Media Darling Univision Anchor Brings Pro-Illegal Immigration Bias to Latino Households
by Alana Goodman, Culture and Media Institute: He just might be the most influential journalist you’ve never heard of, and he’s wielding that power to lobby for amnesty for illegal immigrants and other extreme reforms. Meet Jorge Ramos, a news anchor for the Spanish-language network Univision Communications Inc. Ramos has been hailed as one of the nation’s “Most Influential Hispanics” by Time and People magazines. He has been dubbed the “Brian Williams of Hispanic TV.”
In a July 4 interview on CNN’s “American Morning,” anchor Kiran Chetry referred to Ramos as a “prominent voice in the Latino community.” An on-screen description noted Ramos is an “award-winning journalist.” But what many English-language outlets leave out of their gushing profiles are Ramos’ vocal positions on illegal immigration, health care reform, the War on Terror, and other issues. Each evening, millions of potential voters tune into the charismatic, silver-haired news anchor and trust him to report the daily news. What they get is far from just-the-facts.
Ramos’ brand of journalism represents an unsettling style among Spanish-language TV news reporters, whose musings on U.S. policy often go beyond mere political bias and into the realm of political advocacy.
Ramos has said the Arizona immigration enforcement law proves that “racism has deep roots in American society” and opposes using the term “illegal” in discussing immigration. He criticized George W. Bush’s “terrible legacy” and “a war in Iraq started with lies.”
“There's a basic part of journalism that is the same [in Hispanic television] as everywhere else in the world,” Ramos’ co-anchor, Maria Elena Salinas, told Television Week on October 16, 2006. “[B]ut at the same time we have to go above and beyond the call of duty as social activists.” In the past, Salinas has encouraged viewers to participate in a pro-illegal immigration demonstrations.
As for Ramos, he’s created a sort of hybrid reporter-lobbyist role, publicly pressing politicians to support immigration reform during interviews – and then excoriating them if they fail to live up to their promises on the issue. “President Barack Obama, he broke his promise [on immigration]. It’s that simple,” Ramos said on ABC’s "This Week" July 4. “We’ve been waiting for 18 months for change, we haven’t seen change. Not only that, President Obama has deported more [illegal immigrants] during his first year in office than President Bush during his last year in office.” Ramos has become a go-to source for English-language news outlets, but he is influential in his own right. Univision, owned by Broadcasting Media Partners, claims to reach 95 percent of Hispanic households in the United States. Ramos’ news program, “Noticiero Univision,” claims 7 million viewers each night.
A Political Bias “[I]t's very difficult to imagine how come they have improved in progress so much in South Africa and right here in places like Arizona we're going exactly the opposite way,” Ramos told National Public Radio in a July 2 interview. The anchor was comparing the new immigration law in Arizona, which allows police to ask a suspected criminal for proof of U.S. citizenship during an arrest, to the history of racial apartheid in South Africa. “The new immigration law in Arizona means that racism has deep roots in American society,” Ramos, an eight-time Emmy Award winner, wrote in an April 26 article. “It means that the so-called ‘Latino power’ is not as powerful as we thought.”
Ramos has acknowledged that an open borders policy is “not practical” at the current time, but he supports the policy for the future. “[E]ventually, in a few decades, when there would be more equality between the salaries in Latin America with the salaries in the US. I see no problem for an open border,” he said during an interview with the Washington Post on Feb. 7, 2002.
But Ramos’ vocal opinions go beyond just issues of immigration. He makes his disapproval of other policy positions – and the politicians who push them – clear in many of his articles posted on his website. In a Jan. 19, 2009, article, Ramos wrote of President George W. Bush’s “terrible legacy: a terrorist attack that took him by surprise, the unfulfilled promise to capture Osama bin Laden, a war in Iraq started with lies, the worst economic recession in eight decades, the sad image of a government that allowed torture, the inability of a leader who did not know how to rescue his people after Hurricane Katrina, and the United States’ most anti-immigrant era, based on the number of raids and deportation.” The Univision reporter continued that, “It is now clear that W.’s place has always been on a ranch in Texas and not in the White House.”
