A feud between America's most prominent Hispanic Republican, Marco Rubio, and America's most popular Hispanic network, Univision, is now a debate between the Miami Herald and the New Yorker.
Last summer, Univision aired a story about the 1987 drug-trafficking bust of Rubio's brother-in-law. In October, the Miami Herald ran a front page story that Univision executives tried to blackmail Rubio with the information in exchange for his appearance on their "Meet the Press"-type show.
As reported in "The Immigration Story: Univision's War With Rubio Over Immigration, Drug Report," the Herald states:
If Rubio appeared on Al Punto -- Univision's national television show where the topic of immigration would likely be discussed -- then the story of his brother-in-law's troubles would be softened or might not run at all, according to Univision insiders and the Republican senator's staff.
New Yorker reporter Ken Auletta also saw Rubio's staff's notes from the alleged shakedown conference call, and believes the Herald made the wrong interpretation.
In "War of Choice," Auletta calls the Herald's conclusion "too simplistic," noting "The Herald portrayed the conversation as a shakedown; the notes suggest a contentious debate." His argument hinges on how the Univision/Rubio feud eventually benefitted the GOP platform.
New Yorker reports that the Herald article "set off what appears in retrospect to have been a carefully orchestrated campaign." After the Herald article published, three Florida republicans accused Univision of extortion and advised all Republican president candidates not to participate in the Univision debate on January 29th.
"Presidential debates of prominent media outlets are not usually boycotted because of somewhat overhyped news stories. ...It seems much more likely that boycotting a debate on Univision was a convenient way for the republication candidates to ... avoid engaging in a debate on the eve of the Florida primary that would likely enflame Hispanics. And there's little question that debate sponsored by Univision, which Republicans now seem to view the way democrats view Fox, would have been much tougher than one sponsored by Telemundo."
Before the New Yorker issue hit newsstands, the Herald responded on their Naked Politics blog, running through each of Auletta's jabs at their reporting. Among the retorts:
The Herald story wasn't just based on the notes. And we repeatedly said that, according to the sources and notes, Univision offered to soften "OR" spike the story. We weren't sure. We weren't on the conference call in question. Also, The New Yorker says that " all six of the Univision employees on the call... say they were not called." False. We called Lee and others. And when we tried to speak to Lee, we were directed to Univision's p.r. department.
Politico heard from Univision spokesperson Monica Talan who said: "The New Yorker story speaks for itself -- it shows that Univision covered the story of Sen. Marco Rubio's brother-in-law fairly and accurately. The story also highlights the strength and integrity of Univision's news team."
Rubio, who is largely considered the GOP's top contender for the 2012 vice-presidential nominee, was also in the headlines last fall. The Washington Post accused him of misrepresenting himself as the "son of exiles," even though his parents immigrated to the U.S. years before Fidel Castro came to power.