The National Council of La Raza doesn’t think much of former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo’s attack on the 40-year-old civil rights organization as “a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.” The Littleton Republican made the claim Thursday afternoon in an interview on CNN, arguing his claim that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sottomayor “appears to be racist.”
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” National Council of La Raza spokesperson Lisa Navarrete told The Colorado Independent. “He’s defamed our organization and told falsehoods about our organization without any basis in fact or evidence. That’s not who we are or what we do.
“If you look at Mr. Tancredos’ record, he’s often spoken about things he doesn’t know anything about.”
While the stakes couldn’t be higher, with Sotomayor poised to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, Navarrete sounded more weary than incensed over Tancredo’s latest antic.
“He’s at the far extreme of the Republican Party,” she said. “He’s someone who has been instrumental in alienating the Republican Party from the Latino community. We’ve been urging the Republican Party to try to outreach to the Latino community, and they did a good job of it until they let people like Tom Tancredo take over the debate on immigration.”
A congressman from the 6th Congressional District until he retired last year, Tancredo has made statements over the years threatening to bomb Mecca, calling Miami a Third World city and suggesting the U.S.-Mexico border wall separate Brownsville, Texas, from the rest of America.
It’s not the first time the Latino civil rights group has been inaccurately characterized by Tancredo, Navarrete said, though he hasn’t gone so far as to compare NCLR with the Ku Klux Klan before.
“He is a leading spokesperson and a leading figure in the anti-immigrant extremist movement, and as such we’re a target for anti-immigrant extremists,” Navarrete said.
Two years ago, before giving up his failed presidential campaign, Tancredo famously sang “Dixie” standing in front of Confederate flags in Columbia, S.C. His audience: a secessionist group and others called bigoted hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“He has hung around with a lot of bigots,” Navarrete said, “that’s where he’s getting his information, or misinformation from.”
Tancredo piled on the information, or misinformation, during his CNN appearance, making the charge NCLR’s “logo is ‘All for the race, nothing for the rest.’ “
“What he said was our motto is not our motto,” Navarrete said, giving Tancredo the benefit of the doubt that he meant motto, not logo. “It’s not anybody’s motto. He doesn’t really know what he’s talking about if he doesn’t know the difference between a logo and a motto.”
As for the phrase Tancredo finds so offensive? “It was a phrase that was found in a document from a college student group more than 40 years ago but has nothing to do with our organization,” Navarrete said.
She pointed to an NCLR site devoted to debunking misperceptions and critics who are “willfully distorting the facts and deliberately mischaracterizing our organization and our work.”