NBC's Tom Brokaw apologizes for statements widely criticized as troubling stereotypes of Latinos

The longtime NBC News journalist Tom Brokaw apologized Sunday for comments he made on the air about Latinos, a few hours after his remarks were criticized for perpetuating troubling inaccuracies about U.S. Hispanics.

Brokaw, an NBC News special correspondent and former anchor of the NBC Nightly News, found himself at the center of a firestorm for statements he made during a discussion of President Donald Trump's demand for a border wall and the recently lifted government shutdown during NBC's "Meet The Press" broadcast.

During a panel discussion on the show, Brokaw said he has heard from people, after pushing "a little harder" for their opinion, that they don't know whether they "want brown grand-babies." He also spoke of "the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other."

But he also expressed personal feelings that "the Hispanics" need to work harder at assimilating, speaking English and learning to be comfortable in other communities.

The comments drew an immediate backlash on Twitter, with critics saying the comments ranged from being factually incorrect to xenophobic to "stunningly ignorant" of Hispanics in America.

After he initially tried to explain his comments, saying he was trying to present both sides, Brokaw apologized.

"I feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture," Brokaw said in a tweet. He added in another tweet: "I am sorry, truly sorry my comments were offensive to many. The great enduring american tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished …"

57 PHOTOS
Tom Brokaw throughout his career
See Gallery
Tom Brokaw throughout his career
News Anchor Tom Brokaw (Photo by � Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Gene Shalit, Jane Pauley, Tom Brokaw in 1977 -- Photo by: NBC/NBC NewsWire
NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH TOM BROKAW -- Pictured: NBC News' Tom Brokaw -- Photo by: Ken Regan/NBC/NBC NewsWire
NBC News -- Pictured: Anchor Tom Brokaw (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: NBC News' Tom Brokaw in March 1978 -- Photo by: NBC/NBC NewsWire
TODAY -- Pictured: NBC News' Tom Brokaw in 1980 -- Photo by: Fred Hermansky/NBC/NBC NewsWire
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Gene Shalit, Jane Pauley, Tom Brokaw in 1980 -- Photo by: Fred Hermansky/NBC/NBC NewsWire
TODAY -- 'Royal Wedding: Prince Charles & Diana Spencer' -- Pictured: NBC News' Tom Brokaw -- Photo by: NBC/NBC NewsWire
NEW YORK CITY - MAY 6: Journalist Tom Brokaw and wife Meredith Auld attend Who Owns News Debate on May 6, 1987 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
American broadcast journalist and television news anchorman Tom Brokaw, prepares for evening broadcast of the NBC Nightly News in the newsroom, New York, New York, October 29, 1987. (Photo by Oliver Morris/Getty Images)
NBC NEWS SPECIAL- A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE WHITE HOUSE -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Tom Brokaw, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater at the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 27, 1990 -- (Photo by: NBC News/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TV journalist Tom Brokaw interviewing US troops in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Diana Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 11: Anchorman Tom Brokaw on the set of NBC Nightly News. (Photo by Mitsu Yasukawa/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 01: NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw at NBC studios in Rockefeller Center. His latest book, 'A Long Way from Home: Growing Up in the American Heartland,' will be released next week. (Photo by Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Tom Brokaw speaking at 'Concert for America' at the Kennedy Center in washington, DC, September 9, 2002. The show airs on NBC on Wednesday, September 11. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.
Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather during The Museum of Television & Radio To Honor Tom Brokaw at Waldorf Astoria in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - JULY 10: Tom Brokaw, anchor and managing editor of 'NBC Nightly News,' speaks with the press at the 2004 TCA Summer Press Tour at the Century Plaza Hotel on June 10, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
BOSTON - JULY 25: In this handout image provided by NBC News, anchorman Tom Brokaw (L) speaks with NBC News' Tim Russert on 'Meet the Press' from the Democratic National Convention at the Fleet Center July 25, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. The convention will be held July 26 through to July 29. (Photo by Lisa Berg/NBC News via Getty Images)
Tom Brokaw during New York Premiere of THX-1138: The George Lucas Director's Cut - Cocktail Party at Guggenheim Museum in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw during 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room at The Shrine in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Tom Brokaw during Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Simon Perform One Night Only: A Concert For Autism Speaks at Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
GREENWICH, CT - NOVEMBER 11: Tom Brokaw attends AUDUBON CONNECTICUT Fall Dinner Dance Honoring Dan W. Lufkin at The Belle Haven Club on November 11, 2006 in Greenwich, CT. (Photo by Scott Rudd/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 14: News anchor Tom Brokaw arrives at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel on December 14, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 15: Host, Journalist Tom Brokaw speaks for the television show '1968 with Tom Brokaw' during the NBC Univesal Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel July 15, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 25: (AFP OUT) Moderator Tom Brokaw interviews former president Bill Clinton during a taping of Meet the Press September 25, 2008 in New York City. They discussed the 2008 presidential campaign, the Wall Street financial crisis and the Clinton Global Initiative. (Photo by Marvi Lacar/Reportage by Getty Images for Meet the Press)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 07: Debate moderator Tom Brokaw talks prior to the Town Hall Presidential Debate at Belmont University's Curb Event Center October 7, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tonight's debate is the second presidential debate of three, the only one being held in the town hall style with questions coming from audience members. