The Republican National Committee is pushing back against flak it received after the committee’s former Florida director in charge of Latino outreach said he was leaving the GOP because of its “culture of intolerance.”
RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer on Wednesday called the incident a case of “sour grapes.”
“I believe in this specific instance that this is more about this individual not getting a job than having a particular problem,” Spicer said on msnbc Wednesday. “He had sent several emails in the last several weeks applying for jobs at Republican institutions. So, I’m not really sure how that seems to jive.”
Florida director Pablo Pantoja sparked headlines this week when in a scathing letter he said he had switched parties because of a controversial study on the costs of immigration reform, sponsored by the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage report’s co-author, Jason Richwine, had also written a 2009 dissertation alleging that Hispanics were “low-IQ” immigrants.
Richwine resigned from the Heritage Foundation on Friday after the think tank distanced itself from his earlier works.
In a letter published by Florida Nation Monday, Pantoja wrote that he was still upset by Richwine’s 2009 dissertation, even though Heritage had disavowed its conclusions:
“Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. 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.”
While Spicer acknowledged that it’s “sad” when anyone decides to leave the party, he ripped Pantoja’s claim that his political switch had anything to do with Republican principles.
“This individual, to be clear, was on payroll with the party for 10 weeks. He left in July of 2012, and in the last several weeks has been applying for jobs at Republican institutions, including this one,” said Spicer. “I think in this case, it might be more of sour grapes because of a failure to get employment.”
But Pantoja refuted that characterization to msnbc.
“I respect Mr. Spicer, and I have not talked about the RNC as an organization in my letter or anyone there,” he said in an email. “In this career and livelihood, many of us in this process seek to grow and network for other jobs usually within the same circles. I have even considered leaving the process to non-political jobs because of my evolution.”
Pantoja’s accusations fed directly into a narrative that the party excludes minority voters–a perception that the RNC has spent a lot of time (and money) on trying to redress since its candidate lost the 2012 election, with particularly low turnout among blacks and Hispanics.
“We’ve made a huge, historic investment in trying to reach out to places that we haven’t, and done things to grow this party,” said Spicer on msnbc Wednesday. “We do have to do more, and that’s something that we are making historic investments in.”