In a high-profile South Texas congressional race between Rep. Vicente González, a Democrat, and Rep. Mayra Flores, a Republican, a local blogger who got money from González’s campaign has been attacking Flores by repeatedly calling her “Miss Frijoles” and describing her as a “cotton-pickin’ liar.” The attack is an example of how sexism, racism and just plain hatred of Latina members of Congress are still very real in 2022. It comes on the heels of a breakfast taco gaffe last week in San Antonio that led to an apology from first lady Jill Biden.
Sexism, racism and hatred of Latina members of Congress are still very real in 2022.
Latinos and Latinas from all sides of the political aisle have already called those attacks on Flores insulting and offensive and, in seizing the political moment, Flores and her team have responded in an official campaign statement by associating González with a “creepy blogger” who has attacked “my Mexican heritage and sexually degraded me.” At the same time, González and his team have been distancing themselves from the blogger they paid $1,200, and according to that blogger, the campaign has demanded a refund.
It’s time for Democrats and so-called liberals to stop being smug when it comes to Latino voters and instead start earning the respect of an electorate that will play a key role in who wins and who loses in the 2022 midterms and beyond. Did anyone tell the González campaign that he should not spend advertising money in a local blog because the race is no longer a local slam dunk, but a tightening one with national implications?
Jerry McHale, the blogger the González campaign paid, runs The McHale Report, and he said in a Wednesday phone interview that he doesn’t see anything wrong with calling Flores “Miss Frijoles,” comparing the Mexican-born representative to a bowl of menudo or using sexually vulgar language to describe her.
“I’ve been married to three Mexican women. I don’t consider it sexist, I consider it satire,” McHale told me, adding that in his view, “political correctness has gone too far when words like ‘frijoles,’ ‘menudo’ and ‘enchiladas’ are seen as sexist or racist.” McHale said he has lived in Brownsville, Texas, since 1975 and considers himself an “an old-fashioned gringo of the left.”
He said he sees Flores’ “political persuasion as the problem” and said he is “totally anti-Republican, so the fact that she is Latin means nothing.” He said anyone who is running for political office is fair game when it comes to critiques, and he credited former President Donald Trump with inspiring him to call out things for what they are, no matter how crude or politically incorrect they are.
McHale told me he is in the process of returning the $1,200 the González campaign gave him for “advertising services,” and he added that González has never spoken to him or told him what to write.
Democrats are providing a crash course of what not to do when it comes to Latino voters.
“It was unfortunate. My campaign advertises on all kinds of networks and platforms, and we have no influence on the content,” González told Latino Rebels, the media site I founded.
“I clearly condemn what was said—no different than I condemn Donald Trump for saying that Mexico doesn’t send their best and that they send rapists and murderers,” he added. “It’s just as offensive to me.”
South Texas has been a solidly Democratic region, but this border region is changing and it’s becoming more obvious that Democratic votes are not a given and that they need to be earned. Even González admitted that to Chuck Todd last month after Flores won a runoff election. Republicans think they can win there in 2022 especially now that Trump and Flores have seen success. But Democrats are busy providing a crash course of what not to do when it comes to Latino voters. It makes no sense for the González campaign to think that sending money to a local political blog was an effective strategy.
Flores has promoted QAnon theories and is solidly in the camp that goes after what she calls the “woke” radical left on the daily, but she is still a formidable Latina Republican who continues to garner national attention, in large part because of blunders from Democrats such as González.
Not surprisingly, right-wing outrage over McHale’s attacks is further proof that the right will only condemn sexist language and behavior only when it impacts one of their own. (Fox News endorsing last week’s verbal attacks on Latina Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is an example.) But still, the González campaign has grossly miscalculated the community’s response to support Flores. It was never going to be a winning strategy in South Texas to attack Flores as not “Mexican American enough” or not a “real” Latina because she has differing political views from traditional Democrats.
Given the many indications that Latino voters are feeling like Democrats take them for granted, Flores’s message that she is being harassed as a Mexican-born woman will appeal to those who place community over political party.
“Satire” might have worked in South Texas previously, but sexism and racism should never be condoned, amplified or supported. Maybe the González campaign has already learned that lesson, but from the looks of it, “Miss Frijoles” could be the new calling cry for the Latino right, and that could lead to another loss for a Democrat in South Texas but Democrats as a whole.