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Politics

DNC emails about Latinos: much ado about nothing?

Leaked emails about the Democratic Hispanic voter strategy use typical marketing language or were taken out of context, sources told Univision
25 Jul 2016 – 4:09 PM EDT

Leaked emails exchanged by Democratic strategists and staffers mentioning taco bowls and Latino brand loyalty have caused an uproar by some who say they expose the Democratic party’s negative, even prejudiced, view of Latinos.

"The creative people in the Dem Party refer to us Latinos as the [#TacoBowlEngagement]? REALLY?" tweeted Latino rapper Fat Joe, whose real name is Joseph Antonio Cartagena. “Totally disgraceful,” wrote conservative radio host Joe Walsh on Twitter.

The emails are causing anxiety among Dems arriving in Philadelphia today to try to unite their party as the convention gets underway. The nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails made public by Wikileaks this weekend detailed the party favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, leading to the resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Monday.

Party bosses issued an apology to Sanders for "inexcusable" emails which tried to undermine his White House campaign.

But, when it comes to the Latino-focused emails some say they are being taken out of context, and that the language in one of them actually references Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s racist comments.

On May 5, Trump tweeted: "Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!" The tweet, which included a photo of Trump giving a thumbs up, was widely criticized from the likes of ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush to former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

That day, the DNC used the controversial tweet to engage voters, publishing a video on social media highlighting Trump’s previous statements about Mexicans. "There aren't enough tacos in the world to fix Trump's problems this Cinco de Mayo," the video concluded.

The email in question, sent May 6 by DNC creative strategist Rebecca Christopher, reads: "Attached is a script for a new video we'd like to use to mop up some more taco bowl engagement.”

But that email was directly referencing Trump's tweet from the day before, and the video the DNC made in response to it - not Latinos themselves, a DNC spokesperson told Univision News. "Trump is running an incredibly divisive campaign and it's our job to hold him accountable," the spokesperson said.

Another leaked document outlining Latino voter strategy calls Hispanics "the most brand loyal consumers in the world" and says they are both "loyal" and "unforgiving" when it comes to brands. The document wasn't written by the Democratic Party, but by an entrepreneur trying to pitch a get-out-the-vote app to the DNC.

That email led some to criticize the DNC for making sweeping generalizations about Hispanics. Fusion, for example, called the emails " condescending and cringeworthy."

But some marketers point out that’s just common lingo.

It’s “extremely run-of-the-mill,” says Manny Ruiz, chief executive officer of Hispanicize Media Group, of the language used in the emails about Latinos' relationships to brands. "It's a popular refrain that Latinos are known to be brand loyal. I don't think there's anything strange in those comments at all."

“This is like 101 for marketers,” says Linda Lane Gonzalez, president of the viva partnership and chair of AAHA, a trade organization representing the Hispanic marketing, communications and media industry.

The strategy document also contained statistics about the Hispanic electorate and a plan for attracting Latino millennial voters.

The leak also contained emails about Spanish-language media. "Univision and Telemundo follow, as opposed to make news," one read. Another email expressed concern that the DNC isn't paying enough attention to these outlets, and another lamented that the DNC didn't have fully bilingual staff to write in Spanish.

David Frum, the senior editor of The Atlantic, summed up the leak in a tweet Monday. “I can’t see a scandal in any of the DNC emails I’ve read to date,” he wrote.

Jessica Weiss contributed to this report.

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