Media criticized presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump for calling the federal judge who ordered the release of documents pertaining to Trump’s failed Trump University, Gonzalo Curiel, as a "Mexican” and a “hater.” Media said Trump’s attacks were “racist,” “irresponsible” and “vile.”
Trump Calls Judge In Trump University Case A “Mexican” And A”Hater”
Politico: Trump: Federal Judge Is “Mexican” And A “Hater.” Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump lashed out at the federal judge overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University during a May 27 campaign rally, calling the judge a “hater” before falsely claiming he is “Mexican”:
Over the course of 12 minutes, Donald Trump used a campaign rally in San Diego on Friday night to lace into the judge overseeing a lawsuit over Trump University, calling him a “hater” and speculating about his ethnicity.
“The trial is going to take place sometime in November. There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily,” Trump said. “Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.”
Several lawsuits — two in federal court in San Diego and one in state court in New York — allege that Trump’s now-defunct real estate school, Trump University, made false claims about instructors’ experience. Trump has already acknowledged in a deposition that he did not hand-pick the teachers, as marketing materials claimed, though he insists the program was
At Friday night's rally, he got more specific, telling the crowd he believes Curiel — who was born in the United States — is Mexican.
“The judge, who happens to be, over we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine,” Trump said, according to the LA Times. “You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, OK?”
Curiel, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court in November 2011 by President Barack Obama, previously served as a Superior Court judge in San Diego and, for 17 years prior to that, as a federal prosecutor. He was born in East Chicago in 1953 and earned his J.D. in 1979 from the Indiana University School of Law. From 1999-2002, Curiel headed the Narcotics Enforcement Division for the Southern District of California, where he prosecuted drug smugglers working across the U.S.-Mexico border. [Politico, 5/28/16]
Media Condemn Trump’s “Racist,” “Bigoted” Attack On Judge
USA Today: Trump’s Attacks Are “Unashamedly Racist And Dangerously Dismissive.” USA Today’s editorial board criticized Trump’s “outrageous behavior,” calling it “unashamedly racist” and noting that a leader needs to ignore “minor provocations to achieve larger goals.” The editorial board wrote Trump’s “childish” behavior is making “an already ugly campaign even uglier.” From a June 1 USA Today editorial:
Let's just say the pivot to presidential is not off to a promising start. The thin-skinned businessman has continued to launch personal attacks on just about anyone who dares defy or disagree with him.
This is outrageous behavior for a presidential candidate: unashamedly racist and dangerously dismissive of the notion of judicial independence. Trump’s rage might stem from the fact that he has much to fear. Newly released documents suggest that some former students found Trump University to be little more than a marketing scheme that used high-pressure tactics to get people to spend as much as $35,000 for courses of questionable value. Judge Curiel actually did Trump a huge favor by postponing the trial until after the election.
Being the leader of the free world demands a talent for ignoring minor provocations to achieve larger goals, but the famously litigious Trump doesn't get this.
The candidate's childish name-calling and his eagerness to smear anyone who disagrees with him are making an already ugly campaign even uglier. And there could be more to come. After Tuesday’s unusually contentious news conference, a reporter asked whether this is “what it’s going to be like” if Trump is elected president. “Yes, it is,” Trump replied. [USA Today, 6/1/16]
New York Times Editorial Board: Trump Fired Off “Racially Tinged Attacks” Against Judge. The New York Times editorial board slammed Donald Trump for “steer[ing] his pirate ship into uncharted waters” and “firing off personal and racially tinged attacks against a federal judge hearing a case in which Mr. Trump is the defendant.” The board noted these comments are troubling from a presidential candidate, but that the “special danger … is that they emboled Mr. Trump’s many followers to feel, and act, the same way.” From a May 31 New York Times editorial:
At a rally in San Diego on Friday, Mr. Trump again steered his pirate ship into uncharted waters, firing off personal and racially tinged attacks against a federal judge hearing a case in which Mr. Trump is the defendant.
But Mr. Trump doesn’t do standard procedure. In a rambling, 11-minute stream of vitriol, Mr. Trump, who has attacked Judge Curiel before, called him “very hostile” and a “hater of Donald Trump,” and said he “should be ashamed of himself. I think it’s a disgrace that he’s doing this.”
