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Borderline humor wouldn’t fly for whites, blacks or Jews

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 16, 2007 | 3:07 pm



Gregory Rodriguez makes a solid claim in the LA Times today that the news media exacts ethnic stereotypes on the Latinos leaders it covers. His case study is the coverage of LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s affair with a Telemundo newscaster.

LAST WEEK, I got a phone call from a television news producer who asked me what Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s extramarital affair revealed about the nature of Latino political leadership. I told her I’d agree to be interviewed on air only if we could explore what Bill Clinton’s dalliances said about white people or Jesse Jackson’s fling with an aide told us about black activists. Dumbfounded, she asked if I could refer her to someone else. ...

Reporters from a variety of newspapers, including The Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the LA Weekly made lame comparisons between the mayor’s affair and telenovelas, Spanish-language soap operas. Do you think they didn’t write “soap opera” because the English-language versions lack sufficient sex and intrigue? Or maybe it was a cute way to ascribe this behavior, as opposed to planting trees, to his ethnicity. ...

I’m surprised no newspaper ran a cartoon of the mayor sporting a pencil mustache, a Zorro mask and a rose clenched between his teeth.

Granted, some, like Gustavo Arellano, have voiced frustration that the highest-ranking Latino politician in the country would behave so recklessly. But Rodriguez makes a good point that all the “ethnic innuendo” wouldn’t be tolerated if L.A.‘s philandering mayor was Anglo, black or Jewish.

Imagine if New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the grandson of a Russian Jewish immigrant, were embroiled in some sort of scandal over his kid’s marriage, would a mainstream newspaper say the meshugeneh mayor’s predicament was straight out of “Fiddler on the Roof”? Probably not. In fact, last week an Associated Press story stated bluntly that in New York, “Bloomberg isn’t known … as the Jewish mayor.”

(Cartoon: Downtown News)

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