In 2015, Univision’s Jorge Ramos was already known — as any profile of the anchor will tell you — as “the Walter Cronkite of Latin America.” But it was a confrontation with Donald Trump in Dubuque, Iowa that catapulted Ramos to prominence even among people who don’t watch Univision. “I stood up and I said, ‘I have a question. I have a question about immigration.’ And he just didn’t want to answer,” Ramos told Kara Swisher during a recording of Recode Decode at the Knight Media Forum in Miami on Tuesday night. “Instead of answering the question, his bodyguard took me out of that press conference. The only other person that has done something similar, it was Fidel Castro with his bodyguard.”
This election cycle, Ramos has not been obligated to chase candidates down to Dubuque. In September, he moderated a Democratic primary debate, earning widespread praise for memorably and aggressively questioning Joe Biden on his immigration record and Bernie Sanders on his Latin American policy. Sanders’s recent comments on Cuba, Ramos suggests, could turn Florida to Trump — and possible lose the Democratic candidate enough Latinos to send Trump to victory nationally. “Now the question is, if you voted for Donald Trump, are you a racist? If you voted for Donald Trump, are you a sexist?” Ramos says. “Well, many [Latino voters] are putting those questions aside, and many people are thinking, ‘Well, maybe the economy’s more important. Maybe Cuba is more important. Maybe Venezuela is more important.’”
During the discussion, Ramos and Swisher touched on Facebook, disinformation in the 2020 campaign, the word “latinx,” and why journalists need to practice contrapoder — a stance of challenging and questioning power, regardless of who is in power. He also answered questions about the sale of Univision to a private equity firm this week.
Kara Swisher: Hi everybody. How’s it going? So we want to do a lot of questions, because I assume you all have a lot of questions. So I’m going to start, we’re going to have a conversation.
Jorge Ramos: We’ll have a conversation. Who’s going to ask that first question?
Yes, I will. I will ask the first question. But just so you know, two things, I left my phone in the car on the way here this morning. I came in from D.C., and I haven’t been without a cell phone since 1996 or so. So I’m a little bit jumpy. It’s the best relationship I’ve ever had, obviously, so it’s hard being away from her. Anyway —
Before we start, it is difficult to be on the other side. Because we’ve been interviewers for such a long time, and they said, “Well, it’s going to be a great conversation.” Well, I’m not sure about that.
Yeah, fine. I’m so sorry in advance. Let’s talk a little bit about Trump then. Let’s start there. So it’s been —
Your close friend, Donald Trump. Let’s talk about that incident and what the repercussions were … There’s a lot of things, we can go to Cuba and Bernie Sanders, we could talk about disinformation, we can talk about Russia and disinformation, but let’s start with that. Which was a great moment, not a good moment, but a big moment in the relationship between the press, and the government, and politics, and social media, everything around it. Can you talk a little bit about the repercussions?
I think that we, and when I say we, Latinos, we saw something and we’ve seen something that many people didn’t want to see. When he said — after going down the stairs and announcing that he wanted to be president — when he said that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists, he was talking about me. I’m a Mexican immigrant. And so I did what you would have done. I sent him a letter to his office in New York, FedEx, and he got it. And instead of just responding, “No, I don’t want to do an interview with you…” I told him that I wanted to talk to him. I had many questions. So instead of doing that, he published the letter on Instagram with my phone number on it. So I had to change my phone, obviously. That number, I clearly didn’t like it. And I said, “Well, now it’s my turn.”
So I was looking for the right moment to confront Donald Trump, just to tell him, “What you said about Mexican immigrants was racist, it was wrong. And as a journalist, I have the right to ask you a question.” How many of you have gone to Dubuque, Iowa?
I have, actually.
Just a few. Well, so we found that he was going to give a press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, not in New York because it would have been with thousands of journalists. And then in Dubuque, I was sitting in the front row and then, as you would have done in any press conference, I saw a moment of silence, less than a second, I stood up and I said, “I have a question. I have a question about immigration.” And he just didn’t want to answer. He told me, “Go back to Univision.” Basically, he was saying, go back to Mexico. That’s exactly what he meant. Another racist comment. And instead of answering the question, his bodyguard took me out of that press conference. The only other person that has done something similar, it was Fidel Castro with his bodyguard. So that’s what happened.
There were immediate repercussions, speaking of using Instagram and social media, across social media when this happened. What was the result from your point of view? What do you think it did for good and not so good?
As we were saying, everything is public now, and with social media now, we just didn’t have to wait for the newscasts at 6:30 to find out exactly what was happening. He was a master and he’s still a master of using social media for his own purposes, but on the other hand, I think there’s a lot of resistance to that. So the fact that he published my phone number on Instagram and that everybody knows that number, everybody knew that number, and I got all kinds of messages — from people telling me that we were doing exactly what we needed to do, to people asking for a job, and even sending some songs to me.
All right. There’s a plus side to everything.
So not everything was negative.
So being trolled by Donald Trump has its advantages, I guess. When that happened, the relationship, it sort of began something that happened over and over again — and it’s all swirling around in a more systemic way — around disinformation, around telling lies, saying them in public, sort of telling lies in public and continuing them. That continues to today. When I was leaving the hotel room today, there was a headline on CNN that said, “Donald Trump won’t say if he thinks Russia has been involved in these elections.” Just won’t say it. And over the weekend, the national security adviser was saying he had never seen analysis about the Russians being involved, which is a lie because there is … He may not have seen it, maybe he may be partially telling the truth.
