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Trump on Univision
It's not what you'd expect
You’d think it would be impossible for Donald Trump to cozy up to Hispanic voters. He’s the candidate who announced his 2016 campaign by calling Mexicans criminals and rapists. He separated immigrant families, leaving parents to return to their countries of origin without their small children in many cases. Most recently, he’s been actively planning to create concentration camps for holding immigrants until they can be deported—with no regard for international law about the right to seek asylum.
When Trump ran in 2020, his campaign branded Univision as: “a leftist propaganda machine and a mouthpiece of the Democrat Party.” But there is disturbing reporting today that Spanish language channel Univision, recently merged with Mexican Media Company Grupo Televisa, has warmed up to Trump nonetheless.
Jared Kushner is on the scene. Kushner arranged for Trump to sit for an hour long interview with Univision last week at Mar-a-Lago. The tone of the interview was extremely friendly given Trump’s history with Latinos. It consisted of a series of softballs lobbed at the former president, including this one: “This week you were in New York in court. Today, you're facing four indictments in multiple jurisdictions. Are you concerned that you might win the Republican nomination only to be forced to drop out of the race?” Not exactly hard-hitting journalism.
The interview was conducted by a Grupo Televisa anchor who is popular in Mexico. Unnamed sources at Univision told Semafor they would have preferred that the interview be conducted by one of their journalists; someone more versed in American politics.
Jared Kushner has a friend who is a Univision executive. That executive, along with two colleagues, was present at Mar-a-Lago for the interview. What happened next is bad news for Democrats.
Democrats had made a serious investment in ad buys to run during the Trump interview when it aired. But Univision canceled the spots the Biden campaign bought in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Univision rescinded the ads due to a previously unannounced policy against permitting opposition advertising during a candidate interview. Univision also canceled a scheduled interview with Biden’s Hispanic Media Director that was intended to respond to Trump’s interview.
No block of voters can be taken for granted in any election. But this development is remarkable by any standards. Trump is seemingly intent on remaking, or perhaps just ignoring, his prior history. He defended his family separation policy during his Univision interview, saying: “When you hear that you’re going to be separated from your family you don’t come….We did family separation. A lot of people didn’t come. It stopped people from coming by their hundreds of thousands because when they hear family separation, they say ‘Well, we better not go.’” Trump was permitted to get away with the false claim that he built a border wall paid for by Mexico. He also went unchallenged when he said Barack Obama initiated the policy of separating children from their parents at the border.
With no pushback, family separation became a banal policy choice, not a human rights violation. For those who aren’t students of politics and Trump’s prior administration, it was history erased. Univision has a history of hard-hitting interviews with politicians. As recently as a September 2023 Republican debate, Univision evening news anchor Ilia Calderón refused to frame questions to fit Republican narratives and pressed candidates for substantive answers to difficult, wide-ranging questions. The treatment Trump received was an abrupt about face.
The Washington Post reported that a “person familiar with the situation inside Univision about the Trump interview, after requesting anonymity to describe internal conversations,” characterized what happened as, “Latin American stuff. This is the way people in Latin America deal with power.” Univision has not offered a comparable interview opportunity, in the popular 10p.m. slot usually filled by a highly rated telenovela soap opera, to Joe Biden.
Univision is a cable channel, not network television. They are not subject to FCC rules that apply to radio and television broadcast networks, because cable does not use the “public” airwaves. These developments will have to be dealt with in the political arena because it’s unlikely there is legal recourse. It will be up to voters to see through the weak-tea treatment Trump received in his interview. For now at least, it looks like Donald Trump has outmaneuvered Democrats.
We’re in this together,