POLITICS

Senate Candidate Loretta Sanchez Makes Disparaging Gesture About Native Americans

05/17/2015 10:54 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) stumbled out of the gate in the race for the Senate on Saturday, after a video posted online showed the congresswoman making a whooping gesture in reference to Native Americans.

Sanchez, who announced her campaign for retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-Calif.) seat earlier last week, made the gesture while speaking to an Indian American group at the California Democratic Party’s convention in Anaheim. In a video posted online Saturday that was first reported by The Sacramento Bee, Sanchez described a meeting she had with an East Indian man.

“I am going to his office, thinking that I am going to meet with a,” she said, while patting her hand over her mouth and making a noise. “Right? ... Because he said Indian American."

“And I go in there and it was great. It was just great because he said, ‘I want to get my community involved.’ Involved. And that was the first time that we saw the Indian American community really come,” Sanchez said.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose mother is from India, called the remarks "shocking."

“It is shocking and there is no place for that in our public discourse,” she said, when a reporter recounted Sanchez's words.

Asked to explain the gesture, Sanchez told the Bee that she "got a call from somebody from over the phone and he said, 'I want to talk to you about having help from the Indian community,' and I thought he meant the American Indian community, in the sense of the Native American Indian community."

But she did not say whether it was appropriate or not.

“I think that Native Americans have an incredibly great history, and a great presence in our country, and many of them are supporting our election," she added.

UPDATE: 2:45 p.m. -- Sanchez acknowledged Sunday that she had said something offensive. "I sincerely apologize," she said in a speech at a state Democratic convention in Anaheim.

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