NEW ORLEANS — A bristling Vice President George Bush today defended his description of his three Mexican-American grandchildren as "the little brown ones," saying, "This heart knows nothing but pride and love" for the children.
"For anyone to suggest that that comment of pride is anything other than what it was, I find it personally offensive," Bush said at a news conference with his running mate, Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana.
Bush on Tuesday introduced his grandchildren to President Reagan at a brief airport meeting.
"These are Jebby's kids from Florida, the little brown ones," the vice president said. The three youngsters are the children of Bush's son, Jeb, and his Mexican-born wife, Columba.
"Those grandchildren are my pride and joy, and when I say pride, I mean it," Bush said today.
"I don't want to see these kids hurt and they weren't hurt by what I said, and if they're hurt by misinterpretation, that isn't fair and I don't like it," he said.
"This is my family and I'm going to protect them. . . . This heart knows nothing but pride and love for those three children, and you're going to see them with me every inch of the way."
Mixed Latino Reaction
Bush's "little brown ones" comment drew a mixed reaction among Latinos.
Roy Barrera Jr., a Latino delegate to the Republican National Convention from San Antonio, said Bush's comment was a "remark of sincere affection" that shouldn't be taken out of context.
The former district judge said there is "nothing at all vulgar or insidious or disrespectful about being brown or being black. It is simply just a description."
But in Los Angeles, Al Belmontez, vice president of one of the local labor chapters of the Mexican-American Political Assn., said Bush's remark reflected insensitivity.
"Just saying that means he knows they're different. He didn't say, 'Those are my grandchildren.' He didn't just refer to the kids by their names," Belmontez said. "That just shows that he's . . . insensitive."
Belmontez said it is unlikely that the remark will affect Bush's standing with members of his own party.
"Republicans will support him no matter what," Belmontez said.
Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, Bush's campaign chairman, told reporters, "The vice president is extremely proud of the fact that his grandchildren are 50% Hispanic."