Maricelly Velez-Delgado may have the toughest new job in Republican politics: Deputy Press Secretary for Hispanic Media on the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.
That’s not an oxymoron. The candidate famous for calling Mexican immigrants rapists and saying a judge couldn’t do his job because of his Mexican heritage is now trying to court Spanish-language news outlets.
Velez-Delgado, a former advisor to New York Gov. George Pataki, has professed her love for Trump on the cable TV circuit and once accused Congressional Democrats of trying to pass Sharia law.
As Trump’s point person for Latino news outlets, Velez-Delgado has some seriously burned bridges to repair. The campaign has banned reporters from Univision (Fusion’s parent company) from covering his press conferences or even setting foot on his Miami-area golf course. Last month, a reporter from the Spanish-language channel TV Azteca who was producing a story on the Trump campaign was sent away from Trump Tower after campaign officials heard him speaking Spanish. (Fusion reporters have also been banned by the campaign.)
In a brief phone conversation on Tuesday, Velez-Delgado confirmed her new job. She did not return a call for a further interview.
In the '90s and early 2000s, Velez-Delgado served as Assistant Director for Hispanic Affairs for Pataki, a moderate Republican. But she didn’t work on his 2016 presidential campaign, which never rose higher than a few percentage points in the polls.
As Pataki’s advisor, she attended press conferences, campaign events, and gubernatorial functions for him. "She's very talented and a hard worker—I couldn't say a bad thing about her," said David Catalfamo, a former communications director for Pataki. She also worked for Republican candidates on other local elections in New York, and served on a Hispanic advisory board in suburban Westchester County.
Velez-Delgado once sued a former employer for employment discrimination. She was hired by Clear Channel, a radio company, in 2004 to help expand their Latino outreach. According to a complaint she filed in federal court, her boss at the company did not allow her to telecommute while she was pregnant and promptly fired her after she told him she was going on maternity leave.
She filed her lawsuit in December 2009, but voluntarily dismissed it in April 2010. It’s not clear whether she received any settlement. Notably, Trump has said that “you have to be careful” of laws guaranteeing paid family leave because “we have to keep our country very competitive.”
In the past year, Velez-Delgado has made several appearances as a talking head on CNN, and her growing support of Trump can be seen in her increasingly extreme statements. In a panel in October, when she said she was undecided, she praised candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for their debate performances. She said Bush had “a great track record” as governor and described Rubio as “ready, willing and able. He has a vision for this new American century.”
By May 2, Velez-Delgado’s title on the CNN chyron became “Donald Trump Supporter.” During a panel of female voters, she said that she didn’t love Trump’s tone but felt like he “speaks for me and all Americans who are hurting right now for change.”
She lamented that “we are bringing refugees into this country, undocumented, you know, everything is a handout.”
In another CNN appearance the same day, she said she wasn’t bothered by Trump’s comments on women because “I just butter it up and let it roll. I'm so focused on the issues.”
Velez-Delgado also seemed to accuse Congressional Democrats of supporting Sharia law. “I've been doing my research on Sharia law, which is House Resolution 569 that the Democrats passed on New Year's Eve,” she said during the same appearance, according to a transcript. “Sharia law does not protect women. Under this Muslim law a man can marry a nine-year-old woman.”
House Resolution 569 is a resolution introduced by Congressional Democrats—which has not passed Congress—that condemns “violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.” (CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota never challenged Velez-Delgado’s statement.)
By May 18, Velez-Delgado had hopped completely onto the Trump train. “I love Trump,” she declared. “He's a Second Amendment guy. I'm a pistol permit, you know, holder in my county. That's a right men fought, and for people to want to rewrite the Constitution, you know, it's unacceptable.”
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.