Univision chief exec responds to Trump-interview backlash: 'Not a tool of any party'

TelevisaUnivision Chief Executive Wade Davis has responded internally to the backlash that has come from Univision's recent interview with former President Trump.

Davis sent out a memo to Univision staff Tuesday to clarify that he stands by the company's decision to air the interview and to further explain the network's evolving news strategy.

"There is now well documented consensus among political analysts of both parties that the Hispanic vote may determine the Presidential election outcome," Davis wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Times. "Engaging with the entire Hispanic community in all spheres is the foundation of TelevisaUnivision’s mission. ... We deeply understand our community, and know Hispanics are diverse, dynamic and certainly not uniform in their political views."

Read more: Univision news anchor León Krauze departs after network's controversial Trump interview

The executive noted that he has seen the network's coverage labeled as "partisan," due to its decision to take on a strategy that is "different than what some other major networks are using." Davis said Univision has remained "non-partisan" and "objective" by welcoming a diversity of perspectives in its programming.

Davis then directly addressed the Nov. 9 interview with Trump. In the hour-plus sit-down with the the Republican presidential candidate front-runner, Enrique Acevedo —an anchor from Mexican network Televisa who is not a Univision journalist — gave little pushback on Trump's false, misleading and unsubstantiated statements about the border security and immigration policies he instituted as president.

Trump had previously had a reputation for not being a fan of Univision. During the 2016 campaign, he had anchor Jorge Ramos physically removed from a news conference after the journalist aggressively questioned him about his immigration policies.

That relationship with the network changed after Univision’s 2021 merger with Mexico-based Grupo Televisa’s media, content and production assets. The Washington Post recently reported that the executives now running the company have a comfortable relationship with Trump.

Read more: Outrage against Univision grows after Trump interview

"The interview with former President Trump was the first in 22 years of a current or former Republican President. There have been many interviews of a current or former Democratic President over that same period," Davis wrote in defense of the decision to air the Trump interview. "Further, we have offered, and welcome, an interview with President Biden on reciprocal terms and believe our viewers would greatly appreciate hearing from the President."

He also said Univision would commit itself to giving all political parties "an equal voice" in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.

"We embrace the responsibility to provide our audience the information to make decisions based on accurate coverage of the election process. We will reject all efforts to destabilize this vision, including from partisans within the press or the political machinery," Davis wrote. "Univision is not a tool of any party or organization. Univision is an independent news organization, and we will not be deterred by partisan interests and agenda-driven advocacy."

Read more: Leguizamo: Cozying up to Trump, Univision is betraying its Spanish-speaking viewers

León Krauze, a veteran news anchor for Univision, resigned from the network after the Trump interview. He did not provide a reason for his departure.

The exclusive interview with Trump also raised significant alarms within the Democratic Party and its allies that the leading Republican candidate was making unchecked claims to important swing voters.

More than 70 organizations — including prominent Latino groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, America’s Voice and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights — signed an open letter to Davis and other TelevisaUnivision executives, sharply criticizing the interview.

Times staff writers Stephen Battaglio, Julia Wick and Hannah Wiley contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.