Univision's Jorge Ramos Discusses Journalism And That Donald Trump News Conference
Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos has worked in a number of authoritarian countries, including Venezuela and Cuba, but until this summer, he had never been ejected from a news conference.
That changed on Aug. 25 in Dubuque, Iowa, when Ramos, who is the co-anchor of the evening news on Univision, attended a news conference held by presidential candidate Donald Trump. Ramos asked Trump about his proposal to deport 11 million immigrants in two years. Trump responded by telling him to "sit down" and to "go back to Univision." Trump then had his bodyguard force Ramos out of the room.
Trump said that Ramos hadn't been called on. Ramos tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "I raised my hand. I said, 'I have a question on immigration.' Nobody objected ... not the reporters, not Donald Trump."
"It was an attack on the freedom of the press in the United States," Ramos says. "I was just expressing the premise of my question, which was that he couldn't deport 11 million and that he couldn't build a wall and that he couldn't deny citizenship to U.S. citizens." (Ramos was later allowed back into the news conference and allowed to ask his questions.)
Ramos was born and raised in Mexico and began his career as a journalist there. But, he says, the Mexican government often told the media what to say and what not to say. "There was direct censorship from the presidency to the mass media," he says. "I rebelled against that censorship."
In 1983 he came to the U.S. on a student visa; 25 years later he became a U.S. citizen. Ramos says, "I am glad that I came to this country because the First Amendment has given me all the opportunities that I couldn't have in Mexico."
On what happened after Donald Trump posted Ramos' cellphone number on Instagram
At that moment I knew that my life was going to change. So the first thing I had to change was my cellphone. And I learned a lesson: that you should never ever, ever give your cellphone number to Donald Trump. And after that, and I think it was a very important and ethical decision, at that precise moment we decided that we had to talk to Donald Trump either way, with an organized interview with him or to go and find him wherever he was going to be, and that's precisely what we did.
On his interaction with Trump at a news conference in August
He tried to shut me down. He said that I did not have the right to ask a question; of course I had the right to ask a question, as a journalist and as an immigrant and as a U.S. citizen. And at that precise moment, when he realized what was going on, he did exactly what he had done in the past, which is call on another reporter.
What we never expected was that he was going to call on his bodyguard to throw me out of a press conference. I've never, ever been ejected from a press conference anywhere in the world in 30 years, and this was the first time. I've been to Venezuela, I've been to Cuba, I've been to many authoritarian countries and that had never happened to me before. ...
Then Donald Trump, he doesn't apologize, but Donald Trump realized that he had made a huge mistake. It was an attack on the freedom of the press in the United States. Just imagine, I saw the news coming from many countries. One of them coming from China and coming from Cuba, and those countries were having a field day, because in those countries there is no freedom of the press. They were celebrating the fact that someone in the United States had done this incredible kind of censorship. So Donald Trump rectified, and the same bodyguard who pushed me out of the press conference had to open the door and allow me to come in.
On why he chose to leave Mexico and come to the U.S. to work in journalism
As a very young reporter I wanted to do a little criticism on the way Mexicans chose their president, in which there was no democracy. The president, in turn, would decide who was going to be the next president, and my report was completely censored, completely censored. I was very young, with a lot of ideas, and I decided to quit. I wrote a letter of resignation that I kept as a badge of honor for many years. And I quit. I sold my car. ... and I got about $2,000 and I applied to UCLA extension in Los Angeles, I got accepted and then I moved to this country. So I was directly affected by censorship, and I didn't want to be a censored journalist in Mexico. ... And you know what has happened in Mexico in the last 10 years, for instance, more than 80 journalists have been killed.
On the authoritarian society he grew up in in Mexico
We are talking about a very authoritarian regime back then in Mexico until the year 2000, so there were three elements in which authority were imposed for you as a kid: first, your father. He would tell you exactly what to do, what to eat, when to go, when to watch TV. Then it was the church. I went to Catholic school and the priest back then would not only punish you physically, hitting you on the hands and pulling your hair and torturing you with ideas that you would go to hell, and then, of course, the political system, which was incredibly authoritarian. There was no democracy, and so you would have your father, the Catholic Church and an authoritarian regime imposing ideas on you.
