The Spanish language TV network Univision offered a quid pro quo to Senator Marco Rubio this past summer; if the senator would appear as a guest on one of their shows where immigration would be a main topc, the network would forgo - or soften - an expose on a long ago drug bust of Rubio's brother in law.
If that sounds mafia-like in its threatening implications, you'd be right.
On the night of July 5, Rubio received a call from his sister, Barbara Cicilia. She was distraught. A Univision reporter had called her about the arrest and incarceration of her husband, Orlando Cicilia, in the 1987 federal bust called "Operation Cobra." Rubio was 16 at the time. Before Rubio was elected to his first legislative seat, in 2000, Cicilia was cleared for early release.
Mrs. Cicilia refused comment. Univision then sent a news truck to sit outside their West Miami home.
On July 7, Alex Burgos, Rubio's communications director, and Rubio's political advisor, Todd Harris, held a 45-minute conference call with a handful of top Univision editorial staffers, including Lee, the news chief who handled most of the discussions for Univision. Harris represented Rubio as Burgos took notes. Rubio was not on the call.
Toward the end of the conversation, Lee brought up Ramos' show and suggested the drug-bust story could change - or not run at all, according to Harris and Burgos' notes.
Said Harris: "You're saying that if Marco does an interview with Ramos, that you will drop this investigation into his family and the story will never air?"
Lee, they say, responded with this statement: "While there are no guarantees, your understanding of the proposal is fair."
In his statement to The Herald, Lee disputes that. He said "various" people were on the call with Rubio's staff for what he said was an "off-the-record discussion" about the story, including two of the network's "top internal legal counsels."
The denial by Univision rings hollow. At least two Rubio staffers have confirmed the gist of the conversation and, as the excerpt above mentions, the offer appears in the notes of two of Rubio's employees.
There are a number of issues raised by this attempted blackmail, not the least of which is Univision's obvious political agenda. No doubt Rubio would have been subjected to harsh, and biased questioning if he had appeared on the interview show and he was smart not to sink to Univision's level and accept the deal.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky