Mark Halperin's misjudgment
© Greg Nash

What a clod. Strike that. What a racially insensitive clod.

Has anyone told Bloomberg's Mark Halperin that people of Hispanic descent may not speak Spanish? Or, even more importantly, that they may not even like tortillas?

The bigger question is why someone didn't stop Halperin from his inane line of questioning of Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE (R-Texas), a Hispanic, who has nothing to hide. His father was born in Cuba.

In an interview heard round the Internet, and originally aired Friday night on Bloomberg TV, Halperin thought it a good idea to quiz Cruz to find out if he was really Hispanic. As if the senator's last name wasn't enough proof, Halperin played the "Hispanic police."


"People are really interested in you and your identity, so I just want to ask you, as a historical matter, when you filled out your application to Princeton, to Harvard Law School, did you list yourself as a Hispanic?" Halperin asked Cruz.

If that wasn't bad enough, he asked him to name his favorite Hispanic food and singer. When Cruz responded "picadillo," Halperin interrupted and asked for a specific dish. When asked to say a few words in Spanish, he demurred. As Halperin must have known, Cruz is not fluent in Spanish.

By Monday afternoon, after cries of racism from both sides of the aisle, Halperin apologized.

"My intent was to give the [s]enator a chance to speak further about his heritage and personal connections to the community through some casual questions," the statement says. "In no way was I asking Senator Cruz to 'prove' he was an 'authentic' Latino.' I apologize to those who were offended and to Senator Cruz."

But there's something wrong with a news guy who tries to play "gotcha" with a presidential contender over matters of race. It's not as if he doesn't know the divisive forces in our country. He had to have been watching events unfold in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, right? And somewhere along the way in his 50 years on Earth, he must have run into someone like me who would have made him think that his whole line of questioning was preposterous.

My grandmother, Nury Castellanos de Gonzalez, was born and raised in Mexico. She had my mother in Pittsburgh, where she moved after falling in love with Manuel Gonzalez. They had three children. Only one of them — my mother — speaks Spanish. She doesn't "look" Mexican. Her siblings do. But they don't speak Spanish. Out of all of Nury's grandchildren, I am the only one who speaks Spanish. Me, the one with blonde hair and blue eyes. And I love the music of Mexican singer and guitarist, Augustin Lara. We have Taco Tuesdays at our house, and yet, no one ever asks me if I'm Hispanic.

Oddly enough, I have been asked to make it clearer that I have a Hispanic heritage. Two decades ago, when I did tell someone in the television business that my grandparents came from Mexico, he asked if I would change my name to Lauren Gonzalez, saying I'd get a reporting job in Miami if I did. When the answer was "no," I didn't get the job. Maybe my reporting qualifications, and not a demonstrative link to the Hispanic community, should have been the litmus test.

Perhaps the test for Cruz should be whether or not he'd be a good president, not whether he likes all things Hispanic.

Ted Cruz is Hispanic. He just is. And that should be that. Comprende?

Ashburn is an award-winning Washington-based reporter and TV analyst covering media and politics.