STUDY: Media Marginalized Latino Voices In Discussing Trump's Attacks On Judge Curiel's Latino Heritage

A Media Matters study of guests brought on cable news networks to discuss Donald Trump's attacks on federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Mexican heritage found that Hispanics were critically underrepresented in these discussions, even though Hispanics are disproportionately impacted by the issue. The Republican presidential nominee made repeated racist comments against Judge Curiel between May 27 and June 9, yet Hispanic voices made up a mere 11.5 percent of guests invited to analyze the racially fueled attacks.

On May 27, Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a lawsuit against Trump over his now-defunct real estate seminars, ordered the release of documents related to fraud allegations against Trump University, and Trump responded with unfounded accusations of bias. He claimed that there was a conflict of interest because Trump proposed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the judge was “Mexican.” The judge, who is of Mexican heritage, was born in Indiana.

Media and political figures across the political spectrum denounced the racist remarks. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who endorsed Trump earlier this year, called Trump’s attack “the textbook definition of racism.” Hispanic media figures, in particular, took issue with Trump’s comments. Yet in covering the topic, cable news networks hosted an alarmingly low number of a Latinos to discuss it, omitting important perspective from the Latino community, which has become increasingly concerned about issues of racial discrimination.

A Media Matters review of coverage from CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC primetime shows found that Hispanic voices made up only 11.5 percent of the discussion of the topic, while non-Hispanic voices dominated the conversation, making up 88.5 percent.

The media have a pattern of treating Latinos as a monolithic group focused on the single issue of immigration and excluding them from discussions of issues that may deeply affect their communities. A previous Media Matters study that analyzed the diversity of guests invited to discuss the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, FL, in which the majority of victims were Hispanic, also confirmed this trend.


Media Matters searched the Nexis database using the search terms “trump w/50 (curiel or judge or mexican)” for weekday CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC programs airing between 8 pm ET and 11 pm ET from May 27 through June 9 and reviewed the transcripts for segments about Donald Trump's attacks on Judge Curiel. Segments in which two or more participants discussed Curiel were included, with the exception of packaged or live news reports from correspondents. All guests were coded for ethnicity.

Julie Alderman and Sarah Wasko contributed to this study.