Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos is a most powerful force in the Latino community. His nightly Spanish language newscast, which he has co-anchored with Maria Elena Salinas for nearly 30 years, draws more than two million viewers each evening. In 2013 he told the Los Angeles Times, "The United States gave me opportunities that my country of origin could not: freedom of the press and complete freedom of expression."
But Ramos' views were tested Tuesday night when Donald Trump had him removed from a news conference in Iowa. "Go back to Univision," Trump dismissively scolded Ramos for persistently asking questions about the candidate's immigration policy without being called on. As a member of one of Trump's security escorted Ramos from the room, the journalist said, "I am a reporter. Don't touch me. I have a right to ask the question."
Trump and Ramos have one thing in common, they have both appeared on the cover of Time. But they are on the opposite sides of an important issue that has dominated this year's Republican primary campaign: immigration. Ramos, who had been attempting to get an interview with Trump for some time, asked the candidate about his call to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to build a wall along the Mexican border. "Excuse me sir, you weren't called on," Trump responded. "Sit down. Sit down."
After Ramos had been escorted out of the room, Trump was asked why he wouldn't take a question from Ramos. He then said he would take a question from Ramos, and soon the journalist returned to the room. Trump called on Ramos, who asked questions about immigration. A testy back-and-forth exchange took place between the two men.
When Ramos pointed out that 71 percent of Hispanics had an unfavorable view of the candidate according to a Univision poll, Trump pounced. "How much am I suing Univision for?" he asked Ramos. He then said, "$500 million, and you're in the suit." He has sued Univision for canceling its airings of the Trump owned Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants in response to his offensive remarks about Mexicans in his presidential announcement in June.
Late Tuesday evening the National Association of Hispanic Journalists condemned Trump's treatment of Ramos at the Tuesday's news conference. In a statement, Mekahlo Medina, NAHJ President, said, "Ramos was simply trying to hold a candidate for president accountable for statements he made about a very important topic to the American people. Mr. Trump has avoided Mr. Ramos' attempts for an interview to reasonably discuss Mr. Trump's opinions and ideas about immigration and American children born to undocumented immigrants."
Trump's actions Tuesday night were reprehensible and undemocratic. 60 per cent of the nearly 60 million Latinos in the United States were born in this country. Hispanics make up this country's second largest voting block. Those who only or mostly speak Spanish rely on Spanish language outlets, like Univision and Telemundo, to get their information. Jorge Ramos is a highly respected and Emmy award winning journalist who has asked tough questions of President Barack Obama and countless other leading political figures. He was not screaming, as Trump claimed, he was simply being persistent.
One of Donald Trump's strategies this campaign is to attack the press that he feels are not being "fair" to him. He banned the Des Moines Register from Tuesday's press conference because it had published an editorial two months ago critical of Trump's comments about Senator John McCain of Arizona. And he has again attacked Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for being unfair to him at the Republican debate, including calling her a "Bimbo" on Twitter.
While some ardent Trump supporters will no doubt support Trump's tactics against the press, over the long term most Americans will reject them because they are not good for the country. Our democratic system will be put at great risk if candidates can ban or kick reporters out of public functions. In 1823, Thomas Jefferson told Lafayette, "The only security of all is in a free press."
Jorge Ramos, who became and American citizen in 2008, takes his role as a journalist seriously. He left his job as a reporter in Mexico because he didn't want to be told what to say. He has succeeded beyond his dreams in reporting on the issues and concerns of his audience. He explained his interest in immigration in that Los Angeles Times interview. "I am emotionally linked to this issue," Ramos said. "Because once you are an immigrant, you never forget that you are one."