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Many Americans first heard of my guest, journalist Jorge Ramos, when he stood up at a Donald Trump press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, in July and started asking challenging questions about Trump's immigration policy. Here's how that encounter began.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: OK, who's next? Yeah, please.
JORGE RAMOS: Mr. Trump, I have a question.
TRUMP: Excuse me, sit down. You weren't called. Sit down. Sit down.
RAMOS: No, I'm...
TRUMP: Sit down.
RAMOS: On immigration.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
RAMOS: I have the right to ask a question.
TRUMP: No, you don't. You haven't been called.
RAMOS: I have the right to ask a question.
TRUMP: Go back to Univision.
GROSS: Ramos was escorted out of the press conference by a Trump bodyguard, but after protests from a couple of other journalists, he was invited back in and continued his confrontational questions. Even though many Americans were unfamiliar with Ramos before that encounter, he's very influential as the co-anchor of the evening news on Univision, the largest Spanish-language TV network in the U.S. Univision beat out ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox in July 2013 and '14 primetime ratings. Ramos was born and raised in Mexico where he first practiced journalism. He came to the U.S. in 1983 on a student visa and became a U.S. citizen in 2008.
Jorge Ramos, welcome to FRESH AIR. So let's start the conversation with your confrontation with Trump. There was a little prehistory before that. Univision had broken its contract with Donald Trump. Univision was going to run Trumps Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants, but after Trump said that Mexico is sending us people who are bringing drugs, bringing crime and who are rapists, Univision decided that they wouldn't run those pageants. So Trump decided to sue Univision for $500 million suing for breach of contract and defamation. And then you had written him a letter asking for an interview. He posted the letter on Instagram and the letter included your cellphone number, so your cellphone number was posted to Instagram.
GROSS: So how did you find out that he posted your letter?
RAMOS: Well, when I tried to use my cellphone - in that same moment during that morning, I tried to make some phone calls and I tried to send some texts and I just couldn't because of the number of calls that I was getting. We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of calls and texts. And then I thought something was wrong, something was going on, so I went to my computer and then I realized that there it was, the letter that the day before I had sent via FedEx to Donald Trump. And instead of getting an answer from him - because we needed many answers on what he was going to be doing with undocumented immigrants, his plan to build a wall and so on - there was my letter with my number. And at that moment, I knew that my luck was going to change. So the first thing I had to change was my cellphone. And I learned a lesson that you should never, ever, ever give your cellphone number to Donald Trump.
RAMOS: And after that - and I think it was a very important ethical and journalistic decision - at that precise moment we decided that we had to talk to Donald Trump either way, with an organized interview with him or to go and find him wherever he was going to be. And that's precisely what we did. We didn't want to go to a big city because we knew there were going to be many journalists following him. So we found out that he was going to give a press conference in Dubuque, Iowa. And, of course, we were right. Not a lot of journalists went over there and that's where we had this confrontation.
GROSS: How did you interpret his posting of your letter on Instagram that included your cellphone number?
RAMOS: The way I interpreted it was very clear. Instead of answering to me directly or instead of calling me or having somebody from his team send me a quick note saying, no, we don't want to talk to you, it was - the way I interpret it - his way of saying not only I'm not going to talk to you, but it was a kind of a personal attack. Of course it was. And on the other hand, as a journalist, I had many questions, Terry. We needed to know his plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. He has been talking about building a 1,900-mile wall between Mexico and the United States. He wants to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants in this country. So there was so many questions he just didn't want to answer. Also something very interesting - he was giving interviews to everyone but us. For some reason he just didn't want to talk to us. And we needed to find answers to our questions and that's why we decided to go all the way to Iowa.
GROSS: So what was your strategy? He had been avoiding talking with you and you were determined to talk with him. You show up at the press conference. What was your plan?
