The nation’s largest Spanish-language media company, Univision, faced growing backlash Friday for its handling of a recent interview with former president Donald Trump, as major Latino advocacy groups delivered a letter of protest to the network’s executives and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus prepared to request a meeting with the network.
Actor and comedian John Leguizamo, who recently took a turn as host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” also posted a video on Instagram on Thursday night calling for a boycott of the network until it stopped its rejection of Biden ads, some of which were canceled just before the Trump interview aired.
“I am asking all my brothers and sisters who are actors, artists, politicians, activists to not go on Univision,” he said in a message in English and Spanish.
The pushback comes after a Nov. 7 interview with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida that was arranged with the help of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and attended by a trio of senior executives at Univision’s parent company. The interview was notable for its gracious tone, lack of follow-up questions and Trump’s assertion in the first minutes about owners of the network.
“They like me,” Trump said.
It’s a sharp contrast to the long history of tension between Trump and Univision — a fact that alarmed both Democrats and journalists inside Univision.
The network, which has said it has also requested an interview with President Biden, announced a new policy of preventing opposition advertising during single-candidate interviews shortly before the Trump interview aired. The network also canceled a booking with a Biden spokeswoman to respond to the interview on a subsequent news broadcast.
A top anchor at Univision in Miami, León Krauze, who helmed the late-night newscast, announced he had abruptly separated from the network Wednesday, less than a week after the interview aired. Neither Krauze nor the network offered a reason for the separation in their statements about the split.
Joaquin Blaya, a former president of Univision who created its signature news show in the late 1980s, told The Washington Post in an interview this week that he worried the network had moved away from its founding mission.
“I am not surprised that someone who is a serious journalist like León Krauze would not be the kind of journalist that they want there,” Blaya said. “They are different times. It is not good what is happening there.”
Blaya — who hired the network’s most famous anchor, Jorge Ramos — later ran Telemundo, the other major Spanish-language network in the United States. He said the Trump interview this month was a step back for Univision. The Mexican media company Grupo Televisa, which has long had a close relationship with political power brokers in that country, recently merged with the owners of Univision to take joint control of the company.
“This was Mexican-style news coverage, a repudiation of the concept of separation of business and news,” Blaya said of the Trump interview. “What I saw there was batting practice, someone dropping balls for him to hit out of the park. I think it was an embarrassment.”
Wade Davis, one of the TelevisaUnivision executives who attended the Mar-a-Lago meeting, sent a note to U.S. staff this week addressing the controversy caused by the Trump interview.
“Our goal is to cover candidates from all political parties — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — and to assure Hispanics of the most comprehensive access to information that will help them make educated decisions at the ballot box,” Davis wrote. “Our mission is to make Latinos a vital part of our electoral process by encouraging them to register and exercising their constitutional right to vote.”
More than 70 groups — including major Latino rights organizations UnidosUS Action, America’s Voice and MALDEF — sent a letter Friday night to Davis and two other TelevisaUnivision executives who attended the meeting with Trump that described the interview as “a betrayal of trust.”
“We demand Univision 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,” the letter reads. “Unfiltered, unaddressed and unrestricted disinformation does a disservice to all communities in the U.S. and will destroy Univision’s reputation as a credible network that informs an important electorate.”
The all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus has also drafted a letter, which is likely to be sent to Univision in the coming days, asking Davis to meet with members of Congress about the journalistic standards of the network, according to a congressional staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the effort. The draft letter, which was shared with The Post, describes a congressional interest in addressing misinformation and disinformation in the Latino community.
Isaac Lee — the chief news officer at Univision during the 2016 campaign when the network clashed with Trump — said he had confidence that the journalists at Univision in Miami would cover the coming presidential race properly. The Trump interview had been conducted by a Mexico City-based anchor for Televisa, Enrique Acevedo, who previously worked in the United States for Univision.
“I don’t think that one interview with Enrique can determine how the campaign is going to be covered and how Latinos are going to get their information,” Lee said. “And from the people I know at Univision News, and I know all of them, I trust that their heart and their mind is in the right place.”