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On Veterans Day, MSNBC Suggests The Military is Racist

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MSNBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart and NBC News Now host Tom Llamas probably thought they were simply highlighting the plight of Latino servicemembers on Veterans Day, but what they ended up doing was accusing the military of racism with little to no supporting evidence.

Diaz-Balart began the segment by summarizing the alleged problem, “And as we honor our nation’s veterans, we’re taking a look at Latinos in the military and the struggle for many to rise through the ranks.”

He then introduced Llamas, who presented a report on the topic that argued racial discrimination was the cause. Unfortunately, Llamas more on anecdotal evidence than verifiable facts. One such example was an interview with retired Brigadier General Ricardo Aponte:

LLAMAS: He was no longer rising in the ranks. He says he wasn’t sure why until he looked in the mirror. Do you think the opportunities to hit the right steppingstones in the military didn’t come to you because you were Hispanic? 

APONTE: Yes. The short answer is yes. 

LLAMAS: Why did you think it had to do with your ethnicity? 

APONTE: I have no other reason to think it had to do with anything else. 

Llamas then seemed to undermine his own argument, “Aponte went on to serve in the Air Force Reserve, where he says he received the right training and mentoring to move up, becoming a brigadier general before retiring in 2007.” 

The closest Llamas got to providing any real evidence was when he added: “Latinos make up just over 17% of active duty members, but only 8% of the officer corps and 1% of general and flag officers. Right now there’s only one three-star general, no four-star general and there’s never been a Hispanic secretary of defense.”

To back up this claim, Llamas played a clip of Alfredo Sandoval, a board member of the Hispanic Veterans Leadership Alliance, who alleged “We’re being ignored. Latinos in the military are not mentored by senior leadership and the reason is senior leadership that looks and is Hispanic does not exist.”

The figures provided by Llamas do not give any context. We do not know how many of these officers were passed up, legitimately or otherwise, nor do we know how many chose to retire. 

From there, the Llamas shifted to a conversation with Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros, who claimed to experience this discrimination first hand and touted the Biden’s Administration’s efforts to fix it.

If the military wants to increase its recruiting and mentorship of junior officers, that’s perfectly fine, but surely the military has more pressing concerns than the racial makeup of its senior officer corps.

This segment was sponsored by Fidelity.

Here is a transcript for the November 11 show:

MSNBC

Jose Diaz-Balart Reports

10:40 AM ET

JOSE DIAZ-BALART: And as we honor our nation’s veterans, we’re taking a look at Latinos in the military and the struggle for many to rise through the ranks. Tom Llamas anchor of “Top Story” on NBC News now has more. Tom

TOM LLAMAS: Jose, for years thousands of Latinos have enlisted across all branches of the military but very few have risen through the ranks. In our series, “Those Who Serve”, we asked a top Pentagon official what’s is preventing so many Latinos being promoted? 

LLAMAS: Ricardo Aponte remembers the highs of being an airman, but can’t forget the lows, setbacks that grounded his career. 

RICARDO APONTE: It’s a dream of a life time. I fell in love with flying back when I was 7 years old. 

LLAMAS: But, after serving the country for 15 years, that dream came to a screeching halt. 

APONTE: I saw no more future in the active duty for me. 

LLAMAS: He was no longer rising in the ranks. He says he wasn’t sure why until he looked in the mirror. Do you think the opportunities to hit the right steppingstones in the military didn’t come to you because you were Hispanic? 

APONTE: Yes. The short answer is yes. 

LLAMAS: Why did you think it had to do with your ethnicity? 

APONTE: I have no other reason to think it had to do with anything else. 

LLAMAS: Aponte went on to serve in the Air Force Reserve, where he says he received the right training and mentoring to move up, becoming a brigadier general before retiring in 2007. Latinos make up just over 17% of active duty members, but only 8% of the officer corps and 1% of general and flag officers. Right now there’s only one three-star general, no four-star general and there’s never been a Hispanic secretary of defense. 

ALFREDO SANDAVOL: We’re being ignored. Latinos in the military are not mentored by senior leadership and the reason is senior leadership that looks and is Hispanic does not exist. 

LLAMAS: One of the newest undersecretaries at the DOD is Gilbert Cisneros. He revealed to us he experienced firsthand, the dead end many Hispanics face in the military during his time in the Navy. 

GILBERT CISNEROS: I can even look at my own self. I was passed up for, at the O-3 level for promotion. 

LLAMAS: So, you experienced this? 

CISNEROS: I have and so, but, you know, here this is one of the reasons I wanted this job. 

LLAMAS: What did you blame it on? 

CISNEROS: You know — hmm. You know, going back and reflecting on why I was passed over, you can kind of think like okay, was there bias or was there racism toward that? I can kind of assume that might have been part of it. 

LLAMAS: Now he’s in a position to change that. So how do you do that? What is the Biden administration doing to fix this problem? 

CISNEROS: There’s a lot of things that we’re going to do, mentorship is one of the things but a number of things coming down from recruiting talent to retaining talent in order to grow those individuals so that we can have Latinos become, you know, flag and general officers. 

LLAMAS: Nonprofit organizations like Esposas Militares, Military Family Advisory Network, ANSO or the Association of Naval Services Officers, and others are tackling challenges when it comes to Latinos in the military. 

ROY LOVE: ANSO has a lot of retired flag officers who offer their time up freely, that mentor young junior officers. We need allies, we people that can look down and say we need to help the young men and women. 

LLAMAS: These groups serving a new type of mission long overdue. Jose, as the undersecretary told me you don’t make general overnight. It will takes decades, so this will take a long time. We reached out to every branch in the military, all of them mentioned targeted recruitment efforts and mentorship, including the U.S. Army, who launched a new initiative this year to best recruit diverse talent and broaden the access to senior reserve officer training.

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