SAN DIEGO – Donald Trump insists he’s no politician. Now, after what happened at a dramatic news conference in Iowa, we know that Jorge Ramos is no journalist. At least not a real one.
The Univision anchor is an activist, a professional victim, the star of his own telenovela. He is a “commentator” when he feels the insuppressible urge to share his opinion, and a “reporter” when he wants access to a press event at which pundits, columnists and cable hosts would not be welcomed. Ramos is also an egomaniac who loves the sound of his own voice just as much as Trump adores his.
Yet the GOP front-runner doesn’t like to share the spotlight. So when Ramos jumped up without being called on, and rudely drowned out another reporter, Trump had him ejected.
I was glad to see that. This is what you do with a heckler. Ramos wasn’t even asking questions at first, as much as giving a speech about how Trump’s immigration proposals won’t work.
Then, after a few of the reporters in the room pushed back, the real estate developer allowed Ramos to return and ask questions.
I was also glad to see that. Trump is wrong about ending birthright citizenship, building a border wall, confiscating remittances and other ideas to combat illegal immigration. But he isn’t afraid to face his critics, including Ramos.
In fact, I’d say that Trump just found his new best amigo. These two people – neither of whom seems to understand the immigration debate as well as he thinks – put on a great stage show. Is Caesar’s Palace available on Cinco de Mayo? If the goal was to get attention, both Trump and Ramos came away winners.
The losers include Hispanic journalists who every day have to fend off the charge that they’re biased and ethnocentric. Many folks think that an anchor, reporter or columnist named “Sanchez” or “Rodriguez” – or “Navarrette” – is Hispanic first, journalist second.
Once a week, I’ll get an email saying I “write like a Mexican” or that my columns have a “Latino slant” or that I’m “pursuing a Mexican agenda” or – in my favorite piece of reader feedback from years ago – that asking me how to stop illegal immigration was “like asking the Germans for advice on how to plan the D-Day invasion.”
Welcome to my world, folks.
Ramos instantly made things worse, for me and for thousands of other Hispanic journalists in English- and Spanish-language media. Do you think he cares about that? I doubt it. Ramos seems to only care about advancing one story: The Jorge Ramos Story.
In the exchange with Trump, he violated at least 10 of journalism’s rules, protocols and customs.
▪ Don’t make yourself the story. Cover the story. But don’t become the story.
▪ Challenge politicians but don’t compete with them, debate them or try to shout them down.
▪ Disclose conflicts of interest. (Like the fact that Ramos’ daughter works for the Hillary Clinton campaign, or that Trump is suing Ramos’ principal network, Univision, for $500 million.)
▪ Be professional. Never forget that you represent your employer and that what you do reflects on them.
▪ Be polite and respectful to your colleagues in the profession. Don’t interrupt them, or steal their time. Wait your turn. They have a job to do too, and it’s no less important than yours.
▪ If you want to ask a question, ask it. But don’t make statements, speeches, lectures. And never filibuster.
▪ If you’re going to be a reporter, be a reporter. That means being objective. If you can’t keep your opinions to yourself, resign and become a columnist or talk-show host.
▪ Don’t take issues personally. Let alone go on television, as Ramos did recently on CNN, and tell the world: “This is personal. When [Trump] is talking about immigrants, he’s talking about me.” After that, no one will trust you.
▪ In the end, you’re the one with the platform and microphone. Even if you feel wronged, don’t play the victim. It’s cheap and unbecoming.
▪ And finally, when you mess up and cross the line, be a grown-up and admit it. Apologize, make amends and move on.
Trump seems ready to move on, all right. He is looking forward to more confrontations with Ramos. After answering his questions, the billionaire told the activist/anchor/reporter/commentator: “You and I will talk. We’re going to be talking a lot over the years.”
You had better believe it. This creepy co-dependent relationship will flare up again, no matter how much damage it does to a profession that has seen better days.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.