Jorge Ramos: The Man Who Wouldn’t Sit Down

Ramos worried that Trump would recognize him and not call on him. “It will be important to stand up,” he said. “Trump’s street-smart. If you’re sitting, he’ll use it, the visual power imbalance, and squash you.”

.. For those with little patience for the numbing rituals of the modern press conference, Ramos’s insistence on making unwelcome points had been refreshing, and it was Trump’s heavy-handed response that was worrisome. Certainly, the questions raised by Ramos had been unusually serious and substantial at a press event otherwise dominated by talk of poll numbers, campaign operatives, and personal spats.

.. KMEX was also Ramos’s introduction to the community role that the Spanish-language media fills, and is expected to fill, in the United States. The station sponsored health fairs and job fairs, and broadcast English lessons. People called the station to ask which school to send their children to, which doctor to go to. “That TV is your window into the new world you’re in, where you don’t have many friends,” a Cuban-American media consultant in Coral Gables told me. “Those stations are more than information sources. They’re certainly more than businesses. The on-air personalities become like old friends. If you get ripped off, you don’t call the cops, you call Univision or Telemundo. They have these watchdog shows—here in Miami, it’s ‘El 23 a Tu Lado’ [‘23 on Your Side’]. That’s activist journalism.”

.. Zabludovsky, a reedy government mouthpiece with rectangular eyeglasses, was one of the most famous men in Mexico, although he is now remembered for having opened a newscast in October, 1968, after the police and the military had massacred scores of protesting students in the plaza at Tlatelolco, in Mexico City, by intoning, “Today was a sunny day.”

.. Mexico recognized Fidel Castro’s regime—indeed, the two countries enjoyed warm relations—which made the Mexican government anathema to many of South Florida’s Cuban exiles.

.. Cubans ran the place. They understood how the system worked. They had the Cold War policy that said that any Cuban who made it to the U.S. was automatically legal. There were no undocumented Cubans.

.. But then the city began to change, to diversify, first with Central American immigrants fleeing the civil wars there. Next came the Colombians, getting away from the cocaine wars. Then came the Venezuelans, running from Hugo Chávez.”

.. Ramos used to routinely ask, “Is Fidel a dictator?” She laughed. “People would say, ‘Why are you always asking the same question?’ It was because he wanted these heads of state on the record.” His other standard question with Presidents, she said, is “How much money do you have?” “He likes to ask it when they first come into office, and then a second time, a few years later, if they agree to talk again, to see how much they’ve been stealing.”

.. Ramos’s questions often infuriate his interviewees. In Bogotá, in 1996, he demanded that the Colombian President, Ernesto Samper, explicitly state whether or not his election campaign had accepted drug money, and showed Samper a photograph in which he appeared with two alleged narco-traffickers.

.. In a 1994 interview with Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the deeply feared Mexican President, Ramos asked Salinas if he had gained office by fraud, as many Mexicans believed. Ramos pressed him on regional vote totals that were mathematically impossible. He questioned Salinas closely about the murder, a few months earlier, of his anointed successor, Luis Donaldo Colosio. (Salinas moved to Ireland after his term ended, amid persistent reports that he did so to avoid murder charges in the Colosio case.) “It was unbelievable that I could sit there and confront him with the evidence of fraud,”

.. Ramos can’t get over the fact that the most trusted voices in mainstream TV news, as far as he’s concerned, are comedians: Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert. Ramos and Oliver have joked together on-air about being immigrants, defeated by telephone voice-recognition systems that force them to adopt American accents to make themselves understood.

.. Ramos’s daughter, Paola, who recently earned a degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has a job on the Hillary Clinton campaign. She previously worked in the Obama White House, and for Jill Biden. Ramos insists that his daughter’s employment does not influence his work. His Republican critics don’t buy it. He did not disclose her work for the Obama Administration to his audience.