Five Republican presidential candidates are boycotting a proposed Univision debate due to allegations that the Spanish-language media giant tried to strongarm Sen. Marco Rubio, a vice-presidential shortlister, with a controversial story about a relative.
Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann issued statements Tuesday saying Univision needs to make amends before they would appear at the debate, tentatively scheduled two days before Florida's Jan. 31 primary.
The five made their separate announcements throughout the day at the behest of three Florida Hispanic Republican lawmakers who noted that Rubio's office and Univision insiders said the network publicized an embarrassing story about the senator's brother-in-law because Rubio wouldn't do an interview on the show Al Punto, which has espoused a liberal line on the hot topic of immigration.
Univision has called the allegations of a quid-pro-quo "absurd," and said that the July story of the 24-year-old drug bust was reported fairly and accurately.
But the five candidates apparently believed the reports from Rubio's office and the Univision insiders, which were first revealed in a story in The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald on Sunday. The four other GOP candidates couldn't be reached for comment.
"Governor Perry will not consider participating in the January 29, 2012, Univision debate until your network addresses this ethical breach and takes action to correct it," communications director Ray Sullivan wrote Univision. "With NBC and Telemundo also hosting a debate the same weekend in January 2012, we will have ample opportunity to engage with Spanish-speaking Americans."
Romney didn't write a letter to Univision, but issued a statement from spokesman Ryan Williams that said: "We have not received any invitation from Univision for a debate, but we are troubled by these allegations and would not participate in any such debate unless and until Univision satisfactorily addresses this situation."
Late Tuesday, Cain's campaign issued a statement through Longwood state Rep. Scott Plakon, who said the recent Florida straw-poll winner is "out. Until Univision resolves this, he won't participate in the debate like the other candidates."
Huntsman's campaign manager, Matt David, was more measured than Perry's campaign in his letter to Univision. But he said the candidate stands firm.
"Unless Univision resolves this issue in a timely and satisfactory manner, Governor Huntsman will not give consideration to your network's debate currently proposed for January, 2012," he wrote. "We ask the other Republican candidates to join us in this decision and will work with them to identify another forum to debate issues that are important to Americans of Hispanic descent in Florida and across our nation."
The fact that the five candidates are standing by Rubio highlights his special status in the national Republican Party. The candidates have all said they'd like to have the 40-year-old child of Cuban immigrants as a running mate.
So Univision's report on Rubio's brother-in-law became an attack on the candidates.
"This issue was brought to Michele's attention and she has a great deal of respect for Senator Rubio," wrote Alice Stewart, a Bachmann spokeswoman. "We reserve our right to participate in the Univision debate pending a positive resolution of this matter by Univision."
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