He lies a lot. And we saw something that people just didn’t want to pay attention to. We were saying, “We know what’s happening.” On that day in Dubuque, Iowa, he just made another racist statement. He attacked the press in a way which I never expected. And he kept on lying. He said, for instance, that he didn’t know who I was then. If he didn’t know who I was, how come he said, “Go to Univision.” So the fact that he was lying, and he has lied more than 2000 times according to the Washington Post.
Fifteen thousand, but go ahead. Who’s counting?
And the fact that he was attacking the press right there, and the fact that he was making racist statements … And then many journalists, and many people in the United States didn’t want to see that, they would say, “Oh Jorge, come on. You’re Latino. Maybe you’re too sensitive. You don’t know exactly who he is. He’s not going to be here for long.” And we were right. We were absolutely right from the beginning.
How has that affected your job? I want to get beyond Trump because it’s been copied by a lot of people and a lot of people are using social media to bypass reporters and journalists and to tell their stories on their own, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. How does it affect your job? Because you had a point of view early on. Everyone’s like, “He shouldn’t have a point of view.” I heard that from some people. Just the other day we had Anderson Cooper calling bullshit on a governor … He used that exact word on the air. Talk about the idea of point of view and storytelling today.
As a journalist, I think we have two responsibilities, two very important responsibilities. The first one is to report reality as it is, not as we wish it would be. So if it’s red, I have to say red, and then if 15 people died, we have to say 15. That’s the most important responsibility. And I’m sure that people from Africa, Europe, and Asia, and in Latin America can cover a hurricane more or less the same way, and even a war, more or less the same way. But then the other important responsibility, probably the most important responsibility that we have, is to question those who are in power. And if we don’t ask the top questions to those who are in power, nobody will.
Then I think that we have to take a stand on six different circumstances. When it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public life, violation of human rights, and dictatorships, we have to take a stand, Kara. And if we don’t do that, then who’s going to do it? Engineers build incredible structures, architects build beautiful homes, doctors save lives, and we ask questions, and if we don’t do that, who’s going to do it?
Does that affect … It’s something I …
You’ve done it the same way, you do it all the time.
I do it all the time.
And our relationship with power has to be confrontational sometimes. There’s a beautiful word in Spanish, contrapoder, and contrapoder means to be on the other side of power. It doesn’t matter who is in power. And people might say, “Well, Jorge, you are against Donald Trump.” Well, just as what happened with Barack Obama, before he left office, I confronted him and told him that he had deported more than 3 million people, more immigrants than any other president in the history of the United States. We’re talking about removals. And he just didn’t like it, and I haven’t been able to talk to him again.
I had the same experience with him. I was talking about encryption, actually.
Then what happened?
He didn’t like it. He didn’t.
Have you talked to him again?
Oddly enough — I’m going to tell a very short story. My ex-wife worked for Barack Obama in the White House, and at the end of your term, you’re supposed to go in and take pictures with the family and you stand in a line. It’s very strange. And she made me go, because the kids were there. And I walked into the Oval Office and I was like, “I really don’t want to do this.” And he looked at me and said, “How did you get in here?”
Was he kidding or not?
I don’t know. There was no Secret Service action, so I feel like it was a joke, but I could not tell, because I asked him a tough question about encryption and how he changed his point of view. But when you talk about that, do you think that … Because reporters have always tried to be, and I hate to use this term, fair and balanced. They tried to have that. I never thought that was the correct way to do it because I think you can do reported analysis of things — like you do enough reporting and then you can have a point of view and call something out.
And on certain occasions, you have to have a point of view. Once I had the opportunity, I wouldn’t say it was an interview with Fidel Castro. He was in Guadalajara, he was going from one room to another in a hotel, and I stopped and I asked him some questions and at the end his bodyguard pushed me aside, and I couldn’t continue the conversation. But here’s the way I see it, should I interview Fidel Castro or should I interview Nicolás Maduro, the dictator of Venezuela, the same way that I interview a victim of their dictatorships? No, I think it’s completely different. The approach that I have with someone who is empowered is different than my approach with those who don’t have power. And I don’t know if you see it exactly the same way. I mean, when you talk with all these leaders in Silicon Valley, how do you do it?
Well, there’s no downside to insulting a billionaire, I’ve found in my career, there really isn’t. You look good, they never do. And then especially when it’s Facebook, it doesn’t really matter, it’s you win every time. I’m like in the house in Vegas, essentially.
And you have to ask the questions, they are expecting just because they have power that you have to be soft, and that’s not the way it should be. I think it has to be exactly the opposite.
It’s interesting. In politics, you get a lot more pushback, and you’ve got some really ugly pushback from Donald Trump. I get sort of these sad-eyed looks like, “How can you insult me? I’m a victim here. I’ve made my billions honestly, and you shouldn’t question the damage we’re doing to democracy.”
“I’m helping humanity with my inventions.”
“I’m helping humanity.” So it’s a little different because you get a sort of a sad-eyed look from a man, a young white man in a T-shirt and a hoodie, whom I have no sympathy for, but it’s a different experience. In any case …
Yes, you have to ask them questions. So let’s get to that idea of the power of social media, because … we have entered in a time, just the way FDR to radio, JFK was to television, Donald Trump is to social media, in a way. He’s used it beautifully, whether you like it or not. He’s the best troll around. He uses it, effectively, to govern, to make announcements, to undermine people, to attack. Today he was attacking Justice Sotomayor and Justice Ginsburg, which is dangerous. What responsibility do social media companies have to that, when you’re doing your job, because you use it to, you’re quite active.
I do it.
What do you imagine has happened to the news environment in that case?
Let me put it this way. I’ve been doing the newscast with Univision for 33 years already, and I can assure you Kara, that without presence in social media, I wouldn’t have a job right now. Because now we’re doing, sometimes, TV for people who don’t even own a TV. I’m also doing a program just for the internet because people are somewhere else. It’s shifting, and by the way, some people in TV right now, they’re in complete denial, the same way that people in newspapers and magazines were ten years ago, that’s exactly what’s happening with TV right now.
