Trump vs. the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
© Getty Images

Call it the showdown that wasn't. Today was supposed to be the day for a Q-and-A session between Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). This would've been a face-to-face meeting between the GOP candidate who has called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "criminals" and a group representing 3.2 million Latino business owners. Now the whole thing is off, with both sides accusing each other of misrepresentation.


Although we may never know the full story, it appears that Trump bailed at the last minute. For all his bravado, The Donald does not have a good track record of actually engaging Latinos in a dialogue. This is yet another reason why his popularity with this key segment of the electorate is so abysmal.

Trump now denies that he was scheduled to be part of the forum. "I never agreed to do an event. This is the first time I'm hearing about this. I mean, I never agreed," he told CNN.

But this assertion seems to conflict with the record. Trump met with the head of the USHCC in September, and reportedly a date was set at that time. In a subsequent interview with Geraldo Rivera, Trump mentioned his meeting with the head of the USHCC and said, "I will be going down at some point in October or whenever ... they may disagree with me but ultimately we will all get along."

In weighing Trump's claim that he never had any agreement with the USHCC, consider that The Donald has his own way of remembering things. In July, RNC Chair Reince Priebus allegedly called Trump to tell him to "tone it down"; Trump insisted that the call was "congratulatory." In August, his top campaign adviser quit; Trump maintained that he was fired. So this latest round of dueling versions of events is nothing new for Trump.

It also has become standard operating procedure for Trump to avoid constructive engagement with Latinos. He has mocked Latinos who ask him questions at rallies. At a border news conference in Laredo, Texas, he cut off Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart before he could finish asking a question. He ejected Univision's Jorge Ramos from a news conference when Ramos challenged his immigration proposals (Trump later allowed him back in). In bouncing out of the USHCC event, Trump is skipping a forum that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md., Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have all participated in; other presidential contenders like Hillary Clinton (D), Carly Fiorina (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are in negotiations for their respective sessions. How ironic that Trump keeps saying that he would have a great relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin even as he continues to antagonize the country's largest minority group.

Trump likes to claim that "the Hispanics" love him. However, a new ABC News poll found that 82 percent of Latinos have an "unfavorable" view of Trump, while a Wall Street Journal poll found that 67 percent of Latinos view him in a "very negative" light.

True, Trump has his own version of what happened with the USHCC; he said that they tried to shake him down for a pricey membership. (The USHCC's communications director said that Trump was unwilling to abide by the conditions that all previous participants followed). Maybe it was for the best for the USHCC that this event did not occur, as it had stoked controversy among its membership. If the Q-and-A had gone well for Trump, the USHCC would have been accused of legitimizing his views. If it had not gone well for Trump, he would've have likely doubled down on his insults, as he has done with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Either way, we'll never know, because — in classic bully behavior — Trump has stomped out of the sandbox.

Trump was ill-advised to blow off the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Once again, he has disrespected Latinos with divisive, unpresidential behavior.

Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City. He is also an contributor.