Politico reported that NBC News President Deborah Turness used the word “illegals” - a derogatory term viewed as an offensive slur by many Latinos - during a meeting with Hispanic lawmakers about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Several media outlets have stopped using the term “illegals” to describe undocumented immigrants. The Associated Press Stylebook instructs journalists against “the use of 'illegal' to describe a person,” and The New York Times followed suit. The National Associated of Hispanic Journalists, in a March 2006 press release calling on media to stop using “illegals” as a noun, explained that using that term “crosses the line by criminalizing the person,” and the Asian American Journalists Association and National Association of Black Journalists issued similar statements in 2006.
The November 19 Politico article explained that members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus were looking for an explanation from NBC of why Trump hosted SNL, after the network decided to cut all business ties with Trump in the wake of his insulting comments that Mexicans are “rapists.” NBC's decision to allow Trump to host the show was met with protest by immigrant advocacy groups, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued a statement asking NBC to disinvite Trump from hosting. According to Politico, Turness used the term “illegals” near the beginning of the meeting “that was already expected to be tense” :
NBC News President Deborah Turness committed a major blunder -- as far as the Hispanic lawmakers were concerned -- when she described undocumented immigrants as “illegals,” a term that many in the Latino community find highly offensive.
Turness was describing NBC's integration with their Spanish-language network Telemundo, which included coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. and his interaction with a young girl who was afraid her parents would be deported because they're “illegals.”
“I'm going to stop you right there. We use the term undocumented immigrants,” Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) interrupted.
That exchange kicked off a meeting that was already expected to be tense. Lawmakers were hoping for an explanation of why Trump hosted Saturday Night Live, despite formal protests from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. MSNBC and NBC News executives -- who are part of a separate entity from NBC's entertainment division, which oversees SNL -- came expecting to talk about the progress they've made in making their newsrooms more diverse.
Vargas later told POLITICO, “She was saying how they've done all these great things and then boom, she said 'illegals.'”