26th Aug 2015
DUBUQUE, Iowa — The Univision anchor in the front of row of Donald Trump’s pre-rally press conference in Iowa piped up to ask a question as the Q&A began.
Then Jorge Ramos quickly became the surprise star of the news cycle, the latest to present itself in Trump’s unapologetic, take-no-prisoners spectacle of a campaign.
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“Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump!” said Ramos, one of the country’s most influential Hispanic journalists.
“Sit down, sit down. You weren’t called,” Trump responded gruffly.
“I’m a reporter, an immigrant and a citizen. I have the right to ask a question,” Ramos protested.
“No, you don’t,” grumbled Trump. “You haven’t been called. Go back to Univision.”
Tension in the room mounted as it became clear to reporters that it would not be Trump’s answers, but the fight itself, that was becoming the story. After almost two minutes of heated back and forth, Trump’s security detail grabbed Ramos and physically removed him from the room.
The spat became the latest impromptu Trump brawl to captivate a news cycle. Even though the billionaire real estate mogul eventually relented, allowing Ramos to return to the press conference and ask a series of pointed questions about immigration, the explosive exchange effectively overshadowed an otherwise packed, boisterous rally along the Mississippi River.
The event included its own share of attention-grabbing elements: Conservative author Ann Coulter appeared ahead of the main act. Just before Trump took the stage, word leaked that Sam Clovis, a prominent Iowa operative who quit Rick Perry’s campaign just this week, would be joining Trump’s team to serve as his national co-chairman and policy adviser.
But it was Ramos’ ejection and eventual return that dominated coverage.
After Ramos left, Trump tried to move on. He called on a reporter who wondered whether he would apologize for another media fight — a series of tweets attacking Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. (He said he would not, and that she owes him an apology.)
The subject quickly returned to Ramos.
“You’re running for president, and one of our country’s top journalists was just escorted out of your news conference,” a reporter asked. “Do you think you handled that situation correctly?”
Trump has said he doesn’t apologize. But even he seemed to sense some compromise was necessary and Ramos returned. Even then, Trump refused to take the blame for him being escorted out: “I didn’t escort him out…. He just stands up and starts screaming. Maybe he’s at fault also.”
Trump said he only refused to take his question “because he was out of order,” not because of who he was. “He’s obviously a very emotional person.”
Ramos accepted the invitation to try again — he was back in the front row about 15 minutes after he’d been escorted out.
“Here’s the problem with your immigration plan,” Ramos launched right in. “You cannot deport 11 million … you cannot deny citizenship to children in this country — ”
“Why do you say that?” Trump interrupted. “A lot of people think that an act of Congress can do that.”
Trump defended his call to end birthright citizenship, complaining, “If you come across for one day, one day, have a baby, now the baby is going to be an American citizen.”
The riveting exchange continued just like that — Ramos firing off pointed questions, and Trump parrying or disputing the premise.
“How are you going to build a 1,900-mile wall?” Ramos asked.
“I’m a builder,” said Trump. “What’s more complicated is building a building that’s 95 stories tall.”
“How are you going to deport 11 million people? Are you going to bring the army?”
Trump responded that he would do it in “a very humane fashion” and said, “I have a bigger heart than you do.”
Ramos has significant sway in Spanish-language media. He hosts gigs on two networks, Univision and Fusion, and is as an outspoken, bilingual presence on Twitter. He has called Trump’s immigration plan “wrong,” “absurd” and “impossible to achieve.”
Both he and Univision have been targets of Trump’s wrath. Trump sued the network for $500 million after Univision decided to drop the Miss Universe contest over the candidate’s comments about Mexican immigrants.
When Ramos tried, via handwritten letter, to invite Trump to sit down for an interview, Trump published the letter, which included Ramos’ personal cellphone number, on his Instagram account. (The post has since been removed.)
Ramos hasn’t given up on landing an interview, however. In a statement on Tuesday, Isaac Lee, who serves as Fusion CEO and Univision head of news, said, “We’d love for Mr. Trump to sit down for an in-depth interview with Jorge to talk about the specifics of his proposals.”
His latest self-made media fracas finished, the GOP’s polling leader took the stage — to chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” — in front of a packed room at the Grand River Center, which sits on the Mississippi River. In his rambling, hour-long version of a stump speech, he served up his trademark mix of braggadocio and red meat, talked up his latest strong poll numbers and mocked other members of the Republican field.
As much as he seems to be enjoying himself and the front-runner glow, Trump admitted that running for office “is something that’s not very pleasant” and people who do it “really take chances.”
He focused his attacks on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, calling him a “low-energy person” and accusing him of using Jeb! in campaign literature because he is ashamed of his last name. And he maintained it was a sign of weakness that Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, longtime allies from Florida, are “hugging and kissing and proclaiming their great love” for each other.
And, of course, Trump proclaimed his own strength.
“I’m the most militaristic person,” he bragged later in the speech. “I would build a military so strong, so powerful, nobody would have to use it. I would have the best of everything.”
Trump said that American strength did not mean that the U.S. must fight others’ battles for them. “If we get attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us,” he said. “If they get attacked, we have to go over to Japan. Oy yoy yoy, it’s a long flight.”
One of Trump’s biggest applause lines came when he lashed out at scripted candidates. He promised to “outlaw Teleprompters for anybody running for president.”
He said it was important to be able to speak off the cuff and for oneself — but in the press conference beforehand he would not say whether or not he writes his own tweets.
“I think about them myself,” he said.
Some in the crowd said they were converted by his performance.
“My husband had to convince me to come today,” said Donna Nicksic, who drove five hours from Indiana to see Trump. “I didn’t think he had the ability to win. I thought he has no filter and I thought that would hurt him.”
But she walked away a believer, despite being offended by his attacks on Kelly.
“He’s authentic, he’s genuine, he won’t be influenced by the lobbyists. I think that’s vital,” she said. “I think it’s better to make mistakes in the things that you say rather than being so careful to say the right things.”
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