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Univision shows bias, negotiation tactics in New Yorker piece on Marco Rubio, immigration

Auletta 1-9-12Univision honchos showed they're biased when it comes to covering immigration and they acknowledge offering "options" to Sen. Marco Rubio amid talks over a controversial story about the drug bust of the Republican's brother in law a quarter century ago.

That's a takeaway from the New Yorker's piece "War of Choice. Marco Rubio and the G.O.P play a dangerous game on immigration." It hits news stands tomorrow.  

The piece mentions our Oct. 1 Miami Herald report (it is here in full) in which Univision insiders and Rubio staffers told us that the network's news chief, Isaac Lee, offered to soften or kill a story about about the drug bust if the Senator cooperated with the network. Based largely on the Herald report, Republican presidential candidates later announced they'd boycott a proposed Univision debate if the network or Lee didn't apologize.

Lee denies offering a quid pro quo. He wouldn't speak with us for our original piece, and instead issued a written statement. He sat down with The New Yorker, though, and shed more light on the subject:

[H]e offered three Univision options: report a stand-alone news story on Orlando Cicilia; have Senator Rubio coöperate on a network profile; or have him be interviewed on Jorge Ramos’s “Al Punto.” Whatever the venue, Lee says, the issue of Orlando Cicilia would have been raised.

That means a standalone drug-bust story might not run depending on how Rubio played his cards. That is, if Rubio appeared on "Al Punto" and answered a question or two about Cicilia as part of a broader interview, then a standalone drug-bust story might not run. And just because an issue is "raised" in an interview doesn't always mean it will be fully broadcast.

Consider those points, and Lee's on-the-record New Yorker comments along with our original story that said in the second paragraph: 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.

Picking up where The Herald left off, The New Yorker writes: Although Jorge Ramos has interviewed every President since George H. W. Bush and every prominent Hispanic public official, he has been unable to lure Rubio to his show to discuss immigration, or anything else. 

Note the verb "lure." It implies offerings, enticements. The paragraph also speaks to a sense of frustration at Univision over Rubio.

The New Yorker piece also reveals the levels of bias at the top levels of Univision: 

According to Univision’s news president, Isaac Lee, the network is openly committed to “pro-Hispanic” immigration reform, and it has a particular slant on the news: a dog biting any man is not a story, but a dog biting a Hispanic man is...

Haim Saban, the chairman of Univision, wrote, in an e-mail, “The fact that Rubio and some Republican Presidential candidates have an anti-Hispanic stand that they don’t want to share with our community is understandable but despicable. So ‘boycotting’ Univision, the largest Spanish-language media company in the U.S., is disingenuous at best and foolish at worst.”

Just how the Cuban-American Rubio has an "anti-Hispanic" stand is not spelled out in the piece or by Saban. But it appears that Univision sees opposition to the DREAM Act and so-called "amnesty" as a sign of ethnic bigotry. The Democratic National Committee must be giddy that this comes from the nation's largest and most-influential Hispanic network. But then, the DNC appears to already be funded by Saban, whose political largesse wasn't mentioned in this particular New Yorker article.

The New Yorker piece is not intended to -- nor does it come across as -- a defense of The Miami Herald or a shot at Univision. On the whole, it's fair, well-written and interesting. It's more about Rubio and Univision than The Herald. It also suggests the original Herald piece was part of "a carefully orchestrated campaign" connected to the Republican push to move Florida's primary vote to fifth-in-the-nation status on Jan. 31:

They [documents], and interviews with the people involved in the conflict, suggest that a complicated and politically risky game unfolded as the Republican Party shifted the date of the Florida primary. Rubio had every reason to want to punish Univision, and the national Republican Party had every reason to want to avoid holding a debate on a network that would ask aggressive questions about immigration. 

Key word: "Complicated." 

Spanish-language Telemundo plans to host a debate, but The New Yorker's Ken Auletta suggests the network isn't up to the task: there’s little question that a debate sponsored by Univision, which Republicans now seem to view the way Democrats view Fox, would have been much tougher than one sponsored by Telemundo.

Consider that Telemundo is owned by NBC, which controls MSNBC --the liberal alternative to FOX. So MSNBC's Spanish-language cousin is now a preferred forum? Also, the Republican Party of Florida is co-sponsoring a Jan. 26 CNN debate with the Hispanic Leadership Network, which is affiliated with former Gov. Jeb Bush (whose wife is from Mexico).

As for The Herald's coverage, Auletta writes we "implied that Univison tried to blackmail the Senator... [and] portrayed the conversation as a shakedown." That's disputable. Auletta is skeptical about at least one aspect of the quid-pro-quo allegation: The notes of the conversation between Rubio’s office and Univision don’t provide a convincing case that Univision proposed dropping any mention of Senator Rubio’s brother-in-law’s criminal past if Rubio consented to an interview. 