One would think Mr. Trump, whose sister is a federal appellate judge, would know how self-destructive it is for any litigant anywhere to attack the judge hearing his or her case. But Mr. Trump is not any litigant; he is running to be president of the United States — a job that requires at least a glancing understanding of the American system of government, in particular a respect for the separation of powers. When Mr. Trump complains that he is “getting railroaded” by a “rigged” legal system, he is saying in effect that an entire branch of government is corrupt.
The special danger of comments like these — however off the cuff they may sound — is that they embolden Mr. Trump’s many followers to feel, and act, the same way.
For good measure, Mr. Trump added that Judge Curiel “happens to be, we believe, Mexican.” False; the judge is from Indiana. But facts are, as always, beside the point for Mr. Trump, who reassured his audience that “the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs.” (Presumably he was not referring to those he has promised to deport if he is elected.) [The New York Times, 5/31/16]
NBC’s Chuck Todd: Trump’s Attacks Are “Truly Borderline Irresponsible.” NBC’s Chuck Todd called Trump’s attack on the federal judge “truly borderline irresponsible” and asked, “is this the way he would govern? Todd warned that if Trump continued attacking the judiciary if elected president, he “could trigger a constitutional crisis.” From the June 1 edition of NBC’s Today:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (HOST): Let's talk about this Donald Trump news conference yesterday. Obviously, we know it is a no-lose proposition to blast the media. But let's not get distracted by that. Let's go to the substance. Where do we net out on what happened to the donations to the veterans? And also this issue of the Trump University documents that Hallie just talked about.
CHUCK TODD: I would say, to me, there were two more important take aways than this back and forth with the media. Number one is what you brought up with the Trump University. The fact of the matter is, Donald Trump -- you know why these documents are public? Because Donald Trump has done nothing but beat the living daylights out of this judge. And the more he's done that, the more the judge has basically said, ‘Hey our credibility has been called into question. We got to put everything out here.’ So it is a reminder, is this the way he would govern? Is this how he would act in office? Any critic, any critic from the judiciary branch, another branch of government, right? This is something minor in his own office. If he did this while in office, it could trigger a constitutional crisis. So it is truly borderline irresponsible behavior, on that front. On the second thing, to me, that jumped out of the press conference, again skipping the media, was his willingness to just trash anybody that is not for him, including Republicans. It may work politically but, again, that is no way to govern. And he will find out he is very lonely in that Oval Office. [NBC, Today, 6/1/16]
Wash. Post: Trump’s Attacks Showed “Disrespect For Constitutional Norms.” The Washington Post editorial board excoriated Trump’s remarks against the federal judge, writing that he is showing a “disrespect for constitutional norms” and an “ability to offend and prevaricate simultaneously.” The board asked “what respect for the separation of powers” can we expect to see from Trump if he is president. From a May 31 editorial:
Mr. Trump demonstrated the same disrespect for constitutional norms when he attacked a federal judge over the weekend. He called Judge Gonzalo Curiel “a hater.” He labeled the Indiana-born jurist a “Mexican,” once again proving an ability to offend and prevaricate simultaneously. If he is willing now to bully a judge overseeing a case involving his business, what respect for the separation of powers can we expect if he is president?
Yes, it is going to be like this.
Republican leaders are telling us, and perhaps themselves, that their nominee would become more reasonable if handed control of the Justice Department, the FBI, the U.S. military and the nuclear codes. “I think Donald Trump will understand when he’s sworn in the limits of his authority,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday in an interview with Hugh Hewitt. “He’ll have a White House counsel. There will be others who point out there’s certain things you can do and you can’t do. And it’s not quite like, you know, making a speech before a big audience and entertaining people. And I think he’s a smart guy, and I think he’s going to figure that out. So I’m not worried about it.”
