Kushner's Mexican connection
Why do you think voters are responding to your message?
More and more Latinos are identifying themselves as conservatives. Why do you think that is?
What do you think the current state of the economy is? And are Americans better off today than they were three years ago?
These were some of the softball questions posed to former president Donald Trump in an interview earlier this month. The November 9 interview was not conducted by a right-wing outlet known for its fawning coverage of Trump, like Fox News or Newsmax. Rather, these were questions posed to Trump in an interview with Univision, the largest provider of Spanish-language content in the United States.
The friendly questioning was not the only problem with Univision's approach to Trump. The interviewer, Enrique Acevedo, let Trump present a variety of false and misleading claims. Trump, for example, falsely claimed that "Democrats were killing babies after birth," that Americans are currently "paying $5 for gasoline," and that Biden puts "China first" because he "got a lot of money from China." None of these false claims was challenged by Acevedo. Notably, Acevedo was flown in from Mexico City to conduct the interview, even though Univision has many experienced journalists based in the United States.
Univision went to considerable lengths to ensure that viewers of the Trump interview would not be exposed to opposing viewpoints. It had sold the Biden campaign ads to air on network affiliates in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida. But Univision abruptly canceled the ads, citing a new policy prohibiting "opposition advertising in single candidate interviews." Univision also canceled a scheduled interview with Maca Casado, a spokesperson for Biden's presidential campaign, that was set to air after Trump.
Univision will play an important role in how Latino voters inform themselves about the 2024 presidential election. About half of the country's 60 million Latinos get news from Univision. And Latino voters have emerged as a key swing constituency. Trump won about 28% of the Latino vote in 2016 and 38% in 2020. Some polls show him on pace to exceed that percentage in 2024.
Joaquin Blaya, the former president of Univision, blasted the interview as "a one-hour propaganda open space for former president Trump to say whatever he wanted to say" and an "insult to the Hispanic community." Shortly after the Trump interview aired, León Krauze, a long-tenured and popular Univision host, departed without explanation. Univision's most prominent journalist, Jorge Ramos, devoted his syndicated column on Saturday to "the danger of not confronting Trump." Ramos stressed that Univision cannot "offer Trump an open microphone to broadcast his falsehoods and conspiracy theories" and "must question and fact-check everything he says and does."
Ramos has a history of confronting Democrats and Republicans on issues of importance to the Univision audience. In 2015, Ramos traveled to Iowa and attempted to ask Trump about his descriptions of Mexican immigrants as rapists. Trump told Ramos to "go back to Univision" and then had a bodyguard eject Ramos from the press conference. His campaign called Univision "a leftist propaganda machine and a mouthpiece of the Democrat Party.”
So what changed?
In 2021, Univision merged with Televisa, a Mexican media company. Televisa is known for its friendly coverage of Mexican political leaders, who have rewarded the company with favorable regulatory treatment and other benefits. The co-CEO of TelevisaUnivisio Mexico is Bernardo Gómez, a close associate of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. In 2019, Kushner met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at Gómez's house.
The Washington Post reported that Kushner "helped arrange the interview and was also in the room" during the interview at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence. Gómez was also present during the interview, along with two other TelevisaUnivisio executives, TelevisaUnivision CEO Wade Davis, and TelevisaUnivision co-CEO Alfonso de Angoitia Noriega.
Trump praised the new owners during the Univision interview. "Look at the owners of Univision," Trump said. "They're unbelievable entrepreneurial people. And they like me."
The Kushner media playbook
Kushner has a history of trading access to Trump for promises of favorable treatment. After the 2016 election, Kushner reportedly told a group of business executives that he "struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage." Sinclair is the owner of many local affiliates in swing states. The agreement "gave [Sinclair] more access to Trump and the campaign" in exchange for a commitment that Sinclair would "broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary."
Kushner boasted that Sinclair affiliates had a larger audience than CNN in states like Ohio. According to a Trump spokesperson, "the deal included the interviews running across every affiliate." Sinclair did not deny that it had struck a deal with the Trump campaign but claimed it offered a similar arrangement with Hillary Clinton. There were no Clinton interviews aired on Sinclair stations during the campaign, however.
The Clinton campaign might not have been enthusiastic about granting special access to Sinclair because Sinclair is a conservative media company. An academic study found that "stations bought by Sinclair reduce coverage of local politics, increase national coverage and move the ideological tone of coverage in a conservative direction relative to other stations operating in the same market."
Obscuring Trump's 2024 immigration agenda
Univision's favorable coverage of Trump has continued after the interview. A Media Matters analysis found that, since November 9, Univision has aired numerous segments suggesting Trump has moderated his stances on immigrants. Shortly after the interview, host Luis Carlos Vélez praised Trump's "tranquil" demeanor and said he was seeking "to repair his relationship with Hispanics." On November 12, host Octavio Valdez claimed Trump has “softened his narrative” on immigration.
The coverage is obscuring Trump's radical immigration agenda in a potential second term. The New York Times reported that "Trump is planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up undocumented people already in the United States on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled." Among other initiatives, Trump is planning to reimpose "a Covid 19-era policy of refusing asylum claims — though this time he would base that refusal on assertions that migrants carry other infectious diseases like tuberculosis." Because ICE detention facilities have limited capacity, Trump plans "to build huge camps to detain people while their cases are processed and they await deportation flights."
Trump publicly referenced his plans during a September campaign rally in Iowa. "Following the Eisenhower model, we will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history," Trump said. The Eisenhower initiative to round up Mexican immigrants was named for an ethnic slur, Operation Wetback.