In just a few months, Donald Trump has already had more politically deadly moments than most candidates manage in a lifetime. Only a campaign that's playing to the most intolerant, xenophobic wings of American society could survive everything from Trump's crass John McCain insults to his misogynistic Megyn Kelly rants to his Mexican "rapist" diatribe.
The Donald's latest moment of televised madness came last night and starred Miami's own Jorge Ramos. With a sneer, Trump repeatedly demanded that the Mexican-American journalist "sit down" when he tried to ask a question out of turn before snapping, "Go back to Univision" and ordering his security to boot him from the room.
It's hard to watch that clip of Trump barking, "Go back to Univision" and not hear him actually saying, "Go back to Mexico" — with a barely surprised ethnic slur buried beneath the surface.
Univision — which is based in New York but has its largest facilities in Doral — is aimed at the same Hispanic-American audience that's been the target of Trump's most virulent rhetoric. And Ramos himself is arguably the most visible Mexican-born journalist in the U.S.
For Trump, booting Ramos wasn't just a reaction to an annoyingly persistent TV reporter, it was a powerful piece of symbolism: In one swoop, Trump personally silenced a powerful Mexican-American voice and then tossed him from the room. "Stay in your place," Trump was really saying to Hispanic America. "I can toss you from this country whenever I want."
Of course, Ramos hasn't been universally lauded for the moment. There's no doubt that in the theater of Trump's campaign, this was a useful moment for the anchor and his network as well — Ramos is the talk of every political show in America this morning, and Univision's core audience is surely thrilled by the drama.
Some political reporters have taken Ramos to task for making himself the center of attention:
Trump's hamfisted minions should be ashamed. No reason to touch a reporter. But Ramos was pulling a stunt. Let's not kid ourselves.— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) August 26, 2015
And on Miami's Cuban-dominated Spanish-language media this morning, Trump was garnering a surprising amount of sympathy.
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There are fair criticisms of Ramos' tactics. By standing up to ask a question and refusing to back down last night, Ramos knew he'd become the story. He's far from an objective reporter.
But Trump's campaign isn't a normal political run, either. He's used his platform at all turns to demonize and persecute a significant portion of American citizens.
When the racist Trump circus rolls through town in the guise of a legit presidential race, it's hard to be too critical of any reporter — but particularly a Mexican-American journalist representing a network aimed at Hispanics — for refusing to treat Trump like a real politician.