SAN DIEGO – Republicans seem to have finally figured out the Spanish translation for “Democrats’ Communications Department.” It’s pronounced: “Univision.”
The Republican National Committee recently announced the television networks that will broadcast and moderate a series of debates between GOP candidates in the 2016 election. The nation’s largest Spanish-language network was left off the list.
Some people were shocked, others were outraged.
I was neither. MSNBC, which is unabashedly liberal, also didn’t make the cut.
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There could be more than a dozen Republicans onstage debating each other. Should they really have to debate the moderator as well?
Besides, while it has made a fortune broadcasting stereotypical telenovelas and misogynistic variety shows, Univision isn’t a real news network. And many of the folks who work there don’t practice real journalism. It’s best described as advocacy TV, and it advocates one cause above all others: immigration reform. Republicans are cast as villains.
Univision has long tried to have its flan and eat it too. It pretends to be the network “for” Hispanics, but it’s not owned or controlled “by” Hispanics. In 2006, Univision Communications was acquired for $13.7 billion by a consortium led by Saban Capital Group. Its founder, billionaire Haim Saban, is a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton, and his wife, Cheryl, was appointed by President Obama as a U.S. representative to the United Nations.
Yet apparently I should consider the RNC’s decision a personal slight.
Why is that? This network doesn’t care about me, and – as a Hispanic who primarily watches English-language television – it doesn’t speak to me. Or for me.
Have Republicans really decided not to communicate with Hispanic voters?
That’s how Univision officials are spinning it. In an interview with Huffington Post, Univision spokesman Jose Zamora oversold the value of his network. Incidentally, the network is for sale. Saban and his partners are asking at least $20 billion.
“There is a very simple political reality – Hispanics will decide the 2016 presidential election,” Zamora said. “No one can match Univision’s reach and ability to inform, provide access and empower Hispanic America. Anyone who wants to reach and engage Hispanics will have to do it through Univision.”
So, the only way to communicate with Hispanics, 80 percent of whom consume their news in English, is to go through Spanish-language television?
Zamora went on.
“The Hispanic community deserves to hear the policies and views of all political parties, and Univision is committed to providing access to all points of view,” he said.
Since when has this network cared about “providing access to all points of view”?
That comment must have been meant for people who’ve never watched Univision. I have. And I remember two interviews in particular. One was an interrogation, the other a coronation.
Co-anchor Jorge Ramos sat down in 2012 with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican who speaks fluent Spanish, and tore into him for belonging to a party that Ramos considers hostile to Latinos. Ramos wanted to know how Rubio, the son of immigrants, could fail to “defend the poorest, the most persecuted victims, the most vulnerable” – which include the undocumented.
Meanwhile, only a few months later, co-anchor Maria Elena Salinas interviewed rising Democratic star Julian Castro, now secretary of housing and urban development. In between softballs, Salinas gently teased him about the fact that he doesn’t speak fluent Spanish. Castro responded that while he didn’t believe it was necessary to speak Spanish, he did consider it beneficial. He was taking lessons, he told Salinas.
Both Ramos and Salinas have repeatedly been to the White House to meet with President Obama.
In 2010, Ramos – who has said that journalists “have to keep our distance from power” – was invited to a state dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Also on the guest list were Latino Democratic members of Congress and Latino celebrities such as Eva Longoria, who would later be named a co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign.
That same year, Salinas was invited to the White House as part of a group of “stakeholders” in the immigration debate, tweeting after the meeting that Obama had explained that he didn’t have the power to stop deportations – which, two years later, the president did anyway when he offered deferred action to undocumented youth. The flip-flop made Salinas, and other White House messengers, look silly.
Over and over, Univision and the people who work there have been loyal to Democrats. Is it any wonder that the network is distrusted by Republicans?
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.