After a week of negative press surrounding his comments about Mexicans who cross the border illegally being rapists and criminals, billionaire real estate magnate and genius of self-parody Donald Trump appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday to clarify his remarks.
He didn’t mean Mexicans were particularly prone to rape and criminal activity – he meant to say that all the people crossing the Southern border illegally, be they Mexicans or, presumably, nationals of many of the other countries of Central America who find their way to the U.S. border are potential rapists.
“It’s not Mexicans necessarily, they’re coming from all over,” Donald Trump said.
While Donald Trump and his surrogates spent much of last week berating the media for highlighting the comments he made about Mexican immigrants during his presidential announcement, Donald Trump voluntarily waded back into the discussion on Sunday. Answering a question about U.S. trade deals, he said that he believes Mexico has out-negotiated the U.S., particularly when it comes to auto manufacturing, and immediately segued into the immigration debate.
“I respect what they’re doing,” Donald Trump said. “I think it’s great. I like Mexico. I love the Mexican people. I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border who are from all over. And they’re bad. They’re really bad.
“I’ve spoken to border guards and I said, ‘How bad is it?’ And they said ‘Mr. Donald Trump, you have no idea how bad.’ But you have people coming in and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country.”
Trump also doubled down on his promise not just to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border, but also to get Mexico to pay for it.
“Look, Mexico has not treated us well,” he told host Jake Tapper. “Mexico treats us as though we are stupid people, which of course our leaders are. I don’t blame Mexico. China is even worse.”
“But how do you force a country to build a wall?”
“No, no, you force them because we give Mexico a fortune. Mexico makes a fortune because of us a wall is a tiny little peanut compared to the kind of money…”
“So you would cut off business or impose tariffs unless they built the wall?”
“I would do something very severe unless they contributed or gave us the money to build the wall. I’d build it; I’d build it very nicely. I’m very good at building things.”
Trump is, without doubt, very good at building up controversy. In a very public spat with Spanish-language television giant Univision, Trump threatened to sue the company unless it backed away from its refusal to broadcast the Miss Universe pageant, partly owned by Trump, in reaction to his comments about Mexican immigrants.
Trump wound up banning Univision employees from his golf resort in Miami, which happens to be near a Univision office. Univision, in turn, instructed its employees to avoid using any Trump facilities for hotel stays or events.
Over the weekend, Trump’s relations with Hispanic voters seemed certain to sour further, when the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, an umbrella group representing dozens of organizations with roots in the Hispanic community, issued statements from its members urging others to follow Univision’s lead.
“Aspirants to the highest office in the land must not use a national electoral platform to spew venomous speech about Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans,” said Hector Sanchez, Chair of NHLA and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “As a Mexican immigrant to this country, I can personally attest to the falsity of Donald Trump’s statements.”
Calling Univision’s move “civil rights leadership in the digital age,” Felix Sanchez, Chairman and Co-founder, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, said, “We implore NBCU to follow Univision’s lead and take a similar stance and sever their financial relationship with Mr. Trump, in light of the bigoted way he has denigrated Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.”
“Trump’s arrogance has never been questioned, but his disgusting views on Latinos and Mexicans in particular will forever mark him as the arrogant bigot that he is,” said Alex Nogales, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “Our country deserves much more from its Presidential candidates.”
The Republican National Committee was already worried about Trump. The Party is facing the very real possibility that the reality TV star will use a combination of high name recognition and the ability to spend large amounts of money to qualify for Republican primary debates. Once there, his penchant for off-the-cuff zingers and a willingness to tack far to the right on hot button issues could create a repeat of the 2012 “clown car” debates that drove the entire field rightward and damaged the eventual candidate, Mitt Romney.
Now, the GOP has to deal with a high-profile candidate running in their primary – currently in second place according to a number of polls – who has alienated representatives of the country’s fastest-growing voting bloc.
Addressing Trump’s statements about immigrants late last week, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said, “Some comments can be helpful, some comments can be hurtful. Those particular comments…not helpful.”