Spanish-language network Univision will broadcast the first part of its presidential forum Wednesday night. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will be the first candidate to appear, and President Obama follows Thursday night.
The presidential interviews came after a dramatic clash that would rival any of the network's famous telenovelas. Univision confronted the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit group that organizes the candidate debates, after it announced an all-white lineup of moderators.
"It's so interesting, because the Commission on Presidential Debates seems to believe that it is OK to have an African-American president, but it is not OK to have a moderator from a minority group," says Jorge Ramos, one of the network's anchors.
Univision President Randy Falco asked the commission to schedule an additional debate focused entirely on Hispanic issues, but the commission denied the request.
"We strongly believe that the four journalists we have named see their assignment as representing all Americans," said Janet Brown, the commission's executive director.
Univision was undeterred by the response.
"It's really unforgivable, and the American way is not to wait," Ramos says. "We can't wait till 2016 to see if the commission then reconsiders and includes a Hispanic journalist. No, that's not the American way."
Apparently the presidential candidates didn't want to wait, either, because both Obama and Romney quickly agreed to participate in the Univision event.
At a restaurant in Washington, D.C., the television is permanently tuned to Univision. Everyone there knows about the upcoming "Meet the Candidate" forum, but cynicism abounds.
"In this country, Latinos are cast aside," says Colombian-born Gladys Saavedra. "We're only useful to clean houses, to pick up the mess and to pay taxes. But now they've realized that the Latin vote is important."
Saavedra is one of about 3 million registered Hispanic voters who were born outside the U.S. but have since become naturalized citizens.
"Many of those folks get their news from Univision because there is a sense that they cover things that the English-language news doesn't cover," says Lisa Garcia Bedolla, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and author of the book Latino Politics.
Garcia Bedolla expects there will be plenty of questions at the Univision event that won't be asked during the presidential debates.
"The language of this forum is less critical than the substance of the forum, and the forum is going to be focused on a set of questions that probably aren't going to be as prominent in the English-language debate," Garcia Bedolla says.
Univision's "Meet the Candidate" forum will air in Spanish on Wednesday and Thursday at 10 p.m. EDT. The interviews will be available simultaneously in English on Univision's Facebook page.
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