Former President Obama on Wednesday claimed that evangelical Latino voters chose President Trump over Democrat Joe Biden because Trump backs their views on abortion and gay marriage.
“People were surprised about a lot of Hispanic folks who voted for Trump,” Obama said during a radio interview on “The Breakfast Club” Wednesday morning while promoting his latest memoir, ‘A Promised Land.’
“But there’s a lot of evangelical Hispanics who, you know, the fact that Trump says racist things about Mexicans, or puts detainees undocumented workers in cages, they think that’s less important than the fact that he supports their views on gay marriage or abortion.”
The term “cages” refers to fences in detention centers that separated migrants, often by age and sex. Those facilities in places like Arizona and Texas were built during the Obama administration as part of its effort to curb a growing crisis at the border.
During the October presidential debate, Trump asked Biden “who built the cages,” as images of the detention center were placing blame on the Trump Administration for a controversy that began from prior administration in 2014.
On Hispanic voter turnout, in the 2020 presidential election despite Trump not considered the winner, Latinos in states like Texas and Florida overwhelmingly voted for the president over Biden. In Florida, nearly half of Latino voters cast ballots for President Trump where they unseated two Florida Democratic congress members — Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represented districts in Miami.
In Texas’s Rio Grand Valley, Trump flipped Zapata County, one of the bluest counties along the river with 52.5 percent of the vote.
And in New York City, a heavily Democratic area in the state of New York, Trump received his largest gains in the Democratic stronghold of Latino voters in the South Bronx, a predominantly low-income area, then he did in 2016, according to in-person voting data compiled by CUNY’s Center for Urban Research. In the Bronx neighborhoods of Melrose, Mott Haven, and Hunts Point, the president’s tally so far this year—4,166, more than the 3,157 enrolled Republicans in the district. Overall turnout in the district this year was up by roughly 650 voters.
Trump carried some 30 percent of Latino voters statewide in 2020 and surpassed his 2016 total by 76,612 as a result of better showings in most of the Bronx and Brooklyn as well as all of Queens and Staten Island.
Trump campaign’s director of rapid response for Spanish media Giancarlo Sopo disputed Obama’s Trump Hispanic supports claim.
“Our Hispanic advertising and communications largely focused on economic issues, public safety, Latin America, and socialism,” Sopo said in a statement. “We never ran a single ad that even mentioned gay marriage, and while our surrogates did address abortion in media appearances, our only advertising on the topic was limited to a modest radio buy in New Mexico. In states like Texas and Arizona, where Latinos are predominantly Mexican-American, the President’s strong border policies and measures to combat poverty were very popular.”
“Meanwhile, law and order was a top priority for voters in areas with large Puerto Rican communities, such as Orlando and Philadelphia,” Sopo added.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), criticized Obama’s comments as “condescending.”
“Ah yes, those Hispanic evangelicals. So backwards. Clinging to their guns and religion, you might say,” Hawley tweeted. “Barack Obama still the most condescending corporate liberal in America.”
Ah yes, those Hispanic evangelicals. So backwards. Clinging to their guns and religion, you might say. Barack Obama still the most condescending corporate liberal in America https://t.co/IqUdbx5FB7— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) November 25, 2020
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference gave a harsh response to Obama’s comment.
“I’ll tell you what I’m not thankful for this Thanksgiving: the ever-escalating close-mindedness of the Democrat Party. President Obama, whom I admire, is apparently angry because Hispanic Americans have minds of their own. As I have said at every opportunity, we are not – and will not be – beholden to the elephant or the donkey,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “A much more useful exercise for President Obama would have been to lead the Democrat Party to some humble self-reflection rather than further down the fundamentalist path of the leftist politics of exclusion. Bigotry is still bigotry even if it comes from President Obama.”
“The question is whether the party of Biden is any different, or whether demands for conformity are being cleverly disguised under the guise of national unity,” Rodriguez added.
Trump, in fact, is actually the first president who openly supported gay marriage, and is considered the most gay-friendly nominee in the history of the GOP.
Unlike Obama who has shifted his stance on this issue, he was in favor of same-sex marriage before he was against it — and before he was for it again. In 1996, as he ran for Illinois state Senate, Obama wrote on the 1996 questionnaire, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
When Obama sought a U.S. Senate seat in 2004, he told the Windy City Times, “I am a fierce supporter of domestic-partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue. I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation.” In his 2006 memoir, ‘The Audacity of Hope,’ he offered a religious explanation for his definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
In August 2008, he told Southern California megachurch Pastor Rick Warren his definition of marriage: “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix,” but added, “I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.” Months later in November 2008, Obama said, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”
On the issue of gay marriage, Hispanic voters specifically didn’t consider this one of the top ten priorities going into Election Day. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted July 27 to Aug. 2, Hispanic registered voters say the economy, health care, and coronavirus pandemic are very important to their vote in the 2020 presidential election. When it comes to the issue of immigration, 83 percent of Hispanics say it is very or somewhat important for the US to find a way for most immigrants to stay in the country legally, according to the Pew Research Center.