Three top Florida Hispanic Republicans are calling on the national GOP and their party’s presidential candidates to boycott a proposed Univision debate amid allegations that the Spanish-language television network tried to “extort” Sen. Marco Rubio.
In a letter Monday to the Republican National Committee, U.S. Rep. David Rivera and state Reps. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Erik Fresen also demanded that Univision apologize and fire its news president, Isaac Lee. Letter is here Download Univision
The controversy revolves around a Miami Herald story on Sunday in which staffers from Rubio’s office and the network said that Lee offered to soften or kill a story about a decades-old drug bust of Rubio’s brother-in-law if the Republican senator sat down for an interview — where he’d likely be asked to defend his conservative position on immigration.
Lee and Univision officials, could not be immediately reached, and responded to Monday’s letter just before midnight (Download UnivisionResponse). Univision's Arya Towfighi, vice president and assistant general counsel, said in a statement that any talk of a quid pro quo by the station is "patently absurd."
But the Miami lawmakers don’t believe Lee. They said that the 24-year-old story about Rubio’s relative only ran after his office rebuffed Univision in a conference call with Lee.
“This attempt at extorting a respected Republican elected official like Senator Rubio, who is also a proud American of Hispanic descent, is offensive and unacceptable. The lack of journalistic integrity demonstrated by Univision Television Network must be met with consequences from our Party and our Republican leaders,” the three wrote to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus.
Lee will not step down, Univision wrote back.
"We respectfully decline your request to issue a public apology or to request the resignation of our President of News, Mr. Isaac Lee. Lost in the inflammatory language being used by you is the that our story was truthfully and accurately reported," the statement said.
"More importantly, Univision takes exception to the false assertion that it attempted to ‘extort’ Senator Rubio in any way, shape or form. At no point in time did anyone from Univision offer to kill or soften the story regarding Senator Rubio’s brother-in-law in exchange for appearing on any Univision news program."