Rep. Loretta Sanchez is scheduled to address the concluding general session of the three-day California Democratic Party Convention today in Anaheim, one day after the Senate candidate made a gesture, recorded on a cellphone, considered questionable and possibly racist.
In a speech at a meeting of the party’s Indian-American Caucus Saturday at a restaurant near the Anaheim Convention Center, Sanchez told of receiving a telephone call, most likely in 1996, months before she was first elected to Congress, from a man who she said identified himself as coming from the “Indian-American community.”
Sanchez said she went into his office “thinking I’m going to meet with” then clapped her hand against her mouth, making what has been described as a “war cry.”
Attorney General Kamala Harris, a fellow Democrat also seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer, was told of the gesture by reporters at a news conference and responded, “I don’t know what to say to that. That — that — that’s shocking. That’s shocking.”
Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, initially ran from at least one television reporter who was seeking comment.
When later asked by reporters if it was an appropriate gesture for Native Americans, she responded, “Well I think Native Americans have an incredibly great history and a great presence in our country and many of them are supporting our election.”
Uduak-Joe Ntuke, who shot the video and posted it on YouTube, told KCRA, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, he was “shocked and appalled that she’d make the disparaging comments about Native Americans that way. Its very un- Democratic.”
Reaction was harsh on social media.
Tommy R. Donovan wrote on Twitter how he was an early supporter of Sanchez when he was a high school senior, had a letter published in the Orange County Register in February 2001 defending her and how he was excited about her announcement Thursday that she would run for the Senate.
“Tonight I’m saddened,” he wrote. “Today’s gaffe is indefensible.”
@AbtExecSearch wrote “@LorettaSanchez. hopefully all of California will join me as I get ready to launch an effort to remove you from office. #racist #loser”
@tonychevy224 wrote: “Please don’t vote for this racist against #NativeAmericanpeople,”
@jam_rockah wrote: “Even if @LorettaSanchez issues an apology, the fact is we now know that she uses ethnic slurs. And that’s just not going to be ok.”
Sanchez’s speech today was scheduled before her Saturday remarks.