So does the newscast matter at all? Like, the idea of a newscast?
The content matters, but the way we approach it is completely different. Let’s say 10, 15, 20 years ago we were reporting facts, and people were expecting the facts for the newscast update. Not anymore. I think everybody knows exactly what’s happening right now. And when we come on the air at 6:30 they expect more analysis, more context, and they are expecting, from us, something different, to tell them the truth, the way we see it, especially when we have a president that is lying constantly. Again, is that a confrontational position from a journalist? Well, that’s our responsibility, if we don’t do it, nobody else is going to do it.
It’s really interesting, because I’ve been recently watching a lot of Edward R. Murrow stuff. … and he was quite confrontational actually in a lot of ways, especially for the day. What, then, happens to the media environment? Because it becomes so fractured. There’s so many voices, and everybody does have a say, which is a good thing, but at the same time, the noise creates a dysfunction. It’s amped up, sort of. Engagement is enragement, and it creates this situation where nobody knows what the truth is in it.
Well, but at the same time as it happened with Edward R. Murrow, and as it’s happening with us right now, the most important thing that we have as journalists is our credibility. If what I say, if nobody cares about that, or if people think that I’m lying, then I’m done as a journalist, I wouldn’t have a job. Let me give you an example: Every year here in Miami, we have hurricanes.
I heard that.
And I’ve chosen two people from two local stations who are very good, because I trust what they say, and my life and the life of my family and my home depends on what they say. Should I leave my house? Should I go somewhere else? So that’s exactly what we do on social media. Many people follow you and they trust what you say. Hopefully, many people follow me and they trust what I say. And that’s exactly the same with our morals. The only difference is that now, instead of having two networks or three networks — ABC, NBC, and CBS as it was back then — we have millions of networks of people using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and that’s a big difference.
Where do you think it ends up, as it moves forward? I mean obviously there’s a lot of people looking at regulating some of these companies. Do you consider, given these platforms are so important, whether it’s Twitter or Reddit or Facebook, Facebook’s the biggest among them. Where’s the responsibility? Do you think there’s responsibility on these tech companies to act? Because just the other day, Mark Zuckerberg said, “We’re somewhere between a telecom company and a publisher.” And it reminded me of that old skit, I’m showing my age here, “Is it a dessert topping or a floor wax?” If you remember from SNL. What are they?
They are saying that they are not a network. They are saying they don’t have a journalistic operation.
Can I switch the question and send it to you?
What would you do? Do you think they need to be regulated?
And in which way? How?
Well, I think if you look at the top-ten companies, or the top companies right now are tech companies in terms of market valuation. Maybe not in the market today, because we’ve had a sell off, but most of the economic growth has happened through tech in the last ten years, essentially. The top-ten rich people are all tech people. It’s an industry unlike Wall Street or cars or pharmaceuticals; even if it’s problematic regulation, they have regulation. There’s not one law on the books about internet companies at all. Not one. And in fact, the one law that does exist is very advantageous toward them, which allows them to be immune from any legal action.
Would it be government regulation?
I don’t know.
Do you want a big censor?
So how would that work? It’s an honest question.
It’s taking responsibility. Univision’s responsible for the things that are on your air.
All the time.
If you’re careless, and the things you create cause havoc, you pay for it. And I think it’s the responsibility. It’s being legally liable for creating things either sloppily or with malintent or things like that.
I am responsible for what I do, and you are responsible for what you do. But how about if there’s someone else who’s posting on your network and your platform. Where’s their responsibility?
Well, the New York Times is actually responsible for those, too. They’re abrogated around the comments, but at the same time, on some level they have to create tools where it can’t be used for disinformation … It’s going to be incredibly complex to figure it out, because they can sort of get out of it, and at the same time, have created the tools in such a sloppy way. You can look at any of the areas of the world, in Myanmar, they didn’t have enough speakers. They didn’t do this, they didn’t do that. I’ll give you a good example, Facebook Live for example, and I’ve told this story before, but when they created it, they bring in reporters to look at it before, and they’re all excited and they’re like, literally, it’s like 12-year-old boys, all there going, “Look what I made. It’s so cool.”
I was in the room and I said, “Okay, this is immediate, live posting by — anybody in the world can do this.” And I said, “What do you do if someone murders someone on this? What do you do if someone commits suicide? What do you do about bullies? What about child pornography? Live child pornography. What about if a mass murderer puts a GoPro on the top of his head and starts broadcasting?” And the person who was showing it to me said, “You’re such a bummer, Kara.” I was like, “Yeah, I am. That’s me.” I have had some experience with the human race and I’ve noticed when they get tools, they tend to use them, in a malevolent way sometimes. And I was like, “Where are the safeguards that you put into place before?” And they were like, “Well …” — like that part of it they hadn’t thought of. Now that’s changed obviously when they create things now because of the experiences but not because they had any … They weren’t sued for it. They didn’t pay any price for the mistakes they made. And so I’m trying to figure out how you create a price for when you make shoddy products, I guess.
Okay. That’s an interesting proposition, but as a journalist, we cannot just wait, see, well let’s see if they regulate them or not. Our responsibility is completely different. I think our responsibility would be to find facts to confront those who are in power and that’s what we need to do.
Right, absolutely. But I think one of the things is it has repercussions well beyond that. There was a really great series in the New York Times recently about child pornography on these sites and very little is being done to mitigate the problem. You can do that with addictiveness with teens. They know very well, inside these companies, how addictive these products are, akin to cigarettes, akin to other things. Still, not doing anything about it, yet facilitating it. And so you have to start to think, they’re not benign. And so if they’re not benign, they’re not making things that are benign that affect people. There has to be some kind of regulation, smart regulation that doesn’t hinder innovation.
