RNC Latino outreach director now a Democrat

Former RNC state director Pablo Pantoja says he switched from Republican to Democrat because of “culture of intolerance.”
Former RNC state director Pablo Pantoja says he switched from Republican to Democrat because of “culture of intolerance.”
Photo courtesy Pablo Pantoja

A mere two months after the Republican National Committee rolled out its $10 million minority outreach campaign, the committee’s director in charge of Florida’s Hispanic outreach says he’s now “taking a stand against this culture of intolerance” and is abandoning the GOP to become Democrat.

RNC Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach Pablo Pantoja wrote a scathing letter published by Florida Nation on Monday, in which he explicitly attributed his party switch to a controversial Heritage Foundation study on the costs of immigration reform. Reaction to the study was tainted last week once a 2009 doctoral dissertation penned by its co-author, Jason Richwine, was unearthed alleging that Hispanics are “low-IQ” immigrants.

“Studies geared towards making—human beings—viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate,” writes Pantoja, an Iraq War combat veteran of Puerto Rican heritage. “Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.”

“Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo,” Pantoja continues in the letter. “Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.”

Pantoja also complains of a “palpable” disregard of those who are disadvantage, and insists the recent flap over Richwine’s 2009 dissertation is not “an isolated incident of rhetoric or research,” insisting later in the email that “Puerto Ricans, as many other Americans still today have to face issues of discrimination in voting and civil rights.”

“I don’t expect all Hispanics to do the same (although I would hope so) but I’m taking a stand against this culture of intolerance.”

He told NBC Latino the move ”has nothing to do with anyone in particular; it’s just a stance against intolerance.”

Pantoja may be the latest, but he’s far from the first or the most prominent Republican to blast his own party for intolerance. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell made waves in January when he slammed his party for what he called a “dark vein of intolerance” during an appearance on Meet the Press.