It may surprise you to know that at one time there were lines that journalists wouldn’t cross, at least not if they wanted to be seen as professionals. These days that’s getting increasingly hard to believe.
I was taught back in the Dark Ages that you didn’t lose your detached demeanor, whether interviewing a Klan member or a civil rights leader. You kept your cool on the job and ranted to the wife and kids only after you got home.
Univision’s Jorge Ramos gave a textbook example of what not to do at a Donald Trump press conference on
Aug. 25. In case you missed it, Ramos, the Hispanic network’s most visible journalist, interrupted Trump, who had just called on another reporter at the beginning of questions, and began a lecture about illegal immigration, deportations, and the 14th Amendment.
Trump, in his typical brusque fashion, told him to sit down, that he hadn’t been called on to ask a question. But Ramos continued talking over Trump, who told him several times to sit down. Ramos insisted he had a right to ask questions, but actually never asked one.
At that point a security man nudged Ramos out of the press conference. He later was invited back and was called upon by Trump, but he continued being a polemicist rather than a journalist.
NBC’s Kasie Hunt, when her time for a question came up, told Trump that President Obama had been asked tough questions by Ramos, so why wouldn’t Trump submit as well. She didn’t mention that Obama answered questions from Ramos in a White House sit-down interview, and that only one question (about him being called “deporter-in-chief”) could be considered “tough.”
In a normal world, even reporters would agree that Ramos crossed the line. It was clear that he was there to act as an activist, not a journalist. He acted more like a Code Pink protester than a member of the Fourth Estate.
Surprisingly, on NBC’s “Morning Joe” on Aug. 26, the entire panel agreed that Trump had handled the contretemps well. Co-host Mika Brzezinski said, “He handled it brilliantly.” The panel also agreed that Ramos acted inappropriately and should have waited until called upon.
A couple of commentators tried to equate Ramos’ actions to the tough questioning by Fox News’ Ed Henry of Hillary Clinton at a news conference a week earlier on her missing emails. But the difference was that Henry didn’t try to jump the line, he waited until called upon, and then he asked his questions.
He didn’t deliver a soliloquy about Clinton’s actions or positions. How this will affect the public’s views of
Trump, Ramos, or Univision is anyone’s guess. But even many liberal journalists fell on Trump’s side on this one.
Jon Ham (@rivlax) is a vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.