RAMOS: Well, the plan was to find him in a place where we could have a conversation. I knew that we were not going to have an interview, and we were denied that interview many times during the last, I would say, four or five weeks. So the plan was to go to Iowa to a press conference, and we were looking for a TV moment. We were looking for a moment in which we could have the opportunity to talk to Donald Trump. So two things were very important. We had been studying what had happened in previous press conferences in which Trump had shut down the reporters asking questions that he didn't like. So I made a conscious decision of asking my question standing up. I wasn't going to be sitting down. That was very important.
GROSS: But what's so different between standing up and sitting down? He could shut you down either way, right?
RAMOS: No, no, no, no, it's a huge difference because visually you're at the same level. In other words, he's not dominating you visually. It's a matter of body language. It's a matter of authority. He's obviously the candidate, but you have the authority. You have the respect of the reporter, of the journalist. That was the first thing. The second thing is that we had noticed that if he doesn't like the question, or the questions, he just shuts you down. He says that you're finished. He says, excuse me, excuse me, many times and then he moves on to another reporter. So the second conscious decision that we made was that I was going to continue asking my question until the end, regardless of his response, and that's precisely what happened.
Right in the middle of my question - as a matter of fact, I was just expressing the premise of my question - he tried to shut me down. He said that I did not have the right to ask a question. And of course, I had the right to ask a question, as a journalist and as an immigrant and as a U.S. citizen. And then at that precise moment, when he realized what was going on, he did exactly what he had done in the past, which is called another reporter. What we never expected is that he was going to call on his bodyguard to throw me out of a press conference. I've never, ever been ejected from a press conference anywhere in the world in 30 years. And this was the first time. I've been to Venezuela. I've been to Cuba. I've been to many authoritarian countries and that had never happened me before.
GROSS: So what was your reaction when the bodyguard escorted you out of the room?
RAMOS: First, to try to continue to ask my question. And then you realize very, very fast that is very difficult to ask a question when you have a bodyguard in front of you pushing you out of a room. That was my first reaction. The second one is that the bodyguard did not have the right to touch me, and I told him that twice. And after that, when I realized that he was pushing me out of the room, I made sure that there was some dignity in the whole process. So in other words that I could leave the room on my own and that it was very clear what he was doing.
So I ended up leaving the room, and once I was outside the room, I waited because I knew that he had to leave the room from that door and I was going to try to talk to him again. My cameraman was with me, so we waited outside. And then Donald Trump - you know, he doesn't apologize, but Donald Trump realized that he had made a huge mistake. It was an attack on the freedom of the press in the United States. Just imagine - I saw that the news coming from many countries - one of them coming from China and coming from Cuba - and those countries were having a field day because in those countries, which there is no freedom of the press, they were celebrating the fact that someone in the United States had done this incredible kind of censorship.
So Donald Trump rectified and the same bodyguard who pushed me out of the press conference had to open the door and allow me to come in. And I said that I would allow - that I would accept going back to the press conference with one condition, and the condition was that they would allow me to ask my question. That's precisely what I did.
GROSS: So while you were in the hallway, before they let you come back in, a white guy came up to you and told you to go back to Mexico. So there was a little verbal skirmish in the hallway. What was your reaction when he said that you?
RAMOS: What's really interesting is that while I was talking with Donald Trump and trying to ask my question, at some point Donald Trump said go back to Univision, which is very similar to what many immigrants hear every single day when they say go back to your country. So what I find very curious is that somebody - a sympathizer of Donald Trump - outside the room told me get out of my country, which I found really interesting because this is also my country. I told him I'm also a U.S. citizen. And I find that it's very dangerous for a presidential candidate to promote hatred and bigotry through their speeches because somebody else is going to repeat that, and that's precisely what happened at that press conference.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jorge Ramos and he is the news anchor at Univision, the Spanish-language network and also hosts a show on Fusion, which is an English-language network that's - Univision partnered with ABC Disney. And a lot of Americans were introduced to him after - like, during his confrontation with Donald Trump at Trump's press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, a few weeks ago. Let's take a short break. Then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Jorge Ramos. Many Americans were introduced to him during his confrontation with Donald Trump at a recent press conference in Iowa. Jorge Ramos anchors the news on Univision, the Spanish-language network.
