The man who single-handedly started the Hispanic backlash against Donald Trump found himself at the center of his own story.
Jorge Ramos, the star Univision television anchor, stood up during a news conference to ask Trump a confrontational question about immigration. And Trump, who hadn’t called on Ramos, kicked him out.
Broadcast live on CNN, with cellphone notices alerting viewers to tune in, news of Ramos’ ouster in Dubuque, Iowa, on Tuesday night exploded on social media, writing the latest chapter of the notorious feud between Republican presidential front-runner Trump and the country’s biggest Spanish-language network, which is based in the Miami suburb of Doral.
“Go back to Univision,” Trump told Ramos after telling him several times to sit down, as one of his security guards physically escorted Ramos out. In the hallway of the Grand River Center, a convention hall, a Univision camera recorded a Trump supporter telling Ramos, who was born in Mexico but is a U.S. citizen, “Go back to your country.”
Trump eventually let Ramos back in. The two men engaged in a testy back-and-forth over Trump’s immigration plan, which entails building a “beautiful” wall along the border — paid by Mexico, Trump says — and, somehow, deporting the 11 million people who are in the country illegally. Afterward, Univision said Trump should agree to an interview with Ramos — the kind of interview that would be a TV-ratings boon for a celebrity anchor who already draws millions of viewers a week.
Wednesday night, Univision CEO Randy Falco took a harder line: “The recent treatment that Jorge Ramos received at Mr. Trump’s press conference in Iowa is beneath contempt. As a presidential candidate, Mr Trump is going to get tough questions from the press and has to answer them.”
For the Republican Party, the 2016 campaign wasn’t supposed to go like this.
A GOP “autopsy” report after losing the 2012 presidential race stressed appealing to the growing Hispanic electorate to win future elections. Nothing flies in the face of that more than all of Trump’s 2016 immigration talk; a Gallup poll released Monday shows Trump has a net favorability rating of minus 51 percent among Hispanic voters.
The Trump effect, though, has yet to extend to other Republican presidential contenders, according to the poll. Safe for now are two Florida candidates: one an honorary Hispanic who is married to a Mexican, and the other a Cuban American. Former Gov. Jeb Bush has a net favorability rating of 11 percent among Hispanics and Sen. Marco Rubio 7 percent, though that was before Bush used the term “anchor babies” to refer to non-citizen women who come to the U.S. to give birth.
The other Cuban American in the race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is at minus 7 percent in the Gallup poll.
“I don’t believe Donald Trump will be our nominee,” Rubio told reporters Wednesday in New Hampshire. “Our nominee is going to be someone that embraces the future, that understands the opportunities before us, that’s optimistic but realistic about the challenges before us.”
“I think people in the press ought to be treated with a little more respect and dignity,” Bush told reporters in Pensacola — though he noted the remaining reporters at the Trump news conference didn’t forcefully demand that Ramos be allowed back in.
Trump told NBC’s Today Show on Wednesday morning that he bounced Ramos because he didn’t wait his turn: “This man gets up and starts ranting and raving and screaming, and honestly very disrespectful to all the other reporters.”
Ramos, who last week called Trump “the loudest voice of intolerance, hatred and division in the United States” and wrote a column earlier this week envisioning the U.S. as “Trumplandia,” spoke about the incident on the 11 p.m. Univision newscast — on America with Jorge Ramos, his weekly program on Univision’s English-language sister network Fusion.
“After two or three questions, I thought it was my turn and my right to ask a question, so I stood up, and I started asking Mr. Trump a question on immigration,” he said. “I am a reporter, an immigrant and a U.S. citizen, and I have the right to ask any question to anyone.”
Yelling out questions is far from unusual in news conferences, especially in Miami, where Ramos lives and where a bilingual press corps routinely jostles to get in a question. Ramos, who on Wednesday called the immigration issue “personal,” began addressing Trump with a lengthy statement about Trump’s past remarks, rather than with a question.
The incident dominated Spanish-language radio airwaves in Miami during Wednesday morning drive-time, with Bernadette Pardo, host of the Pedalea con Bernie (Pedaling with Bernie) show on Radio Mambí — a Cuban-American stronghold now owned by Univision — barraged with callers wanting to discuss the fracas. Several listeners of Cuban descent derided Ramos and Mexicans, exposing an ugly rift in South Florida’s diverse Hispanic community.
In an only-in-TV twist, Ramos was scheduled for an interview Wednesday night with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, the anchor Trump targeted after she asked him questions he didn’t like at a GOP presidential debate earlier this month.
Ramos’ brand of advocacy journalism has pitted him against both Republicans and Democrats in the past — he memorably chided President Barack Obama for breaking his promise to push for immigration reform in his first term in office — but it has grated on Republicans in particular because of Univision’s ties to Democrats. Network owner Haim Saban publicly backs Hillary Clinton; Univision has partnered with the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and Ramos revealed in June that his daughter took a job with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Ramos set off a Trump controversy two months ago, shortly after the New York real-estate magnate — against all political predictions — announced his candidacy and accused Mexico of sending people illegally over the U.S. border: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
A Twitter enthusiast like Trump, Ramos tweeted negative reviews about Trump the next day (including from el Nuevo Herald’s editorial board) and followed up with a column calling Trump’s words “dangerous.”
In short order, Univision broke ties with the Miss Universe Organization partly owned by Trump. Several Latin American celebrities denounced him. Retailers, including Macy’s, severed their Trump connections. Miami-Dade County publicly condemned Trump, a part-time Palm Beach County resident who just a few months earlier wanted to take over management of a Miami-Dade-run golf course on Crandon Park.
Trump banned Univision workers from his Trump National Doral golf resort that abuts the network’s studios. He sued Univision for breach of contract. He visited the U.S.-Mexico border and proclaimed that Hispanics “love” him.
His popularity skyrocketed.