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Angle takes heat for remarks to high school Latinos

U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle is taking heat from Hispanics and her opponent Sen. Harry Reid for remarks she made to high school Latinos, including that some of them looked Asian.

Angle’s comments came Friday when she met with Rancho High School students. They asked her to explain images in her ads that criticize Reid for purportedly wanting to give Social Security benefits and tax breaks to illegal immigrants. The spots include several dark-skinned men who look Hispanic.

"I think that you’re misinterpreting those commercials," Angle responded, according to a videotape leaked to The Associated Press, apparently by one of the students. "I’m not sure that those are Latinos in that commercial. What it is, is a fence, and there are people coming across that fence. What we know is that our northern border is where the terrorists came through."

Angle upset some of the 150 students, who could be heard grumbling and gasping.

The GOP challenger to Reid seemed to make things worse when she tried to explain that it’s not always easy in the mixed-race U.S. society to determine someone’s heritage.

"I don’t know that all of you are Latino," Angle said. "Some of you look a little more Asian to me."

A teenage girl is heard on tape at that point whispering, "I hate this lady."

Angle went on, referencing her half-Hispanic grandchildren.

"What we know about ourselves is we are a melting pot in this country," she said. "My grandchildren are evidence of that. I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in the Nevada Assembly."

Angle’s campaign said a reporter once mistakenly referred to Angle as being of Asian descent.

The Reid campaign called Angle’s remarks inflammatory.

Reid on Monday called Angle’s ads "a bunch of lies" and made fun of her remarks.

"Listen to this one — this is a doozy," Reid told reporters at his campaign headquarters as he recounted what Angle said. "She said people, when she served in the state legislature, recognized her as the first Asian. Her mouth does not have the ability to speak the truth."

The Angle campaign accused Reid of playing "racial politics." And it criticized Reid for recently saying he couldn’t understand how any Hispanic could be Republican.

"This is a low blow from Harry Reid," Angle spokesman Jarrod Agen said. "Sharron is making the point that this country is a melting pot, and you cannot judge people based on stereotypes or the way they look. Harry Reid on the other hand says that Hispanics should not get to choose which party they are in. He doesn’t think Hispanics should be allowed to be Republicans. Harry is desperate. He’s losing, and he’s trying to play racial politics."

Reid laughed at the accusation he’s playing racial politics.

"I wasn’t giving the speech," Reid said, throwing up his hands. "She gave the speech."

Rancho High School teacher Isaac Barron said the room was "rocked" by Angle’s visit, according to The Associated Press.

"Latinos do come in every shape and size," said Barron, whose Hispanic Student Union organized the event. "But it was shocking that she went out of her way to portray Hispanics in her commercials, and then she calls us Asian."

Angle’s campaign had asked that the meeting not be recorded, but Barron said many students secretly videotaped the discussion on personal cell phones.

It’s unclear whether the episode will hurt Angle’s bid to defeat Reid, the incumbent who has strong support among the Hispanic community that’s largely Democratic like him. She already has angered the community by supporting an Arizona law giving police more authority to stop illegal immigrants.

Hispanics make up one-quarter of Nevada’s population and 12 percent of registered voters.

Earlier this year, Reid promised to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which could give 12 million undocumented immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship, but the GOP blocked his efforts.

A Hispanic group with Republican links, Latinos for Reform, is launching a Spanish-language commercial to air in Nevada urging people not to vote.

"Don’t vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message," a narrator says. "You can no longer take us for granted."

"Them" refers to President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats whose images are flashed during the 60-second spot, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Reid.

The ad generated a quick objection from Democrats, the Latin Chamber of Commerce and Hispanics in Politics.

"This ad goes against Hispanics and America, asking people not to vote," said Fernando Romero, president of Hispanics in Politics. "People have died for the right to vote."

Romero is asking television stations not to air the ad, which is scheduled for release today.

Latinos for Reform is headed by Robert Deposada, a political consultant and former director of Hispanic affairs for the Republican National Committee.

Deposada told Politico the ad was born of frustration with the Democrats’ failure to deliver immigration reform. The ad will air in targeted states that Deposada said includes Nevada.

He also told Politico he could not ask Hispanics to vote for Angle, however, because her position on immigration is "completely irresponsible."

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

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