So you were hoping for a TV moment when you went to the press conference with Donald Trump in Dubuque, Iowa. Was that your TV moment when you were evicted from press conference? Did part of you think when you were, you know, taken out of the press conference, like, that's my TV moment? You know, it wasn't the one I was looking for, but it's going to make an impression.
RAMOS: No, actually, he's the one who made news because had he allowed me to stay and ask a question, we wouldn't be talking about it and probably you wouldn't have invited me to the show.
GROSS: Well, that's my point. I mean, you had a really incredible TV moment.
RAMOS: Exactly, but it was not something that I planned. What I really wanted to do is to confront Donald Trump on the absurd ideas that he's been promoting lately. And that's why I accepted to go back to the press conference and that's when we had the opportunity to speak at length about his plans to deport 11 million people in two years, which is absurd because he would have to deport 458,333 immigrants every single month. That's about 15,000 every day. And that's equivalent to filling up, let's see, about 30 747s every single day for two years.
I wanted to ask him about how absurd it was to try to build a wall - a 1,954 miles wall - between Mexico and the United States because almost 40 percent of all immigrants come with a visa - probably by plane - and they simply overstay their visas. So that's exactly why I wanted to confront him. And also that the most important thing was he was promoting the myth - because it's only a myth - that many immigrants in this country are criminals, drug traffickers and rapists. In all the studies that I've seen - all the studies suggest that crime rate among immigrants is lower than those born here in the United States. So in other words, there's nothing to back up his statements that Mexican immigrants - and I'm a Mexican immigrant - there was nothing to back up his statement that Mexican immigrants were criminals or rapists. And that's precisely what I wanted to do and I think that's exactly what I achieved at the end.
GROSS: So some people think that you were showboating and that you broke protocol by not waiting to be called on by Trump and then by turning a question into more an interview of Trump, an interview that where you talked over each other the whole time. But still it wasn't, like, ask your question and now you're done. I mean, you kept coming at him with questions, so what would your response be to that?
RAMOS: What happened is that I did wait for my turn. Trump's team is trying to sell a narrative of something that didn't happen, as usual. What really happened is that I waited for my turn. One reporter from Fox News asked a question. Then he had a follow-up, and after that, I raised my hand. I said I have a question on immigration. Nobody objected, Terry, nobody - not the reporters, not Donald Trump. He waited for my question and then when I started expressing the premise of my question, which was that his immigration plan was full of empty promises, he realized immediately that he didn't like the question. And then he pretended that I wasn't there and then he called on another reporter.
So, first of all, I did wait for my turn. Second, I - in a very civilized way - said that I had a question on immigration - nobody objected. And when he realized that it was not exactly what he wanted to hear, he tried to silence me, but I wasn't going to allow him to silence me because I'm a reporter. And I wasn't going to allow him to - I wasn't going to follow his order. He told me to sit down and I wasn't going to sit down.
GROSS: So what's your postmortem on your confrontation with Trump at that press conference? What do you think the outcome was?
RAMOS: From my point of view, the outcome - the conclusion is very simple - that he was wrong on immigration. His statements were false. I think we were able to unmask him. We found out who's the real Donald Trump. What he did, calling a bodyguard to throw me out of a press conference, that's an attack on freedom of the press. I think his statements on immigration and this incredible mass deportation - it would be the largest mass deportation in recent history - is dangerous for our democracy and also what I think is that that confrontation showed that he's vulnerable, that you can confront him and that, at the end, he was not right. The - I'm completely convinced that after that encounter, that the dynamic of the campaign changed. Before that, if you remember, almost no one wanted to confront Donald Trump. They were either afraid or they felt that following the strategy of ignoring Donald Trump, that his standing in the polls would decrease and that he would fade into the next new cycle. That didn't happen. I think after that confrontation, many presidential candidates decided to attack Donald Trump, as we saw in the last presidential debate, and we show the true nature of Donald Trump.
