It is one of the enduring images of the early part of the presidential campaign: Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos being hustled out of an August 2015 press conference with Donald Trump after demanding answers from the candidate about his attacks on Mexican immigrants. “I have the right to ask a question,” Ramos told Trump, who responded: “No, you don’t. You haven’t been called. Go back to Univision.”
“I have never covered anything like this in my whole life,” the 58-year-old newsman says today. “I am ready to go to Washington for Inauguration Day and to be vigilant and ready after that.”
As one of the most influential Latino journalists in North America, Ramos has interviewed every president since George H. W. Bush. But he’s not expecting easy entrée to the Trump White House.
|JAKE CHESSUM for Variety|
“I think that kind of access is going to be a thing of the past for us, and for many other news organizations,” says Ramos. “I never expected to be thrown out of a press conference, and I never expected … that our correspondents would not be allowed to come into press conferences. But it is the Trump era, and we have to get used to it.”
While some may view Ramos as an ideologue intent on going after Trump and the Republicans, the opinionated reporter has directed his barbs at Democrats, too. Over multiple years and four interviews, he repeatedly pressed President Obama as to why he had not followed through on a pledge to introduce comprehensive immigration reform in his first year in office. In a 2016 campaign debate, Ramos aimed pointed questions at Hillary Clinton about her missing emails and State Dept. failures in the terror attack on Benghazi.
“I think our role as journalists is to be on the opposite side of power, no matter who is in power,” Ramos says. “If you’re too close to power, that is a problem.”
The confrontation between Univision and Trump began before the now-infamous press conference in Dubuque, Iowa. Announcing his candidacy in June 2015, the candidate talked about how immigrants from Mexico “have lots of problems” and are “bringing crime” and “rapists.”
Univision reacted by kicking Trump’s Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants off the air. Trump turned to Instagram, posting a hand-written appeal from Ramos for an interview, a missive that included the journalist’s personal cell-phone number. The candidate depicted the note as evidence of Univision duplicity — rejecting the Trump-owned beauty pageants publicly, while pleading for an interview privately. But some at Univision saw the Instagram post as a hostile provocation.
“Trump was wrong when he made those racist remarks about Mexican immigrants,” says Ramos, adding that he wanted to press Trump about what he meant and how he planned to follow through.
|“If you’re too close to power, that is a problem.”|
With Trump’s threat of mass deportations still in play at the start of his presidency, Ramos says, “I think the defining factor among millions of Latinos right now is fear.” He acknowledges, however, that he and Univision also must pay attention to the Latino viewers who supported Trump and continue to do so.
“We, as journalists, made three mistakes during the campaign,” he says. “We didn’t see the big resentment in many parts of the white population. We believed the polls, which turned out to be wrong. And we believed, wrongly, that Latinos could prevent Trump from becoming president.”
Ramos says the path ahead will not be easy for journalists, but that he, and Univision, may benefit from his experience covering heads of state in 13 Latin American countries.
“We are used to having the confrontations and misunderstandings and being censored and being prevented from going to press conferences. So, at the beginning, it will probably be like that with Donald Trump. It’s nothing new to us. We are used to it.”