Editor's note: The congressional race in Pinellas County this week gave a stark example of how a candidate's words are twisted by the selective editing of gotcha sound bites. At a candidate forum, Democrat Alex Sink was asked about immigration reform. According to a video clip later posted on a number of websites, here is how she responded: "Immigration reform is important in our country ... because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean out hotel rooms or do our landscaping?" Within hours, the Sarasota Republican Party labeled the comment "racist.'' The campaign of David Jolly, Sink's Republican opponent, called it "truly disturbing and offensive," and said Sink should apologize. David Weigel of Slate.com, who was at the forum, explained in a column why the outrage is a "bog of bulls**t''. Here's an excerpt:
The clip was a short clip taken by a tracker. Trackers are, of course, patriotic American citizens, but they have agendas — to defeat the candidates they're tracking. Here, from my tape, is the whole Sink answer:
"Immigration reform is important in our country. It's one of the main agenda items of the beaches' chamber of commerce, for obvious reasons, because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? And we don't need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.
"I believe that the Senate came together in a bipartisan way to forge a solution. It was a very tough negotiation, and Sen. Marco Rubio was a participant in that, and one of the leaders, and members of his own party has even come against him. For every example that you hear, I think about the high school valedictorian —- I believe he lives in this district now. High school valedictorian.
"He was brought here when he was a young man, 9 or 10 years old. He didn't choose to come here. His parents brought him. He was undocumented. And what does he do? How does he get an education? He did everything right. He became an incredible student. He even eventually ended up going to law school and becoming a lawyer. But right now he can't practice law because of his undocumented status. That's not right. We need to bring these people out the shadows so that they're paying into Social Security, paying into Medicare, paying federal income taxes, so that they're not security issues. But they have to earn their way. So we need immigration reform and I would definitely join with Democrats and Republicans in the House and pass immigration reform as soon as possible.''
Yeah, a lot of word salad there. But it's hard to argue that Sink is classifying immigrants as mere laborers when she spent more time talking about a kid who wants to be a lawyer than the people cleaning up the beachfront hotel rooms.
Jolly did not respond in real time to Sink's comment. His campaign pronounced Sink's remark "offensive" only when asked later by the Hill newspaper.
Reader, I don't know you. Maybe you've been in a position where a person across from you — a person with whom you were competing for a job — said something "disturbing and offensive." Maybe you wanted them to apologize for it. And maybe you waited 24 hours to say that, through a spokesman, instead of mentioning it to anyone around you.
Nah. In that situation, you'd probably say something.
The amazing thing about the Sink "gaffe," though, is how it's being covered without any real effort put in to explain why it's offensive. Here's Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry: "Floridians are people who want to work hard to make their dreams come true, and in our state no dream is out of reach. For Alex Sink to make such an implication about those who immigrate to Florida is insulting.''
How did she imply that? By talking about an illegal immigrant who became valedictorian and went to law school?