Post uncritically repeated spokesman's statement regarding Tancredo's Miami comments


The Denver Post uncritically reported the claim of U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo's (R-CO) spokesman, Carlos Espinosa, that "no one is denying" Tancredo's charge that Miami is a "Third World country." But the Post did not note that Espinosa's claim conflicted with the paper's previous report that Florida's Republican governor, Jeb Bush, said Miami is "just as American as suburban Denver."

Reporting on the possibility of U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) delivering a speech to the Rotary Club in Miami Beach, Florida -- adjacent to the city he recently called a "Third World country" -- The Denver Post uncritically reported Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa's claim that "Everyone is really taking offense" to Tancredo's comment regarding Miami but that "to this day, no one is denying (that it's true)." The December 15 online article by staff writer Anne C. Mulkern quoted Espinosa without noting that his statement conflicted with the Post's previous reporting in a November 29 article, which quoted Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) as saying that Miami is "just as American as suburban Denver."

Tancredo made his initial comment about Miami during "Restoration Weekend," a four-day event hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center featuring, among others, conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity. According to a November 19 article posted on the right-wing website, "Tancredo pointed to Florida's largest city as an example of how the nature of America can be changed by uncontrolled immigration." Tancredo stated:

Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country ... You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.

Tancredo's remarks, which media outlets such as The Miami Herald reported, generated controversy and swift responses from politicians including Governor Bush and Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

Following the initial controversy, several media outlets reported that Tancredo was scheduled to give a speech -- titled "Renewing America: The Need for Assimilation" -- to the Rotary Club of Miami on December 14 at the Rusty Pelican restaurant. However, the speech was canceled "because organizers of [the] event feared that protesters and a crush of anticipated media posed a security risk," the Miami Herald reported on December 14. According to the Herald, "Restaurant managers said they received complaints from at least 20 employees and phone calls from residents objecting to Tancredo ... "

In the aftermath of the speech's cancellation, the Post's December 15 online article reported that "U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo may soon have another opportunity to give a speech in Miami after his earlier talk was called off." It further stated:

Tancredo is interested in going to Miami and talking about why he made the Third World statement, spokesman Carlos Espinosa said.

"Everyone is really taking offense to it, which I don't understand," Espinosa said. "The interesting thing is, to this day, no one is denying (that it's true)."

But despite its previous reporting, the Post on December 15 failed to note the comments of Jeb Bush, who, according to the paper's November 29 article, called Tancredo "a nut" and said, "I'm just disappointed. ... He's a Republican. He doesn't represent my views." Further, Jeb Bush wrote an open letter to Tancredo pointing out that three of Miami's high schools have the largest number of Hispanic students in the country scoring above average on Advanced Placement tests in certain subjects and that "[s]ince 1999, the crime rates in the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County have dropped every year."

Moreover, according to a November 27 Herald article, Ros-Lehtinen "called Tancredo 'flat out wrong' '' and referred to Miami as a "world class city where diversity is celebrated." And Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote on December 1:

Me, I think the fact that Tancredo calls Miami not just another country but a ''Third World'' country is rather telling. Apparently for him, Spanish accents and the smell of jerk chicken automatically equal poverty. It may surprise him to learn one seldom sees donkey carts on Miami streets, and electricity is available almost 24 hours a day.

Also on December 1, the Herald published an op-ed piece (accessed through the Nexis database) by Frank R. Nero, president and CEO of Miami-Dade Beacon Council ("Miami-Dade County's official economic development partnership"), who said of Tancredo's statement:

These comments are particularly puzzling in light of the recent Leadership Exchange visit by about 150 business and civic leaders from the Denver Metro Chamber Foundation. These leaders -- including the governor of Colorado and the Denver mayor -- came to Miami-Dade County to learn how we have successfully dealt with a variety of issues common to both communities, including growth and economic development, tourism, downtown development, arts and culture, education, homelessness, immigration and multiculturalism.

A letter from the group's executive director stated that "Our Denver leaders were very impressed with the vision, commitment and ambition of the Miami business, civic and nonprofit communities. Miami has much to be proud of."

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