GROSS: You've described yourself as an evangelist for a Latino political power. Two of the candidates in the Republican primary are Latino, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, but their views on immigration are different from yours. What's it like to watch, you know, breakthrough Latino candidates be people who don't share your opinions on an issue that's so key to your viewers and to your identity as a journalist?
RAMOS: It's new. Before Marco Rubio - Senator Marco Rubio and before Senator Ted Cruz got into the Senate, the tradition within Latino politicians from both parties was that they would support not only the Latinos in this country but also the undocumented. That was a tradition for decades. And there, of course, were a few mostly Republicans who did not agree with that. But major political figures within the Latino community were always supporting undocumented immigrants. And then came Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz, both Cuban Americans, both Republicans - obviously something - the Republican Party is doing something right in the sense that for the first time in history, we have two presidential candidates who are Latinos. That's a major, major breakthrough for the Hispanic community. Remember, we don't have a lot of political representation. We're about 17, 18 percent of the population and we only have three senators. So to have two major presidential candidates in one political party is a major breakthrough. However, they are not defending undocumented immigrants, and therefore, they are allowing people to attack 11 million people who, at some point, were just like their parents. And that's - that's very difficult understand.
GROSS: Wouldn't they say that their parents came legally?
RAMOS: Their parents came legally, of course.
GROSS: And stayed legally.
RAMOS: But also - yes, but also we have to understand that we all come from immigrant families. And I really can't understand how come someone who gets to this country decides at one point to close the door to those who came after them. I do understand that 11 million people came here illegally, that they broke the law by coming to this country or by staying in this country after their visas expired. However, we also have to take responsibility, and we don't do that publicly. We have to take responsibility because there are thousands of American companies who hire them. In other words, they didn't come here to go to Disneyland. They came here to work. They came here to do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. And also our responsibility is that they came here because they benefit millions of millions of Americans, including you and me and all the people listening to this broadcast. So it is our responsibility. And when one candidate or when one senator decides not to defend this part of the community, it's something that I find incredibly difficult to understand and that, by the way, the majority of Latinos, according to the polls, find also very difficult to understand.
GROSS: My guest is journalist Jorge Ramos who co-anchors the evening news on the Spanish language network Univision. After we take a short break, he'll talk about growing up in Mexico where he says his father, the church and the regime imposed their authority on him. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Jorge Ramos who is famous and influential in the Latino American community for co-anchoring the evening news on the Spanish language network, Univision. Last July, he was in the news after a confrontation with Donald Trump at a Trump press conference where Ramos stood up and asked challenging questions about Trump's immigration policy. A Trump bodyguard ejected Ramos from the press conference. Ramos grew up in Mexico and moved to the U.S. in 1983 on a student visa. He became a U.S. citizen in 2008.
You became a journalist in Mexico when you were in your 20s. What was the influence of the government on the press and how did that affect your - how did it affect you as a journalist when you came to the United States?
RAMOS: In Mexico, when I started being a journalist, I started doing radio, and then I moved, briefly, to television. There was direct censorship from the presidency to the mass media - direct censorship. In other words, they would call it la linea - the line - and they, through the line, would tell newspapers and television newscasts and radio programs what to say and what not to say. And I rebelled against that censorship. After working a couple of years in radio, I moved to television, and on my third report on TBS - I was a young - very young reporter - I wanted to do a little criticism on the way Mexicans chose their president in which there was no democracy. The president in term would decide who was going to be his - the next president, and my report was completely censored, completely censored. And I was very young with a lot of ideas, and I decided to quit. I wrote a letter or resignation that I kept as a badge of honor for many years, and I quit. I sold my car - it was an old red Bochito Volkswagen - and I got about $2,000. I applied to UCLA Extension in Los Angeles. I got accepted, and then I moved to this country. So I was directly affected by censorship, and I didn't want to be a censored journalist in Mexico. And I am glad that I came to this country because the First Amendment has given me all the opportunities that I couldn't have in Mexico. And you know what has happened in Mexico in the last 10 years, for instance, more than 80 journalists have been killed. So ultimately the United States has given me my career and probably has changed my life in ways I - that I would have never expected had I stayed in Mexico.
