CLEVELAND — The way Spanish-language networks have covered Donald Trump's controversial campaign has remained a critical, often under-discussed aspect to 2016.
From his announcement when he trashed Mexicans and immigrants, to his high-profile skirmishes with Univision and Telemundo reporters, the way the campaign's message is shared to Spanish-speaking voters and how the networks cover him will significantly inform how viewers regard Trump.
MRC Latino, a conservative watchdog that monitors Spanish-language news, analyzed the tenor of the two top networks' coverage in recent days of Trump's biggest campaign decision yet — his vice presidential pick of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — for BuzzFeed News. MRC found that Pence was largely described as anti-immigrant and ultra-conservative.
Jorge Bonilla said that the Telemundo message on Thursday was that "Trump found someone that was equally against the undocumented" community. The coverage focused on Pence's his congressional record, saying he was for a wall along the border and supported reporting undocumented immigrants who receive care at hospitals. On air, Al Cardenas, a Republican ally of Jeb Bush who has come around to the idea of supporting Trump, said it was still obvious that the campaign was not placing a high priority on engaging the Hispanic community.
In a report that aired during Noticiero Telemundo on Friday, the network's reporter told an activist that Pence wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The activist said Pence is against immigration reform and the Republican platform unveiled in recent days is anti-immigrant.
Meanwhile, Univision spotlighted that Pence was critical of Trump's comments about Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge overseeing the fraud case against Trump University. Trump has contended that Curiel is biased because of his Mexican-American heritage.
Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican, told the network that it's helpful to have someone in Pence with experience and a record — but "the nominee is the nominee." In the segment, Pence was later described as someone who defends family values and is against abortion and same-sex marriage. A Republican strategist, Luis Alvarado, called the Pence pick, the best thing Trump has done.
On Friday, Univision led with reports of intrigue that Trump regretted picking Pence. They reported that immigration groups say he’s against Obama's immigration executive actions and against birthright citizenship for those born to undocumented immigrants in the country. On air, GOP strategist Adolfo Franco said that Pence will help with Supreme Court justices and as someone who is pro-life.
Bonilla, of MRC, said both networks were tough on Pence and that by the weekend most of the coverage had turned to the convention.
"It was about what I expected," Bonilla said. "Trump's vice president was going to be cast as anti-immigrant no matter what, like Diaz-Balart said, 'the nominee is the nominee.'"
Jose Parra, a Democratic strategist and longtime aide to Harry Reid, said the Pence news wasn't a big deal on Spanish-language TV.
"They covered it because you need to cover it but it wasn’t 'oh wow Trump picked Pence.' It wasn’t a breaking story."
Trump also has little recourse: He has no validators in the Hispanic community — experienced Spanish-speaking surrogates who can make the argument for his candidacy to Latinos and defend him against attacks that he is racist because of his rhetoric and policies.
Of late, Helen Aguirre, the RNC's Hispanic media director, has been a regular on Spanish-language shows like Univision's Al Punto with Jorge Ramos making the case for Trump and against Hillary Clinton. But she's been repeatedly challenged for comments she made during the primary against Trump.
Now, Bonilla said, Pence is part of the complex Trump equation, too.
"For better or worse, Pence put on that Trump cape," he said. "Now he needs to wear it."