Outrage against Univision grows after Trump interview

FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump arrives for a Latinos for Trump Coalition roundtable at Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix. President Donald Trump is putting up a fight for Latino voters in key swing states with Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Polls show Biden with a commanding overall lead with Hispanic voters, a diverse group that defies neat political categories. Still, about 3 in 10 registered Latino voters nationwide back Trump, roughly consistent with how Latinos voted in 2018 congressional elections and in 2016. Latino men, like men of other races, support Trump more than Hispanic women. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Backlash within the Latino community against Univision is growing after the television network aired an exclusive interview with former President Trump that some saw as too friendly. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Univision has found itself at the center of a growing controversy after a recent interview with former President Trump that critics have blasted as too friendly.

The interview that aired Nov. 9 was noticeably warm, and Trump received little pushback as he gave false or misleading statements on border security and immigration policies he instituted as president.

Backlash from certain corners of the Latino community was swift, including calls for more balanced reporting and an outright boycott of the television network ahead of the 2024 election.

Latinos are considered a crucial voting bloc — and largely up for grabs — in next year's election, likely to be a rematch between Trump and President Biden. Although Latino voters have historically favored Democrats, the Republican Party in recent years has made significant progress in courting their votes.

The exclusive interview with Trump therefore raised significant alarms within the Democratic Party and its allies that the leading Republican candidate was making unchecked claims to important swing voters.

Actor John Leguizamo posted a video to his 1 million Instagram followers Thursday criticizing the Spanish-language media company for "softballing Trump" and reportedly canceling ads for Biden. He said the television network has become "MAGA-vision."

He implored fellow entertainers, athletes, activists and politicians to join him in boycotting the network until it reinstated “parity, and equality and equity” between the presidential candidates. The television network has also requested an interview with Biden, according to the Washington Post.

The more-than-hourlong interview with Trump was conducted by Enrique Acevedo, an anchor from Mexican network Televisa who is not a Univision journalist. The two media groups merged last year. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly helped organize the interview.

“All you have to do is look at the owners of Univision,” Trump said in the first few minutes of the interview when asked about Latino voters and recent polls showing him defeating Biden in 2024. “They’re unbelievable entrepreneurial people, and they like me.”

"They want to see security," Trump added. "They want to have a border."

During the interview, Trump made questionable claims that the partial wall built along the southern border was made possible by Mexico providing thousands of soldiers "free of charge," and that former President Obama laid the groundwork for the controversial policy at the border to deter illegal crossings that became known as the family-separation crisis. Acevedo did not push back on either claim.

“It wasn’t just a friendly interview. It was an embarrassing 1-hour puff-piece with lots of smiles and no pushback with a guy who relished in attacking, belittling and otherizing Latinos and Latin American immigrants,” Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, a prominent Nicaraguan American political strategist and commentator, said on the platform X, the company formerly known as Twitter.

León Krauze, a veteran news anchor for Univision, has since resigned from the network. He did not provide a reason for his departure.

State Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), a member of the California Latino Legislative Caucus who is running for Congress, said she knew many other Latino leaders who were “personally upset” about the interview.

Rubio said she was “appalled” at how the former president “was allowed to just continue to spew lies and go unchecked” during the conversation. She called the interview "an insult to our entire Latino community."

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The network is “absolutely influential” in households like hers, she said, describing it as a news source she and her Spanish-speaking parents view as trusted and unbiased.

“Our community relies on this information to be truthful. They rely on this source that has been trusted by the Latino community for many, many generations," she said. "They should have done a better job of making sure that our community is not lied to.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus plans to send a letter to the television network requesting a meeting with its chief executive, Wade Davis, and calling for stronger guardrails against disinformation, according to a draft copy of the letter reviewed by The Times.

Read more: Univision news anchor León Krauze departs after network's controversial Trump interview

More than 70 organizations — including prominent Latino groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, America's Voice and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights — signed an open letter to Davis and other TelevisaUnivision executives, sharply criticizing the interview.

The letter, first reported by the Post, asks that the network “conduct a thorough internal review, take corrective measures, and reaffirm its commitment to unbiased reporting and to keeping the Latino community informed and up-to-date with facts and truth,” according to a copy reviewed by The Times.

The controversy is more complicated than what it seems, said Mike Madrid, a GOP political consultant who has a forthcoming book called "The Latino Century: How America’s Largest Minority is Shaping Our Democracy."

Madrid, who is a vocal critic of Trump, said the objections to the interview are reflective of how the Democratic Party and other left-leaning organizations have taken Latino voters for granted — and relied on the television network to promote their candidates and policies for decades.

Since the late 1980s, Democrats have banked on Latino voters to win elections, Madrid said. But over the last decade, Democrats have begun "hemorrhaging" second- and third-generation Latino voters who are U.S.-born and English-dominant speakers.

Madrid doesn't dispute that the interview with Trump may have been biased or too cozy, but he said it demonstrates the media company's shift toward the middle and, therefore, a new Latino audience.

"Where were they for the past 30 years when the Democratic Party was getting softball interviews? The Democrats have taken this base vote for granted. They assumed it was there and Univision would always be in their corner, would always be championing them and advocating for their candidates and policies," he said. "When you’ve been the beneficiary of media bias, objectivity sounds like betrayal. That’s what’s going on."

Instead of promoting a boycott of the network, which Madrid called "absolute madness," Democrats should adjust their strategy and start courting Latino voters on a variety of issues, such as the economy and jobs, rather than just immigration.

"The Democrats have to figure this out very quick that going to war is not in their best interest," he said. "They are going to have to learn to fight for this vote, when they haven’t for decades. ... And they have less than a year to figure this out."

Times staff writer Stephen Battaglio contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.