'I'm A Journalist Asking Questions': Jorge Ramos' Shield Becomes A Sword

As expected, Jorge Ramos went on CNN's Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter, justified his abandonment of neutrality with regard to Donald Trump, and evaded the question about MRC Founder Brent Bozell's call for his removal from Univision's anchor chair until after the election. The linguistic dodge that Ramos deployed in order to effectively to do so warrants additional analysis.

Here's video from the exchange:

BRIAN STELTER, HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: On Friday the conservative group, the Media Research Center— a conservative media monitoring group called on Univision to remove you from the anchor chair though election day. Now, I know that’s not going to happen. I know Univision strongly supports you. But, they are saying you are hopelessly biased against Donald Trump. Well, what do you say to those people who say, “You should be removed from the anchor chair?”

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Well, what I can tell them that I've been doing this job almost 30 years, on November 3, it's going to be 30 years as an anchor man for Univision, and I think I am just a journalist asking questions. And I believe complete in objectivity. If five people die we say five, if it’s red it’s red.

But the other level of journalism is that it is our responsibility to question those who are in power, and that's I think precisely what I'm doing with Donald Trump, because what are we going to do if a candidate is making racist remarks, what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed just to sit down silently and listen to him? No, I think precisely our job as journalists is to question them.

In my past life as a young, wide-eyed congressional candidate, I remember going through media training and learning about the importance of bridge statements before spinning off into my own talking points when dealing with the media. This is exactly what Ramos does when asked a direct question about the MRC's call for removal- and what he usually does under pressure. In this particular instance, non-responsive the bridge statement is the non sequitur about his longevity (congratulations, but that wasn't the question) as Univision's national anchor.

And here is where Ramos grabbed onto his security blanket: "I'm just a journalist asking questions"- his go-to spinoff statement that would allow Ramos to get back on message with his usual schtick about questioning the powerful. "I'm just a journalist asking questions" is particularly effective -the equivalent of the shrug emoji- because it almost sounds apologetic. "Hey, man, I'm just doing my job. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

Ramos goes on to give his own definition of objectivity -reduced ad absurtum down to the literal statement of the most obvious facts- before going back to his own points about what he feels is the legitimate role of journalism, that which is on "the other level of journalism", which is to question those in power. And here is where Ramos wriggles out, 99 times out of 100. But the real reason that Ramos successfuly evades pressure is because he masterfully exploits a subtle difference in language to his advantage.

Ramos speaks often of questioning those in power, and of asking questions. Fair enough, right? But consider what he said to Spain's El País when asked about his confrontation with Trump:

EL PAIS: What do you think:

JORGE RAMOS: That I did the right thing. I did three things which were correct. First, to confront Trump. He had to be told to his face that many Latinos hate him. Second, that I asked the question standing up. I was convinced that if I asked the question while seated, that there would be a disparity in body language. And third, I did good by not leaving until I finished all my questions. Television has to be produced, nothing happens just because. We were looking for a moment in which to confront the man most hated by immigrants in this country. I'd previously sent him a handwritten letter, the kind that aren't done anymore, and I wrote my cell phone number. He published it on the internet and I had to change my number. Since then, we were planning on how to to talk to him and ask him all the questions that he was trying to avoid.

The "questioning" when Ramos talks about questioning those in power here becomes the more confrontational "cuestionar" in Spanish, which at times may not even involve the asking of a question at all. Ramos fluidly conflates asking questions with confrontation under the guise of "questioning the powerful", and has been getting away with it since his run-in with Trump. The fact remains that Ramos did not actually ask any questions of Trump, but immediately launched into a series of declarative statements, which is what one does when confronting ('cuestionar') someone as opposed to asking them questions ('hacer preguntas')- as Ramos readily admitted to the Spanish (as in Spain) media.

Furthermore, it is clear that Ramos selectively engages this journalistic practice- contrary to what he publicly preaches. Here's what he told El Pais regarding his Big Six reasons for abandoning neutrality:

EL PAIS: You became a hero to immigrants, but you also received criticism stating that you behaved more like an activist than as a journalist.

JORGE RAMOS: I understand that criticsm, but all it did was reinforce my conviction that the best journalism is done when you take a stand in the face of racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships, and human rights. If, as journalists, we are not taking sides in these six areas, then we are not properly doing our job.

As I mentioned in Sunday's preanalysis and throughout my time at MRC Latino, Ramos has fallen far short of his lofty rhetoric and "not properly done his job" when it comes to the "questioning" of corruption and public lies here at home.

We've documented Ramos' softness on Hillary Clinton herehere, and here. Oh, don't get me wrong- you'd best believe that Jorge Ramos will absolutely hold you accountable for corruption and public lies...if you're the president of Mexico.

Ramos has spilled barrels of opinion-column ink over each of President Enrique Peña Nieto's scandals, and they have received intense coverage on Al Punto as well as Univision's newscasts. The same can not be said, however, with regard to the cloud of scandal that continuously surrounds Hillary Clinton the way dirt surrounds Pigpen from the old Peanuts strips.

Ramos meekly asserted that in fact he was tough on Democrats, as proven by his questions of Hillary Clinton at the Miami debate and his Clinton Foundation questions of Tim Kaine for Friday's Al Punto taping. But these pro-forma questions seem to be more about keeping up appearances. In Clinton's case, the debate question came right before the launch of his "Taking A Stand" book and subsequent media tour. In Kaine's case, the Al Punto taping wrapped right before taping the hit for Reliable Sources. Both instances of Ramos' toughness on Democrats appear to be more about having that box checked off before answering questions about bias.

Jorge Ramos indeed went on Reliable Sources and answered a lot of questions - many more, in fact, than were asked by Brian Stelter.  Let's see how he handles MRC Founder Brent Bozell's debate challenge.

Tell the Truth 2016



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