Jorge Ramos: ‘Clearly, Mr. Trump’s problem is with Latinos’
Donald Trump vs. Jorge Ramos on immigration
But for many, their first sight of Ramos came Tuesday evening during an Iowa news conference organized by Republican front-runner Donald Trump's campaign. And, well, you probably know the rest of this story by now.
Trump has had plenty to say about that news conference. He told NBC that Ramos was "totally out of line" and "ranting and raving." We checked in with Ramos to get his take. What follows is our conversation, edited only for clarity and length.
FIX: I understand that there's a bit of a backstory connected to what happened in Iowa on Tuesday. Will you explain?
RAMOS: Sure. Fusion -- well Fusion and Univision -- have set a goal of talking with everyone who is running for president. So far, we've talked with 10 candidates -- well, 11 if you count that exchange with Trump last night -- just before or after they declared their candidacy. We've talked with Senator Ted Cruz [R-Tex.], Senator Marco Rubio [R- Fla.], former secretary of state Hillary Clinton; former governors Lincoln Chafee [R.I], Martin O'Malley [Md.] and George Pataki [N.Y.]; as well as Senator Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.], Senator Lindsey Graham [R- S.C.] and Senator Rand Paul [R- Ky.].
FIX: So you have asked Trump for a sit-down, too?
RAMOS: Sure. I and my team reached out to him all the ordinary ways. We put in I-don't-know-how-many requests. That didn't work. Then we were told not to try again by someone in the campaign. That person said very clearly he wasn't going to talk to us. So I tried sending him a hand-written personal note, and he published that on the Internet with my personal cellphone number.
FIX: How did that lead to that showdown in Iowa?
RAMOS: Well, as a journalist, my job is to go where I have to go to ask the questions I need to ask. To me, those questions are how is he going to deport 11 million people? How is he going to build a 1,900-mile [border] wall? And how is he going to deny citizenship to children born here in the United States? How is he going to change the Constitution or gain the authority to deny citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants? But since he didn't want to talk to us, we started talking and planning to go to him.
FIX: Why that press conference?
RAMOS: Well, Iowa is, obviously, incredibly important. We realized that it was about time to go and try to talk to him [Trump] after he announced his immigration plan. There was, as you know, a lot of controversy around those ideas. But he hasn't been giving much in the way of specifics on how he wants to achieve those goals. It's way too important. We just couldn't wait anymore. It's way too important for Latinos and for the United States. If he wants to get in the business of deporting babies and children and their parents, that would change the fabric of the United States. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants are Latinos. If you deport them, all of them and their children, it would change the nature and dynamics of this country.
FIX: Some people would say, fine. Undocumented immigrants have changed the dynamics of this country. We don't like it, so send them all away. What would you say to those people?
RAMOS: Well, first I would say that this is a nation of immigrants, so what people are talking about is changing something much more fundamental about this country than they may think. I would argue that to deport 11 million people and their children, you will damage this country, and that that many people simply cannot be removed from any place without tremendous costs -- financial and social. Tremendous. I would also say to Trump and to his supporters that this is not only a damaging idea but that this is a set of ideas that will not allow Trump and his party to win. Univision just released a poll, about two weeks ago, showing that 75 percent -- 75 percent of Latinos have a negative opinion of Trump. [We checked. The Univision poll found 71 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump and 79 percent find his comments about Mexicans offensive.] Gallup has just released a poll saying that Trump is the most unpopular of all the candidates on either party with Latinos.
FIX: Let's go back to that situation in Iowa. Why did you stand up and start asking questions when Trump was calling on another reporter and not you?
RAMOS: Well, that's not what happened. What happened is that the press conference started. Two reporters asked questions, and Trump talked. Now, I have been to thousands of press conferences, and sometimes you are called and sometimes it doesn't happen. You have to get the person's attention. I have followed many of Mr. Trump's press conferences, and that's the dynamic, always. You have to be assertive. So after two reporters asked their questions, I said I have a question on immigration and I stood. I started asking my questions, and in the middle of that Mr. Trump tried to stop me. He tried calling on someone else. He told me to sit down. He told me to "go back to Univision." I told him that as a U.S. citizen and as a reporter, I have a right to ask a question. After a lot of back and forth, he signaled to his security team to throw me out.
FIX: So you went back in and eventually asked Trump a number of questions. In fact, I've seen some people characterize what followed as a debate between Ramos and Trump.
RAMOS: Well, I have to tell you: I have been a journalist for a long, long time -- more than 30 years -- and this is the first time in my life I have ever been ejected for asking a question. I have actually never seen that happen -- not in the United States, not in a democracy. I have seen that in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. And, I think that is the thing. He [Trump] is putting a strain on freedom of press in the country. He does not want to be asked questions. He does not want to be questioned. Once I was allowed to come back in, I asked him the three questions we discussed and the lack of support he has among Latinos generally. He didn't want to answer them then, either. And he didn't.
FIX: Did he agree to sit down and talk?
RAMOS: I haven’t heard anything from his campaign. However, before he closed his press conference yesterday, he said we will talk. Let's see if that is the case. He didn't answer my questions. He didn't give us any specifics on how he wants to change this country, dramatically.
FIX: Do you consider yourself an advocate for the undocumented?
RAMOS: I am just a reporter that asks questions. If you want to be a good reporter -- a really good reporter -- many times you have to take a stand. The best examples of journalism that we know -- Cronkite, Amanpour, Murrow -- happen when journalists take a stand. And there are some things that you cover -- areas where you have to take a stand. And when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public life, dictatorship and human rights, certainly human rights, you have to take a stand. You cannot pretend that the other point of view has no potential effects, that it is not wrong or damaging. And in the case of Donald Trump, there are many instances in which human rights could be violated if his plans go forward. So, I am going to do my job. That's what I did yesterday when I came there, confronted him to ask him questions. I think he doesn't like to be questioned, as was the case with the Fox News moderators and Megyn Kelly. He doesn't like to be challenged. and he doesn't like uncomfortable questions where a specific answer is required.
FIX: Do you feel that Trump ejected you because you are Latino or because he does not respect Latinos?
RAMOS: He clearly does not understand Latinos or their importance in this country. He wants to dispatch with millions of them. There is nothing clearer than that. He doesn't want them here. Look, he’s talking about Mexicans and Latinos and national security while, by the way, Canada shares a border with the United States that is more than 5,000 miles long. It's one of the longest in the world. Clearly, Mr. Trump's problem is with Latinos.
FIX: Are you saying Trump is racist or xenophobic?
RAMOS: I don't like to put labels on anyone. I’m a reporter. I'd rather observe and describe and question.
FIX: Can we expect to see you at another Trump press conference?
RAMOS: You can expect for me to keep on asking questions in many different ways. I will try to get an interview and try to get answers. I am going to keep doing my job any and every way that I can.