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 07: Moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC takes the stage for the the Town Hall Presidential Debate between Obama and McCain at Belmont University's Curb Event Center October 7, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tonight's debate is the second presidential debate of three, the only one being held in the town hall style with questions coming from audience members. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Journalist Tom Brokaw moderates the panel discussion at the Characters Unite National Town Hall at the NEWSEUM on December 2, 2009 in Washington, DC.
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O?BRIEN -- Episode 138 -- Pictured: Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw during an interview on January 12, 2010 -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
MEET THE PRESS -- Airdate 01/03/2010 --Pictured: Tom Brokaw, NBC News, left, and moderator David Gregory, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday January 3, 2010. (Photo by William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Brokaw, Matt Lauer (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Tom Brokaw, former news anchor with NBC Television Network, arrives at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Tuesday, July 6, 2010. Media moguls at Allen & Co.'s annual conference, usually on the prowl for the next big deal, are paying more attention to small screens as they confront rapidly shifting consumer tastes. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 05: NBC News Tom Brokaw speaks to the audience at the 2011 Washington Ideas Forum at The Newseum on October 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Tom Brokaw promotes 'The Time of Our Lives' at Barnes & Noble Union Square on November 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Tom Brokaw promotes 'The Time of Our Lives' at Barnes & Noble Union Square on November 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: Tom Brokaw attends The Paley Center For Media Presents: The Music And Life Of Marvin Hamlisch at Paley Center For Media on March 18, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) ? Tom Brokaw, NBC News Special Correspondent, appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, April 21, 2013. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Savannah Guthrie and Tom Brokaw appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Brokaw and Meredith Brokaw appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS - EDUCATION NATION -- 2013 Education Nation Summit -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Brokaw, Special Correspondent for NBC News, and Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. -- (Photo by: Rob Kim/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0260 -- Pictured: Journalist Tom Brokaw on May 11, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Tom Brokaw appears at Miami Book Fair 2015 to promote his book at Miami Dade College on November 18, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Brokaw, NBC News Special Correspondent, left, and Doris Kearns-Goodwin, American Biographer, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday Sept. 6, 2015. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
SIMI VALLEY, CA - MARCH 11: Tom Brokaw speaks at the funeral of former First Lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brokaw attends the 2017 American Songbook Gala at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on February 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: Tom Brokaw attends the 'Five Came Back' world premiere at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on March 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Eliana Johnson, National Political Reporter, POLITICO and Tom Brokaw, Special Correspondent, NBC News, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 26, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0612 -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw with host Jimmy Fallon on January 27, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Tom Brokaw on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Actress Meryl Streep and Journalist and News Anchor Tom Brokaw attend The 2017 Rescue Dinner hosted by IRC at New York Hilton Midtown on November 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for IRC)
NEW YORK, NY - November 15: Tom Brokaw attends the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Double Helix Medals Dinner at the American Museum of Natural History Street on November 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Brokaw, NBC News Special Correspondent, and Peggy Noonan Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - November 15: Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw attend the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Double Helix Medals Dinner at the American Museum of Natural History Street on November 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
IOWA CITY, IOWA- JANUARY 23: Broadcaster Tom Brokaw waves as he is recognized during the match-up between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers on January 23, 2018 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Tom Brokaw on Friday, April 6, 2018 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS - SPECIALS -- 'NBC News 2018 State of the Union Coverage' -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Brokaw, Megyn Kelly -- (Photo by: Paul Morigi/NBC News/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Tom Brokaw on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Brokaw did not state in his apology that his comments such as "the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation" or that Hispanics should "make sure all their kids are speaking English" are not borne out by data or studies.

