Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., having just entered the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer, put her foot in her mouth on Saturday with a racist gesture.
While talking to a group of Indian Americans — people with links to India — the politician was captured on cell phone video mocking Native Americans.
In talking about how she was confused about an upcoming meeting with an Indian American, Sanchez said, "I am going to his office, thinking that I am going to meet with a..." — then she put her hand over mouth and made the noise that is the stereotypical imitation of a Native American war cry — "Right? ... because he said Indian American."
The man who filmed Sanchez said several people in the room described the comments to NBC Sacramento affiliate KCRA as insensitive and undemocratic.
"I was shocked and appalled that she'd make the disparaging comments about Native Americans that way," said Uduak-Joe Ntuke of Long Beach.
When a KCRA reporter approached Sanchez for comment about the gesture, she ran away and slipped into a building.
Asked by the Sacramento Bee, Sanchez declined to comment specifically on the appropriateness, saying only, "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."
On Sunday, Sanchez apologized for the remarks while speaking to delegates at a state Democratic convention in Southern California. According to NBC Los Angeles, the 10-term congresswoman said she said something offensive "and for that I sincerely apologize."
Sanchez announced Thursday she is running for U.S. Senate. Sanchez, 55, is Hispanic with a background in national defense issues and roots in Southern California. Over the years, she belonged to a faction of moderate Democrats known as the Blue Dog Coalition.
Sanchez is known for a lively, some might say quirky, personality. Her annual and sometimes racy Christmas cards have a dedicated following. She scheduled a fundraiser during the 2000 Democratic National Convention at Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion and changed the location only after fellow Democrats protested.
She voted against authorizing the war in Iraq in 2002 and has pushed the Pentagon to allow women to participate in direct combat operations.