I covered the Miss Universe pageant just for fun, not because I expected it to generate a political story. But it did, as the Mexico City crowd’s rudeness to Miss USA angered many observers and took on symbolic importance in the context of the current debate over immigration. Michelle Malkin made the incident the subject of her syndicated column this week.
Today, ABC News reports on the story. They get off on the wrong foot with a picture of Miss USA, Rachel Smith, just after she slipped and fell down during the evening gown competition. The photo has an erroneous caption by the Associated Press:
Monday was a rough night for Miss USA Rachel Smith. After being booed by the crowd during the interview portion of the Miss Universe pageant, she fell during the evening gown competition.
Actually, as I described here, the evening gown competition preceded the interviews; only the final five contestants answered a question. So the AP got this simple fact sequence wrong, even though the event was observed by many millions of people. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the AP’s reliability when it reports on facts that, to say the least, are more obscure. The sequence of events has some significance, too, as the most charitable interpretation of the crowd’s boos is that they were upset that Miss USA made the final five despite her fall, while Miss Mexico, who was also one of the last fifteen contestants, did not.
ABC interprets the event in the context of the ongoing debate over immigration:
Miss Universe officials and observers say the Mexico City audience’s incessant booing of Miss USA Rachel Smith during Monday night’s pageant was not personal. Instead, they say it was a sign of the increasingly tense relationship between the United States and Mexico at a time when the immigration debate is hot. ***
Resentment has grown since [2004 and 2005, when American athletes were booed in Mexico], as the United States sent the National Guard to help beef up border security and build a wall to keep immigrants out. Many Mexicans are also anxious about the new immigration bill which they fear would split Mexican parents from their American-born children.
“People in Mexico get a flavor of that debate and it’s irking them, and I think what occurred is indicative of what happened in the manner and tone of Congress in the debate,” said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association.
I think those observations are probably correct. It’s interesting, though, that, while we are often quick to ask, “Why do they hate us?”–”they” being just about anybody–we relatively seldom hear the question, “Why are we not so crazy about them, either?” (That would be “nativism,” I guess.) For what it’s worth, I think this kind of episode has more impact on Americans’ attitudes toward other countries than is generally recognized. The fact that millions of Americans witnessed the rudeness in Mexico City will not make matters easier for those who are pushing immigration legislation in Congress.
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