In Arizona Republican State Senator Steve Montenegro’s world, the ground appears to be blue and the sky is green.
This Latino Republican, who migrated with his family to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 5, seems to be all about turning his back on immigrants now and sucking up to despicable racists like President Donald Trump and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Montenegro was a guest Sunday morning on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, where he went head–to–head with Univision’s Jorge Ramos. In true Republican fashion, where realities are constructed by saying the opposite of the truth, Montenegro—with a straight face and no sense of irony—spoke of Trump’s decision to pardon the racist sheriff, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court over human rights abuses and the racial profiling of Latinos, as a respectful act of enforcing “the rule of law.”
He also repeatedly cited the “hypocrisy from the left,” and attacked President Barack Obama for having pardoned “hundreds of thugs,” including Puerto Rican independence militant Óscar López Rivera, whom Montenegro called an “unrepented terrorist.” (Obama actually commuted López’s sentence after he served nearly four decades in prison.)
“Here you have an 85–year–old man, who frankly has served his country since he was 18, and the best the left can come up with after they do a political persecution on him is a misdemeanor, who even then I don’t think, I don’t believe that was done correctly through the judicial process,” Montenegro said, smiling smugly.
Ramos did his best to fight back against Montenegro’s captious claims, reminding the state senator about where he came from—Central America’s Northern Triangle, where today many immigrants continue fleeing from poverty and unforgiving gang violence.
“I think Senator Montenegro is forgetting that he’s an immigrant from El Salvador, and that Sheriff Joe Arpaio discriminated against many people just like you, senator,” Ramos said. “By pardoning Arpaio, President Trump is defending racism.”
Montenegro, who is running for the office of Secretary of State in 2018, bragged that Arpaio had supported him politically, and then returned to the outrageous “rule of law” argument.
“I can start doing this interview in Spanish if we want to. I’m a Republican. Does that make me a racist? No,” Montenegro said. “I’m an immigrant myself. Does that make me a racist? No. It’s just that we respect the rule of law. We wanna make sure that we are obeying, that we are upholding the best of the process that we have in this country.”
Twitter users did not respond kindly to Montenegro’s statements or his smug grin.