The Slatest

Donald Trump Finds One More Way to Alienate Hispanics

Latinos Teamsters pose beside an effigy of Donald Trump during protests outside the GOP debate in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 16, 2015.
Latinos Teamsters pose beside an effigy of Donald Trump during protests outside the GOP debate in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 16, 2015.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome to the latest round of he-said, Trump-said: The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Friday accused Donald Trump of backing out of an upcoming event because he was afraid he’d face a hostile crowd and aggressive questioning about his anti-immigration views; the GOP front-runner says he never agreed to the event in the first place.

Trump’s decision to bail on next week’s event in Washington was “motivated by the concern of being ‘put on trial,’ ” the chamber said in a statement on Friday. “Withdrawing from the Q.-and-A. can only suggest that Trump himself believes his views are indefensible before a Hispanic audience.”

The Donald’s response: “This is the first time I’m hearing about this. I mean, I never agreed,” he told CNN in a phone interview later in the day. “He wanted me to do an event because he probably can’t sell tickets without me. Why would anybody do an event when he’s a negative person?”

Trump, of course, has a long history of remembering things one way while the person he was talking to remembers them quite differently. You tell him you quit, he hears himself saying you’re fired; you tell him to tone it down, he hears you say keep it up. But in this case, if we go back to the game tape, it’s pretty clear that both Trump and the head of the Hispanic Chamber were on the same page last month after the two men met face to face in Trump’s Manhattan HQ.

“We still don’t see eye to eye with him, but that’s beside the point. Our job is to remain nonpartisan, to give candidates the forum so they can talk in greater detail about their policies,” chamber president Javier Palomarez told NBC News after the meeting, explaining why he’d be willing to invite Trump to address his group, which represents more than 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses.

Trump, meanwhile, appeared to confirm his plans during a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera the following day. “I will be going down at some point in October or whatever. I will go to Washington,” he said in response to a question about his face to face with Palomarez. “That won’t be that easy a meeting because you’ll have hundreds of people and they will have constituents of his and they may disagree with me but ultimately we will all get along.”

So what changed between now and then? The Hispanic Chamber began to take a tougher line with Trump over his usually rambling and frequently xenophobic remarks about immigrants. “We’re not going to go easy on him. A lot of people think it’s just going to be this positive thing,” the group’s communications director, Ammar Campa-Najjar, told Politico on Thursday, before taking direct aim at Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border: “It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad that this man is leading in the polls and that this is his idea for a fiscally responsible, fair and feasible plan for dealing with immigrants.”

Trump’s change of heart, then, is actually a display of his political consistency—if there’s two things the GOP front-runner is afraid of it, after all, it’s tough questions and Hispanics.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary.