But there are some things about the Herald’s story that don’t add up. It’s sources, for instance. Beyond Rubio’s people, the story hinges on anonymous “Univision insiders” who are at an ambiguous distance from the quid-pro-quo allegation. One is described as a “Univision executive”; others are said to “have knowledge of the discussion.” It is not clear—and Caputo and Garcia would not say—whether these “insiders” work for the network or the Miami affiliate, a question that has relevance given that the two entities have very different relationships with Rubio’s camp. Most problematic, though, is the fact that none of the “insiders” are said to have been on the phone call in which the quid pro quo was allegedly made.
In fact, aside from Lee, none of the Univision journalists who were on the phone call—even Reyes, the former Herald reporter—were approached for comment or to corroborate the quid pro quo claim. (All strongly denied to me that a quid pro quo was offered.)
Asked why they did not contact Reyes, Caputo and Garcia said they did not want the story to be about him, but instead about the discussion Lee had with Rubio’s staff.
Yet Reyes, as a participant in that discussion, is part of the story, and he bristles at the implication that he would have traded away his story simply to ensure a politician appeared on another journalist’s talk show.
On the night before the story was slated to run, Reyes called Aminda Marques Gonzalez, the Herald’s executive editor, at home, to tell her the story was untrue. Marques listened to Reyes’s concerns, but said in an interview that his call came as the story was going to press, and that his comments added nothing new; they merely echoed the official statement from Univision that was already on record.
She defends her reporters’ decision not to approach Reyes for comment, saying it would have put Reyes in a “prickly position” and been inappropriate given his past relationship with the Herald and the fact that his story was at the center of these allegations: “With all due respect to Gerardo, he was really not in a position to be a neutral arbiter in the story,” she said.
As for the others on the call, Garcia said there were access issues created by corporate Univision. (I encountered no such access issues when I requested interviews with the journalists on the call, and it makes me wonder if Caputo and Garcia even knew exactly who was on the call.) Marques noted that Lee was given two days to respond; he did not agree to speak with the Herald, but sent a prepared statement.
Despite this, Garcia said he was comfortable with the story’s sourcing, having made efforts to confirm those he had spoken to at Univision were not “in an echo chamber,” and just repeating what they’d heard from one another. Caputo and Marques also strongly defend their story’s sourcing. All three noted the Herald’s history of critical reporting on Rubio—one of their political reporters was once banned from his press bus—and argued that their story was not done out of loyalty to the senator.
But there are other weaknesses in the Herald’s piece that leave the impression the reporters were trying to fit the facts to a pre-existing narrative.
The story suggests, for instance, that the mention of Al Punto in correspondence between Univision and Rubio’s staff after the phone call is evidence of a quid pro quo. The logic of that claim is inherently flawed, but the more striking thing about that letters is that they make no mention of a quid pro quo—the invitation to Al Punto and Aqui y Ahora seems to be a long-standing one.