GROSS: So how did your experience in Mexico - where you resigned to avoid government censorship - how did that experience affect your attitude toward covering the government when you became a journalist in the United States? And I'm talking about covering the American government.
RAMOS: What I - what you find out...
GROSS: And how did it affect your style, like, your approach?
RAMOS: Well, the approach is that - that there's no question that you cannot ask, which is beautiful. Maybe we take it for granted here in the United States, but in the majority of the countries that I visited as a reporter, that I went to cover as a journalist, you cannot do what we do here in the United States. And we just take it for granted. I can go to the White House or talk to the president, be critical of the president. I said - remember the last interview that I had with President Barack Obama, we had a discussion on - and maybe a confrontation - on the number of immigrants that he has deported from this country. He has deported more immigrants than any other president, more than two millions. Clearly, the president didn't like my question, my statement.
GROSS: You called him the deporter in chief.
RAMOS: Well, I - I quoted someone...
GROSS: You told him other people called him that (laughter).
RAMOS: Exactly, he didn't like it. The fact is that up to now, he has deported 2.4 million immigrants, more than any other president in the history of the United States. We have to say he has destroyed thousands of families. Well, look, Terry, I can do that here in the United States, go home and everything's going to be OK. I can go out and walk with my kids, take a bike ride, go to the supermarket and nothing's going to happen to me. If you do exactly the same thing in other countries, in Venezuela or in Cuba, probably in Mexico, I don't know what would happen to those reporters.
GROSS: So on the English language broadcasts that you do on the cable channel - the new cable channel, Fusion, which also has a website with all the video on it, you interviewed Ann Coulter after the publication of her latest book, which is called "Adios, America: The Left's Plan To Turn Our Country Into A Third World Hellhole." The book is very anti-immigration. Ann Coulter is a right wing writer and pundit, author of such books as "Demonic: How The Liberal Mob Is Endangering America" and "How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must)" and "If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans." She's a professional provocateur. I mean, that's how she makes her living. And I want to play an excerpt of the interview that you had with her on your show, "America."
(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)
RAMOS: You've said that Americans should fear immigrants more than ISIS.
ANN COULTER: Yes.
RAMOS: Most immigrants are not terrorists, not criminals...
COULTER: I have a little tip for...
RAMOS: No one is biologically...
COULTER: I have a little tip...
RAMOS: ...Predisposed to commit a crime.
COULTER: If you don't want to be killed by ISIS, don't go to Syria. If you don't want to be killed by a Mexican, there's nothing I can tell you. Very easy to avoid being killed by ISIS, don't fly to Syria.
RAMOS: Are you really saying that - we're talking about 40 million immigrants who live in this country.
COULTER: Exactly. (Laughter) I thought you were just disputing that.
RAMOS: No, no, 40 million immigrants who live - immigrants, I'm not talking about undocumented immigrants - overall immigrants, legally here and those who are not here.
COULTER: I think we're closer to 40 million with illegals.
RAMOS: OK, so do you think that people are biologically predisposed to commit crimes?
COULTER: No, I think there are cultures that are obviously deficient. And if they weren't deficient, you wouldn't be sitting in America interviewing me, I'd be sitting in Mexico. You fled that culture.
GROSS: OK, very long silence during part of that interview after her first statement.
RAMOS: I was shocked.
GROSS: (Laughter) Yeah, I'm sure you were, but probably not all that shocked because she's famous for being extreme. That's what she does, which leads to my question. Donald Trump is running for president, like, he is a - and he's ahead in the polls - he is a man to be reckoned with. And you felt the importance of asking challenging questions to someone who wants to assume the highest office in America. And you made sure that you kept asking those questions in spite of his reluctance to answer them. But with Ann Coulter, I mean, she's a pundit and writer who makes her living being extreme. Why did you invite her on your show?
