NEW YORK — Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos says he’d like to moderate one of the presidential debates, and doesn’t believe his recent call for people to “take a stand” against Republican Donald Trump should eliminate him from consideration.
The chances of Trump agreeing to a Ramos-moderated debate are remote. But the man whose voice is influential with the growing voting bloc of Latinos in the United States is continuing to stretch traditional notions of journalistic objectivity with the full support of his bosses.
Ramos said his track record proves that he’d have no problem asking both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton probing questions.
“I am a registered independent,” he said. “I am never partisan.”
He wrote in a Time magazine column last month that journalists, politicians and voters will “be judged by how we responded to Donald Trump. Like it or not, this election is a plebiscite on the most divisive, polarizing and disruptive figure in American politics in decades. And neutrality is not an option.”
He wrote that people will be asked if they were brave enough to challenge Trump “when he insulted immigrants, Muslims, women, war heroes and people with disabilities? Are you on the record correcting his lies?”
That led to criticism that Ramos, who anchors a program where many Latinos seek an unbiased look at the news, mixed advocacy with journalism. Conservative watchdogs the Media Research Center urged that Univision remove Ramos as an anchor, at least through Election Day. The history goes deeper: Trump ordered Ramos ejected from a news conference last year after Ramos questioned him about an immigration plan the journalist said was “full of empty promises.”
The first of three planned debates between Trump and Clinton is scheduled for Sept. 26. The commission on presidential debates is expected to announce moderators after Labor Day. In a regular column he writes for The New York Times Syndicate, Ramos said this week that it was “high time” for a Latino journalist to get one of those slots.
He suggested Maria Elena Salinas from Univision, Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo, Maria Hinojosa of NPR and ABC’s Cecilia Vega or Tom Llamas as people who could do the job, but didn’t mention himself. In a later interview, he expressed interest, and said his Time column shouldn’t disqualify him.
“What I’ve said is that we, as journalists, can’t remain neutral when a politician makes racist remarks,” he said. “That’s all. But in all our shows we report objectively about all the things (Trump) says and does.”
He noted that he questioned Clinton about Benghazi and her emails during a Democratic debate, asked vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine last weekend about possible conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation and has criticized President Obama’s deportation policies.
Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, said the Trump campaign would probably “burst out laughing” if Ramos were ever named a debate moderator.
“It’s slippery what he’s saying, and it’s unfortunate that he’s been so slippery, when he’s saying that he’s just a journalist who is asking questions,” Bozell said. “That is just not true. He is an activist making statements. And some of them have been vicious about Donald Trump.”
Daniel Coronell, Univision’s news division’s president, said he would support having Ramos as a debate moderator, although he believes there’s little chance of Ramos or any other Latino journalist getting one of those slots.
Coronell said Univision has no problem with the stances that Ramos has taken.
“We are journalists,” he said. “But we are members of a community that demands respect from the candidates.”