Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Ex(tort) Presidents

If you're a regular reader of this site there's a pretty good chance that the only thing you know about Univision is that every time you flip past it on your way to something else on the dial it seems to be airing the same insanely hallucinatory show -- the one that involves Spanish-speaking puppets, a shouting fat guy in a bad suit and a lot of 15-year-old girls in bikinis. While that kind of programming really does feel like the tent-pole upon which the network builds its schedule, there's a show set to run this coming January that'll make the typical lunacy on Univision look like an extended episode of Charlie Rose: the Republican Presidential Debate.

Well, it was set to run, anyway.

As it turns out, Univision is about to become the latest battlefield in the modern media war that pits press-savvy politicians against whichever news outlets refuse to bend to their will and influence. The politicians, this time around, are travelling in a pack: they're the GOP presidential candidates, five of whom have now agreed to boycott the upcoming Univision-hosted debate because they take issue with a story the network ran on Florida Senator, Tea Party idol and running-mate-in-waiting Marco Rubio. Apparently Rubio claims that Univision's heavily promoted investigation into a decades-old bust of his brother-in-law on drug charges was payback for not granting the network a one-on-one interview; he and his political allies are now demanding satisfaction in the wake of the embarrassing story, and by satisfaction I mean they want heads to roll, including the one attached to Univision News President Isaac Lee.

Obviously if anyone at Univision really did try to blackmail Rubio into giving him or her a sit-down, that's a huge ethical violation and should be dealt with harshly. But it's not the place of a political candidate -- let alone five of them in concert -- to basically take him or herself hostage until a series of demands is met by a news outlet. What Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain are doing amounts to the same thing they're accusing Univision of: trying to use extortion to achieve a desired end. The fact that this miasma points out the dangers of a news organization aligning itself or even sponsoring a political event is also noteworthy.

If the accusations against Univision are true, then at least a few people need to lose their jobs -- not because a bunch of political candidates have gathered to demand it, or else, but because it's the right thing to do. The candidates should be told to go screw themselves.

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