USA Today deserves some credit for taking a closer look at the partnership between Hillary Clinton and Haim Saban, the owner of Univision, the large Spanish-language cable news channel, but most of the credit belongs to the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo. Caputo first blew the whistle two weeks ago on the multi-year deal signed between Saban and the Clintons, while Saban bragged at the same time that Univision would “pitch in with full might” if Hillary ran for President. “Seeing her in the White House is a big dream of mine.”
Raul Reyes, a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, quotes Saban to ask why this relationship shouldn’t make people uncomfortable (via Instapundit):
Remember that just last year, CNN had planned a documentary and NBC a mini-series docudrama featuring Hillary Clinton. But after widespread criticism, both networks cancelled their plans.
Univision is known for its steamy novellas and over-the-top reality shows. Yet the network has a serious side, and it is in the big leagues now. In 2012, it hosted special candidate forums for both President Obama and Mitt Romney. Its evening news broadcast in large cities regularly equals or tops other channels in the ratings. Last year, the network hit a ratings milestone when it won the prime-time July sweeps,besting the English-language networks in several coveted demographics. It is the fifth-largest network in the U.S., according to Univision, reaching an average of 1.8 million viewers in prime time. Its total U.S. reach is 93.8 million. Without question, Univision is on the rise.
And with its increasing stature should come the same scrutiny given to the other major broadcast networks. Consider that one of the owners of Univision, Haim Saban, is a major Clinton donor and backer who told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that, “Seeing her in the White House is a big dream of mine.” Or that Clinton is featured in 5 out of 7 slides promoting “Pequeños y Valiosos” on the Univision website. Or that the recent “press event” kicking off this program did not allow questions from the press. In other words, it was largely a promotional event for Univision, Clinton, and their new initiative.
No one is saying that there is anything wrong with the Univision/Clinton partnership. Univision has proved it can be an independent-minded network; it has aired investigative reports on the “Fast & Furious” gun trafficking scandal, and hosted both pro- and anti-immigration reform voices in its news programming. Clinton has been an advocate for early childhood education for many years. However, when powerful political forces join up, the public needs to know all the details. More transparency would bolster the credibility of both Univision and Hillary Clinton — and serve each of them well.
Actually, the issue here isn’t transparency. It’s a huge, transparent conflict of interest at Univision. If Roger Ailes partnered up with, say, Chris Christie at Fox for a big, splashy social program and gave it that kind of coverage, Democrats (and no small number of Republicans) would be screaming about in-kind contributions — even if Ailes hadn’t personally endorsed a Christie presidency as his “dream.” Where is the RNC on this conflict of interest? For that matter, where are other Democrats on this conflict of interest, Democrats who may not be interested in Hillary Coronation Take 2?
This has significant potential for backfire at Univision, too. Let’s say the Republican nominee in 2016 turns out to be either Marco Rubio (unlikely) or New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (perhaps more likely). How will Saban explain backing the retread Hillary Clinton and opposing a Republican with actual Latino background in 2016? The knots into which Saban will have to tie himself to escape his identity-politics trap would be amusing, to say the least. But the partnership between political candidates and media conglomerates are more worrisome than amusing, and would be a bad turn in American politics which is already too driven by celebrity over substance … as the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008 and in 2016 prove.