Last night on MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews stumbled into the tricky issue of Cuban identity and completely fumbled on the issue. Naturally, the host and his panel were discussing Tuesday's Republican Primary debate, and while talking about an interaction between Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Matthews decided to warble into an unnecessary aside and wondered whether both should really be considered "Hispanic."
Word to the wise, Matthews: It's not up to you to decide how other people identify.
Here's the exchange:
“Is [Mr. Cruz] trying to insinuate that Marco Rubio — a fellow Spanish surname, I’m not sure the right word is 'Hispanic' for them, because they are Cuban nationals or whatever, or come from Cuba — but is he going to insinuate that he is still basically for what he calls amnesty?" Matthews wondered.
True, there are some white Cubans in Miami who don't like to identify as Hispanic or Latino. There's still some controversy within the wider community about the term "Hispanic." Again, in these matters, it's best to listen to people to figure out how they prefer to identify.
"In my view, the Hispanic community is a fundamentally conservative one," Cruz said during a Q&A session earlier this year. "If you look at the values that resonate in our community, they are faith, family, patriotism, hard work."
We couldn't find a quote in which Rubio directly identifies as Hispanic (not that those quotes don't exist, and please let us know if one does), but he talks often as if he considers himself part of the Hispanic community.
"This belief that the Hispanic community is in favor of illegal immigration is false. It's just not true," he said just yesterday on NBC's Today show. "Hispanic communities are deeply impacted by illegal immigration."
In any event, if Rubio had a problem being labeled Hispanic, he likely would have said something by now.
Plus, the U.S. Census Bureau's definition of the term "Hispanic" specifically and implicitly includes Cubans. Both senators have also been American citizens since birth (a requirement to run for president), and they have certainly never been "Cuban nationals."
So Matthews' meandering was a bit odd, and Twitter certainly took notice.
Miami political operative Ana Navarro, who has known Rubio for most of his political career, was one of the first to chime in. A frequent face on cable news and a native of Nicaragua, she once shut down a white man who wondered if she was a "real Latina" on CNN.
Many Cubans originally came from Spain. They are, in the most literal sense of the word possible, "Hispanic." https://t.co/8dekSIRxs4— Chris Moody (@moody) November 12, 2015
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Others added their thoughts as well.
Cruz, Rubio are Americans of Cuban descent; Cuban-Americans are Hispanic; Chris Matthews-- no authority on Hispanics https://t.co/maGktnNhP4— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) November 12, 2015
Chris Matthews is a bigot. https://t.co/DBAKx04jmd— Henry Lou Babalú (@HenryLGomez) November 12, 2015