RAMOS: I am absolutely convinced, Terry, that we have to talk with those who don't agree with us in order to have comprehensive immigration reform at some point. If we don't talk to them, nothing is going to happen. I'll achieve nothing whatsoever if I talk to members of Congress and with people who agree with me. I have to talk with those who don't agree with me and who - those who are actually giving Donald Trump ideas on what to say and what to do. So I've spoken, obviously, with Donald Trump and I've spoken with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona, I spoke with Ann Coulter, I spoke with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News and Sean Hannity, and I've spoken with many conservatives who don't agree with me. But I am convinced that if we don't have that dialogue, nothing's going to be achieved. You know what happened in the Senate in 2013? The Senate approved comprehensive immigration reform that would legalize the majority of 11 million, giving them a path to citizenship. But then, in the House of Representatives, nothing happened. So I went to talk to John Boehner in a press conference, and he didn't like it either. But I told him that he was blocking immigration reform. You know, I'm using the freedom that I have in this country to have these conversations. And I think that, at the end, if we can have a conversation, even though we might not agree on exactly what to do, maybe something at the end could be achieved. And I'll keep on doing that. I'll keep on talking with those who don't like me and those who don't agree and those who don't like my questions. And that's why I spoke with her.
GROSS: So after that incredibly tense interview that, you say, shocked you, you ran into Ann Coulter at the airport. And I know about this 'cause Bill Finnegan wrote about it in his profile of you in The New Yorker. And so apparently when you ran into Ann Coulter at the airport, in spite of this, like, really tense interview you just had with her, you exchanged a fist bump. How did that happen?
RAMOS: Well, I was just saying hello. And what happens is that - you would be surprised - and maybe it happens to you when you have the opportunity to do the interviews in the same studio - but even after a difficult interview, even after a confrontation, many people understand that at the end, it's just a battle of ideas. And I think that I owe it to the audience and I, as a person, not as a journalist, I feel the need to maintain those relationships because you make peace with your enemies. And when it comes to immigration reform and changing the lives of 11 million, those are the ones with whom you're going to have to talk in order to reach something - just to get something.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jorge Ramos who co-anchors Univision's nightly Spanish language newscast. And a lot of people were introduced to him during his confrontation with Donald Trump at Donald Trump's recent press conference in Iowa. Let's take a short break, then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Jorge Ramos who is the co-anchor of Univision's nightly newscast. Univision is a Spanish-language network and Jorge Ramos now also hosts an English-language program on Fusion, which is Univision's new sister cable-network and website. At what point did you decide to become an American citizen?
RAMOS: It was before that 2008 election. I wanted to make sure that I was going to vote in that election. You know, I was 50, I had been living for 25 years in this country. I realized that I wasn't going to go back to my country of origin and after the presidency of George W. Bush, and the huge mistakes that the U.S. had made in Iraq, I wanted to vote. I wanted to make sure that I was going to be able to vote for me and vote for my kids. So that's when I made the decision and I was able to vote for the first time in my life, either here or in Mexico and that's when I became a U.S. citizen.
GROSS: So your children became citizens before you because they were born here?
GROSS: Was there a culture gap between the culture that you were brought up in, and the one that your children were growing up in. I think a lot of immigrant families experience that. I think also a lot of families that change class experience that. You were brought up middle class, you're pretty famous now and I'm sure, you know, you make, you know, make a pretty decent living, perhaps better than your father did, though your father was an architect; he might've done pretty well too, I don't know.
RAMOS: Not exactly, we we're five kids in the family in Mexico. And we didn't have enough money, so it was a completely different life than the ones they're having right now.
GROSS: Were you brought up with that sense the man has to be, like, really macho? Did that change for you after you moved to the United States?
