Donald Trump may have tangled with the wrong guy.
In scorning Univision star Jorge Ramos during a Tuesday press conference — and admitting that he didn’t even know who Ramos was — Trump signaled in a visceral way his disdain for the Latino community.
“He’s talking about the fastest growing electoral block in the U.S.,” Ramos told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Wednesday. Kelly, another Trump media nemesis, had asked whether Ramos understood why Trump might not want to answer his questions on immigration, given his bad blood with Ramos’ network.
“He’s talking about 16 million Latinos that will go to the polls and might decide the next election, It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t like it. There are questions that need to be answered,” Ramos said.
Ramos’ ejection from the press conference after repeatedly trying to grill Trump on his immigration plan – which includes deporting 11 million people, building a 1900-mile long border wall, and eliminating birthright citizenship – marked a new low in Trump’s nativist demagoguing. While Ramos was eventually allowed to re-enter the press conference and engage with Trump on his immigration platform, the clip of Trump initially kicking Ramos out while telling him to “go back to Univision” is what garnered all the attention.
“When Jorge Ramos was being escorted out of the room for demanding for his rights, it was as if every other Latino American was being escorted out of the room for demanding for their rights,” Luis Alvarado, a GOP consultant, told TPM
Trump’s tough-talking style is not new on the campaign trail. Nor are his anti-immigrant policies. But the tussle with Ramos is the clearest symbol yet of the contempt with which Trump treats the Latino electorate, which could have general election implications regardless of whether Trump wins the GOP nomination.
“He is just digging a deeper and deeper hole in terms of the Latino constituency that he claims to have,” said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “Uniformly, the Latino community is lining up against him and some of the other candidates as well, because what he says has repercussions and it colors the whole party.”
Ramos is not just any Hispanic media reporter, but the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic News,” as he has long been known. His show “Noticiero Univision” brings in some 2 million viewers, making him one of the most well-known figures in Spanish-speaking media. A 2010 Pew survey of Hispanic Americans found him to be the second-most recognized among a list of Latino leaders.
He has reputation for grilling politicians all the way up to President Obama on immigration policy, and hasn’t been shy about his views on Trump’s platform, which Ramos called “all wrong” and “impossible to achieve.”
Trump’s confrontation with Ramos has thus become an image of when the billionaire’s freewheeling campaign style — what some charitably describe as authentic — combines with the nativist sentiment running through his messaging.
“That was dog whistle politics at its finest,” said Ali Valenzuela, a political scientist specializing the the Latino Studies at Princeton University. “Any racially resentful or bigoted individual American knew exactly what Trump meant when he told Ramos to ‘go back to Univision.’”
As the New York Times reported, it’s not just Ramos, but Spanish-speaking media on the whole has been more critical of Trump than general market news. Analysis by the nonpartisan media analytics company Two.42.Solutions showed that 80 percent of Spanish-speaking media coverage of Trump focused on his immigration views — as opposed to 58 percent of Trump’s mention in mainstream news — and that coverage has been largely negative, according to the Times.
According to a separate soon-to-be published study by Sergio I. Garcia-Rios, a Latino Studies professor at Cornell University, Latinos who pay close attention to Spanish-speaking media are more likely to be politically active.
“This is not only media, it is media in Spanish, and for the most part we understand that as being Jorge Ramos,” Garcia-Rios told TPM. “This is even among English speakers, who prefer to use English at home. Those who watch news in Spanish, they’re more likely to be excited about politics and more likely to participate.”
While he did not test specifically for Ramos’ show in the upcoming study, currently being reviewed, he and his fellow researchers call it the “Jorge Ramos-effect” in their paper.
“The reality is Jorge Ramos is, we know poll after poll, we know that he’s the most trusted source,” Garcia-Rios said.
The “go back to Univision” moment was the latest in a worrisome trend for Republicans. The RNC’s autopsy report of the 2012 campaign said, “If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence.”
Republicans’ problem with Trump isn’t just that he’s present, but he that’s popular, Latino political strategists say.
“Now that there is some polling behind Trump, that gives the impression that there is a great number of people out there that thinks that undocumented [immigrants] are truly to be seen as an enemy of the state. It is giving a little bit of the pause and concern to the Latino electorate,” Alvarado said. “They thought that we were past this, that politicians learned their lesson from the self deportation comments from Romney.”
From birthright citizenship becoming the new GOP 2016 litmus test to Jeb Bush — supposedly the moderate on immigration — getting tripped up on “anchor babies,” the Trump effect on the broader primary race is undeniable.
That subtext of Trump’s “go back to Univision” jab at Ramos soon became text when a Trump supporter told Ramos, a U.S. citizen, to “get out of my country.”
“It’s elevating a sense of anxiety in the undocumented community,” Alvarado said. “When they thought that they were that close to having a voice and demanding political respect, that we were close to having immigration reform, they are actually getting a cold bucket of water that we are just that far from it.”