The nation’s main domestic Spanish-language networks have largely refused to pre-empt their evening newscasts in order to carry the daily White House press briefings on the Trump Administration’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. At best, viewers receive piecemeal information that is filtered through the network’s own biases. At worst, viewers are exposed to outright fake news.
Case in point, Univision’s late-night newscast, which grossly misreported Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s remarks regarding disbursement timelines for recipients of individual relief funds. Watch this side-by-side comparison of what Mnuchin said, versus Univision’s interpretation of his remarks (click "expand" to view transcript):
KYRA PHILLIPS (ABC): Are those checks right into direct deposit? IRS now saying it will take 4-5 months --- you're saying two weeks? Can you give us a solid…
TREASURY SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN: Let me be clear. I don't know where you're hearing these things. I told you this would be three weeks. I'm now committing to two weeks. We're delivering on our commitments. The irs, which I oversee, within two weeks the first money will be in people's accounts.
JILL COLVIN (AP): The question is not about the first checks for folks who have direct deposit, sounds those will go up pretty quickly, the question is then for folks who don't have direct deposit. And there was a staff memo that was released by the House Ways and Means Committee today saying that that process could take up to five weeks.That takes you to mid-August. Is that how long it’s going to take? Five months, I’m sorry.
MNUCHIN: That is not going to take five weeks. Again, let me just say when Obama sent out these checks it took months and months and months. I am assuring the American public- they need the money now. What we're going to do is again, if we have your information, you get it in- within two weeks.
Social Security, you'll get it very quickly after that. If we don't have your information, you'll have a simple web portal, you’ll upload it. If we don't have that, we'll send you checks in the mail.
COLVIN: How many checks can you process a week though? How many checks can you...
MNUCHIN: Again, we can produce a lot of checks but we don’t want to send checks. In this environment, we don’t want people to get checks, we want to put money directly into their account.
PABLO GATO, UNIVISION: Tens of millions of people anxiously wait for their economic stimulus checks. The money will start being deposited into accounts, said the Secretary of the Treasury. But Democrats say that the Internal Revenue Service told them that the checks could take up to 20 weeks before arriving to recipients. The White House denied that.
Clearly, this was fake news. Mnuchin laid out both a timeline for recipients as well as a process for those who are not on direct deposit. Additionally, he provided a direct response to the House Ways and Means Committee’s concerns about a 20-week timeline. But none of that made it into Univision’s truncated summary, which was essentially a “Mnuchin said, Democrats said”.
Had Univision trusted their viewers to watch the briefings, they would’ve heard Mnuchin’s responses to the journalists’ questions and been able form their own conclusions. This seems to be a big ask, though, given anchor Enrique Acevedo’s reaction to these briefings:
I don’t enjoy doing this, but I need more space in my timeline to hear from experts and from people focusing on the victims and the solutions. I’m unfollowing anyone who keeps live tweeting Trump’s press conferences. Hope I can follow back again in the future, nothing personal.— Enrique Acevedo (@Enrique_Acevedo) April 4, 2020
Although we’ve spotlighted Univision, it’s only fair to point out that Telemundo is no better. Univision did brief cut-ins during the first week’s worth of briefings, but Telemundo has never done so.
Whether driven by Trump Derangement Syndrome or by the urge to be the lens through which Hispanics view events, it is clear that the networks don’t trust Hispanics to watch these briefings on their own and come to their own determinations.
The market continues to cry out for an alternative.