Marco Rubio At Center Of Univision GOP Debate Controversy

Someone’s not playing this straight. Either Univisión is running for cover or a group of three políticos from Florida are tag-teaming a grudge match against the Spanish language television giant. Either way, someone is not telling the truth.

This all started with an article published in the Miami Herald that accused Univisión of strong-arming U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio into agreeing to do a guest spot on the networks’s Sunday issues program,  Al Punto.  According to the Herald, Univisión “offered” to go easy on Rubio’s brother-in-law in a story about his past drug convictions in exchange for the Senator’s appearance on the show. Three Florida politicians — U.S. Representative David Rivera, Florida House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera And Florida State Representative Erik Fresen, all Republican — came to Rubio’s defense with a quick and stern letter that accused the broadcaster of extortion and called for a boycott of the scheduled televised Republican presidential debate.

Here’s how the Miami Herald reported it:

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.

In a classic snowball effect, four GOP candidates — Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Utah Governor John Huntsman — have stated that they will boycott the Univisión debate.

Those are the facts as they stand. But the problem is that they can’t stand alone because they run contrary to each other. If the Univisión brass didn’t do what they’re accused of doing, why did the Miami Herald report it that way? But if the Herald got it right, it makes sense that the TV guys would be running for cover.  But they can’t both be right.

And that’s the dilemma. What’s at stake is the reputation and credibility of two major news organizations: either Univisión tried to strong-arm a U.S. Senator, or the Miami Herald lied.  Either way, one of them crossed a serious ethical boundary and that crossing has yet to play itself out. An interesting note is that Perry campaign communications director dismissed the ordeal by saying that Telenumdo/NBC was also planning a Republican Candidate debate so they’d have “ample opportunity to engage with Spanish-speaking Americans.” The implication being that all Spanish -speakers need is one debate and whether it’s Univision or Telemundo is not important.

There are a couple of things to consider, as context or back story, that put this story into perspective. First, that the brother-in-law in question, Orlando Cicillia, was busted back in 1987, when Rubio was 16 years old, and that the Cicillia was cleared of all charges in 2000, before Rubio became a Senator. Second, that Univisión representatives had told Rubio that his interview on Al Punto would include questions about his stance on immigration: Rubio has stated that the DREAM Act provided amnesty for undocumented students, and that, according to the Miami Herald report

…an immigration-reform group called Somos Republicans took Rubio to task for saying Mexican drug-war violence had spilled into the United States.

So then this becomes a three-way he said, she said, they said. Because Rubio may have been trying to back-out of the interview, so as not to answer  immigration questions; Univisión may have offered to water-down the brother-in-law story to get him to go on the show; and the Miami Herald may have made this all up to…I’m not sure why. If this story were a Facebook page, and it were a three way relationship, the status might be a cop-out: it’s complicated.  I’m not even sure whose court holds the ball at this point. But if history proves me right, it’s usually the press that prevails over the politician.

[Photo by DavidAll06]

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