There you have it. You can believe Mr. McConnell, who posits that Mr. Trump will allow himself to be reined in by his White House counsel. Or you can believe Mr. Trump, who is telling us frankly: Yes, it is going to be like this. [The Washington Post, 5/31/16]
La Opinión: “In His Ignorance” Trump Attacked “A Mexican-American Born In Chicago, Not An Immigrant.” The La Opinión editorial board slammed Trump for his “ignorance and irresponsibility,” noting that the federal judge is “a Mexican-American born in Chicago, not an immigrant.” The board went on to say Trump’s criticism “rouses a crowd of followers who feverishly wants to ‘build that wall,’” and “is no longer directed to undocumented people or foreigners but includes dozens of millions of people born in the U.S. whose Hispanic last name and disagreement with Trump makes them … suspicious of deliberately antagonizing him.” From the May 30 editorial:
Students who paid tens of thousands of dollars to study at Trump University must have suspected something was wrong when they were offered to take a picture with a cardboard figure of the mogul instead of with the real man. This is only one of the irregularities cited in the lawsuit for multi-million dollar fraud filed by former students. Still, Donald Trump believes that he is being accused because the judge is “a Mexican.”
The response of the presumptive Republican nominee was to say that Curiel is “a hater of Donald Trump,” adding that the judge – nominated by President Obama – must leave the case, citing bias. Trump said that Curiel’s supposed animosity comes from being “Mexican.” Spewed from the podium, the claim rouses a crowd of followers who feverishly wants to “build that wall,” this time to prevent judges from attacking the candidate.
In his ignorance and irresponsibility, Trump’s attack is carried out against a Mexican-American born in Chicago, not an immigrant. His criticism is no longer directed to undocumented people or foreigners but includes dozens of millions of people born in the U.S. whose Hispanic last name and disagreement with Trump makes them, in his eyes, suspicious of deliberately antagonizing him. [La Opinión, 5/30/16]
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes: Trump Is “Outside The Norms Of … Basic Institutions In American Politics” For “Sliming” Federal Judge. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes blasted for Trump’s going “outside the norms of … basic institutions in American politics” to take part in “sliming” a federal judge. From the May 31 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live:
CHRIS HAYES (HOST): Take one little tiny part of this. This is someone who has a civil case before a federal judge. OK? Now he doesn't like this case, and I understand, people don't like judges they get and he's complaining. He is going after the judge, day after day after day, said the guy is Mexican. He was born in Indiana. Now, just think for a second about -- that's one thing when you're a private citizen. It's another when you're the nominee for president. It's another thing when you think about the president of the United States, if there were judicial decisions he didn't like from a specific judge, going around and essentially rhetorically, you know, sliming the judge, these are outside the norms of sort of some basic institutions in American politics.
GLENN THRUSH: Going back to your point about calling out judges, there is a historical precedent for a candidate calling out judges, and his name was George Wallace.
HAYES: That's right.
THRUSH: And the judge he went after --
HAYES: Earl Warren.
THRUSH: No, not just Earl Warren, Frank Johnson, the federal judge who did all the desegregation, said he wanted to give him a barbed wire enema.
THRUSH: That language tracks really closely to the kind of the way that Trump talks about the judicial branch. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 5/31/16]
TPM’s Josh Marshall: Trump “Happily Launches Defamatory Racist Attacks On A Federal Judge” And “Impugns The Patriotism Of An Entire Ethnic Community.” Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall described how Trump “happily launches defamatory racist attacks on a federal judge” and “impugns the patriotism of an entire ethnic community in the United States.” Marshall noted that “It is unprecedented for a presidential candidate to personally attack and even threaten a federal judge.” From a May 31 Talking Points Memo article:
It is unprecedented for a presidential candidate to personally attack and even threaten a federal judge. (To be fair, I'm not sure there's been a nominee being sued for fraud during the presidential campaign.) But here we have Trump making an openly racist argument against a federal judge, arguing that Curiel is pursuing a vendetta against him because Trump is, he says, “I'm very, very strong on the border.”
As we've noted, quite apart from the policies he's embraced, Trump has shown himself over the course of the campaign to be an emotionally needy, pathological liar. Here we see that he also not only happily launches defamatory racist attacks on a federal judge but impugns the patriotism of an entire ethnic community in the United States.