In a Dec. 1, 2008, article Ramos wrote of President Bush, “Credibility. That’s what Obama has and Bush does not. How can anyone believe Bush when he invented a war, saying there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that were never found? How can anyone believe Bush when he says that his government does not condone torture and pictures of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison appeared? How can anyone believe Bush when he let New Orleans drown? For many Americans, it is no longer possible to believe a single thing from the most unpopular president in modern U.S. history.”
On the issue of the War of Terror, Ramos wrote that President Bush “attacked Iraq in March 2003 with false arguments,” which the anchor claims “ironically, multiplied terrorist threats against Americans.” He also speaks out against the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and waterboarding, and supports the controversial policy of giving health insurance to illegal immigrants.
His Advocacy Ramos’ interviews with government power players like President Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have appeared more like televised lobbying meetings than news reports. During the 2008 presidential election, Ramos pressed the candidates to give a clear timeline for when they would initiate immigration reform.
As a candidate, Obama assured Ramos that he would tackle the issue of immigration within a year if he won the presidency – and Obama’s inability to uphold that vow has since made him the focus of many of Ramos’ fiery rebukes. On May 28, 2008, in Denver, Barack Obama promised me that, during his first year in office, he would present a proposal for immigration reform,” Ramos wrote in A Country for All: An Immigration Manifesto. “Now the time has come for him to make good on his promise.”
In an article in the Daily Beast, senior editor Bryan Curtis acknowledged Ramos’ anger over President Obama’s unfulfilled promise. “The one-year deadline expired in January, and Ramos went on the warpath,” wrote Curtis, who referred to Ramos in the June 28 article as “the Obama administration’s immigration noodge.” Ramos told Curtis that he cornered President Obama and demanded answers on immigration reform at a White House meeting last September, and again at a state dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderón this spring.
“Let’s have a bill, an immigration bill, or a proposal, and let’s find out how many senators and members of Congress are willing to support that bill,” Ramos said to Curtis in an interview. “Then we’ll go from there. If Republicans don’t want to support it, let’s find out… Let’s see how many Democrats really support immigration reform right now. Let’s see how far the White House is willing to go on this issue.”
Ramos’ passionate words are fitting for a dedicated political activist – but coming from the mouth of a man who is tasked with reporting the evening news to millions of American voters, they’re disconcerting. Ramos has also joined the campaign to end the use of terminology that hinders the political cause. “We need to sit down with the most extreme radio and television commentators and establish a set of parameters for controlling the debate,” wrote Ramos in A Country for All. “And it all begins with using the correct terminology.” “First of all, we must abolish the practice of referring to people as illegals. They’re not...They are simply people without legal documents permitting them to live in the United States,” Ramos wrote.
According to the Univision anchor, establishing a sensible national conversation on immigration reform “is not just a question of power; it’s a question of language.” In Ramos’ mind, terms like “illegal immigrant” serve to “generate more hatred and misunderstanding.” Ramos’ stance matches up with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a group which he is a member of. On the organization’s website, NAHJ says it “calls on our nation’s news media to use accurate terminology in its coverage of immigration and to stop dehumanizing undocumented immigrants.” Terms the group opposes for describing illegal immigrants include “alien,” “illegal alien,” “illegal immigrant,” and “illegal.” It asks journalists to instead use the terms “undocumented immigrant” and “undocumented worker.”
Voice of the Hispanic Community? But while Ramos enjoys enormous success in the U.S. Hispanic television market, his left-wing views don’t seem to be shared by most of the nation’s Hispanic community.
A Pew Hispanic Center survey found that only 6 percent of Latino voters rated immigration as their top issue during the 2008 election, placing more importance on education, health care, national security and the environment. Less than a third considered immigration reform an “extremely important” priority for the Obama administration.
In March, a Resurgent Republic survey also found that Hispanic voters tended to align with Conservatives when it came to fiscal and national security policies. These numbers seem to show that an objective – or at least more politically moderate – reporter could also be competitive in the Latino market. As the size of the Hispanic voting bloc continues to grow, it will be important to make sure Spanish-speaking households have access to fair and balanced news reporting.
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