Last week, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos traveled to Puerto Rico in order to, in his own words, “see how things are after the hurricanes.” The resulting back-to-back interview segments with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and Governor Ricardo Rosselló that aired on his weekly Al Punto program compel the question: why even bother?
From the show’s get-go, Ramos lets viewers know what to expect: the Mayor of the San Juan will get the softball, heroine treatment, while Rosselló will get 100% hardball.
JORGE RAMOS, HOST, AL PUNTO, UNIVISION: I travelled to Puerto Rico to see how things are after the hurricanes, and there San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz showed me where she has slept for the last six weeks. I also asked Governor Ricardo Rosselló about the $300 million contract to restore electricity, and that he ordered to have cancelled.
The problem with media coverage of Puerto Rico to date is quite simple. In the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane María upon Puerto Rico, our lazy domestic media have imposed its Trump/anti-Trump binary lens upon the vastly more complex set of issues that Puerto Rico encompasses. One might generously chalk that up to a lack of cultural competency. But Jorge Ramos, the self-styled 'Voice of All Hispanics' has no such excuse.
Ramos, having often traveled to Puerto Rico and conducted many related interviews, should know better. Therefore, Ramos’ coverage of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of María so far can only lead an educated observer to conclude that he doesn’t care about Puerto Rico at all, except to fuel his ongoing war against Donald Trump and to promote Puerto Rican separatists.
Mayor Cruz of San Juan, a Bernie Sanders endorsee and advocate for convicted FALN terrorist Oscar López Rivera and world-class free media magnet, fits neatly and very usefully into Ramos’ reporting. Ramos grants top billing to Mayor Cruz, staging his interview from San Juan’s emergency management headquarters at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum.
“Staged” being the operating word here, Ramos opens the Cruz interview atop a couple of pallets of relief supplies inside the Coliseum. After Cruz talks about the city’s relief efforts and gets off some shots on both Trump and the Whitefish contract, Ramos moves the interview into the mayor’s private quarters inside the Coliseum. The entire Cruz interview is intended to convey warmth, familiarity, and solidarity. Tough questions are nowhere to be found- instead, Cruz is allowed to speak at length, with no interruptions.
Once Ramos goes to the the Governor's office at La Fortaleza, though, the tone shifts. Ramos proceeds to interview Governor Rosselló as though he were a Mexican politician caught with a safe full of Odebrecht cash. Even the interview’s staging is adversarial, with tight shots reminiscent of the classic 60 Minutes closeups. This interview was completely adversarial.
Ramos does the network’s Puerto Rico coverage a real disservice by attempting to tie Rosselló (the Clinton DNC delegate) to Donald Trump, in furtherance of his anti-establishment contrapoder narrative. To be clear, this is also done in order to create a permission structure from which to cover Cruz more favorably. Which is too bad, because Ramos missed an opportunity to ask some tough questions of Mayor Cruz. For example:
Why has it taken the City of San Juan so long to clear debris remaining from Hurricane Irma?
Was it appropriate to expend funds on a hero’s welcome for convicted FALN terrorist Oscar López Rivera at a time when the city is having to raise fees and taxes in order to make budget?
Speaking of Oscar López Rivera, can the Mayor explain the consulting contract awarded to Lopez’s daughter Clarissa, which allows her to bill $40/hr for “phone meetings”?
When Cruz did a video for Al Jazeera Plus while in Washington, D.C. last week, she described Hurricane María as an opportunity to “redefine the relationship” between the United States and Puerto Rico. What, exactly, does that redefinition entail?
If only Ramos had gone to Puerto Rico to actually ask questions, instead of further abetting Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’ grandstanding. But by now it should be clearer than ever: Jorge Ramos doesn’t care about Puerto Rico.