Chambers County Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Tice was not pleased to hear Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo use her bilingual skills during a press conference on Tuesday, during which Hidalgo was updating the public on the the Intercontinental Terminals Co. fire in Texas.
About one-third of the residents in Hildago’s county are Spanish speakers, but Tice saw fit to criticize the judge regardless, commenting on social media: “She is a joke. English this is not Mexico.”
During an interview with the Chronicle, Tice acknowledged his comments and said, “It’s real simple. This is the United States. Speak English.”
But just hours later, Tice took to social media once again, this time writing a lengthy explanation and apology on Facebook, claiming that he regretted his words.
"Like many citizens concerned about the ITC fires, I was very emotional about the effect it was having on everyone," he wrote. "I apologize to Judge Hidalgo, the citizens of my County, and most importantly the entire Hispanic community for hastily acting out with transgression on social media.”
Tice continued: "I recognize how my response could have been interpreted in a derogatory manner and for that I am sorry. I immediately regretted my choice of words. I'm not proud of my behavior, that is not the example I wish to lead by. I can only hope, in time, that my actions can be forgiven."
Regarding his comment that Hidalgo is a “joke,” Tice said he does not believe she is qualified for the job.
The 28-year-old, born in Columbia, is the first Latina elected Harris County judge, according to the Chronicle.
"It's nothing personal. It's nothing against her,” he said. “She's probably a great lady. The bottom line is, I don't think she's prepared to do the county's work."
Asked why he sees the judge as unfit for her office, Tice would not elaborate, saying, "I don't have [her resume] in front of me.”
In response to Tice’s initial comments, Hidalgo’s director of communications, Kiran Khalid, said in a statement:
"As the Head of Emergency Management, Judge Hidalgo is directly responsible for the safety of all 4.5 million residents of Harris County, a third of whom are Spanish speakers. The vast majority of the public relies on local news for information in a time of crisis. Judge Hidalgo represents all of Harris County and given the county's composition and her bilingual skills, she will continue to communicate as broadly as possible especially when public safety is at stake."