You call yourself Hispanic, where are your sombrero and poncho?
That was just about the only question Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin left out of his interview with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently.
The only thing he didn’t do was tell Cruz, he had some “splaining to do.”
It was one of the least impressive, most definitive interviews you could ever see during the early stages of a presidential primary season.
Cruz is a Cuban from Canada who represents Texas in the Senate.
His cultural heritage is obviously mixed due to his European mother and Cuban father’s positions with oil companies that took his family up and down North America.
Cruz is not “Hispanic” as stereotypes are wont to portray them. He is not from a family of illegal immigrants who worked on a farm. He didn’t overcome economic hardship to make it on his own.
Cruz’s father left Cuba to attend the University of Texas. His mother graduated from Rice University in Houston. They worked in the oil industry and did well.
Cruz went to high school in Texas, but his college years were spent at Princeton and then Harvard Law School.
Somehow, to Halperin, that seemed to mean Cruz wasn’t a “real Hispanic.”
So in an interview that led Halperin to issue apologies, he gave the 2016 presidential candidate a Hispanic litmus test full of “gotcha” questions that were intended to make the reporter famous for being the one who disproved the candidate’s ethnic authenticity.
Halperin wanted to be to Ted Cruz what Katie Couric was to Sarah Palin. It had nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with political bias and remaining a media celebrity.
Halperin’s fame comes from getting caught sending memos to other journalists telling them how to properly enact a liberal bias in their news coverage of the 2004 Presidential election.
He has used his positions to create mini-histories of recent presidential campaigns, most famously with his book “Game Change” after the 2008 election. Not surprisingly, Halperin cast himself in a cameo in the film HBO made based on the book.
He is far more celebritant than journalist.
Halperin is known for pushing the boundaries of both credibility and decency as he was also suspended from the air at MSNBC after using a derogatory slur to describe Barack Obama during a press conference in 2011.
After his interview with Cruz where he questioned Cruz on important national matters such as his favorite Cuban music, favorite Cuban food and offered to let him welcome Bernie Sanders into the race “en espanol,” Halperin was forced to issue an apology.
“My intent was to give the Senator a chance to speak further about his heritage and personal connections to the community through some casual questions,” Halperin said. “I rushed through the questions, and that was a mistake — it led to poor tone and timing.”
Halperin went on to say in his statement that he understood why some felt the questions were inappropriate. I don’t think he does. Tone and timing were the least of his issues.
Despite pressing Cruz on food, music, language and every other stereotypical “marker” for Hispanic ethnicity, Halperin says that was not his intent.
“In no way was I asking Senator Cruz to ‘prove’ he was an ‘authentic’ Latino,” Halperin said. “I apologize to those that were offended, and to Senator Cruz. I promise that I will work to make the tone and questions better next time.”
Fortunately for Halperin, Cruz took the high road and said an apology was unnecessary. I would say it was necessary but inadequate.
There is no room for that type of belittling questioning in the political arena.