The Herald story wasn't just based on the notes. And we repeatedly said that, according to the sources and notes, Univision offered to soften "OR" spike the story. We weren't sure. We weren't on the conference call in question. Also, The New Yorker says that " all six of the Univision employees on the call... say they were not called."

False. We called Lee and others. And when we tried to speak to Lee, we were directed to Univision's p.r. department.

Says The New Yorker: The Herald reporter Marc Caputo says that the tip for the story first came to the Herald “from friends of Rubio.” Caputo found the story credible in part because he thinks that Univision has become so partisan that it would be willing to cross journalistic lines to have the opportunity to grill Rubio on immigration. 

He said, in an e-mail, that the network “has virtually crusaded on behalf of its viewership for the Dream Act,” and that “it’s not tough to believe” that the network would have “essentially punished Rubio for not going along with the program.” 

One can fairly ask, as Caputo does, whether Univision crossed boundaries to hype its story.

Here's a fuller version of some of the written comments I sent Auletta last month:

I want to make sure that you accurately represent why I believe Isaac Lee could ("could") have strong-armed/offered a quid-pro-quo to Rubio's staff. Your piece, according to my understanding from Nick, suggested I found the allegations about a quid pro quo credible simply because of the lengths Univision went to get Rubio on its shows. I believe I said far more than that. I thought I told you that it was the "totality of circumstances." It wasn't just the efforts of Univision to get the interview. It was the piece Univision ran itself, which made Mr. Cicilia appear to be like Tony Montana. It was the dredging up of a 24-year-old drug bust without a news hook. It was the cold-call of the private citizen. It was the parking of news truck in front of a woman's house to embarrass her. It was the sources in Univision's own shop who came to us. It was the effort to try to get Gov. Scott to say whether Rubio should resign over this.


Then there's the issue of immigration. Univision has virtually crusaded on behalf of its viewership for the Dream Act. Just like Fox for conservatives or MSNBC for liberals, some of Univision's personalities practice advocacy journalism that appeals to its viewers. You've suggested it's far-fetched that Univision would essentially punished Rubio for not going along with the program. But it's not tough to believe. Consider that the network stands to profit and expand its growing viewership by increasing its political coverage -- a growth industry in journalism (cf. Politico, The Daily Caller, the new National Journal....). The network wanted to sponsor a Republican presidential debate for a reason. There's big money to be made on political ads, with the Hispanic vote up for grabs and an estimated $1 billion-plus to be spent on the presidential race. This is about money, branding and bragging rights.


Is it implausible to think a news chief would inject his own biases and agenda into his company's reporting? I've seen descriptions of Fox's Rupert Murdoch as a "coldly amoral" person who "rarely elevated taste or journalism." You wrote those words, Ken. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- similar descriptors could apply to a liberal-media type like Isaac Lee.


Some liberals have said we've gone easy on Rubio. If so, I'll draw your attention to the stories my colleagues did questioning his use of a Republican Party of Florida credit card and the fact that it was the subject of inquiry by federal investigators. As for my own work regarding Rubio, one of my first pieces about him for The Herald in 2003 showed how he and his colleagues skipped out on an important vote to go to a World Series baseball game (a report, Rubio feared, that had the potential to damage his shot at being House Speaker). I've also covered how, as House Speaker, he slipped language into the budget that helped a friend and contributor bid on a Florida Turnpike gas concession contract. I helped assemble and edit another piece rapping Rubio for failing to disclose a home-loan connected to politically influential Miami leaders. I later reported how, on his way out as speaker, he inked consulting contracts with two hospitals to which he helped steer state money. I also showed how he stuffed nearly a quarter-billion dollars in earmarks into the state budget but campaigned last year against earmarks.


(Note: in response to questions from some readers, this blog was updated to include this last paragraph of the letter)


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Smack Dab

Lots of American Hispanics, and those that were born here are not for illegal immigration by hispanics or anyone else. Deal with it. It's not racism, it's called obeying the law. Giving favorable treatment to your "own kind" is the utmost in racism. The Republican Party has plenty of non-old-white people in it's ranks. I know, because I am one.


If a pimp is pro-women, then a Democrat is pro-Hispanic and pro-black. Isn't that their only consideration, i.e., pimping people based on race or ethnicity? The Great Dividers of America into tibes based on skin color and ethnicity. Divide and pimp. That's the Democrat Party motto.

