Saturday, May 18, 2024

Senator Menendez Stands Out as One of the Senate's Only Spanish-Speaker


Senator Robert Menendez (NJ), one of the only Spanish-speaking US Senators, has found himself the voice of all Democratic Senators to Spanish-language media outlets. While Senate Republicans have Mel Martinez (FL), it is Menendez who gravitates toward the media – in both English and Spanish.

With the prospect of a Latina Supreme Court Jusitice, Senator Menendez has found himself a regular on Telemundo, appearing three times last week alone. He was also on Univision’s morning show “Despierta America” last Tuesday, conducted a phone interview with Agencia EFE last Wednesday, and held a bilingual news conference last Friday with the president of the Hispanic Bar Association.

Spanish language journalists have said that their readers and viewers hear far more from Senator Menendez than they do from any other Senator. Unlike in the House of Representatives where a number of members are Spanish-speakers and compete for attention and time with the media, it is Senator Menendez who dominates the spot light.

He says there is no question that the confirmation hearings have resulted in a great deal of excitement, “the mere fact of the historical nature of it, that is was first, made the community pay attention,” he said. In addition, the Republican pressure, especially their focus on Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark, has increased interest.

At the news conference this past Friday, Senator Menendez illustrated his bilingual thought-process by shifting between English and Spanish flawlessly: “Hemos visto una jueza extraordinaria en su capacidad intelectual … We have seen a judge extraordinary in her intellectual capacity,” he said. “en su temperamento … in her temperament … en su conocimiento de la ley .. in her knowledge of the law …. en su fidelidad a la ley … in her fidelity to the law.”

Many reporters have praised the senator for his willingness to participate in interviews and discuss a number of different topics. “He wants to engage with Hispanic community,” said Lori Montenegro, a Washington correspondent for Telemundo. “He wants them to be part of the process. He wants them to understand.” Montenegro continued “He’s very eloquent. He breaks it down. He’s not very fancy in the words. He is simple and to the point. And he is known. People know him.”

While Senator Menendez participated in three interviews last week, Montenegro said there had been none with Senator Martinez of Florida.

New York Times