Tavis Smiley’s poisonous partnership with PBS

Some people think that, if you get fired, it must be for a good reason. Those people should not take jobs in media, where you can get fired for little or no reason at all.

Which brings us to the unfortunate — and, it appears, unfair — case of what happened to Tavis Smiley.

Last week, PBS indefinitely suspended distribution of the 53-year-old African American’s eponymous nightly show amid allegations of sexual impropriety. In a statement, the network said that it hired legal counsel to conduct an investigation into “troubling allegations” and that the inquiry “uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.”

That’s awfully vague. No tote bag for you, PBS.

Variety magazine reported that Smiley is accused of having “sexual relationships with multiple subordinates … some witnesses interviewed expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley.”

In other words, based on what has been reported so far, it sounds like Smiley was dating subordinates. That’s not smart, but nor is it unheard of in the American workplace.

I’ve known this man for 23 years in a friendship that started when we co-hosted a Los Angeles radio show in our 20s. Smiley went on to build a media empire and provide a powerful voice for black America.

And he made a few enemies along the way — especially when he bravely criticized Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, for not being sufficiently attentive to the problems facing the African American community.

The professional talker has hit the airwaves to blast PBS for making a “huge mistake” by rushing to judgment after a “sloppy investigation.” PBS accused Smiley of being inconsistent in his public comments. Smiley responded that the network is bent on “public humiliation” and “personal destruction,” and that he was denied due process.

With respect, that’s where my old friend goes wrong.

Media personalities are not civil servants. You want tenure and no pressure to produce results? Become a professor. You want to duck accountability? Schools need teachers. You like having a union to protect your job? You might make a good police officer.

But if you begin a career in media, you need to know what you’re in for. If you want fame and a decent salary, you’ve come to the right place. But if you want job security, you’ve taken a wrong turn.

Ratings down? You’re gone. On-camera friction with a co-host? Adios. Publisher telling departments to do more with less? Great working with you.

In the last 27 years, I’ve had no fewer than two dozen media jobs in seven cities. And I’ve been fired six times.

Media work offers no guarantees. You work at the pleasure of whatever company employs you. That’s the trade-off.

Of course, in the case of many of the media figures who have recently been fired or suspended, or had their shows canceled by media companies because of alleged sexual misconduct, there was good reason for the companies to cut ties.

Overall, this wave of exposing sexual harassment, and even sexual assault, by high-profile media figures is a good thing. It needs to continue.

But as with any movement, there will be collateral damage. There is a difference between showing bad judgment and engaging in bad behavior.

And sometimes it’s the media companies that themselves behave badly by cynically using the wave of sexual harassment allegations as a convenient excuse to get rid of people they don’t like or for whom they no longer have use.

I’ll tell you why I believe Smiley was let go: It’s because he was rumored to “hate” some of the folks at PBS.

Jacques Hyzagi, a disgruntled former senior producer on the show, wrote a hatchet piece for LA Observer in February. Hyzagi recalled that Smiley once told him: “I hate the people who run PBS. I hate Beth Hoppe, Mary Nelson, Mishi (Margaret Ebrahim). Every single one of them … and they hate me too.”

Media companies never admit their real motives because they care too much about their public image, and they would rather ruin the reputation of others than harm that image.

It’s despicable. Even more so if the person pushed out is a person of color in an industry run by white people.

Hyzagi claims that Smiley told him: “I’m the only black guy on PBS. All these white people are waiting for me to tumble.”

And because of his recklessness, he did. Smiley doesn’t deserve all the public shaming. Then again, PBS never deserved Smiley.

No partnership is perfect. But this one was poisonous.

© 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

Email: His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Dreamers: Don’t let Dems fool you

So Democrats are now the saviors of the Dreamers? How in the world did that happen?

For those of us who have paid close attention to the immigration debate over the last couple decades, it’s surreal watching Democrats in Congress threaten to go to the mattresses for a legislative fix that protects undocumented young people. After all, when Democrats had the chance to get Dreamers out of harm’s way by legalizing them, they were asleep at the switch.

