In taking on Jorge Ramos, Donald Trump may have tussled with the wrong media star
In his latest showdown, Donald Trump ordered Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of a news conference Tuesday, telling him to "go back to Univision."
Ramos, who like Trump is known for his confrontational style, didn't back down until he was escorted out of the room by security. Eventually, Ramos was invited back, where he sparred with Trump over the Republican candidate's immigration proposals.
Trump has had some high-profile tiffs with media figures recently, battling publicly with Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly, and on Tuesday with the network's chairman, Roger Ailes.
But prodding Ramos, who has been called the Spanish-language Walter Cronkite, could prove dangerous for Trump, who thus far has been something of a Teflon candidate. Here's why:
Ramos is a very important figure for American Latinos
The 57-year-old has anchored "Noticiero Univision," Spanish-language TV's No.1-ranked newscast, for nearly three decades and is considered a trusted source of news. A 2010 study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that among Latinos, Ramos was the second-most recognized Latino leader behind Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and other polls have shown he is one of the most trusted public figures among Latinos.
"Spanish-language news has almost the same pull as the priest in the pulpit," Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "And Jorge Ramos is the pope, he's the big kahuna."
Ramos has a lot of followers: According to Nielsen ratings, more than 2 million viewers tune in to "Noticiero Univision" nightly. For perspective, in 2013, that was three times the audience of CNN's "The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer."
And according to recently published research, the GOP's presidential nominee would need to win nearly half of the Latino vote to make it to the White House. (President Obama won reelection with 71% of the Latino vote).
During the last presidential election cycle, Washington Monthly called Ramos the broadcaster who would most determine the outcome of the 2012 election.
Despite that, Trump at one point on Tuesday night said he "didn't know much about him."
Ramos has a personal connection to immigration issues
A native of Mexico City, Ramos moved to Los Angeles as a student in 1983 and took UCLA Extension classes in journalism. He landed an on-air job at KMEX-TV, Los Angeles' Spanish-language station. Three years later, he was named an anchor for Univision, becoming one of the youngest national news anchors in television.
Ramos, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen seven years ago, has consistently used his position to unabashedly push for immigration reform.
"I am emotionally linked to this issue," Ramos told The Times in 2013. "Because once you are an immigrant, you never forget that you are one."
Ramos sees himself as an advocate for millions of Latino immigrants, and so do they
For many Latinos, Trump telling Ramos to "go back to Univision" reflected shades of racism and echoed the familiar phrase, "Go back to Mexico."
Earlier this year, Ramos defended his focus on immigration in an open letter to Republicans.
"The Republican Party has been complaining lately about how some Latino journalists, including me, only ask them about immigration," he wrote. "That is correct, but what Republicans don't understand is that for us, the immigration issue is the most pressing symbolically and emotionally, and the stance a politician takes on this defines whether he is with us or against us."
Ramos has been unapologetic about his and the network's stance.
"Our position is clearly pro-Latino or pro-immigrant," he said in 2013. "We are simply being the voice of those who don't have a voice."
Latinos, in turn, see Ramos as a leader. According to the Pew Hispanic Center survey, 38% of Latinos surveyed considered Ramos a major Latino leader.
At a University of Texas at Austin forum this year, Univision News President Isaac Lee summed up the network's perspective: "Univision's audience knows that Jorge is representing them," Lee said. "He is not asking the questions to be celebrated as a fair and balanced journalist.… He's going to ask the person whatever is necessary to push the agenda for a more fair society, for a more inclusive society and for the Hispanic community to be better."
Univision brass also stood up for Ramos on Wednesday evening, calling Trump's behavior "beyond contempt." "Mr. Trump demonstrated complete disregard for him and for the countless Hispanics whom Jorge seeks to represent," Univision Communications Chief Executive Randy Falco said in a statement.
Ramos has faced criticism over the news that his daughter is working for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, but he has said her job doesn't affect his work. "Like many reporters who have parents, siblings or other family members that are active in politics, this will not change how I approach my duty as a journalist," Ramos wrote in a blog post.
Much like Trump, Ramos seems to welcome conflict and doesn't often back down
Ramos quit his first reporting job at a Mexico City TV station after his bosses demanded he soften a piece critical of the Mexican government and he refused.
Ramos has said he approaches interviews with world leaders in the context of warfare. "My only weapon is the question," he told The Times in 2013.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Ramos moderated a series of Univision candidate forums, and pressed Mitt Romney and President Obama hard on immigration issues. After confronting Romney about his proposed "self-deportation" policy, Ramos turned to Obama.
"A promise is a promise," he said, prodding the president over the administration's deportation of more than 1.4 million people and failure to tackle immigration in his first term. "And, in all due respect, you didn't keep that promise."
6:02 p.m.: This article has been updated with a comment from Univision's Randy Falco.
2:29 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional information about Ramos' background and daughter.
This article was originally published at 11:33 a.m.
For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc
Times staff writers Kate Linthicum and Meg James contributed to this report.
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