A day after the Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman was quoted in a BBC News story saying, “Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president” Fernando C. de Baca is apologizing, and said he’s prepared to step aside, but only after discussing the matter with county leaders at a closed meeting on Tuesday.
On Saturday night, C. de Baca, who spent time as a staffer at the White House, called The Word, to talk about the story which was first posted on NMFBI late Friday afternoon. He told us he regrets everything that’s taken place.
“I’m prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep this campaign rolling, and to keep it center and focused on issues. I love everybody. Contrary to everything that’s been said about me I’ve never had any conflict with any group or individuals for that matter.”
C. de Baca said, "It’s truly unfortunate. I was asked by one of the bloggers to help him understand the history of New Mexico, visa via Hispanics, and how they interacted with the Native Americans, and Blacks, you know African Americans.”
The 70-year-old thought he was relating stories from 60 years ago when he was just a kid, and believes he was quoted out of context in the article after the reporter told him he was writing for a world audience and needed to explain New Mexico’s cultural history to readers in Africa, China, and around the world.
Indeed, the BBC's post title, “Latin Class” indicated the story was at least partially written to include a historical perspective. Reporter Jon Kelly includes his opinions throughout his BBC blog post without putting C. de Baca's comments into any context, but the reporter certainly questions himself writing:
I wasn't sure about this, though. Virtually all of the Hispanic voters I spoke to told me they were supporting Obama.One local media analyst suggested to The Word, "I could just as easily believe that this is an out of context quote by a foreigner who doesn't understand the historical culture. If he [C. de Baca] was putting it in the context of his grandfather's statement of 60 to 70 years ago, then Kelly has put C de Baca in a box. And the bloggers have triggered reactions that may be inappropriately premature and some have acted hastily.
C. de Baca's remarks come the same week that Democratic Governor Bill Richardson launched, "Hispanics for Obama," and only days after the start of National Hispanic Heritgage Month.
Listen to the full interview, word for word, and hear C. de Baca’s explanation for the quotes he says were taken out of historical perspective.
Note: The recording was made off a cell phone speaker phone so the quality of the sound is not optimal.
C. de Baca told The Word:
In the course of talking to him [BBC Reporter Jon Kelly], I explained that some of the older generation people, like my grandfather, would always tells us as youngsters that Hispanics came here, I guess it was their way of having us, lifting our spirits, and they would say remember your ancestors came here as conquerors. And those were his [grandfather’s] words. And then they would draw the comparison of the other groups, the Native Americans and so on.
C. de Baca also insisted:
The point I was trying to make was that there is a generational difference between those folks who were born before the civil right and those born in more recent periods. Young people today, whether they be Hispanics, or some other race or ethnicity, they can’t relate to any of that, and so that’s what I was trying to convey. The point I did to make to him, was that in my humble opinion, the older set of Hispanics would probably not vote for a black for president, but that the younger ones would flock to vote for him [Obama] conceivably.Earlier in the interview C. de Baca said, “A lot of young people, who have no memory of this [civil rights movement], and can’t quite appreciate what was taking place during that time expect as a historical matter.
I sincerely apologize to all the members of the African American community, and of course to the community at large for any misunderstanding my comments may have brought about.Bloggers and the public wasted no time criticizing C. de Baca’s reported comments. The original NMFBI story was posted on the Daily Kos and later on Digg and Reddit.
Member of both parties were also quick to distance themselves from C. de Baca.
Republican Darren White was the first to issue a statement:
Chairman Fernando C. de Baca’s reported comments are reprehensible, ignorant, and completely unacceptable. “Someone who holds these beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political partySaturday afternoon, Martin Heinrich issued this demand:
I find GOP Chairman de Baca's comments offensive, short-sighted, and horribly racist. Spewing such bigotry proves once again that the GOP leadership of Bernalillo County is far too out of touch with New Mexican voters, who – regardless of political party – are a proud people who celebrate our cultural and ethnic diversity. GOP Chairman de Baca should step down and apologize to all New Mexicans for his disgusting display of intolerance. And if he fails to do so voluntarily, then I would hope that Darren White and the rest of the Bernalillo County GOP party leadership oust him immediately.The campaign of Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, was quick to denounce C. de Baca’s comments. Spokeswoman Ivette Barajas said.
Mr. C. de Baca’s comments are extremely offensive and insulting. We believe that Mr. C. de Baca’s comments in no way reflect the beliefs of New Mexico Hispanics. He has no affiliation with our campaign.Bloggers also jumped on the bandwagon denouncing C. de Baca. Heath Haussaman wrote:
It seems C. de Baca is out of touch with reality. The opinion he expressed and which he apparently holds is outdated, racist and sad. I agree with White: Someone who holds such beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party.C. de Baca said many of individuals and groups condemned him prematurely by issuing their statements and blogging their opinions. He claimed they never called him to check on the veracity of the comments, or ask for his side of the story. But, C. de Baca told The Word that he’d spoken to several party leaders, including NM GOP State Party Chairman, Allen Weh, who declined to publicly comment on the matter.
C. de Baca cited his leadership roles, as a staffer in the White House, and says he has always gone out of his way to recruit “people from all races and ethnic lines, to make the Republican Party as open to the entire population.”
He said his conversation with Weh was very candid, and that he’ll attend a meeting with his executive board, at the county level, to discuss the matter and determine his future. C. de Baca said that his meetings have always been open to the public, but this is sort of a “personnel meeting”, where I want to hear from the county party leaders to determine what is best for the party
If C. de Baca is ousted or resigns he won’t be the first county chairman to resign this year. In July, the chairman of the Sandoval County Republican Party quit after a heart attack, leaving the organization facing an election for new leadership less than three months before the November general election.
Photo Credits: MG Bralley