GOP Shuts Out Univision From 2016 Debates

By Julissa Catalan

When the Republican National Committee announced which television networks will air the 2016 Presidential debates, one broadcaster was noticeably absent: Univision, the biggest Spanish-language network.

This comes as a surprise to some since Univision reaches 96 percent of Latino households—a demographic that could swing the vote for either party.

Seventy-two percent of Univision’s audience does not watch English-language news, making their exposure to the GOP minimal.

“The GOP needs Univision more than Univision needs the GOP,” said Democratic pollster Fernand Amandi. “For a party looking to be competitive nationally again, they can’t risk alienating the premier outlet that caters to the fastest-growing part of the electorate.”

Univision spokesperson Jose Zamora said, “There is a very simple political reality—Hispanics will decide the 2016 Presidential election. No one can match Univision’s reach and ability to inform, provide access and empower Hispanic America. Anyone who wants to reach and engage Hispanics will have to do it through Univision. The Hispanic community deserves to hear the policies and views of all political parties and Univision is committed to providing access to all points of view. We have an open invitation to all political parties to address our community on issues of importance and relevance. Candidates should not miss the opportunity to inform and engage with the fastest growing segment of the electorate.”

Univision lead anchor Jorge Ramos said that both parties “have to make sure that their debates don’t look like the 2015 Oscar nominations,” referring to the lack of diversity among the Academy’s nominees.

“The new rule in American politics is that no one can make it to the White House without the Hispanic vote. So we still expect all candidates from both parties to talk to us on Univision and Fusion. I believe that Latinos and Millennials will decide the 2016 Presidential election. The sooner Republicans and Democrats realize this, the better their chances to win the White House. It’s always a strategic mistake not to include in your plans the fastest growing segments of the electorate.”

While the reasons for the snub have not been made public—Univision lost out on GOP debates in 2011 and 2012 after candidates threatened to boycott over the network’s coverage of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—the head of the RNC did not hide his feelings about Univision’s coverage of the party.

“It’s highly questionable whether we’re treated fairly on Univision,” RNC chairman Reince Priebus told BuzzFeed. “You can fight all day long with people, not to say that that wouldn’t continue, but at the same time you still have to get your message out.”

Univision, meanwhile, has been aggressively covering immigration reform, a topic that Republicans are against and seemingly do not want to address.

Just this past week, following the President’s State of the Union address, Senator Joni Ernst—who is openly against immigration reform—made no mention of it during her official Republican rebuttal, although Latino Congressman Carlos Curbelo did.

The nine scheduled debates, which will be held between August 2015 and February 2016, will air on FOX News, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, ABC News, CBS News, NBC/Telemundo. Three additional debates—one on Fox News, one on CNN, one on an outlet TBD—are listed as “pending.”

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