NEW YORK —
The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton, the group's first-ever endorsement for a presidential nominee and a rebuke of Republican Donald Trump in the middle of his party's convention.
The Trump campaign "has gone from frankly something that was entertaining, comical, and has devolved into something that is frankly scary," said Javier Palomarez, the chamber president and chief executive officer.
He said the group weighed in because of Trump's rhetoric, which has angered many in the U.S. minority community. Trump has been accused of bigotry for his hard line on immigration, and many of his comments have been blasted as racist ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.
"It wasn't a step that was taken easily," Palomarez said, noting that many of the chamber's board and members are "staunch Republicans."
Trump kicked off his campaign last year saying Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers across the border, and he proposed building a wall to stop them. He has called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants to shore up national security and suggested an Indiana-born federal judge was unable to hear a lawsuit against his Trump University venture because the judge is of Mexican descent.
The New York businessman's positions have angered minority groups, liberals, Democrats, and even some Republicans, who have called them racist, divisive and callous.
Among black, Hispanic and Asian voters polled in the first 15 days of July, 70 percent supported Clinton while 9 percent supported Trump, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll. Over that time, 45 percent of all likely voters supported Clinton and 34 percent supported Trump.
Trump became his party's official nominee to the presidency on Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Palomarez said the Clinton campaign earned their group's endorsement by doing significant outreach to Latinos, including asking to speak with chamber members in different parts of the country.
"I think she understands the challenges of American small businesses," he said.
The convention had a dramatic start, as anti-Trump delegates tried, and failed, to force a roll-call vote that would record the number of delegates opposed to the New York real estate developer.
The chamber is an organization of Hispanic business leaders representing the interests of Hispanic-owned businesses nationwide. It had endorsed Clinton and Republican John Kasich in their respective primaries, the group's first-ever such endorsements.