Sen. Thom Tillis blames Hispanics for COVID-19 surge, faces backlash from top Latinx leaders
A GOP Senator’s racist remarks on Hispanics land him in hot water with Latinx politicians
On July 14, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) held a telephone town hall where he essentially blamed Hispanics for their high rate of coronavirus cases – unprompted, saying the demographic doesn't wear masks or implement social distancing measures in a sufficient way.
During the town hall, Tillis was asked a question about how to deal with people who don’t wear masks and whether that was a situation where police should get involved.
The question had no mention of Hispanics. Tillis responded with the following:
“Just wear the mask out of respect. And I will tell you, I’m not a scientist and I’m not a statistician, but one of the concerns that we’ve had more recently is that the hispanic population now constitutes about 44% of the positive cases,” Tillis said.
“And we do have some concerns that in the Hispanic population we’ve seen less consistent adherence to social distancing and wearing a mask,” he added.
However, Hispanics and Latinos, Blacks and Asian Americans are collectively more likely than whites to wear masks, according to research by the Pew Research Center.
In the study, 62% of white adults say they wore a mask in stores or other businesses all or most of the time, compared to 74% of Hispanics.
Yes, Hispanics and Latinos currently constitute the majority of the coronavirus pandemic’s effects, but it is at a disproportionate rate.
Hispanics and Latinos are make-up the majority of the “essential” workforce. States with poor leadership measures during the pandemic’s onset the nation like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, each have high Latino populations, and their numbers are soaring.
The very workers who have been told they are expendable, are now told they are essential, and are now dying at disproportionate rates.
Perhaps the best response out of all reactors on Twitter was Rep. Ruben Gallego, who represents Arizona’s 7th district.
“No… we are the essential workers that were forced to go to work. We pulled the food, slaughtered the animals, packaged the food that fed America. They did it at barely minimum wage and went back home to big families under one roof [because] that is all they could afford,” wrote Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) on Twitter.
No.... we are the essential workers that were forced to go to work. We pulled the food, slaughtered the animals, packaged the food that fed America. They did it at barely minimum wage and went back homes to big families under one roof bc that is all they could afford. https://t.co/2IeOr2hmdL
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) July 17, 2020
“Respect the people that feed America,” Gallego finished in a subsequent tweet.
“These comments are racist and offensive,” wrote Ben Ray Luján, U.S. Senate candidate for New Mexico.
“Hispanics are disproportionately represented among the essential workers keeping our country going and are paying the price by suffering from COVID-19 at greater rates. The President has failed to lead and the blame lies with him,” Luján continued.
These comments are racist and offensive.
Hispanics are disproportionately represented among the essential workers keeping our country going and are paying the price by suffering from #COVID19 at greater rates.
The President has failed to lead and the blame lies with him. https://t.co/RN5gQoHrvS
— Ben Ray Luján (@benraylujan) July 17, 2020
“Senator Thom Tillis, you owe Latinos in North Carolina an apology and need to correct the record,” said Joaquin Castro on Twitter.
“Your comments are ignorant at best, racist at worst. I don’t remember you telling President Trump to wear a mask – do something useful and pass the Heroes Act of essential workers.”
.@SenThomTillis, you owe Latinos in North Carolina an apology and need to correct the record.
Your comments were ignorant at best, racist at worst.
I don’t remember you telling President Trump to wear a mask — do something useful and pass the Heroes Act for essential workers. https://t.co/YeRdtKtY3L
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) July 17, 2020
Interestingly, even in Congress it is Republican congressmen who also refuse to wear masks, as they have made it into a partisan issue. Tillis is currently trailing Democrat Cal Cunningham in his race to defend his seat in November.
After this week’s remarks, the gap may widen.