Univision Anchor on Reliable Sources: Orwellian Performance Theater

July 14th, 2015 10:35 AM

Univision anchor María Elena Salinas recently appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources in order to discuss Donald Trump, immigration, and accusations of bias against conservatives. The end result is one of the more brilliant pieces of Orwellian political performance art in recent memory.

Salinas opens the interview with a bit of rhetorical sleight-of-hand, in response to the obligatory question on the whole Donald Trump flap:

“I don’t think it really affects our coverage, I mean, we’re covering Trump the way that Trump is being covered by everyone.”

It is known fact that Univision sets the tone for the rest of the mainstream media when covering Hispanic-related affairs. In this case, of course, the tone was set when the network’s president of programming and content (literally, the guy in charge of telenovelas) posted an Instagram comparing Trump with the racist Charleston murderer. Basic journalistic diligence begged for a follow-up question after that first sentence. Thankfully, host Brian Stelter’s demurral allowed Salinas to go on and on, showing us the beating heart of what I call the network’s business-model biases.

Salinas promptly launches into a defense of the several core sophisms are at the heart of Univision’s institutional biases. Watch as Jorge Ramos’ longtime co-anchor conflates legal immigration with illegal, and listen at her breezy dismissals of those of us who can support legal immigrants while opposing illegal immigration.

Listen closely to her subtle invocation of the Latino political construct as a casus belli against the offending Trump, and her segue into the electoral ramifications of immigration policy.

MARIA ELENA SALINAS: One thing that I think people need to understand is that you can't have it both ways. You can't say I support immigrants as long as they're legal but I don't support illegal aliens. By the way, we don't use the word "illegal" because a human being is not illegal. We use the word "undocumented".

So, you can't insult undocumented Mexicans without insulting all Mexicans and all Hispanics. We come from the same region. We have the same blood. We have the same ancestors and some had a better opportunity to cross the border than others. 

So, for Hispanic voters, many of which have parents, grandparents that maybe arrived illegally. 
Maybe they themselves were here illegally at one point or they we have friends or family members that are now here in this country without documents, this is a personal attack. So you cannot separate them. You can't have it both ways. 

BRIAN STELTER: I know that Trump has done interviews with Univision and other Spanish language media. If you could ask him anything, what would you be asking him right about now? 

SALINAS: You know, to be honest with you, I don't know that I want to interview Donald Trump because it would be a very predictable interview. The interviews that I have seen with him, some of the answers just don't make any sense. 

So, what can you ask him? Even if you tell him the truth and give him facts, I don't expect that he is going to expect those facts, because he's got his own facts. That's why I think the fact checkers must be having a field day, especially this past week.

I respect Salinas’ subtle refusal to interview Donald Trump, but almost gagged when she offered “predictability” as the reason…as if Univision’s interviews weren’t already anything but predictable. Liberals and immigration allies are predictably softballed, while conservatives and immigration dissidents get the Nazi treatment. Salinas, of all people, should know this, as evidenced by her handling of the liberals’ Great Brown Hope during his national roll-out. And there was this: 

STELTER: I wonder if at some point the coverage shifts into advocacy. Is there a line that Univision has ever crossed in the advocacy? 

SALINAS: Well, you can call it advocacy. Advocacy journalism can be considered whenever you give more importance that one topic than another. 

But we're certainly not telling people who to vote for. I mean, we have campaigns constantly asking voters or asking immigrants first to become citizens, then to register to vote, and then to go out and vote, but not because we want them to vote for one candidate or another, but because we think it's important for Hispanics to understand not only what their rights are in this country but also what their responsibilities are. 

STELTER: Do you think this is one of those cases where you have critics working the refs, accusing Univision of biases, accusing Univision of being anti-Trump or anti-GOP in order to pressure you all to change your coverage? 

SALINAS: No. You know, we are very aware -- we are very aware of the criticism. Because we know this criticism exists, we're extra careful. We're very cautious of the words we use, the graphics that we use, the scripts that are written, to make sure that we are fair and balanced. And we are fair and balanced.