I have now written several articles about Donald Trump. My purpose has been to underscore his communications mistakes on the one hand and his communications abilities on the other. Both reflect the nature of the man behind them.
People have noted that the media seems to be on Trump 24/7, much to the chagrin of other candidates from both parties. Yet, as CNN has often reported, the other candidates have been invited on the air, but to date have not taken up these invitations. The fact that Trump is always accessible to most media makes him seem ubiquitous.
One medium Trump has ignored is UNIVISION, the large Hispanic network in the United States. Jorge Ramos, UNIVISION’s premier interviewer, has been publicly frustrated by Trump’s ignoring his repeated invitations for a one-on-one interview.
On August 25 UNIVISION’s Ramos decided to confront Donald Trump at a press conference in Iowa – whether Trump liked it or not.
And confront him he did.
Ramos began by standing up and shouting out a series of questions and statements while Trump was trying to respond to another journalist. Bad manners indeed, and something Trump had stated previously he would not countenance (in response to Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders giving up his podium to the “Black Lives Matter” crusaders at a recent rally).
Trump appeared to tell Ramos he would respond to his questions later on (in a rather dismissive manner, to be sure), but Ramos kept on regardless. Trump’s security then escorted Ramos out of the hall amid his protests.
Ramos was eventually allowed back in, and was allowed to make his speech and ask his questions, which Trump addressed in his own inimitable fashion. The press conference continued, and both sides got what they wanted.
Trump responded to his questions in his usual alpha male way, underscoring his point that he was not going to be intimidated by a journalist. Ramos made his point that he was not going to be bullied by Trump but was going to pursue his agenda any way he could.
Trump sought to demonstrate his strength in the face of an attack by a journalist by not giving ground and allowing himself to be cowed. This will undoubtedly please his followers, looking for a leader who doesn’t appear to bow before pressure.
However, I would have counseled him to not use his security to escort Ramos out of the hall, but rather to manage the situation with a little humor. Escorting him out gave Ramos credibility before his followers, and accomplished Ramos’s apparent intention of causing a scene and having Trump lose his cool.
I would simply have advised Trump to ignore Ramos until he tired, and then apologized to all for Ramos’s apparent bad manners. That way, Trump would have shown himself to be above it all and in charge of his reactions, not reacting to Ramos’s taunts.
In a press conference, journalists usually wait until they are invited to pose their question, and wait until the subject has responded to another journalist’s question before posing one him/herself. Ramos did not follow this practice, and appeared to Trump and Trump’s followers to be rude and overbearing.
However, people holding press conferences will often be faced with rude or hostile journalists, and must learn to keep personal feelings in check and manage the situation in a way that will show them to be taking the high road.
When a journalist shows s/he is looking for a fight, the candidate must show that s/he is in the game to send messages over the journalist’s head and to the audience. The journalist is never your target, the audience is, and you must show that they are the ones with whom you are communicating.
This is especially so when the press conference is on live television. Letting the hostile journalist vent his/her spleen will usually backfire on the journalist by creating sympathy for the person under attack.
As stated above, Ramos was angry that Trump had refused to be interviewed by him. Ramos had an agenda, and wanted to show that he was going to confront Trump and not be bullied by him. Ramos’s Hispanic followers will likely greet him as a hero, as will non-Hispanics opposed to Trump’s style and substance.
While neither will likely win support from the other’s camp, each will have solidified his own standing with his following.
It made for good entertainment, but in the end, really changed nothing.
Eduardo del Buey
Crosshairs Communications Ltd.