As I write, the issue is being discussed on the cable nets in terms of why Trump thinks it's a good idea to attack a judge hearing his case, whether there's any evidence that Curiel is “biased” or “unfair.” (It's worth noting that Curiel did Trump the inestimably valuable favor of acceding to his lawyers' request to push the trial back until after the November election - this despite the fact that 'elder abuse' infractions put a premium on conducting an expeditious trial.) But handicapping the wisdom of Trump's attack or analyzing them in substantive terms is an immense dereliction of journalistic duty.
The press routinely goes into paroxysms - often rightly so - about innuendos or phrasings that might in some way be racist or suggest racial animus. Here we have it in the open, repeated and showing itself as basically Trump's first line of attack when he is in anyway threatened. That's infinitely more dangerous than most things that routinely focus all the media's attention. Any reporter who gets a chance to ask Trump to justify his actions and doesn't is not doing his or her job. Few cases show more vividly how dangerous a person Trump is. [Talking Points Memo, 5/31/16]
The New Yorker: “Trump’s Style Is Bigoted Name-Calling.” The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin slammed Trump’s comments, pointing out that out Trump’s style, not limited to judges, is “bigoted name-calling” as opposed to “reasoned critique.” From a May 31 New Yorker article:
At a minimum, the attack was factually inaccurate. Curiel is not a “Mexican” but, rather, an American citizen who was born in East Chicago, Indiana. He has spent most of his life as a prosecutor or a judge. Now sixty-three, Curiel was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1989 to 2006, mostly focussing on narcotics cases, when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the California Superior Court. In 2014, President Obama nominated him to be a trial judge. This is, in short, not the record of any kind of “hater” but, rather, a story of an American dream vindicated. The only specific grounds for criticism that Trump and his team have offered (besides Curiel’s failure to rule for Trump) is that the judge is a member of the La Raza Lawyers Association, a group that advocates for the interests of Latino lawyers. Catholic, Jewish, and African-American lawyers have similar organizations, and membership in them is common and uncontroversial, including among judges. (The Volokh Conspiracy, a generally conservative legal blog hosted by the Washington Post, has a scathing analysis of Trump’s speech about Curiel.)
Of course, as a private citizen, Trump has the right to criticize any judge or court decision, including one where the candidate himself is one of the parties. But Trump’s complaints are more revealing even than the decisions that irk him. Trump has no apparent philosophy of how judges make decisions; he doesn’t even attempt something as simple, and revealing, as George W. Bush’s antipathy for judges who “legislate from the bench.” For Trump, rather, judging is all personal, at least as far as he is concerned. He has no discernible views on judges except about whether they agree with him, case by case. As illustrated by his attacks on Judge Curiel, Trump’s style is bigoted name-calling, not reasoned critique. That’s his pattern—and not just about judges. [The New Yorker, 5/31/16]
Daily Beast Columnist And Fmr. Attorney: Trump’s Attack “Was Telling His Supporters That Curiel Is Not One Of Us.” Former Attorney and The Daily Beast, columnist Dean Obeidallah criticized Trump in a CNN.com op-ed for bringing up the judge’s “Latino heritage.” Obeidallah said Trump “was telling his supporters that Curiel is not one of us … he’s an other,” which has been “a central theme in Trump’s divisive presidential campaign.” From the May 31 CNN.com op-ed:
Has Donald Trump reached an alarming new low? On Friday, during his campaign rally in San Diego, Trump ripped into federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel who is presiding over one of the two class action lawsuits pending against Trump University and Trump, personally, for allegedly defrauding thousands of people out of money in connection with the now defunct school.
If Curiel's Latino heritage was “fine,” then why did Trump bring it up at all? Simple: Trump was telling his supporters that Curiel is not one of us, rather he's a “Mexican.” He's an other. This has been a central theme in Trump's divisive presidential campaign. After all, Trump kicked off his campaign last year claiming -- despite having no factual support -- that Mexico was sending “rapists” and people who are “bringing drugs” to our country. [CNN.com, 5/31/16]
Reason: Trump’s Attacks Are “Racist Conspiracy Garbage” And “Vile Stuff.” Reason editor Damon Root chastised Donald Trump for “peddling racist conspiracy garbage” and “vile stuff.” Damon called Trump a “bigoted authoritarian” and said his most recents attacks against the judge represent “a very real threat to the rule of law.” From the May 31 Reason.com blog (emphasis original):
This is vile stuff. Not only is Trump peddling racist conspiracy garbage about a federal judge (Curiel was born and raised in Indiana), Trump is using the bully pulpit to try to intimidate the courts to rule in his favor. Just imagine, Trump effectively warned Judge Curiel, what will happen to you if you rule against me after I'm elected president.
