Biden made the comments on Monday during a conference in San Antonio for the Latino civil rights and advocacy organization UnidosUS, where she commented on diversity of the community and the work of Raul Yzaguirre, the former president and CEO of the organization who just last week was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“Raul helped build this organization with the understanding that the diversity of this community – as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio – is your strength,” Biden said, while mispronouncing the word “bodega.”
“The first lady apologizes that her words conveyed anything but pure admiration and love for the Latino community,” Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesman, said.
In a statement Monday, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists called on the first lady and her speech writing team “to take the time in the future to better to better understand the complexities of our people and communities,” adding, “We are not tacos,” and “do not reduce us to stereotypes.”
CNN has reached out to the first lady’s office for comment.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, who was in the room for the first lady’s speech, reports that Biden’s comments – which cited examples of pieces of Latino life – were met with cheers in the packed conference room. In her speech, Biden also discussed the bipartisan gun legislation signed by the President and the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, which is about 100 miles west of San Antonio.
Moments before Biden’s remarks, UnidosUS president and CEO Janet Murguía applauded her for appointing Latinos to top jobs in her staff and talked about a recent meeting at the White House to talk about the community.
“We covered a lot of substantive ground that day but I also felt like I made a friend in that visit,” Murguía said as she introduced Biden.
Biden also spoke about the diversity within the Latino community but also their common desires.
“Yes, the Latino community is unique. But what I’ve heard from you again and again is that you want what all families want. Good schools. Good jobs. Safe neighborhoods,” Biden said.
She also touted her husband’s efforts to increase Latino representation within the government.
“He’s appointed Latinos to the highest offices in his cabinet. He made sure that legislation like the American Rescue Plan focused on equity. His team worked with all of you – Unidos and so many of the affiliates here today – to get Latinos vaccinated, fight hunger, and invest in your small businesses.”