John Kasich Tries To Reach Out To Latinos, Insults Them Instead

His comments on Latino voters quickly turned to praise for a hotel maid.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is trying to court Latino voters, but on Thursday, his anecdote about a hotel maid didn't help.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is trying to court Latino voters, but on Thursday, his anecdote about a hotel maid didn't help.
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Even when talking about the importance of Latino outreach, GOP presidential candidates seem to have a way of creating problems for themselves.

Republican hopeful John Kasich said Thursday that Latinos are good people who should vote for the GOP -- but then, he seemed to draw on the stereotype that many of them are hotel maids.

"I look at our friends in the Latino community as people that ought to be voting Republican," the Ohio governor said at a campaign event, according to The Columbus Dispatch. "I mean, they're very strong family. We could all learn a little from them about the importance of family, couldn't we? Because they are great, they are God-fearing, hard-working folks. And a lot of them do jobs that they're willing to do."

"That's why, in a hotel, you leave a little tip, you know?"

He went on to talk about a hotel maid he met on a trip to Los Angeles, who wrote him a note saying, "I really want you to know that I care about your stay," according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Is that just the greatest thing?" he continued. "So, you know, we can learn a lot and she's Hispanic, 'cause I didn't know it at the time, but I met her in the hallway -- asked her if I could get a little more soap."

Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf said the candidate was referring more generally to the hospitality he'd received. "He was talking about how great the service was and how we should respect everyone in our society, no matter what their job or position might be," Schrimpf said.

Kasich's comment fits into a broader perception that Latino immigrants -- and particularly, undocumented people -- do jobs that others won't. Although the percentage of undocumented immigrants working in white-collar industries has increased, most of them work in low-wage jobs. Many agricultural workers are undocumented, for instance, which caused a major problem for Alabama farms in 2011 when people left the state after its harsh anti-unauthorized immigration law went into effect. Immigration advocates argue the willingness of undocumented people to take on jobs Americans won't is a reason for reform.

But there's pushback to that narrative as well. Television host Kelly Osbourne caused a stir last month on ABC's "The View" when she said, "If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?" She was quickly rebuked by "The View" host Rosie Perez, and later apologized.

Not all immigrants are Latino, and not all immigrants are undocumented. In fact, a majority of Latinos are U.S.-born, making them, along with naturalized immigrants, a large population of would-be voters.

On immigration issues, which are not the top concern for most Latino voters but rank higher than for voters as a whole, Kasich actually has a softer stance than many of his fellow Republican contenders. He supports offering certain undocumented immigrants legal status, rather than driving them out or deporting them. And although he once supported ending birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants, he now says he is opposed to changing that right.

Cleveland's CBS affiliate aired video of part of Kasich's comments:

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