Mauro Papa

This coming from the DNC propaganda branch that didn't even broadcast the GOP national convention in 2008 while giving full coverage to every fart thrown by the Hope and Change agent.

Jorge Savoff

SO I guess planting Robert Cisneros in at Univision is finally paying off for the DNC. This is the thing that most don't pay attention to, Liberals do thing the incremental way. Terry McAuliffe, then DNC Chair along with the Clintons made sure that Cisneros went there after being HUD Secretary, to disseminate and control what news is spoon fed to Latinos They saw how most Latinos get their news from Spanish Speaking Networks, Univision being the largest. I saw this coming, and continue to inform as many Latinos as I can about this.

Jorge Savoff

-EDIT- Sorry I meant Henry Cisneros


Obviously the Hard Left is dictating to the Hispanic mouthpieces just as thy have to the Black Community organizers. Take down any one who opposes our agenda. Slavery to the Left ideology is mandatory or we will destroy you.
Mexico and latin america could have been as successful as Canada and the US but for these tyrants who only exist to dominate and dictate so their leftist masters can feed their greed for power and wealth.
Individual rights and freedom are not allowed by the Left/ Progressive/ Jefe'/ Masters.


As an American of Mexican descent I totally support Marco Rubio. I hope Marco Rubio's name comes up as a possible VP candidate.
Univision is an ANTI-AMERICAN bleeding heart liberal democrap organization with a leftist agenda that supports illegal immigration. Smart people REFUSE to watch Univision.


I'm not anti-Hispanic. I'm anti-criminal. I have no problem with LEGAL immigrants who did it right, whether they're Hispanic or otherwise.

If being against criminals is "anti-Hispanic" then I guess Hispanics are criminals, by definition, right?

Dark Knight

So why hasn't Univision and its principals been tried for the attempted extortion of a US Senator? Oh yeah, Eric Holder. Never mind.

Jeff Leadbeater II

Wait, did I hear that right? Haim Saban? One of the great butchers of anime imports in the United States?


So the left doesn't like Republicans and will do whatever they can, using all their media prowess, to attack their personal lives. Gee, I remember when it was 'none of our business' read Clinton's sex foibles or Obama's roots. Juxtapose that against Clarence Thomas's words or Obama's Fast and Furious op. You get it, right? God help us, because Greater Detroit is getting 'greater' by the day.


I'm watching this movie Absolute Power. The black White House security guy is taking target practice. The target is a drawing of a white man. Since the movie is made by Hebrews, should I, as a white man, be racially offended?

Japes Macfarland

Leftists cry racism all the time, in part, because they are racists. They are projecting, or, the see the world according to race, gender and class, and cannot comprehend the perspective of traditional, American values, small government conservatives who see the world in terms of simply right and wrong, good and evil. Race is largely *utterly irrelevant* to 99% of conservatives. Again, leftists simply do not grasp this, and so fill in the blanks with their own ugliness.

Media Watchdog

The corruption and bias of Univision is all about money. Univision exists to pander to Spanish speakers who cannot or will not learn American English. To increase that population is to increase Univision's wealth. Univision could care less if the economy or the US goes down as long as they can stuff their pockets with advertising money made off a population that doesn't care about this country. Go ahead and drop a million Chinese into Miami and see what racists the people at Univision are. Not only is Univision a racist organization with no regard to the economic health of this country, it is a blatent foreign company trying to illegally corrupt a US election. It is time for an in-depth investigation and audit of Univision and its owners.


I would imagine Rubio's is anti-ILLEGAL Hispanics, and well as other illegals. As far as his brother in law breaking the law is concerned......the Kennedy's had a steady stream of one relative after another being caught doing drug related crimes, Obama's relatives are also in the news for breaking our laws...his Uncle, his Aunt and the brother who was detained in England.......why would any very old drug charge taint Rubio? We aren't responsible for our relatives, we all probably have family members that embarrass, but using this as an approach to blackmail Rubio is almost more embarrassing than having a brother in law who was busted.


Pro-illegal immigration is anti-American.

Sounds like the Isaac Lee was trying to bribe Rubio to bury the story about his brother. Another fine example of leftist journalism

Rubio will be President of the nation one day.

Catherine Fore

HERE WE GO AGAIN - arrogant - oh so arrogant liberals deciding who the GOOD HISPANIC AND GOOD BLACKS ARE and ramming it down our throats........