And when they worry about hindering innovation, they tend to go to the China argument. “Well, China. If we don’t do something, China will beat us. If we don’t do this, then … they’ll be running the internet in the next year.”
But for instance, let me just put it this way, what would happen in authoritarian governments? What would happen in China? What would happen in Saudi Arabia? What would happen in Cuba?
Well, they’re already doing it.
They’re already using these tools exactly the way —
But do we want to do that?
No, no. No, of course not, but what I’m talking about is they tend to say that there can’t be innovation without freedom for them. And in fact, when you have one or two or three companies, in this case it would be Facebook, Google … It really would be Facebook and Google essentially, buying up all the companies, shutting down innovation. You don’t get the kind of innovation needed to create new paradigms of safety and privacy.
So we say, in political conversation, how about if we know for a fact that a president or a candidate is lying, and that he’s buying ads and publicity, should we stop them? Should we —
Well, we don’t. Facebook doesn’t. They made the decision not to. How do you feel about that? Let’s get back to politics. What is the political landscape look now? You have Bloomberg spending every … I’m not going to say every dime he has, because he’s got a lot of dimes, but spending enormous amounts of money on social media, on Facebook. The Trump campaign is quite good at it. Brad Parscale is a genius at using social media. What would you do if you were running Facebook? Or now Twitter decided to cut them off, say we’re not going to have lies. We can’t even figure it out.
Well, I agree with you that in certain situations, child pornography you mentioned for instance, that has to be done. There has to be something done, but my problem is with political discourse. Are we going to start censoring political discourse even if we don’t want to? How about white nationalistS? Should we stop that? Should companies stop that kind of information?
They do sometimes. They do. My issue is that it’s done in a haphazard way by people who are not necessarily qualified. I would like elected officials and citizens to start talking about this as a larger thing rather than, say in the case of Facebook, it’s a company that is run by someone who cannot be fired, ever. He’s like a dictator of that company. He’s unfireable, he controls the board, he controls everything. And so do you want one person making decisions that affect lots of people? And it’s something everyone needs to think about at the very least.
And I think this conversation is obviously is going to continue, but since I cannot do anything about it right now, my responsibility, I’m just going back to my role as a journalist —
What do you do then?
Yeah. If someone is lying, we have to say it. If someone is harming children, we have to say it. And if a president is lying, we have to say it.
Except that when you get in a digital environment, it’s different than a network. If there’s a lie on a network, everyone sees it. In this case, they can send a million different lies to a million different people all geared toward the information they gleaned. Now probably one of the great ways to solve this would be to have a really good privacy bill, to know about what happens to your data, to not be tracked the way you are, to be not micro-targeted, and so they can’t send a million different lies to someone. That’s not even being done. There’s no privacy bill in this country. We’re the only country … There’s a lot going on in Europe, there’s a lot going on in Australia. We have a bill in California that’s the de facto rule for this country, but there’s not a national privacy bill to protect your privacy.
So the two most important things that it would do is regulations on content and then on privacy?
No, privacy. Privacy and data starts to take care of the rest of it, I think.
Yeah, and I don’t want them to use my information and I agree with you completely —
But they do.
They do, all the time. Yeah.
Not me today, because I don’t have a phone, but right now if … I sign off of everything actually, and even signed off, they ping you hundreds of times and know everything about you without your consent.
And it’s interesting. We were having a conversation before we started, and we were saying, “Well this is not off the record, but the fact is that I’m assuming, as you are, that everything that I say on this phone is being tracked and that somebody is listening or reading it.
Yes, they are, in fact.
Yeah. So that’s the way. Off the record doesn’t exist anymore. Everything is public.
Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about covering this election. How do you look forward to it? And I do want to talk a little bit about immigration and where you think we are on it, because that story, one of the problems of this new news environment we’re in is that it’s very twitchy, it’s very quick and people move on from the next thing. So this week we’re talking about this, then we’re talking about this, and oh yeah, impeachment. That seemed like six years ago, impeachment, and now we’re in the, I guess, the Bernie Sanders phase of the discussion, but it goes from one thing to the other. Immigration really has gotten lost as a discussion.
Not necessarily. The way I see it, the big picture, the way I see it here in the United States, we’re having four major changes. One has to do with climate change. That’s another issue. Another has to do with the technological revolution that we just discussed. Another incredibly important one has to do with the Me Too movement and the fight for equality in this country, and then the last one, the last change is what I call the Latino wave. In 2044, everyone in this country, everyone, is going to be a minority and that’s a major change. That’s an incredible demographic revolution that we’re seeing right now. Latinos will go from 60 million to more than 100 million, and nobody is going to be able to make it to the White House or any position of power without the Latino vote. That’s what’s happening.
And in this election, for instance, for the first time, the Latino vote is going to be larger than the African-American vote. In other words, there’s going to be more Latinos eligible to vote than African-Americans. And we’ve been discussing the 2016 election and what happened in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Well, the truth is that maybe the election was not decided there. Maybe it was decided here in Florida and it was decided in Arizona. With the electoral votes in Florida, 29, and 11 electoral votes in Arizona, it would have been a completely different issue, and everything has to do also with immigration. What we are seeing is that the country is being transformed and we have someone in the White House right now thinking that the way the country should look is in the 1920s or in the 1930s.
So how do you cover that? When you’re thinking about covering this, how do you assess how the networks are covering the elections? What should be covered? If you could change it in any way, what do you think is the critical way to cover this?
