Journalist Jorge Ramos is one of the leading figures in United States journalism, especially in the Hispanic community. Millions tune in each day to watch his influential news program on Spanish-language channel Univision.
Born in Mexico, 57-year-old Ramos has suddenly become the star of the US presidential campaign after being thrown out of a press conference by Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s nomination and the man who has been attracting the most headlines and airtime in the race for the White House.
The business magnate-turned-politician’s controversial immigration policies – which include deporting the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, building a huge wall along the border with Mexico, and denying citizenship rights to children born in the US to illegal migrants – has opened a fiery debate that has dragged several Republican candidates to extreme positions and put the Latino community on alert.
It is the first time Ramos has been forcibly thrown out of a place while carrying out his job
“We are dealing with an authoritarian figure,” Ramos tells EL PAÍS after landing in Miami from Iowa, where the incident with Trump occurred. “It all happened because he didn’t like my question. When I told him you couldn’t deport 11 million people and build a 3,000-kilometer-long wall, he pulled a face. He wanted to stop me from speaking.”
The image of Trump ordering Ramos to sit down and “go back to Univision” after being questioned about his immigration policies has already gone down as a major moment in the 2016 race for the White House. “I don’t have to take orders from Trump, nor from anyone else,” says the journalist.
Ramos was forced by a security guard to leave the room, but after complaints from two other reporters, he was allowed back in to ask his questions with the aim of getting Trump to explain how exactly he was going to carry out his immigration proposals.
“Trump is lying. He knows you cannot deport all those people, nor build a wall. You can only do this with the army, by putting people in stadiums. And that, to Latinos, is very reminiscent of South American dictatorships,” Ramos says.
Ramos personally attended Tuesday’s press conference after Trump refused to appear on his TV program. Several months earlier, following Trump’s remarks labeling all Mexicans who arrive in the United States as rapists, criminals and drug traffickers, Ramos had sent him a handwritten letter inviting him on to his show. The property magnate ignored the offer but published the letter on the internet, which forced Ramos to change his cellphone number, as it appeared in the message.
After months of waiting for a face-to-face interview, the reporter decided to head to Iowa to get some definitive answers from Trump about his plans for government. The response was Tuesday’s expulsion from the news conference.
“Many journalists and politicians don’t dare confront him. Trump forces us journalists to rethink our role in society. We journalists have to take sides in some situations, such as racism, discrimination, corruption and human rights. Trump represents several of those,” he says.
In his 30-year-long career as a journalist in the US, Ramos says he has never encountered a similar situation despite putting both Republicans and Democrats up against the ropes on numerous occasions. It is the first time he has been forcibly thrown out of a place while carrying out his job, he says.
“Trump offers horror. He is offering the utopia of a white country without immigrants, when the US is actually multiethnic. He delivers a dangerous message and I think we would be making a mistake if we do not take it seriously. If he reaches the White House, the US will undergo a brutal transformation that would have serious consequences for Latinos,” Ramos adds.
The latest surveys show that 75 percent of Latinos thoroughly distrust Trump. His tirades against Latinos come just as most other candidates are seeking to court the Hispanic vote, which is likely to be decisive in next year’s presidential elections. According to estimates, almost 16 million Latino voters will cast their ballots in 2016. President Barack Obama won the last elections by just five million votes, Ramos points out.
Many journalists and politicians don’t dare confront him. Trump forces us journalists to rethink our role in society”
Jorge Ramos has received huge support from other journalists in the United States following his confrontation with Trump, who at the start of August had another much-talked-about run-in with Fox network host Megyn Kelly after she asked him about his past misogynist comments.
Univision, whose influence among Hispanic Americans is enormous, is one of the companies that broke their contracts with Trump following his xenophobic remarks about Latinos, especially Mexicans. His response was a $500 million lawsuit, something Trump reminded Ramos of during their confrontation. The reporter was quick to play it down, however: “I am a reporter and I’ve come to ask questions,” he said.
Translation by Nick Funnell