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Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania Governor, Can't 'Find' Latino Staffers

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) raised eyebrows last week with his answers during a roundtable discussion hosted by Al Día, a Spanish-language newspaper in Philadelphia.

After suggesting that he was unaware of any Latinos serving in his administration, Corbett told the attendees at The Union League of Pennsylvania, "If you can find us one, please let me know."

(Watch excerpts of the interview above.)

Pennsylvania's Latino population grew by more than 80 percent to a total of 720,000 in the decade between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. At least 77 percent of Hispanics residing in Pennsylvania are American citizens by birth, and more are citizens by naturalization.

During the roundtable, Corbett also appeared to be confused about the distinction between ethnicity and "nationality."

"Trying to grow jobs in Pennsylvania is in the interest of whatever nationality we are talking about," Corbett said. "When it comes to the economy, trying to grow jobs is in the interest of every nationality," he repeated.

In 2010, Corbett reauthorized the Governor's Commission on Latino Affairs to serve "as the Governor’s liaison to Latinos in order to ensure that state government is accessible and accountable to the Latino community,” according to its website.

"The emergence of the Latino vote is one that people look at from a political perspective many times," Corbett said last week. "I look at the Latino, the African-American, the Italian, the German, whatever -- they're all voters. I represent everyone of them."

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), who is one of the Democrats challenging Corbett for his seat, issued a statement Wednesday criticizing the governor, saying he was just "making excuses."

"To lead our state toward a prosperous economy, a Governor must recognize and leverage our greatest asset: the people of Pennsylvania," Schwartz said. "And a Governor's administration must set the tone by reflecting our diversity with talented, skilled men and women of all backgrounds."

Corbett's spokesman, Kevin Harley, on Wednesday evening pushed back against the interpretation of his boss's comments -- and lashed out against Think Progress, the website that originally drew attention to the governor's remarks.

"When asked about the number of Latinos working on his staff during the interview, Corbett said, 'None, right now.' However, Corbett was referring to his immediate staff which consists of a handful of people," Harley said in a statement. "The facts are that Corbett has appointed numerous Latino-Hispanics in his administration cabinet ... as well as boards and commissions."

"This is just another attempt by a liberal blog in Washington D.C. to malign the governor by taking comments out of context made during an hour-long interview," Harley added.

This story has been updated to include the original source of the video and comment from Allyson Schwartz and Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Corbett's administration had created the Governor's Commission on Latino Affairs when in fact the governor simply reauthorized the executive order that created the advisory group.

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