I think we are giving voice to people who don’t have a voice. When was the last time that you saw on ABC, NBC, CBS, or CNN or Fox News an undocumented immigrant? Very rarely, and we do that all the time. The fact is that we have 10 million people in this country who are not criminals or terrorists or rapists who are contributing to the economy, and we have to do something about it. So that’s the first approach. For many people, they are invisible and our job, my job, is to make them visible, and making sure that whatever they are feeling and whatever they have to say is being transmitted to the candidates, for instance.
So we’re asking the candidates, would you stop all deportations? Would you be willing to legalize 10 million undocumented immigrants? That’s what we are asking and those are kinds of questions that you don’t hear in other networks.
But it did get a lot of coverage for a short time. How do you keep that going in terms of, if it’s not done in this “build a wall” way where it’s dramatic … a lot of the coverage around is very dramatic. Is the wall going to get built? And your piece in the Times was that Trump is the wall. Explain that for people.
Well, now Mexico is the wall. Yeah. As you know, Donald Trump said that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. So what happened is that he hasn’t been able to build anything at all at the border, and Mexico is not paying for the wall. However, there’s a new agreement between Mexico and the United States. It’s called the Remain in Mexico Program. So people from Central America, instead of applying for asylum in the United States, they’re staying on the Mexican side.
So here you have 50,000 Central Americans waiting on the Mexican side, and also the new National Guard created by President López Obrador is helping Donald Trump by stopping Central Americans crossing their southern border. So Mexico, in reality, has become Trump’s wall, and the new National Guard in Mexico is becoming actually the new immigration police for Donald Trump.
Where do you imagine this is going to end up, if he wins again and if he doesn’t? What happens?
What Donald Trump has done is more than deporting undocumented immigrants, because Barack Obama deported more immigrants than Donald Trump has done so far. He has been successful at stopping immigrants from coming in with visa programs, banning people from certain countries from coming in, and even stopping legal immigration. Every single year, we used to have about a million legal immigrants, legal immigrants coming in, and now that number has gone down to about 600,000.
So he has been successful at stopping immigrants from coming in, and by creating fear in other countries that if you try to get into the United States, something terrible is going to happen to you and something terrible is going to happen to you if you try to cross from Matamoros to Brownsville. And then you see people from the cartels trying to kidnap you or asking you for money to come into the United States.
What is the ultimate impact, on this country, of that? And I write about it from Silicon Valley’s perspective … a lot of innovation is going elsewhere across the world. Immigration has been a critical part of the building of Silicon Valley, and most of the CEOs are immigrants. Elon Musk, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, each of them. I could name dozens and dozens.
Donald Trump is trying to revert the demographic revolution that we’re seeing in this country. Again, just remember in 2044, everyone is going to be a minority, and that’s the kind of America that Donald Trump doesn’t want. So he’s trying to revert that, but it’s almost impossible. It was in June 2015, he announced that he wanted to be president. But then, it’s so interesting, in July 2015, already the majority of the babies being born in the United States were coming from minority families. So the change is unavoidable, it’s unstoppable. He cannot really stop it. But he’s really trying and trying hard.
So what other things are you looking at in the election on the Democratic side? It’s been quite unusual.
What I’m seeing is that the so-called resistance or the rebellion to Donald Trump, somehow is working. What we don’t know if this rebellion is going to be enough, big enough to avoid the reelection of Donald Trump. That’s the way I’m seeing it.
So you don’t know where in the Star Wars saga we are?
We are right in the middle. We’re right now
So that’s Empire Strikes Back, I think?
Yeah. There you go. We’re right in —
That wasn’t good. That was not good.
No. Well, we’re right in the middle. But you live in California. How do you see it? Where are we?
I don’t know. I think everyone’s confused. I was telling the driver who drove me in today … he was asking about homelessness in San Francisco. And I said it’s been politicized. It’s not as bad as it looks, and there’s a lot of really important trends that are happening there, including housing prices, including having a more tolerant feelings towards poor people than other states, and —
And California is like an island sometimes, isn’t it?
Yes. Yes, exactly —
I was there in Los Angeles yesterday and it feels completely different than the rest of the country.
It does, and so we were discussing that and one of the things he was asking about was what did I think of Bernie Sanders? It was really interesting. And I was like, “I do not know what to think of Bernie Sanders.” I’ll be honest with you. I don’t. And then a friend of mine, who is a Sanders person, said, “It’s a short jump from disliking him to liking him,” which I thought was … okay, all right, okay, and it was interesting. And then my third experience is my mom who stays down here in Florida, and she goes from … she’s a Fox News watcher, so that’s all I need to say, an elderly Fox News watcher so you can imagine what’s happening there to her brain.
I told her when she dies, I’m going to have her brain looked at for FTE, so Fox Trauma. But anyway, she called me and she goes, “I really like what Bernie is saying,” and I’m like, “What?” Because she was sort of Trumpy, but she doesn’t like Trump because she thinks he’s gross, and then at the same time, she likes the tax cut, things like that, and so I don’t know. That’s my answer.
Well, the —
I know California is not voting for Donald Trump, but otherwise, I don’t know what to say.
What I’m seeing is that the country is more divided than ever before.
But is it?
I think it’s absolutely, absolutely. I’m sure you’re having the, sometimes the same problem. When you are with friends or family, sometimes you have to avoid Trump. You have to avoid that conversation because otherwise, it’s dividing families and it’s dividing groups. Let me give you an example. In 2016, where I work here, near Doral, when you come into the network, on the left side is the TV side and on the right side is the radio side. And I pass through the radio side all the time. I used to listen to people calling and saying, “Well, I’m going to vote for Donald Trump.” And back then for many Latinos, many Latinos didn’t feel comfortable saying that they were going to vote for Donald Trump because of the sexist remarks that he had made to Access Hollywood and because of the racist remarks that he had made against immigrants.
