACRONYM
Causten Rodriguez-Wollerman, Director of Partnerships, Demos
Chuck Rocha, President, Solidarity Strategies
Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, Executive Director, Jolt
Franco Caliz-Aguilar, Director of Political Strategy, Way To Win
Gabriel Sanchez, Principal, Latino Decisions
Georgie Aguirre-Sacasa, Consultant, Collective Strategies Group
Hon. Lucy Flores, CEO, Luz Collective
Joaquin Guerra, Founder, MasPower Group
Julie Martinez Ortega, JD PhD, Director, Washington Office and Chief Data Scientist, Sandler Phillips Center
Kenia Morales, Nevada State Director, America Votes
Luis Avila, President, Iconico
Marcos Vilar, President, Alianza for Progress
María Urbina, National Political Director, Indivisible
Martín Diego Garcia, Vice President, The Campaign Workshop
Matt A. Barreto, Co-Founder, Latino Decisions
Michelle Mayorga, Vice President, GBA Strategies
Oscar Silva, Executive Director, Battleground Texas
Paola Ramos, Latinx Advocate
Pili Tobar, Managing Director, America’s Voice
Rebecca L. Guerra
Santiago Martinez, Partner, Arena
Sarah Audelo, Executive Director, Alliance for Youth Action
Stephanie Valencia, Founder, 200 Collective
Tory Gavito, President, Way to Win
Hashtags: #IAmALittleBrownOne #WeAreAmerica #WeAreTheFuture #FutureIsNow
Add your name to the letter here