ROFL - old days you fools - black is black and hispanic is hispanic............you demean the entire races with your leftwingnut socialist labels --

look around at the destruction you guys caused because out of all the intelligent black men in the nation - you picked the most 'ignorant Obama' - yes liberals not noticing your guy is ignorant because he is black is AS RACIST AS ONLY HATING HIM BECAUSE HE IS BLACK -----


now he will come back with some more beatdowns for OTHER RICH AMERICANS - WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF LIVING IN THIS HORRIBLE OBAMANATION........

where the rich go to Hawaii on our dime (Pelosi was there too) and 400,000 poor lose their jobs EVERY SINGLE WEEK THE IGNORANT OBAMA HAS BEEN IN OFFICE.................

you haters WILL NOT WIN ANOTHER ELECTION ON PURE HATRED LIKE YOU DID WITH BUSH (we remember you carrying your 'kill Bush' signs for one war and 5.2% unemployment)



harry houdini

Seriously, we have the most "open immigration policy" you can find anywhere. Why not institute a reciprocal immigration policy with other nations similar to what we have now between states on gun permits. We would agree to accept the immigration laws of our bordering countries if they accept ours.

So, if a Mexican citizen wanted to come here legally, we would adopt their immigration laws as pertaining to their citizens seeking legal status in this country. Not many would be accepted, you can bet on that!

It wouldn't change things in the short term, but it would serve to point out that our own immigration laws are biased against us and how we are being "played" by special interests in this country and those south oif the border.

Give "us all" a Fuc.in break!

David Rivers

"But let's not stigmatize those who wish people would just obey the law as somehow being racist." Oh Kerux, I couldn't agree more, but don't you know this is SOP for liberals? Oppose gay marriage? You are a homophobe. Oppose affirmative action? A bigot. Anti-abortion?? Well now you are just a neanderthal! See, that's how it goes. You cannot disagree without being branded. Liberals do not believe in freedom or have any notion of what it means.


Bah humbug! Univision is in the hands of Left Wing Mexican concerns, whose only interest is to import to the US the misery and poverty created in Mexico by the high degree of corruption that has prevailed there since Mexico became an independent country. Ask any immigrant from Central America what happens to them when they cross the southern border of Mexico illegally - They are tortured, murdered, and young women forced into prostitution. We DO welcome all sorts of immigrants in the USA, not just from Mexico. We DO NOT welcome illegal immigrants from ANYWHERE and anyone suggesting we should is anti-American and should have his head examined. Mr. Rubio has stated precisely that: Legal immigrants are welcome; illegal immigrants are not. That's who America works!

Bubba Johnson

If you go back over the past 3-4 years, there are clear ties between Univision and the White House. No surprises here.


I'm fed up with illegals and their supporters thinking we owe them something, including citizenship!

Go home and reform your own countries, how else do you think they will become better if you don't?

We don't have enough jobs for our own citizens, let alone anyone and everyone that wants to come here!


Thank you David Vazquez, appreciate your comment!

Maria Santiago

Anti Hispanic becuase he is opposed to the droves of illegal mexicans here - deport them all, they break our laws, anchor babies on welfare. Rubio on with you and as for Univision, that is one channel I will not watch

Frank Porter FL

Here is what I see as being missed in the whole illegal immigrant debate. No matter how "law abiding" an illegal person is, as soon as they cross the border WITHOUT PERMISSION and decide to stay ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING they do from that moment on is ILLEGAL.

Each and every one of them are engaging in a CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE. Don't believe me... try this on for size.

If a person breaks a law, ANY law, any activity associated with and traceable to the original act are also considered illegal.

Using that logic by crossing/staying illegally absolutely EVERYTHING a person does is considered ILLEGAL and (in my opinion) fall under the Federal RICO laws regarding organized crime. Still have doubts, look into the trials of John Gotti, Al Capone or any of the other Mafia bosses that were sent to prison for the same thing.

Like it or not personal feelings, desires or opinions have no place in this debate... Illegal is ILLEGAL.


Haim Saban is a low rent, uneduated Israeli Jew, who made his fortune from making childish Japanese style cartoons. He is not Hispanic at all, and a pathological sycophant of whoever is in power for selfish reasons. Why should Hispanics allow themselves to be brainwashed by a non hispanic Israeli Jew owned network.

a legal immigrant!

I'd just like to say hello to all the pro invasion scum here! Hi guys!

We've got over 500,000 illegals in my state. Please take a few. Some of them actually have 6th grade educations and can almost speak english. Well, they know how to swear and call white folks racist but they're learning.

Fred Sherman

Just to point out the obvious: When a specific racial group expects special treatment (i.e. Mexican illegal immigrants being treated differently than, for example, Korean illegal immigrants), that group that is racist isn't the ones who deny that special treatment request, but rather the ones who made it to start with.

Put another way, it isn't Rubio, the GOP or the federal government that is racist, it is Univision.

