Days before Univision aired a controversial story this summer about the decades-old drug bust of Marco Rubio’s brother-in-law, top staff with the Spanish-language media powerhouse offered what sounded like a deal to the U.S. senator’s staff.
If Rubio appeared on Al Punto —Univision’s national television show where the topic of immigration would likely be discussed — then the story of his brother-in-law’s troubles would be softened or might not run at all, according to Univision insiders and the Republican senator’s staff. They say the offer was made by Univision’s president of news, Isaac Lee.
But Lee said in an email to The Miami Herald that any insinuation that he offered a quid pro quo was “incorrect” and “defamatory.”
In a written statement Friday, Lee said: “With respect to Senator Rubio, Univision covered the story in the same objective, fair manner we cover every significant story. Univision did not offer to soften or spike a story...we would not make such an offer to any other subject of a news story and did not offer it in this case.”
Rubio never appeared on Al Punto, a national political affairs program broadcast on Sundays. Univision aired the story about Rubio’s brother-in-law, a lower-level player in a 1987 coke-and-pot ring, on July 11.
"I always knew Univision to be a professional organization until this happened," said Rubio, who won’t comment specifically on the case.
The conflict provides a rarely seen view of a politician warring with the press, and it also underscores the highly charged issue of immigration in the Hispanic community.