Donald Trump, derider of Mexican illegal immigrants, insulter of POWs and GOP front-runner, kicked journalist Jorge Ramos out of a press conference Tuesday evening.
The billionaire later allowed Ramos back into the press conference, where the two engaged in several lengthy exchanges that dominated the remainder of the event. But none of those exchanges provided the moment that will be repeated in endless loops on cable TV, shared on social media and discussed in Hispanic TV-watching households across the country.
The lasting image will be that of Ramos -- who serves as Univision's lead anchor and is effectively one of the (if not the) most powerful newsmen on Spanish-language TV -- being hustled out of the room after trying to ask Trump a question. Ramos, whose nightly newscast has been known to post ratings that top those of all three major English-language network news programs, has a history of holding presidential candidates very close to fire on issues he believes to be of deep concern to Latinos, such as immigration.
The problem at the press conference Trump held in Iowa late Tuesday began when Ramos stood just as Trump called on another reporter.
Ramos, who spoke without the aid of a microphone, could be heard insisting that he had a right to ask a question. Then, he can be heard making reference to the implausibility of deporting 11 million people -- a key feature of an immigration policy proposal Trump released earlier this month.
"Excuse me -- you weren't called...Sit down...Sit down...Go ahead," Trump said, pointing to another reporter.
Then, turning his attention back to Ramos, Trump said, "No you don't. You haven't been called. Go back to Univision."
An unidentified man dressed in a dark suit, apparently a member of the security staff, then physically removed Ramos from the press conference.
During the period that Ramos was out of the room, Trump described Ramos as “obviously a very emotional person” whom he does not know. When Ramos was allowed to return, the journalist questioned Trump about the contents of his immigration policy, and Trump's repeated use of the term “anchor baby.” Trump defended the term's use and comments made during his announcement speech reiterating the unfounded claim that the Mexican government is engaged in a coordinated effort to send the dregs of its society to the United States.
After taking questions from other reporters in the room, Trump turned his attention back to Ramos. Trump then claimed that he enjoys tremendous support among Latinos.
"Do you know how many Latinos work for me? Do you know how many Hispanics are working for me? They love me," Trump said.
It was an evening filled with comments unlikely to endear Latino voters -- or other Americans aware that Trump’s comments about Ramos' emotions amount to an almost-direct reference to an oft-repeated Latino stereotype. And the idea that Americans of any kind love the people who employ them, well, that’s another matter entirely.
Trump's initial confrontation with Ramos also seems largely inconsistent with the candidate's reported detente with Spanish-language media. And it provides fresh fodder for those who claim that Trump's behavior and public comments will make the GOP's mission-critical efforts to attract a larger share of Latino voters more difficult.
In July, during his much-covered border visit, Trump cut off a reporter affiliated with the nation's second-highest rated Spanish language network, Telemundo, during the reporter's question about the language that Trump has used to describe those crossing the Mexican border.
Trump grew angry about the content of the question, describing it as an attempt to mischaracterize his statements. He told the reporter that he was "finished."
Now, Trump has engaged in a public tangle with one of the best-known names in Spanish-language news. During the 2012 election, Ramos's reach and influence prompted both President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney to sit down for extended, multilingual interviews focused on the issue of immigration. Univision is also the nation's top-rated Spanish language network and an organization that cut business ties with Trump in June, canceling a multi-year broadcast deal with the Miss Universe pageant over Trump's presidential announcement speech claims that rapists and other criminals are streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump is a part owner of the pageant.
It is, of course, unlikely that Trump's response to Ramos will ding the Republican front-runner's standing with voters who have praised his plain-spoken, often confrontational public persona. That's precisely what some of them like about him.