American Sharecropper

Leftist corruption is always acceptable! Don't the ends justify the means? Why play fairly when your enemy is morally inferior to you (at least in your own mind). If leftists don't play by the same rules they demand of others, they're always justified because they're better people (at least in their own minds). Leftists are free to pick and choose which laws they will obey and enforce, because they're better people than the rest of us (at least in their own minds). That's why a foreign national can invade our country without respect for our laws and the left will blame you for daring to point our their criminal act.


Haim Saban talks about "our" community? He's Israeli, not Hispanic.

John E

Last time I heard, extortion of a US Senator was kind of a big deal. Where are the criminal charges??? Anybody who threatens a US Senator to change his position on an issue otherwise they'll bring out a negative historical story about a relative... that kind of sounds like blackmail and extortion to me. Put the head of univision in JAIL.


Hispanics are not just one group. We are Liberals, Consevative, straight, gay, black, white and even Republicans and Democrats. So do not try to bunch us up into 1 group. We are not idiots!!! We can see through the manure that the Democrats are shoveling. I think the majority of us want a better economy, just like the rest of Americans in this country.

Randall Lape

Just like conservative blacks are called 'Oreos.'


Hispanics are not just one group. We are Liberals, Consevative, straight, gay, black, white and even Republicans and Democrats. So do not try to bunch us up into 1 group. We are not idiots!!! We can see through the manure that the Democrats are shoveling. I think the majority of us want a better economy, just like the rest of Americans in this country.


Commie varmints...

The democratic people's republic party has recognized Rubio as a downstream threat and has started the propaganda and character assassination campaign that they are such experts in spewing


What the nation needs is a rich Juban to form a new organization to cover news of Hispanic flavor with conservative spice. That could counterweight the Haim Saban lefty cabal.

Juan Vazquez

Pal' carajo con los i-legales ,yo soy un americano de descendencia hispana que he llegado aquí legalmente y espero lo mismo de los nuestros que tienen planes de venir.If you are here illegally expect to be round-up and deported.We do not owe you anything but a trip back (if that) to wherever you come from.This is nothing more than the typical left condescention and divide to conquer strategy as well as the "grouping" or classification of peoples.


This is only news for those who have never watched Spanish language programming. It's always very heavily biased, and it never pretends not to be.


If people had any idea what was regularly said and done on Spanish language programming, they would be outraged. Spanish language television stations purposely incite racial hatred against Americans, I've seen it. This story is not news to anyone who has watched Spanish language programming

Diego Roswell

Illegal immigration supporters will never be happy unless full amnesty is given to all illegals. That is what they want. They are supporters of criminals. They are the radical left. They fill the need of rank and file democrat foot soldier. They are the recipients of most of the state welfare. The democrats need them, it is a simple (almost pathetic) argument. California's immigration policy has led to a guaranteed democratic victory for ever (democrat rule for ever) because the illegals have filled the state with democrat voters. That is what the issue is. Nothing else. Do you want the entire country to resemble California? Bankrupt, corrupt, unable to provide basic services?


Univision extorting people. Who would have guessed. Come on the show or we will run a story about your in-law being arrested for drugs. No class from a company that caters to a group of law breaking (illegals) people. This network should be banned in the US until they start working with the government on locating and deporting everyone who is illegally in this country.


im starting to see the pattern here, Haim Saban{chairman of univision} is not hispanic{suprise suprise} he is Israeli and trying to throw Rubio under the bus under the Hispanic Guise.. and he says Marco Rubio doesnt represent our community,, which commumunity is that Haim ??? Hispanics think Rubio is a stand up guy, so nice try!!!!

Richard Gomez

Muy Interesante Articulo sobre el bias de Univision.


My father came to this country legally. No exceptions.


I think it's more likley that Isaac Lee is anti-republican than anything else. Ho-hum liberal bias in the media--what else is new?

Jim Temple

It's a pity the Democrats can't run on their record and they're losing the battle of ideas, because they have to drag a good man, like Marco Rubio, through the mud for no other reason than the fact their chosen candidate and our President, can't run on his ideas or his record.

Oh Well, 383 days until we have a President of the United States again, and not just the President of part of the U.S.


Univision is obviously racist against Caucasians, not the other way around. If only these 'La Raza' folks would actually adhere to Dr. MLK Jr's dream of everyone being judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, but they can't get any graft out of that, sadly. You know, any group that calls itself "The Race" is probably racist, don't you think?

Earl P. Holt III

I guess Marco Rubio has failed to internalize the notion that "diversity is our strength," a fact brought home to me every day in the violent crime reports...


The question is does Isaac Lee, a Jew, speak for hispanics?

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