After Univision was boycotted by the Republican presidential candidates over a report about Sen. Marco Rubio's family, the Spanish-language media powerhouse came up with a solution to save face: hold a candidate forum instead.
Univision just sent out an invitation to the televised forum, saying Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have confirmed.
But Gingrich says that isn't true. As he did in October, Gingrich said Univision needs to make amends with Rubio, whose brother-in-law was the subject of a July Univision news report concerning a quarter-century old drug bust. The report came after months of Rubio snubbed Univision by refusing to appear on its talk show, "Al Punto," hosted by personality Jorge Ramos, who has pushed the Democratically backed pro-immigrant DREAM Act.
Rubio staffers and Univision sources said Univision's news chief, Isaac Lee, offered to soften or kill the drug-bust story if he appeared on the show. Rubio refused. The report ran. Lee denied offering the quid-pro-quo, but he has since admitted that he offered Rubio options to discuss the 24-year-old story, which was only reported out after Rubio repeatedly refused appearances on the show. (Some background here)
"We won’t do anything which Sen. Rubio doesn’t approve. Period," Gingrich said. "I mean, he and Univision have a problem. I’m not going to do something that he doesn’t approve... They have to find something which makes Sen. Rubio feel that… it’s ok."
**Updated: Rubio wants no part of this. He didn't want the original story to run in the first place. Here's a written statement from Rubio: "This election is going to determine the very direction of our country, and every single American deserves to hear from our Republicancandidates about their plans to turn the country around. I would never stand in the way of any candidate who is given the opportunity to take their messagedirectly to the voters."
Also, Rubio never called for the boycott this fall. That was done by his friends, U.S. Rep. David Rivera, state House Republican leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Miami-Dade Republican Chairman Erik Fresen.
Romney, too, has refused to appear at the new "forum" of Univision's, which is being held in cooperation with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Two chamber officials sent The Miami Herald two separate links to an Atlantic story that suggested Romney, who also boycotted Univision's debate, was "snubbing Hispanics" for not going to the forum.
It's quite a claim, considering that Romney is advertising on Spanish-language television and he just hired Alberto Martinez, a Cuban-American political consultant as a Florida adviser. Gingrich has a Cuban-American Florida campaign manager, Jose Mallea, who was chairman of Rubio's 2010 Senate campaign where Martinez also worked. Also, the candidates are participating in an Hispanic Leadership Network forum in Doral later this month, and Wednesday's debate in Jacksonville is co-sponsored by the Hispanic group.
Gingrich said Mallea will make the ultimate decision on whether he attends. Mallea said he won't.
"We have a scheduling conflict," Mallea said.
The campaigns note that the forum would be moderated by Ramos, just like the debate would have been.
So how did Univision get it wrong? Mallea said he didn't know. However, campaign staff with Romney, Gingrich and former candidate Jon Huntsman said Univision was, at times, trying to divide and conquer by telling, for instance, the Huntsman campaign that Romney had confirmed when Romney hadn't.
"This is just another one of Isaac Lee's tricks," Rivera said. "If Telemundo, a professionally run organization, broadcast this there wouldn't be a problem.