Politics
7:11 am
Wed September 19, 2012

Univision Cries Foul, Hosts Own Presidential Forums

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 7:55 am

Spanish-language network Univision will broadcast the first part of its presidential forum Wednesday night. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will be the first candidate to appear, and President Obama follows Thursday night.

The presidential interviews came after a dramatic clash that would rival any of the network's famous telenovelas. Univision confronted the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit group that organizes the candidate debates, after it announced an all-white lineup of moderators.

"It's so interesting, because the Commission on Presidential Debates seems to believe that it is OK to have an African-American president, but it is not OK to have a moderator from a minority group," says Jorge Ramos, one of the network's anchors.

Univision President Randy Falco asked the commission to schedule an additional debate focused entirely on Hispanic issues, but the commission denied the request.

"We strongly believe that the four journalists we have named see their assignment as representing all Americans," said Janet Brown, the commission's executive director.

Univision was undeterred by the response.

"It's really unforgivable, and the American way is not to wait," Ramos says. "We can't wait till 2016 to see if the commission then reconsiders and includes a Hispanic journalist. No, that's not the American way."

Apparently the presidential candidates didn't want to wait, either, because both Obama and Romney quickly agreed to participate in the Univision event.

At a restaurant in Washington, D.C., the television is permanently tuned to Univision. Everyone there knows about the upcoming "Meet the Candidate" forum, but cynicism abounds.

"In this country, Latinos are cast aside," says Colombian-born Gladys Saavedra. "We're only useful to clean houses, to pick up the mess and to pay taxes. But now they've realized that the Latin vote is important."

Saavedra is one of about 3 million registered Hispanic voters who were born outside the U.S. but have since become naturalized citizens.

"Many of those folks get their news from Univision because there is a sense that they cover things that the English-language news doesn't cover," says Lisa Garcia Bedolla, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and author of the book Latino Politics.

Garcia Bedolla expects there will be plenty of questions at the Univision event that won't be asked during the presidential debates.

"The language of this forum is less critical than the substance of the forum, and the forum is going to be focused on a set of questions that probably aren't going to be as prominent in the English-language debate," Garcia Bedolla says.

Univision's "Meet the Candidate" forum will air in Spanish on Wednesday and Thursday at 10 p.m. EDT. The interviews will be available simultaneously in English on Univision's Facebook page.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Mitt Romney will be taking questions again tonight on Univision. It's the first of the Spanish language network's one-on-one conversations with both presidential candidates. Tomorrow, President Obama appears. Univision has teamed up with Facebook to translate both Mr. Obama's and Mitt Romney's answers into Spanish. A full English language version of the forums will be streaming live.

The event comes on the heels of some very public confrontations between Univision and the Commissioner on Presidential Debates.

NPR's Jasmine Garsd reports.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: The interviews came about after a dramatic clash that would rival any of the Spanish language network's famous Telenovelas between Univision and the non-profit that organizes the presidential debates. Univision cried foul after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced an all-white lineup of moderators.

JORGE RAMOS: It's so interesting, because the Commission on Presidential Debates seems to believe that it is ok to believe that it is OK to have an African-American president but it is not OK to have a moderator from a minority group.

GARSD: That's Univision's star anchor Jorge Ramos.

Univision President Randy Falco asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to schedule an additional debate, focused entirely on Hispanic issues. That request was denied. Janet Brown, the commission's executive director explained, quote, "We strongly believe that the four journalists we have named see their assignment as representing all Americans."

Univision disagreed. Here's Ramos again.

RAMOS: It's really unforgivable. And the American way is not to wait. We can't wait till 2016 to see if the commission then reconsiders and includes a Hispanic journalist. No, that's not the American way.

GARSD: Apparently the presidential candidates didn't want to wait either. Both candidates quickly agreed to participate in Univision's event.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

GARSD: At this restaurant in Washington, D.C., the television set is permanently tuned in to Univision. Everyone here knows about the upcoming Meet The Candidates Forum, but a mood of tired cynicism abounds.

GLADYS SAAVEDRA: (Foreign language spoken)

GARSD: That's Colombian-born Gladys Saavedra. She says: In this country, Latinos are cast aside. We're only useful to clean houses, to pick up the mess and to pay taxes. But now they've realized that the Latin vote is important.

Saavedra is one of about three million registered Hispanic voters who were born outside the U.S., but have since become naturalized citizens.

LISA GARCIA BEDOLLA: Many of those folks get their news from Univision, because there is a sense that they cover things that the English language news does not cover.

GARSD: That's University of California at Berkeley professor Lisa Garcia Bedolla. She is the author of the book "Latino Politics." Garcia Bedolla expects there will be plenty of questions at the Univision forum that won't be asked during the presidential debates.

BEDOLLA: The language of this forum is less critical than the substance of the forum. And the forum is going to be focused on a set of questions that probably aren't going to be as prominent in the English language debates.

GARSD: Univision's Meet The Candidates Forum will air in Spanish tonight and tomorrow at 10 P.M. Eastern. The interviews will be available simultaneously in English on Univision's Facebook page.

Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.