RAMOS: Yeah, I grew up with that. I was not only - remember, we're talking about a very authoritarian regime back then in Mexico until the year 2000. So there were three elements in which authority were imposed for you as a kid. First, your father - he would tell you exactly what to do, what to eat, when to go, when to watch TV, then it was church. I went to Catholic school, and the priest back then would only - would not only punish you physically - hitting you on the hands and pulling your hair and torturing you with ideas that you would go to hell. And then of course the political system which was incredibly authoritarian. There was no democracy, and so you would have your father, the Catholic Church and authoritarian regime imposing ideas on you.
GROSS: A large percentage of Latino population in the U.S. is Catholic. You left the Catholic Church because you thought that the priests were, as you put it, using fear as the basis for control when you were in school; when you went to Catholic school. And in 1975, you and a group of other students even wrote a pamphlet protesting how you were treated by priests in school. What did you write?
RAMOS: I think - first we were rebelling against corporal punishment. It sounds incredibly cruel that priests would physically punish you with shoe soles - they would hit us, they would pull our hair and there would be physical punishment for all the things that you were doing. Just imagine that - imagine having to go to - for confession on Fridays, and that the same priests who's listening to your sins is the same priest in charge of discipline in your school.
RAMOS: So you were telling him exactly all the things that you did wrong. And then, honestly, without maintaining the separation of church and school, he would come up on Monday with the worst punishments against you. Look, how can you believe in God when you're a kid, when you're nine or 10 if the same people who supposedly represent God are hitting you. How can you do that? And when you're a kid and when the priest tells you that you're going to go to hell, those weekends were full of nightmares. And that's what I was rebelling against.
GROSS: So when you left Mexico and were faced with a different part of the Catholic Church, did you consider going back or were you just done?
RAMOS: No, I was done. I was done. I - well, once was enough and I - my father was truly a believer. But I - once I started going to college, and once I realized that nobody really knows if there's afterlife, that there's really no explanation - no religious explanation on why children die, why children have cancer, why all the cruelty in wars happen, why all these terrible things that I've seen as a journalist. Once you realize that there's no religious explanation, then I really had no choice but to leave Catholic Church and I became an agnostic. And I guess as a journalist, that fit perfectly because part of your job description is to doubt about everything and about everyone. And that's what I've been doing for the last, I don't know, maybe 34 years.
GROSS: I need to let you go because you need to anchor - we're recording this interview and you need to anchor your nightly newscast for Univision. But one more question before you go - at the now-famous press conference in which you kept asking Donald Trump questions and he had you taken out of the room and then invited you back and you kept asking and he kept talking over each other and everything. He told you at one point when you were asking him about the mass deportations that had planned, he told you - he said I have a bigger heart than you do. And I'd like to know, is there any way of fact-checking that?
RAMOS: I don't know. I don't know what's in his heart, what I know is that in his speeches, he's promoting bigotry and hatred and that he's the loudest voice of intolerance and division in this country. And if I may say something - many people have accused me of being an activist. And they ask me, are you an activist or a journalist? Well, I'm just a journalist, I'm just a reporter asking questions. But as a journalist, sometimes you have to take a stand, and I took a stand. Edward R. Murrow did it with McCarthy, Cronkite during - did it during the Vietnam War, The Washington Post reporters forced the resignation of Richard Nixon, Christiane Amanpour did it during the war in Yugoslavia, even we've seen Anderson Cooper taking a stand after Katrina. So the best examples that we have in this country is when reporters take a stand when they see injustice. And I saw injustice when Donald Trump criticized Mexican immigrants like me - because this is personal. When he criticized Mexican immigrants for being criminals and rapists and he was absolutely wrong, and - I felt that I needed to confront him and now he knows. Now, if he wants to talk me, he has my number.
GROSS: Well, Jorge Ramos thank you so much for talking with us.
RAMOS: Thank you, it was my pleasure, thank you so much.
GROSS: Jorge Ramos co-anchors the evening news on the Spanish-language network Univision and hosts the program "America" on the English-language cable channel and website Fusion. Coming up, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a new album he describes as strangely beautiful. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.