Jorge Ramos and his producer at Fusion, Dax Tejera, had tried for months to score an interview with Donald Trump. After coming up empty, they decided to fly to Iowa to catch the Republican presidential candidate at Wednesday’s press conference.
By now, most Americans know what happened: Ramos, a well-known and respected figure in Hispanic media, was ejected from the press conference when he tried to ask a question about Trump's immigration proposal, and Trump told him to "go back to Univision." Tejera, who was seated next to Ramos when the incident occurred, spoke to The Huffington Post about the incident and the way Fusion has approached its coverage of the presidential campaign.
“In 30 years of covering dictatorships and corruption and things all across the Americas, he’s never been ejected from a press conference,” Tejera said. “We did not go in thinking that it was within the realm of possibility that we’d be thrown out for asking questions.”
In the wake of the incident, critics have assailed Ramos for interrupting when another reporter was asking a question. Fox News host Howard Kurtz, for instance, wrote in an op-ed that Ramos “broke in without being called on — and I’m sorry, that’s not some polite society rule, that’s basic civility when a presidential candidate is taking questions.”
But as Tejera pointed out, press conferences are often rambunctious, disorderly affairs where the loudest voice in the room is the one that is called on. There was no pre-existing list of questions Trump was set to take; reporters were jockeying to be heard, and given the Trump campaign’s previous stonewalling, Tejera and Ramos were not optimistic they’d be called on.
“It was a classic press conference where everybody is trying to get their question in and the loudest voice gets it,” he said. According to Tejera, Ramos was in the middle of asking his question when Trump signaled to security to handle the situation.
“I didn’t think a man running for president would signal to bodyguards to remove a reporter,” Tejera said.
Outside the room where the press conference was taking place, a Trump supporter told Ramos to “go back to your country,” oblivious to the fact that Ramos is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Ramos was eventually allowed to rejoin the press conference, after another reporter questioned Trump about his decision to eject the Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media. But footage of the incident has sparked discussion not just among the public but among journalists. Some, like Politico’s Marc Caputo, have criticized Ramos for advocating for immigration reform. “This is bias: taking the news personally, explicitly advocating an agenda,” Caputo said on Twitter.
While the idea that journalists should be neutral continues to have currency, it is, as Glenn Greenwald points out at The Intercept, a concoction of corporate media: a standard imposed to ensure those in power aren’t challenged. In reality, “objectivity” does little more than defang a reporter, forcing them to pretend they have no opinions and see no injustice.
For example, none of the other "objective" reporters who have had access to Trump had bothered to point out, as Ramos did, that his plan to deport 11 million people from the country is impossible.
Tejera says Ramos tries to distinguish himself by focusing on policy instead of the horse-race coverage that prevails on other networks.
“The goal has always been to put him out as a journalist who is asking the tough questions,” he said. “What we felt was, particularly with immigration stuff, [Trump] is saying things that are factually inaccurate. Jorge felt Trump was misrepresenting the facts and felt like he needed to ask those."
“The whole reason for going to Iowa was to be able to have an informed line of questions,” he said. “That’s different from what the big networks are doing. Fusion is doing issues and not horse-race coverage.”
“We didn’t go to Iowa to talk about the latest polls,” he added.
After Ramos was allowed back into the press conference, he sparred with Trump for about five minutes before hinting he would be open to a sit-down interview. Tejera said Ramos would be eager to do a sit-down but he didn’t know if it would come to fruition. He credited Trump for reversing course after kicking Ramos out.
“I’m struck by the fact that in short amount of time, Donald Trump really came around,” he said. “I give him credit for that.”
Donald Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.