Politics, U.S.A.

THE DANGER OF NOT CONFRONTING TRUMP

I believe we must question and confront Trump for democracy, for the rights of immigrants and, simply, for good journalism.

Due to the strong criticisms after Univision aired an interview with Donald Trump on Nov. 9 -that put in doubt the independence of our news department, and created discomfort and uncertainty within the newsroom- it is necessary to take a step back from what was broadcast that day and explain, as always, my point of view.

Let’s begin with the most basic. Trump never would have given me an interview. On August 25, 2015, the then-presidential candidate ordered a bodyguard to expel me from a news conference in Dubuque, Iowa, after I tried to ask him some questions. “Go back to Univision!” he told me. I had gone to Iowa to ask him about his statements that Mexican immigrants were “rapists,” criminals and drug traffickers.

What few people know is that after that incident, Trump allowed me to return to the news conference and ask him questions for about 10 minutes. I confronted him about his plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico and deport millions of undocumented migrants. I mentioned that many Hispanics despised him for his anti-immigration rhetoric and that regardless of what he expected he would not win the Latino vote. And he did not, not in 2016 and not in 2020.

Our job as journalist is to question those in power. That’s what reporters do. That’s what I did in Iowa and what I have done with Trump since he announced his first presidential campaign.

In June of 2021, during a public event in Texas, I asked Trump if he would finally admit that he had lost the presidential election the previous year. “We won the election”, he answered falsely. That’s what became known as “The Big Lie.” The official results from the election Nov. 3, 2020 show Trump lost both the electoral vote and the popular vote. What’s more, he lost all the legal challenges he filed to delay or block Joe Biden’s legitimate election as president.

Trump has been a sore loser.

Trump today faces 91 charges for different alleged crimes, among them conspiring against the democratic system. In one recording, he is heard allegedly asking the Georgia secretary of state for 11,780 votes to overturn the results of the balloting. And after his speech on Jan. 6 2021, when he told followers that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” there was a violent insurrection at the US Capitol.

That’s not all. Trump separated thousands of children from their families at the border, made offensive comments about immigrants, attacked the concept of birthright citizenship for children of the undocumented, filled a lawsuit in 2015 against the company where I work and questioned the capacity of people – like Judge Gonzalo Curiel – for the simple fact of being Hispanic.

We cannot normalize behavior that threatens democracy and the Hispanic community, or offer Trump an open microphone to broadcast his falsehoods and conspiracy theories. We must question and fact-check everything he says and does.

That’s why it is very dangerous to fail to confront Trump. And that’s why it is our moral obligation to confront him every time there’s a journalistic opportunity to do it. But I understand that not everyone agrees, and I open the debate here.

I am convinced that journalists have two great responsibilities. One is to report reality as it is, not as we wish it would be. And the other is to demand an accounting from those in power and to challenge them.

Of course we should not take sides, and we are obliged to broadcast the messages of all candidates in the 2024 presidential election. But at the same time we cannot surrender our responsibility to ask hard and precise questions. That’s what journalism is for. These journalistic principles apply to everyone.

For example, recently I wrote a column criticizing Joe Biden for breaking his promise not to build a single foot of new wall at the southern border during his presidency. Also, when Barack Obama was president I confronted him in a town hall meeting for not keeping a campaign promise. “A promise is a promise”, I told him. He broke a commitment to introduce immigration reform -that would have legalized millions of undocumented immigrants- during his first year in office, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House. So it goes both ways.

Democracy is something that must be defended every day. And for journalists, the way to do that is to ask questions. Even if it hurts. Even if it makes someone uncomfortable. Silence almost never makes for good journalism.

For 39 years Univision has allowed me to report with absolute independence and freedom – and even to write columns like this one – and I will always be very grateful. That’s why I left Mexico and came to the United States.

This is what I believe, and I will continue to do it as a free journalist, wherever I might be.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

Image: Wikimedia

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”

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