But still, I was listening to people calling in and saying, “Yes. I sort of like Donald Trump.” Well, I should have stopped and listened carefully because we made a mistake. We didn’t see this wave that was happening in this country, this resentment that was happening in this country, and 29 percent of Latinos voted for Donald Trump. And what I’m seeing right now in 2020 is that those who were uncomfortable saying that they were going to vote, I’m talking about Latino voters, that they felt uncomfortable saying that they were going to vote for Donald Trump, now they feel vindicated and they feel more comfortable saying, “Yes, I’m going to be voting for Donald Trump.”
So the fact is, if within the Latino community, more than 29 percent of Latinos will vote for Donald Trump, and according to history, if a Republican candidate gets more than a third of the Hispanic vote, he usually wins. So that’s where we are right now. Now the question is, if you voted for Donald Trump, are you a racist? If you voted for Donald Trump, are you a sexist? Well, many people are putting those questions aside, and many people are thinking, “Well, maybe the economy’s more important. Maybe Cuba is more important. Maybe Venezuela is more important.” So something that ethically might not be acceptable as defending a racist suddenly becomes acceptable if the economy or Cuba or Venezuela or Nicaragua becomes more important.
So what is the impact of the comments Bernie Sanders made then about Castro just the other night?
I’ve been living here in Miami for quite a long time and … Florida might be gone if the vote depends on that. Let me just say clearly, Cuba is a dictatorship. It’s been a dictatorship since 1959. Venezuela is a dictatorship, Nicaragua is a dictatorship, and that’s where you have to start. You cannot start by saying, “Well, maybe they have a great health program,” or “Maybe they have an education program.” If they kill thousands of people in Cuba, if they have political prisoners, if they don’t have opposition parties, that cannot be a democracy, and you cannot tell that to people who personally suffered from dictatorships. So it’s going to be incredibly difficult.
So damaging is what you’re saying?
It is very damaging, and us as journalists, again, we can go back to the beginning of the conversation, it is our responsibility to question those who are in power.
So what question would you ask Bernie Sanders now if you were sitting across from him? If it wasn’t Anderson Cooper?
Well, as a matter of fact I’m going to have that opportunity in the debate on March 15 —
Oh right. Right. That’s right.
Yeah, in Phoenix, Arizona. So —
Do you want to give us a preview?
Sure. The question would be … No, I can’t.
Yes, you can. Come on.
No I can’t. I really can’t.
I thought everything was on the record. What the heck?
No, no. Everything’s on the record, but no, I can’t.
It would be unfair for him and it would be unfair for the other candidates. So —
But it will be something around that topic?
It would be a question, yes.
All right. Excellent. So I want to finish up and then we’ll get some questions from the audience.
When you think about your career, if you were to start it right now, what would you do? Where would you work?
Not in a network. Not in a TV network because our job is disappearing. I remember when I started my career, I was 28. I was an anchor. It was not because I was the best or the worst. I was the only one in the network. And so they put me for a month and then it was two months, three months, and it’s been 33 years. But everybody wanted to be an anchor. I remember, everybody wanted to be Peter Jennings.
Yeah. I see your name says anchor up there, but go ahead.
Exactly. Well, that’s wrong because nowadays you have to be everything but an anchor. You have to be able to move from one platform to the other. You have to be able to survive in social media. You have to be anything but an anchor. Anchor is not good.
All right, so what would you be?
“Not an anchor” is not a job.
No. But simply a great journalist. I wanted to show you, that’s why I brought this [referring to the New York Times]. When was the last time you read a paper like this?
Okay. Well, but two great journalists.
Right. Jodi [Kantor] and Megan [Twohey].
And could you ever imagine a couple of years ago, “Weinstein Guilty?” Those are good journalists.
Those are good journalists.
In fact, I was writing to Jodi this morning. I was texting with her and I said, “Most of the credit should go to the women who came forward and testified against him and the stories like Ashley Judd and others. But you have to take a moment to understand your impact.” And I thanked her, I said, “Thank you for my kids.” I have two sons and a daughter. And I said, “Thank you for my daughter, but really thank you for my sons.”
Let me just say about that, the impact that it’s having worldwide, that’s what we’re doing on Univision. We’re trying to approach stories in a different way. And for instance, in Mexico right now, I don’t know if you’re aware, but on March 9th, there is a huge, incredibly important protest movement. And on March 9th, all women in Mexico have decided not to be public, not to go to work, not to go to colleges, not to buy anything. So it’s going to be a day without women in order for Mexicans and for Mexico to realize their importance. And it’s a protest against the macho culture in Mexico.
To put it in context, in the last year, in 2019, more than 34,000 people have been killed and more than a thousand women were killed just because they were women. Just because of that. Something has to be done. Andrés Manuel López Obrador hasn’t been able to put a stop to that. So the impact of the Me Too movement here in the United States, just imagine. It’s going to be an incredible scene to go to Mexico and then suddenly all the women have protests deciding, “Today you don’t come with me.”
Which was also a social media campaign too, Me Too. A lot of the stories started to bubble up and people began to get brave around it. And of course there’s been a backlash just the same way, although this is a great victory. When you think about what’s really happening, let’s finish up talking about journalism, to journalism right now. That’s sort of like one of those journalism conference questions, but what do you imagine? I feel very bullish about journalism. Everyone’s sort of like, “Oh, we’re being attacked.” Which we always were.