NBC News had no further comment and pointed to Brokaw's apology and tweets online.

U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, whose brother, former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, is the highest profile Latino running for president, was among the critics, attacking Brokaw's comments on Latino children needing to learn English.

Latino Victory, a group formed to increase Latino political engagement and to get more Latino candidates into public office, said in a tweet the comments "give credence to white supremacist ideology and are not rooted in reality."

George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, said on Twitter that "I am one of those 'little brown ones' and can assure you that my grandparents conveyed to me that they loved and were proud of me before they passed."

Facts don't bear out Brokaw's statements

According to Pew Research Center, the Latino population is overwhelmingly U.S.-born, about 65.6 percent in 2015.

As has been the case with other immigrant groups, Latinos increasingly become English dominant by the second generation. According to Pew's research, by the third generation or higher, Latinos are 75 percent English dominant and 24 percent are bilingual.

While the number of Hispanics who speak Spanish at home is at an all-time high due to immigration trends of recent decades, a record 35 million Hispanics ages 5 and older say they are English proficient, up from 19 million in 2000, according to Pew Research Center.

If anything, a 2017 Pew Research report suggests that the trends are going in an opposite direction from the impression given by Brokaw.

"But two trends — a long-standing high intermarriage rate and a decade of declining Latin American immigration — are distancing some Americans with Hispanic ancestry from the life experiences of earlier generations, reducing the likelihood they call themselves Hispanic or Latino," the report said.

"By the third generation — a group made up of the U.S.-born children of U.S.-born parents and immigrant grandparents — the share that self-identifies as Hispanic falls to 77%. And by the fourth or higher generation (U.S.-born children of U.S.-born parents and U.S.-born grandparents, or even more distant relatives), just half of U.S. adults with Hispanic ancestry say they are Hispanic," the report added.

While Brokaw did not define assimilation, many groups use patriotism as a measure of how committed people are to the country.

When the late American political scientist Samuel Huntington argued that Latinos were not assimilating, academics across social sciences tested his hypothesis and concluded he was wrong.

Jack Citrin, a political scientist at UC-Berkeley, found that contrary to that claim, native-born Hispanics were not only proud of their country, but had a profound attachment to their national identity as Americans.

Hispanics, he said, "had significantly higher scores on this measure of patriotism than whites." He also found that Hispanics rapidly lose Spanish beginning with the second generation, and are no more or less religious or committed to the work ethic than native-born whites.

Politically, Brokaw said there are fears among Republicans of increasing Democratic voting by Latinos. Although nationally Latinos are more likely to vote Democratic, in states like Texas and Florida, Republican candidates regularly get fairly strong Latino support, as was the case with the election of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who got 44 percent of the Latino vote last year.

The Coalition for Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles issued a statement calling Brokaw's comments out of touch with today's reality.

"Hearing Mr. Brokaw parroting stereotypes about Latinos reminded us that white supremacy ideology is a vestige of our nation's past rearing its ugly head again."

FOLLOW NBC LATINO ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER ANDINSTAGRAM.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.