Un ‘Sabado Gigante’ for Bush, Kerry


It is not the usual kind of forum for a U.S. presidential candidate.

This television show features young women in revealing outfits, audience members competing in plainly silly games and musical acts that range from rock to schmaltz.

It is hosted by a cheerful, chubby, grandfather-type. And everything is in Spanish.

Tonight, President Bush and Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry will be guest stars on “Sabado Gigante” (Giant Saturday), a variety show that airs across the United States on the Univision cable network. It holds the distinction of being the longest-running television program in the Americas.

The host of the show, who goes by the name “Don Francisco,” is as well-known among Latinos as Ed Sullivan once was across the United States. His three-hour program is a Saturday evening companion for families from Miami to Chicago to El Paso and in dozens of nations. In Los Angeles it airs on KMEX, Channel 34, starting at 8 p.m.


Don Francisco, whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger, interviewed Bush and Kerry separately, said Univision. Their answers to questions on immigration, amnesty for undocumented workers, family values and the role of religion in their lives will be part of a one-hour segment on the election. The candidates spoke in English laced with occasional phrases in Spanish.

Kreutzberger’s family history has stamped him with a belief in the importance of civic involvement in maintaining democratic institutions. His parents fled to Chile from Germany in the 1930s to escape anti-Semitic persecution by the Nazis.

Saturday’s segment will amount to a civics tutorial, according to the network. It will include segments on the importance of exercising the right to vote, as well as on issues that are most important to Latinos.

In 2000, Don Francisco interviewed Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore.