Univision and Obama?
October 11, 2011, 01:13 AM
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As I've mentioned before, whenever I read anonymously sourced articles from Washington circles about how Obama is a loner, is out of touch, is in over his head (here's a new one from the New York Post: "Obama growing isolated from his own administration"), I get this weird suspicion that the reporter just got off the phone with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers billionaire who is a major bankroller of the Clinton wing of the Democrats. After the Democratic primaries in 2008, Saban flirted with McCain, but then stuck with the Democrats and was apparently quite happy with Obama's appointments, such as Hillary to State. Saban is one of those guys who would make a great college football booster. (Here's one of his charities.)

Now, it's certainly possible that Obama is feeling a little blue these days, but mostly Obama is Obama, a "blank screen" as he aptly put it, upon whom people project their various fantasies. One fantasy that's going around at present is that Obama will chuck it in and let Hillary be the Democratic nominee in 2012. (That seems extremely implausible to me.)

On the other hand, I don't have any evidence for this hunch about Saban trying to undermine Obama. But I am very interested in what the Saban wing of the Democrats is up to these days. Are they 100% gung ho behind Obama? 

But in trying to come up with a way to test this question, I stumbled upon a bigger question that's relevant to the Saban question but is also important in its own right: What's Univision up to regarding the 2012 Presidential race? Who are they leaning towards? 

A few years ago, Univision, the dominant Spanish-language network in the U.S., was bought from Republican Italian-American billionaire Jerry Perrenchio by a group fronted by Saban. They paid top dollar at the peak of the subprime bubble that made Hispanics a particularly lusted-after target for advertisers. Presumably, Saban is mostly interested at present in making his big investment pay off, but he presumably can afford to tilt Univision's news coverage slightly in a direction he likes. Here's a 2007 Fortune Magazine article:

The man with the golden gut 

How Haim Saban, a flinty self-made billionaire, plans to turn Univision into the next great network - and put Hillary Clinton in the White House. Fortune's Stephanie Mehta reports. 

... Clinton, Saban says, ignited his interest in using his resources to find solutions to strife in the Middle East. He soon became the Democratic Party's largest single donor. "I don't say this lightly," says Terry McAuliffe, head of the Democratic National Committee at the time. "Haim Saban saved the Democratic Party." 

Now Saban is turning his energies to Hillary Clinton.

 

Univision could offer Saban an isolated playpen in which to put his thumb on the scale slightly while maintaining plausible deniability with Obama. "That's just a mistranslation of a Spanish idiom, Mr. President!" I don't know, I'm just speculating.

The new president of Univision News since late 2010 is Isaac Lee, a recent (2000) immigrant from Colombia, where he was a hard-charging magazine editor. He has studied at Universidad de los Andes and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. 

At the moment, the only stuff in the English language press about Univision and Lee is about how Republican presidential candidates are mad at him for trying to pressure golden boy Republican senator Marco Rubio into appearing on Univision by offering to withhold a story about his brother-in-law's decades-old drug arrest. (Rubio is a favorite of the Republican counterparts of Saban.)

But, is anybody keeping track of how Univision coverage is trending on the overall election? This seems like the kind of thing that slides under the radar but would be interesting to know.