Robin Jerstad for the Rivard Report
On a cold day in San Antonio, Jorge Ramos received a warm welcome from hundreds of fans at the San Antonio Book Festival. The Emmy award-winning journalist has entered Spanish-speaking homes in the United States via their televisions for decades.
Ramos, who was in the national spotlight in 2015 when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump told him to "go back to Univision" as he was escorted out of a press conference, spoke with Rivard Report Publisher Robert Rivard in front of a standing-room-only audience in a festival tent outside of the San Antonio Central Library on Saturday. His book, Stranger: The Challenge of A Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era, was released in February 2018.
"We wouldn't be making lines or coming out to see him if we didn't trust him," said Sandra Torres, a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio who grew up watching Ramos in a bilingual Houston home. "How does he gain that? Action. Him standing up for us. That's how he gains our trust."
In recent years the polarization of American society has coincided with declining trust in mass media. According to a 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation survey, more Americans have a negative perception – about 43 percent – of the news media than those who hold a positive view – about 33 percent.
The trust Latinos have in Ramos stems from his fearlessness and humility, Torres said. He readily admits when he errs, but he also gives a voice to Latino immigrants living in the margins, she added.
Ramos is viewed unfavorably by Trump's staunchest supporters, with some saying he is an activist, not a journalist.
"When it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption ... and the violation of human rights, we have to take a stand," Ramos said, adding that he feels a sense of duty to report the truth and question those in power. "Elie Wiesel, the holocaust survivor, he used to say that, 'Neutrality only helps the oppressor, never the victim.'"
Reflecting on his infamous encounter with the president, Ramos said he believes when Trump told him to "go back to Univision," he really meant "go back to Mexico."
One Trump supporter confronted Ramos after his removal from the press conference in 2015, while Trump was on the campaign trail, and used much harsher language.
"Get out of my country," the man said in a video captured by Univision cameras, to which Ramos replied that he is a U.S. citizen.
Although "it's a difficult time to be a Latino in this country," Ramos said, he has hope that the millennial and younger generations can act as change agents. He noted the activism among so-called Dreamers, those brought illegally to the U.S. as children, has helped effect change and steps toward immigration reform while the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida have shone a light on gun control issues.
"Young people are taking the lead," he said. "If the future of this country depends on them, we are in good hands."
Ramos urged audience members to make their voice heard. As the U.S. trends toward becoming a minority-majority country by the mid-2040s, he said working toward engendering peaceful relations in a multicultural society loomed large.
"This is not a time to be silent," he said.
At a book signing after the talk, a line of hundreds snaked inside the perimeter of the library.