Latino media advocacy leaders say NBC’s decision Monday to end its business ties with presidential candidate Donald Trump because of his denigrating comments about Mexicans marked a watershed moment for Latinos.
“Things are never going to be the same,” said Alex Nogales, the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a Latino media advocacy group, about Latino empowerment. “When have we seen Latinos come out so quickly and strongly against something, and get a result so quickly?”
Nogales’ group was part of a coalition of 39 Latino advocacy organizations that called on NBC to get out of business with Trump. Similarly, a petition urging the same thing on the Change.org website had gathered more than 218,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
“Latino leadership mobilized in a lot of different areas, from the West coast to the East coast and every point in between,” Nogales said. “And a young [Hispanic] took it upon himself to start a petition online that got more than 200,000 signatures."
There’s a feeling in the Latino community like the scene [from the movie 'Network'] where people start shouting ‘I'm mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!
"There’s a feeling in the Latino community like the scene [from the movie 'Network'] where people start shouting ‘I'm mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’”
Nogales sees NBC's response to pressure from Latinos as a game-changer in how vocal and activist Latino will be going forward.
"Once you taste victory and you know you can do it, you become more vehement," Nogales said, "not only about messages in the media about the Latino community, but about every other issue that comes up as well."
During his presidential kickoff speech, Trump, who is one of more than a dozen Republicans who have launched a presidential campaign, said Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some, I assume, are good people."
He called for building a wall along the southern border of the United States. In news interviews immediately afterward, Trump defended his words, often even sharing more condemning views about Mexicans. Trump later said that his remarks were directed at U.S. policymakers, not the Mexican government or its people.
Spanish-language television media giant Univision quickly announced that it would not broadcast the Miss USA nor Miss Universe pageants, of which Trump is an owner, despite a five-year contract to do so.
Feliz Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, which also is part of the coalition pressuring NBC to break ties with Trump, said NBC’s decision resulted from “civil rights leadership in the digital age."
He said momentum for a backlash against Trump developed on the Internet and exploded there.
“What happened is that there was a groundswell of social media that led to this conclusion,” Sanchez said. “Univision read the tea leaves first, and before it got out of control, they acted. It took NBC longer. But in three days over 200,000 people signed the petition on Change.org asking NBC to halt its business relationship with Trump – it put NBC in a precarious position.”
“The Latino community made it very clear that if you own [Spanish network] Telemundo and your principal audience is Latino, you can’t keep going in a direction in which you normally would go, you have got to change and follow the Latino community.”
NBC broadcasts as well as co-owns the pageants with the Trump Organization.
On Friday, Nogales met with NBC executives to discuss diversity both in front and behind the camera. The executives included NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, and NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. Before the meeting concluded, Nogales raised the issue of Trump.
“I said ‘What Trump has said about Latinos,’” he recounted. “I said ‘You have the Miss Universe pageant. We urge you to drop him and drop his show.’”
“Who is going to tolerate that” barrage of insults, Nogales said. “The guy hasn’t heard us, he hasn’t accepted that that kind of hate speech and those views aren’t going to be tolerated. We were [at the same time] as a nation going through a discussion about the Confederate flag and [symbols] of hate.”
On Monday morning, NBC executives called Nogales to tell him that they indeed were ending their ties to Trump.
“This was very welcome news,” Nogales said.
Both Sanchez and Nogales said political leaders, notably the presidential candidates, virtually ignored the firestorm that Trump’s remarks unleashed among Latinos.
“On one hand, people think of Donald Trump as a joke,” Sanchez said, “but when you announce that you’re running for president and in that announcement you defame 54 million Latinos in the United States, you cannot dismiss what that person says.”
“You didn’t get someone like Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican, and whose children are half Mexican, immediately going after Trump, as he should have,” Sanchez said. “None of the Republican presidential contenders confronted him, nor did the chairman of the Republican National Committee put his foot down.”
The Democrats, Sanchez said, did not fare too much better.
“The Democrats’ strategy was ‘Let Trump play out, and let it build such animosity among Latinos that they won’t vote Republican and will stay in the Democrat column,’” Sanchez said. “But the strategy is at our expense.”
“Democrats expect us to take it because they may benefit,” he added. “It’s an example of both parties wanting power and profit from the Latino community.”
For his part, Nogales says the silence among presidential candidates as Trump offended Latinos will come back to haunt them.
"It can be used against them," he said. "We'll ask 'Where were you when we asked you to stand up with us for what is right?' They were nowhere around, and then you want our vote?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.