Univision: Donald Trump’s Rhetoric Made Pageant ‘Toxic’ to Viewership

Donald Trump
MediaPunch/REX Shutterstock

Univision fired back at Donald Trump’s $500 million lawsuit on Friday, saying that the presidential candidate’s “invective” about Mexican immigrants made the Miss Universe Pageant “toxic” to the network’s viewership.

Univision and NBC Universal dropped plans to broadcast the Miss Universe Pageant after Trump’s June 16 presidential campaign announcement, citing comments he made about Mexican immigrants. Trump then sued Univision for breach of contract and defamation claims.

“Through his diatribe, Trump destroyed the value of those broadcast rights, and neither Trump nor Miss Universe did anything to repair the damage in the aftermath of his speech,” Univision said in a motion to dismiss Trump’s lawsuit. “The widespread outrage elicited by Trump’s offense comments was especially acute for Univision’s sponsors and predominantly Hispanic viewers, who made clear that they would not patronize a business connected with Trump.”

Univision said that after Trump’s statements, it was “inundated” with calls from viewers to drop the pageant, frustrating the purpose of their contract arrangement. That rendered it “void as a matter of law,” Univision said. They cited a contract clause requiring that the pageant be a “first-class network-quality production,” jeopardized after Mexico withdrew from future competitions along with Hispanic talent.

The motion was filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, called the motion to dismiss “laughable.”

“Clearly, this hasn’t been a good week for Univision. They are loaded with debt and just decided this week to once again postpone their long planned IPO. As far as the litigation, Univision can try to distract the court and the public from the real issues in dispute all it wants. The fact remains that Univision willfully breached their contract, acted in bad faith and caused my clients to suffer significant damages. For this, Univision will pay in the end.”

Univision’s response also suggests that it has been singled out by Trump on the campaign trail, while many other companies also dropped business ties.

“Of all the companies that fired him, Trump has focused on Univision, the most prominent company with a Hispanic identity, and one of its executives, a Mexican immigrant,” the response states. “In search of yet more headlines, Trump has touted this suit and his $500 million claim for damages on the campaign trail — and barred Univision reporters from covering his events — while his representatives have held it up as a warning to anyone who would criticize Trump.”

Trump claims that Univision made a “purposeful effort to coerce, collude and/or conspire” with NBC executives to drop the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants.

He claims that despite being obligated to broadcast the Miss Universe Pageant, at a minimum, “NBC capitulated to Univision’s threatened economic coercion and/or other improper and illegal tactics and means to terminate its relationship” with the Trump Organization.

Univision had a license to air Miss Universe and Miss USA for a total $13.5 million fee from 2015 to 2019, according to Trump’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that Univision’s intention in “causing” NBC was to ensure that the Miss Universe Organization would be prevented from having an English-language broadcaster. That was a condition of its agreement with Univision.

In September Trump bought NBC’s half of the Miss Universe Organization, and later sold assets to a group affiliated with William Morris Endeavor. Trump, however, retained the legal claim against Univision.

Univision cited his comments at his campaign announcement speech in which Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people they are not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Univision contends that Trump’s “careless stereotyping offended a broad swath of Univision’s audience and was demonstrably harmful to the company.” It sent a written notice of its termination on June 30.

The broadcaster said that Trump also failed to show how Univision could have “plausibly” caused NBC to breach its contract, or even that NBC actually breached it. Univision said that Trump fails to allege any facts that support “collusion” or “coercion” to get NBC to drop the pageant.

“Even if Univision had communicated with NBC about its contemplated or upcoming business decisions, merely suggesting that a third party consider boycotting a business is constitutionally protected activity,” Univision said.

Univision also called a defamation claim “frivolous.” Trump had cited a Univision executive, Alberto Ciurana, who reposted an Instagram image of Trump and Charleston, S.C., shooter Dylann Roof side by side. It included the caption: “No comments.”

“To a reasonable viewer, the reposted image conveys a tongue-in-cheek observation on Trump’s appearance — hardly novel, given that Trump has long been lampooned for his hairstyle. At most, the post could be construed as a criticism of Trump’s extreme and controversial opinions on race and national origin.”