U.S. Republican Presidential candidate and Senator of Texas Ted Cruz speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015.
Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

Cruz walks a provocative line on panhandling

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took his presidential campaign to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce this week, where he raised a provocative point about, of all things, panhandling. Benjy Sarlin reported:
“If you look at the values that resonate in our community, they are faith, family, patriotism, hard work,” he told host Javier Palomarez, the CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“Some years ago I was having lunch with a Hispanic entrepreneur in Austin and he asked me a question: He said, ‘When was the last time you saw a Hispanic panhandler?’ It’s a great question…. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Hispanic panhandler and the reason is in our community it would be shameful to be begging on the street.”
It wasn’t a slip of the tongue – the far-right senator made similar remarks on Fox News a few years ago.
Cruz’s comments stood out for a few reasons, some of which are arguably more obvious than others. Note, for example, that the senator referenced “our” community, connecting him directly to Hispanics in general. Though Cruz “rarely refers to himself as Hispanic,” at this event, the Republican frequently used words like “us” and “we” when talking to this audience.
As for whether there are simply no Hispanic panhandlers at all, that’s a rather bold statement that’s hard to substantiate.
But then there’s the flip side to Cruz’s argument: if the GOP presidential candidate believes Hispanics never panhandle because “it would be shameful to be begging on the street,” what exactly does the Texas senator believe about non-Hispanic groups that do panhandle?
As it turns out, the Associated Press brought this up to Cruz yesterday.
One day after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Hispanics don’t panhandle because it would be shameful for them, the Republican presidential contender is refusing to offer an opinion about African-Americans who beg for money on the street.
Asked Thursday what he thought of them, Cruz turned away without speaking, striding into a senators-only elevator in the Capitol and waiting for the doors to close.
It’s hardly an unreasonable line of inquiry. Cruz has now argued publicly, more than once, that Hispanics wouldn’t engage in “shameful” begging. What does that say about Cruz’s attitudes towards other groups?