Los Amigos de Hillary Clinton
In February, Hillary Clinton visited a majority-Hispanic classroom in East Harlem, where she extolled the wonder-working properties of early childhood education. One photo of the event shows the presidential frontrunner smiling amiably, her hair slightly tussled, as she leans forward to give the students, arrayed on the floor like petitioners before a throne, a better view of a book. She is one of three people seated at the front of the classroom. On Clinton’s left is Bárbara Bermudo, a comely news presenter for the Spanish-language network Univision, and on Clinton’s right is Randy Falco, Univision’s president and CEO. They are having a blast.
Bermudo and Falco were there with Clinton to inaugurate Pequeños y Valiosos, or “Young and Valuable,” a joint campaign by Univision and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation to promote Latino youth literacy. The anodyne nature of the project—who among us is against youth or against literacy—may be one reason the event didn’t receive much coverage. Another reason, suggests attorney Raul Reyes, is that “mainstream journalists do not take Univision seriously.” Allow me to suggest a third possibility: partisan disinterest, the unwillingness of the political press to look skeptically at arrangements between leading politicians and major television networks—so long as the politicians in question are Democrats, and the networks are not Rupert Murdoch’s.
This unthinking partisanship is as much a loss for the mainstream media as it is for the rest of us. They are missing a hell of a story. For not only does the arrangement between Clinton and Univision reveal the growing importance of ethnicity in presidential elections, it also raises questions of objectivity and balanced coverage, of the hidden power of progressive money in politics.
Univision is the highest-rated Spanish network. Indeed, pollster Sergio Bendixen told the New Yorker a few years ago that among Hispanics, Univision is the most respected institution in America. It is competitive with the major broadcast networks, beating them in July of 2013, and has of late become interested in politics. It publicly feuded with Marco Rubio, the most prominent Hispanic Republican in the country and a likely presidential candidate in 2016, when he was slow to embrace immigration reform. Its candidate forums during the 2012 election featured both Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Conventional wisdom holds that the Hispanic vote, which grows in size every year, is the key to the White House. Obama won some 70 percent of Hispanics in 2012. For Hillary Clinton, notes Phil Rucker of the Washington Post, “the partnership with Univision provides a valuable platform to promote her causes with the country’s fast-growing and politically influential community.” The Republicans simply talk about reaching out to minorities; Clinton, like Vladimir Putin, establishes facts on the ground. For the next couple of years at least, the millions of men and women who watch Univision will be treated to reassuring, gentle, friendly, Clinton-approved lectures on how to raise their children. And the association of the former secretary of state with such universally beloved things as kids, education, health, and development will burnish her popularity among this important voting bloc. The public-service announcements may end, but the warm glow will remain.
The benefits to Clinton are not only electoral ones. Pequeños y Valiosos is part of the Clinton Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail” initiative, which is run in partnership with another liberal nonprofit, Next Generation. On Next Generation’s board is Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge-fund manager, Democratic donor, and environmental crusader who has pledged to spend $100 million defeating Republicans in 2014. He is a good friend for Hillary Clinton to have.
So is the owner of Univision, Haim Saban, the billionaire Democrat who loosed the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers on the world and who has donated between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton family foundation. Recently Saban gave an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth, in which he said that seeing Hillary Clinton in the White House “is a big dream of mine.” He has called Rubio “anti-Hispanic,” leading me to believe that prominent Republicans will not be joining hands with Univision anytime soon.
How spectacular it is to behold this river of money as it descends from the oligarchs, runs through valleys of do-gooders and lifter-uppers, collects in pools of hortatory marketing, mixes with direct donations to candidates and parties and committees, and pours into news coverage at liberal-owned networks. How immeasurable is the energy generated by this river’s flow, sustaining countless politicians, social workers, and journalists, forging connections between businessmen, activists, and Democratic bigwigs, propelling the progressive movement ever onward.
Hillary Clinton can enjoy the livelihood provided by her foundation, she can count on men like Steyer and Saban to donate handsomely to any campaign, she can reap the benefits of favorable news coverage from outlets Saban owns, she can drape herself in the cloak of moral righteousness from crusading on behalf of the children. What a brilliant arrangement. What a fantastic racket.
Nor does Clinton have to worry about unfavorable coverage from Univision’s competitor, Telemundo. Comcast owns that growing network, just as it owns NBC and MSNBC. The CEO of Comcast is a golf pal of President Obama’s, and his political giving overwhelmingly favors Democrats. Comcast’s chief lobbyist is a Democratic bundler, who has raised millions for the president and has hosted the president for a lavish fundraising dinner. The president calls him “friend.”
NBC News’s chief foreign-affairs correspondent is a friend and ally of Clinton’s, and her husband was chairman of the Federal Reserve under Clinton’s husband. MSNBC, for its part, is less a cable-news channel than a work of high-concept performance art, its hosts pronouncing in heated tones the Democratic talking points on the hour every hour, its guests running the full range of informed opinion from Rik Hertzberg to Katrina vanden Heuvel, its personalities so cocooned in the pieties of academic liberalism, so out of touch with the world as it is actually experienced, that they have a habit of being fired for making offensive statements. In recent weeks I have seen exactly one MSNBC host dissent from the opinion that a Hillary Clinton presidency is both inevitable and wonderful to behold. That host prefers Elizabeth Warren.
Last year, when CNN and NBC each announced plans for Hillary Clinton biopics and said the movies would be aired in time for the coming presidential campaign, Republicans and conservatives foamed at the mouth. They denounced the projects as fluff, as promotional material, as in-kind contributions from the liberal-leaning networks to the Ready for Hillary Super PAC. The Republican National Committee threatened to boycott the networks if the movies went ahead as planned. And it worked: The movies were cancelled. But Clinton’s deal with Univision has not been met with a similar fury. Stands to reason: Hardly anybody knows about it, and no one wants to criticize a Hispanic institution, out of fear that such criticism might provoke a backlash to the backlash.
Perhaps some educational outreach might slow for a second the juggernaut that is Hillary Clinton 2016. “Pequeños y Valiosos,” Phil Rucker says, “focuses on closing what researchers call a ‘word gap,’ as many children from lower-income families begin school with smaller vocabularies than their classmates.” Why not help fill in the gap? Here are some words young people might learn about the Clintons and their allies: bias, cronyism, conflict of interest, influence, billionaire, scandal, and corruption. We will be using them often in the years to come.