POLITICS
10/12/2012 03:44 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2012

Shelley Berkley, Dean Heller Spar Over 'These People' Comments

The Senate campaign of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) pounced Friday on incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller's use of the phrase "these people" in their debate the night before, saying it was insulting to Latinos.

Heller had been detailing his efforts to push English-only legislation, as well as to ease legal immigration to the United States, among other items important to Nevada's Latino population.

"If you want to come here, should you have to pay thousands of dollars? To hire a lawyer? Should you have to wait years in order to immigrate? So the principles that I’m trying to support is trying to make these people succeed," Heller said. "I want them to succeed here in this country."

The Berkley campaign slammed Heller's use of the phrase "these people" soon after he uttered it, and quickly scheduled a conference call Friday.

"I do believe that Sen. Heller owes this community an apology," Assemblywoman Lucy Flores (D) said on the call.

Asked by reporters about instances in which Berkley had also described Latinos as "these people" and "these youngsters," Flores said the circumstances were different.

"It's really about context," Flores said, arguing that Berkley was speaking positively about specific Latinos, while Heller, she contended, has a poor record with the community.

"It really demonstrates this mentality that the Latino community is an immigrant community and really not a part of the fabric of America," Flores said of Heller's words. "This might not have been that big of a deal if he had used this language if he had been in support of the Latino community since the time he has been elected."

"He does not support this community," she added.

Heller's campaign found the charges absurd.

"Dean Heller is committed to supporting programs that help non-English speakers succeed. He believes learning English and a quality education are critical to success for everyone," Heller spokeswoman Chandler Smith said in a statement. "Sen. Heller meant no disrespect, just as Congresswoman Berkley meant no disrespect when she used the exact same phrase when discussing immigration issues."

Is there any difference in the candidates' use of the phrase? WATCH:

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