On Sunday, during an appearance on “Meet the Press,” NBC News’ Tom Brokaw reiterated what he called his long-held belief that “Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.”
The veteran news reporter offered his thoughts on immigration during a roundtable discussion on the government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The problem is in Wyoming and in South Dakota, they think they need a wall. And in Texas and in Arizona, they don’t,” host Chuck Todd said.
“And a lot of this, we don’t want to talk about,” Brokaw said. “But the fact is, on the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important, new constituent in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats. Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, ‘Well, I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.’ I mean, that’s also a part of it.”
“It’s the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other,” Brokaw went on. “I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”
Later in the broadcast, “PBS NewsHour” White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor addressed Brokaw’s remarks.
“I would just say that we also need to adjust what we think of as America,” Alcindor said. “You’re talking about assimilation. I grew up in Miami, where people speak Spanish, but their kids speak English. And the idea that we think Americans can only speak English, as if Spanish and other languages wasn’t always part of America, is, in some ways, troubling.”
No one on the panel asked Brokaw to clarify who has told him they didn’t want “brown grandbabies.”
Many Twitter users declared Brokaw’s remarks xenophobic. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) called Brokaw “stunningly ignorant of the Hispanic community.”
“Unfortunate to see xenophobia pass for elevated political commentary,” Castro wrote on Twitter.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who has written at length about his experience as an undocumented immigrant in America, also hit back at Brokaw, arguing that the country’s diversity is part of its strength.
Brokaw addressed his comments Sunday evening via Twitter.
“I feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture,” he wrote. “From my days reporting on cesar chavez to documenting the many contributions of hispanics in all parts of our culture [...] i’ve worked hard to knock down false stereo types. in my final comment in Meet i said ALL sides hv to work harder [...] at finding common ground - which i strongly believe. dialogue not division."
A spokesperson for NBC News responded Monday to Brokaw’s remarks, calling them “inaccurate and inappropriate.”
This article has been updated with NBC’s statement.