And I’m reading right now the Ron Chernow book about Hamilton. I’ve been reading it for four years now. I am. I literally pick it up, I read four pages, I put it down, and I’m like, “I’m only on page 604.” But on page 604 it’s all about his use of media and media at the time. Under assumed names, he wrote under all these unusual names to go back and forth, and it was a really ugly time, politically. It was an ugly time from a media point of view. I was reading about Calendar, James Calendar. The one who was used by Thomas Jefferson to attack. It was the same. As I’m reading it in this fourth year now, it’s the same thing that’s happened. So I’m very positive. I think this is not a new thing. That this has been the same way for journalists.
I think it’s a great time and a very important time to be a journalist.
Any advice for this group of people here gathered? And then we’re going to ask questions.
Again, our job is to confront those who are in power. Of course, report reality as it is please, and be careful. Be very careful. But then, especially in moments like this, when we have a president like this, when we have still dictatorships in Cuba, in Venezuela and Nicaragua. When we have women being killed in Mexico. Our responsibility is to ask the tough questions. And if we don’t do that, then nobody else is going to do it. That’s what we do, to ask tough questions.
Kara Swisher: All right. Questions from the audience.
Rahsaan Harris: Rahsaan Harris from the Emma Bowen Foundation.
Kara Swisher: Hi.
Rahsaan Harris: Thank you for sharing. I’m really interested about covering the Latinx community. As you were saying, almost 30 percent of Latinos would vote for Trump, and so if you don’t come from the Latino community and you’re trying to report on Latinos and their perspectives towards the election, how do folks outside the community try to wrap their arms around the diversity within the Latino community and understand the implication for, for example, the U.S. election?
Jorge Ramos: I think the easiest way to explain that, just try to go from the traditional term of Latino to the new term, Latinx, that you just mentioned. And then with the term Latinx, many people don’t feel very comfortable yet with it, but it’s much more inclusive. It includes everybody. It includes groups that, in the past, were not considered Latinos or were not given enough credit. And if you understand that we are not monolithic, that we are incredibly diverse, that we are very young, that we use social media more than anybody else, that we are connected to our phones, and that … when I got here to the United States, 1983, it was so easy. You were saying, “All Latinos?” “Yes: Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans. That’s it. Next.” Now it is not. It is very, very different. We second- and third-generation Latinos tend to marry outside the Latino community. My son Nicolas, without the “h”, he’s Porto-Cuban-Mexican-American, and he feels more comfortable with football than with soccer. In other words, we are very, very diverse and don’t think of us as a monolithic structure.
Kara Swisher: Yeah. That’s something that media tended to do is monolithic looking at all groups, whether it’s African-Americans or gays or anyone else. I was thinking about that the other day when they were covering the guy, the NSC guy who’s completely unqualified for the job, Richard Grinnell. And I was thinking, “I have nothing to do with that gay guy, and I’m gay.” And they were covering the gay aspects of him and I’m sort of like, “Mm, that has nothing to do with what’s happening.”
Jorge Ramos: And, so yeah, I would say pay attention to what we have to say. Pay attention to those who don’t have a voice. Because when you talk about the Latino communities, just those who can talk on MSNBC and CNN, but the fact is that there are many voices that are out there and that we are simply not listened to. And the future is there. Cesar Chavez used to say in 1984 in San Francisco, he once said, “We’ve looked into the future and the future is ours.” It’s just the numbers. For the first time in the Latino community, we’re going from big numbers to a little power, and it feels great. But still, we are underrepresented. We only have four senators. We’re about 20 percent of the population. And so our role as journalists is different. My role as a journalist is not only the role that you would expect for another anchor in another network. It’s not only to give information but also sometimes to take a stand. And I know it’s maybe controversial, but that’s the way it is.
Allison Ahcan: Hi, my name is Allison Ahcan. I’m with the Blandin Foundation in Northern Minnesota. So exactly to my question, what do we all need to do to make sure that we have a full and fair 2020 Census?
Kara Swisher: Well yeah, we didn’t talk about the Census.
Jorge Ramos: You want to go ahead?
Kara Swisher: Wow. It’s all about data, as usual, and the ability of people to give accurate data because so much is based on it. In some ways I think that tech companies should be doing the Census because they already know everything about everybody and where they move. I think it’s going to be critical, the ability to screw with two things. People are talking about voting machines. Also voting data bases are more at risk. The ability to change an address slightly and then you can’t vote. The ability to suppress votes I think is really much more at risk than people realize. They’re focused only on the machines, which also need to be secured and backed up, and using this technology that’s super interesting called paper.
But I think that the Census is the same thing. It’s a data play and it’s going to be open to so much abuse. And you’re already seeing that. It requires that we have a functioning Senate, for example, to pass these security laws and these privacy laws in order to be able to do it right. So I am slightly worried about the abuses of the data that’s collected, and then the fear of people, of giving up data, although they do it every day. It’s one of the biggest stories, I think.
Jorge Ramos: Yeah, and for the Latino community, it is very important for us that we are being counted because we are growing. And if we grow more, then we have more power. We don’t have that power yet. Again, four senators cannot represent the 60 million Latinos. And then when you tell an immigrant, “Don’t worry, just answer the questions on the Census, nobody’s going to do anything against …” Well, can we trust the government? I mean, can they trust the Trump administration? That’s the difficult part.
Kara Swisher: And they’ve just put fear in it. There’s enough fear there so that people participate.
Jorge Ramos: Already there’s a lot of fear right now.
Kara Swisher: Yeah. So I guess we’ll just have Facebook do it.
John Rudolph: Hi. John Rudolph from Feet in 2 Worlds. Thank you for a very interesting conversation. I want to go back to the story you told at the beginning about Donald Trump tweeting out your private phone number and ask what guidelines you would suggest for covering something like that? You talked about the need to provide context. And we see lots of reports now where tweets by important people are included in the news coverage, but there isn’t a lot of context around them, so how would you cover that incident today and provide the appropriate context?
