Bloomberg journalist Mark Halperin said Friday that Donald Trump’s attacks on the Mexican heritage of a federal judge overseeing a case against him were “not racial” because “Mexico isn’t a race.”
The co-host of his show “With All Due Respect,” John Heilemann, insisted that Trump’s frequent invocation of judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnicity is beyond the pale.
“He did it over and over again, he kept calling Curiel a Mexican, right?” Heilemann said, in an exchange flagged by Media Matters. “It is not even dog whistle politics. It is just pure racial politics.”
“No, it’s not racial,” Halperin responded.
“It’s racial politics. It is,” Heilemann insisted.
“Mexico isn’t a race,” Halperin said.
Halperin’s defense comes after Trump has spent the week arguing that Curiel, who was born in Indiana, should recuse himself from cases involving Trump University because his “Mexican heritage” presents a “conflict of interest.”
“We are building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday.
GOP leaders and legal scholars say this analysis is deeply troubling and throws Trump’s understanding of an independent judiciary into question.
Heilemann called the remarks “wildly inappropriate” on Friday.
“There are no political benefits to this and I’m sure that his team is beating it’s head against tables as they watch him blow news cycles behaving in this way that is again, I think racially tinged and also really wildly inappropriate things to say about a federal judge by someone who could be president of the United States,” he said.
“It’s certainly racially tinged,” Halperin allowed.
“I just want to make the point that Mexico is not – Mexican is not a race,” he repeated.
“I am fully aware that Mexico is not a race, but you can invoke things like that to stir up racial animus regardless of whether or not Mexico is a race or not,” Heilemann responded.
Watch video of their exchange below.