A new 30-second political spot that People for the American Way has launched on Spanish-language television distorts Mitt Romneys views on Latinos in order to encourage Latino voters not to vote for Romney. The ad is part of a $1 million ad buy in the key election states of Virginia, Ohio, and Wisconsin. I saw it on last night's Univision evening news and during the telenovela "Refugio Para el Amor".
The centerpiece is Romney's infamous comments about the "47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … . who are dependent upon the government".
Speaking in Spanish over a clip from the video of Romney's comments, a woman says: "Recently Mitt Romney said that 47 percent of us depend on the government and that we see ourselves as victims. He also said that we came to this country to try to be supported for free." (Buscar ser mantenidos por gratis.)
Over a photo of Romney laughing it up with some well-dressed buddies, the woman says, "What a surprise that Mitt Romney and the Republicans want to reduce the taxes of millionaires and increase those for the working class." Then onto the screen comes text of the Spanish translation of Romney saying, "My job is not to worry about those people." The woman closes the pitch with this, "If we aren't important to Romney, he doesn't deserve our vote."
The ad's repeated us of "we" and "us" and "our" is clearly an attempt to suggest that this issue is all about Latinos, that Romney is attacking what is sometimes called la gran familia Hispana — the great Hispanic family. But Romney's comments about the 47 percent were about a broad swath of the American public. They were misdirected, but they were not directed at Latinos.
The ad's reference to Romney's other comments requires more explanation.
In an earlier version of this blog, I wrote that Romney has not accused Latino immigrants of coming for a free ride. But a reader just sent me this YouTube link, which shows that the Republican candidate, at a separate event, did say this: "My own view is that a lot of people that come here or come across, walk across the border, that have no skill, no education, and are looking for a free deal."
For the record, as a longtime reporter on immigration, I think that few people come here looking for a free deal, although many immigrants do indeed make extensive use of the social safety net. This is especially problematic when they cross the border illegally or overstay their visas.
So the ad is a stretch when it makes the sweeping claim that Romney "said that we came to this country to be supported for free".
This ad, like so many political ads by both major parties, is a distortion based on a cynical disregard for the truth. For the record, I am not a Romney supporter. But I am a former newspaper reporter who thinks public discourse should be based on fact, even when it's bought and paid for during political campaigns. I think People for the American Way is conducting a million-dollar campaign that subverts the fundamental American value of fair play and respect for the truth.