Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Unlike her husband, Jill Biden was never known as a “slip machine.” As the First Lady, she has maintained a reputation for being generally inoffensive. She has managed to avoid wearing any clothes emblazoned with derogatory phrases, and one of the most famous controversies around the White House took her so long to get a cat. But Biden broke her impressive streak on Monday when she tried to find a culturally specific way to enrich the Latino community and created a reference to “bodegas” and “breakfast tacos.”
Biden made the statement Monday while speaking at a conference in San Antonio, Texas for UnidosUS, a Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. She began by noting that the president had recently signed the bipartisan gun law passed in the aftermath of the school shooting in Ovaldi, Texas, and that the organization’s former leader, Raul Yazgir, had just received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Then she began to speak in general about the Latin community. According to her prepared statements, she said:
Yes, the Latino community is unique. But what I’ve heard from you over and over again is that you want what all families want. Good schools. good jobs. Safe neighborhoods.
You want justice and equality – the opportunity to build a better life for your family.
Not just what all families want; This is what all families deserve. But we can’t get these things on our own.
So far, so good. But then Biden added:
Raul helped build this organization on the understanding that the diversity of this community—as distinct as the Bodgas Bronx, the beauty of Miami’s blossoms, and as unique as the tacos here in San Antonio—is your strength.
However, when you speak with one voice – unidos – To find your strength.
To make matters worse, the first lady mispronounced bodega.
CNN said her remarks “were met with cheers in the crowded conference room.” But the National Association of Hispanic Journalists released a statement Monday telling Biden and his speechwriting team that Hispanics are “not tacos” and encouraging them not to rely on stereotypes.
Biden quickly said she was sorry. “The first lady apologizes that her words conveyed nothing but pure admiration and love toward the Latino community,” her spokesman, Michael Larosa, told CNN.
Hopefully Melania Trump left some “Be Better” around the East Wing because Jill Biden and her team can take some time to reflect on it.