Rubio and Univision: Détente

Marco Rubio finally sits down with Jorge Ramos

Just months ago, it seemed quite plausible that Florida’s much-in-the-news Hispanic Senator Marco Rubio might never speak to the Florida-based Spanish language media juggernaut Univision again.

The senator and the network had gotten in a complicated and high-profile tiff—which we tried to make sense of here—when Univision exposed in July that Rubio’s brother-in-law had been convicted of drug-trafficking in the late ’80s.

Rubio was not pleased that Univision was snooping into his relative’s distant past, and several months later, the Miami Herald published a damning but dubious investigation of its own: “The Inside Story: Univision’s war with Rubio over immigration and drug story.” The Herald’s report alleged that Univision had offered to kill the story about Rubio’s brother-in-law in exchange for an exclusive interview with the senator, to be given to Univision’s star personality Jorge Ramos and aired on his Sunday public affairs program, Al Punto. Ramos, a passionate advocate for immigration reform likely would have asked the Republican politically tricky questions. Rubio didn’t bite, the story went. The allegations against Univison caused enough of a stir to prompt a Republican boycott of Univision’s scheduled Republican primary debate, a New Yorker story, and a dart by yours truly.

And so it was a surprise to see that quite recently Rubio did agree to sit down with Ramos. The interview, which aired in part Monday and Tuesday nights on “Noticiero Univision,” the network’s evening newscast and will be run in full Sunday on Al Punto. This all coincides with the release of Rubio’s first book, An American Son, and has added to the moment’s is-he-or-isn’t-he-being-vetted-for-Veep? chatter.

While Rubio and Ramos shared a couple laughs and a cigars from Nicaragua at the interview’s end, they did not exactly make nice. For much of the session, the two tangled over aspects of immigration policy, with Ramos skillfully pushing Rubio on the nuance of his positions towards the DREAM Act and the controversial Arizona law to English being America’s official language and how to deal with the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Rubio talked a razor-thin political line—sometimes preposterously so—but he also quite rightly called Ramos out for unfairly twisting his words and positions at certain times:

JR: You are in favor of the Arizona law that persecutes immigrants, you are against the Dream Act that would benefit undocumented immigrants, you are against the legalization that would benefit the undocumented, you want to make English the official language, many think that these are anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant positions.

MR: But, first, that is not a correct description of my positions, I support the right of Arizona to make that law but I do not believe that it should be a…

JR: But you support a law that persecutes the undocumented

MR: … model for the country

MR: but I reiterate and repeat, I respect the right of Arizona to have a law like the one it had, but I don’t believe that it should be a model for the country. I do want to help those young people who are here undocumented, and I am strongly working to attain this, what I do not support is the manner in which the Dream Act does it. I do want to create a system of legal immigration that works. If we have an immigration system that works, then we are not going to have so many…

JR: But, for now, we are leaving 11 million in the dark.

They also talked about the Univision-Rubio feud that scuttled the interview for so long, and upon which they seemed to agree to disagree.

We’re glad to see that both parties have moved on. Rubio and Ramos make a good match, and it’s debates like theirs that will help shape and advance discussion of immigration reform in America—and that’s one goal they both believe in.

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Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.