Jorge Ramos: This is what happened. When I was in that press conference and when I got ejected by a bodyguard taller than me, well everyone’s taller than me, only two reporters, Kasie Hunt from MSNBC and Tom Llamas, they stood up and they told Donald Trump, “You cannot do that.” And thanks to them, I was able to go back to the press conference and then ask my questions. Nobody knows that I came back and I had seven minutes with Donald Trump back and forth. But all the other reporters, they stayed silent. I bet that today, it would be different. I bet that today there would be many more Tom Llamas asking the questions and confronting President Trump. This is not a profession for people who want to be silent. If you want to be silent, you’ve got to choose something else.
Kara Swisher: Yeah, I am always amazed by silence sometimes from reporters. It’s fascinating. But in this case it’s not anymore. Sort of, the lid is off.
Jorge Ramos: This is not a time to be silent. If you want to be silent, you got to do something else. But this is not a time to be silent. And I know it’s not easy, but the more power they have, the tougher that we have to get as journalists.
Kara Swisher: And one of the things, access journalism I think is over. The idea that you get anything from access is … One time the head of Uber was like, “We’re not going to be talking to you.” I go, “Oh fine, good. Uh-oh, not that.” And of course he’s gone and I’m still there. But I mean, it’s just you don’t need it anymore. And I think journalists had been trading access for shitty coverage for so long, it should end.
Jorge Ramos: And I have a rule, usually with people with a lot of power. I have two things in mind. The first is that if I don’t ask the question, nobody else is going to do it. Obviously, that’s not true. But that’s the attitude that I have. And the second one is that I’m always assuming that I will never talk to that person again. And if you think of that, then it’s going to be a completely different interview.
Kara Swisher: They also end up talking to you more, which is interesting. Marc Andreessen used to say that someone asked him why people keep talking to him in Silicon Valley and he said it was Stockholm syndrome. But they do. Once you become an access journalist, you get —
Jorge Ramos: They’re afraid of you. I’ve been reading.
Kara Swisher: Right. Apparently.
Sarah Bartlett: Hi, Sarah Bartlett with the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Jorge, can you tell us what’s going to happen now that Univision has been sold, or is in the process of being sold? What’s the outlook for the kind of journalism that you and your colleagues are doing there?
Kara Swisher: And explain the sale.
Jorge Ramos: Well, yes. Just this morning it was announced that two companies are buying Univision, 64 percent of the company. And I think they’re buying into a great company. We are the leaders in the Hispanic market. We have a great news department. We’re doing things that nobody else is doing. I think they were listening to all the people that are saying that the future is Latino. Again, I think that when I see 30 years ago, nobody paid attention to who we were. I used to work for the SIN Network, Spanish International Network. Not exactly the best name.
Kara Swisher: It’s a great name! It’s a great name. What’s wrong with that name?
Jorge Ramos: Yeah, I worked for the SIN network. Well, not anymore. And now we are fully part of the American experience and we participated, for instance, in this electoral campaign in two debates, in many forums. In other words, people do understand that without Latinos, it is impossible to make it to the White House and to be part of that, of a company, that led the way is just fantastic. I think they’re buying into a great house.
Kara Swisher: And you’re going to see lots of different ownership structures going forward, whether it’s Bezos buying the Washington Post and largely leaving it alone. I think he’s been a pretty good owner. Other thing, he has other issues, but that one, he’s done a good job. You’re going to see a lot of different changes.
Jorge Ramos: And the growth is there. Again, 60 million Latinos right now. In 30 years, 100 million Latinos. We’re buying a lot of stuff. We’re using phones, we’re consuming, we’re traveling. I think it’s a great business.
Kara Swisher: All right. Over here?
Audience member: Thank you. Jorge, you just mentioned you can’t get to the White House without the Latino vote. Every election cycle there’s always the question, “Is this the year Hispanics are finally the decisive force that they need to be?” I want to ask the question just a little bit differently though. I’m from El Paso and so I’m just wondering, with the experience in El Paso last summer where Hispanics were targeted by a domestic terrorist, by somebody using rhetoric that’s also coming from the White House and media sources, does that realization activate more Hispanic voters? That physical threat to them and their children? Is that finally what pushes things over the top?
Jorge Ramos: I wish I would know the answer. I would say that for many people, they feel threatened. They feel attacked, and that they’re reacting to that. And some of the comments are directly related to President Trump. But on the other hand, I’m seeing many Latinos, again as I just mentioned, that are openly telling us, “I feel comfortable with Donald Trump.” So I honestly don’t know how the Latino community is going to react. Again, in 2016, 29 percent of Latinos voted for Donald Trump. I don’t know if that number is going to go up or not, but I think we asked, as the rest of the country, the Latino community is divided and the division is called Donald Trump.
Kara Swisher: All right, I have one last question. If you had to name one thing you’re most scared of for media and your profession and our profession, what would that be, and what would be the thing you’re most heartened by? What is the thing that gives you the most optimism?
Jorge Ramos: I hate it when a reporter or a moderator has the opportunity to ask a tough question and he or she refrains from doing that. And I know how it feels. Because when you are with someone in power and then you notice immediately your hands start sweating and you’re thinking, “Oh, should I ask that question or not?” Well, that’s exactly the question that you have to ask. So I’m very saddened and sorry when I see a journalist that has the opportunity to ask a tough question, a difficult question, and then they don’t ask it. And then the greatest thing that I’m seeing is a new generation who’s unafraid, who’s in your face, and going with a cell phone asking questions. That’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve seen.
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