To state the obvious, Trump is a bigoted authoritarian whose continued political success represents a very real threat to the rule of law in this country. [Reason.com, 5/31/16]
Vox’s Dara Lind: Donald Trump “Isn’t Even Trying Not To Be Racist.” Vox’s Dara Lind wrote that Trump’s “sinister” allegations against Judge Curiel’s impartiality are blatantly “not even trying not to be racist,” and “nonchalantly [call], by extension, the patriotism of millions of nonwhite Americans into question.” (emphasis original:)
After months of underhanded attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over two class-action suits against Trump University, Donald Trump finally came out and said it: people with “Mexican heritage” can't be trusted to put American values first.
Repeatedly and over months, Trump and his campaign have insinuated that Curiel is hostile toward Trump and everything he represents because he's Hispanic and proud of it. And now, Trump is doing us all the favor of stating it outright.
Donald Trump doesn't say outright that there are “good” and “bad” Hispanics in America. He doesn't have to. When in one breath he says “I love the Hispanics” and “the Hispanics will vote for me” and in the next he says that someone with “Mexican heritage” can't be objective in judging a case against him because they oppose his building a wall, his supporters can fill in the blanks.
This isn't the first time the Trump campaign has implied that people who aren't white men are incapable of being objective: Campaign chair Paul Manafort all but ruled out the idea of nominating a nonwhite or nonmale vice president because it would “be seen as pandering.”
But what Trump is doing now is more sinister: He's implying that taking pride in one's ethnicity — to the extent of, say, being a member of an ethnic association — indicates that you're not proud of being an American. He's nonchalantly calling, by extension, the patriotism of millions of nonwhite Americans into question. [Vox, 6/1/16]
Wall Street Journal: Trump Should “Apologize To The Judge” For His “Racist Implications.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board slammed Trump for his “reprehensible,” “odious,” and “racist” attacks on Judge Curiel, imploring Trump to “apologize to the judge” for “his equation of ethnicity with bias.” The board said that the attacks were “so offensive,” and lamented that Trump “should be above this kind of pettiness.” From the June 5 editorial:
Donald Trump keeps giving his political opponents ammunition, most recently with his continuing attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over lawsuits against Trump University. But it’s important to distinguish between what is merely obnoxious and the truly odious in his remarks.
Mr. Trump is attacking Judge Curiel in a personal business case, not a political one, and as a candidate for President we think he should be above this kind of pettiness. His implied threat against the judge if he becomes President is more obnoxious, though we doubt he could do much about it in office. The political blowback would rightly be enormous.
What elevates Mr. Trump’s remarks to the reprehensible is his equation of ethnicity with
bias. That truly is an attack on the independence of the judiciary because it means that a judge can be disqualified from a case merely for his personal background, rather than for any material conflict of interest.
The suit against Trump University is a classic civil fraud case that has nothing to do with ethnicity. Judge Curiel happens to be an American born in Indiana to immigrant parents, but that is of no legal import. He shouldn’t be judged by the ancestry of his parents any more than Chief Justice Roberts should be barred from ruling on religious liberty cases like the Little Sisters of the Poor because he is a Roman Catholic.
Apart from his racist implications, Mr. Trump is also indulging in the left’s habit of attributing the motivations of everyone and everything to race, class, gender and sexual orientation. Claiming that a person’s judgment is determined by his objective circumstances is a Marxist trope. Isn’t Mr. Trump supposed to be running against such thinking?
The hopeful news is that Mr. Trump’s attack on Judge Curiel’s ethnicity has been widely denounced, notably by senior Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Unlike many of our outraged progressives, they are politically consistent. As for Mr. Trump, he should let his lawyers argue his civil case, apologize to the judge, and start talking about the economy. [Wall Street Journal, 6/5/16]
This post has been updated to include additional examples.