It’s not politics. Most Democrats don’t have anything against Dreamers, many of whom they see as future Democratic voters. Blame Republicans for that, since their approach to immigration is often belligerent, boorish and boneheaded.

It’s just personal. Democrats aren’t ready to adopt the Dreamers by taking on their cause. As long as restrictionists paint as “amnesty” any accommodation for the Dreamers, you won’t see squeamish Democrats snuggling up to that group.

Such cowardice. Many Americans don’t have a problem with accommodating young people who — aside from being undocumented — have the same American values as their own children. According to a recent Marist poll, 81 percent of Americans support allowing Dreamers to stay in the U.S. legally, either with or without citizenship; only 15 percent think they should be deported. That includes 92 percent of Democrats — and 67 percent of Republicans.

In fact, although Democrats have promised a government shutdown if Republicans don’t protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — the estimated 800,000 undocumented young people who signed up for a temporary reprieve under the last president and had it snatched from them by the current one — Democratic leaders may be backing off that threat.

During a recent appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois — who earlier said that he was “not prepared to go home for the holidays until we get our work done,” which would include protection for DACA recipients — signaled that he may be back in the Land of Lincoln in time to trim the tree. Durbin lacks the nerve to do what a shutdown requires — cutting off, as he said on the show, “the resources and programs that many middle-income families use across America.”

Dear Dreamers, you are now — and have always been — on your own, and the last group of people you should trust to have your back are Democrats. Actions speak louder than words. And despite what Democrats say about how you belong in the United States, they have not done all they could to keep you here. They’ve always acted in their own best interest, but rarely in yours.

There are villains in this story, Democrats who went overboard either failing to come to the aid of Dreamers — or, even worse, helping remove them from the country. The Democratic unholy trinity includes former Rep. and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Let’s start in August 2001, when the original “Dream Act” was proposed by Durbin and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. The bill would have given young undocumented immigrants a shot at U.S. citizenship if they joined the military or went to college.

Of course, the terrorist attacks one month later scuttled any discussion of immigration reform for the next few years.

When those talks began in 2005, with President George W. Bush eager to sign legislation, Democrats and immigrant advocates convinced Dreamers not to settle for the piecemeal approach of the Dream Act and instead demand what then Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda called in 2001 “the whole enchilada” — namely, a path to citizenship for all 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. That was never going to happen. And Dreamers came away empty-handed.

Once President Obama took office in 2009, and started an enforcement juggernaut that would earn him the nickname “Deporter-in-Chief,” many Dreamers were swept up and removed from the country. That continued even after Obama unveiled DACA.

Finally, in 2010, when the Dream Act died in the Senate because it didn’t get enough votes for cloture, it was the “no” votes of five conservative Democrats — Jon Tester, Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan and Ben Nelson — that killed it.

Dreamers, this is your wake-up call. Democrats want you to think they’re in your corner. But it’s not so.

The Democrats failed you. Don’t let them fool you.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

NYT’s Thrush broke the rules

The New York Times has done good reporting this year on some big stories about sexual harassment. But suddenly the newspaper has gone from covering the topic to being smack in the middle of it.

The Times recently suspended White House reporter Glenn Thrush while it investigates allegations of sexual misconduct by him toward several female colleagues. The allegations concern Thrush’s conduct both during his tenure at the Times, and in years past, when he worked at Politico. A report by’s Laura McGann, who worked with Thrush at Politico, said that his inappropriate behavior ranged “from unwanted groping and kissing to wet kisses out of nowhere to hazy sexual encounters that played out under the influence of alcohol.”

The 50-year-old journalist had been on something of a hot streak. After hiring him away from Politico last year, the Times gave Thrush the prestigious White House beat. He also got a gig as an MSNBC contributor, and a reported seven-figure contract to co-write a book on the Donald Trump presidency with fellow Times reporter Maggie Haberman. His theatrical haranguing of White House officials even earned him what has become his generation’s version of a Pulitzer: being lampooned on “Saturday Night Live.” Media reporters called him a “star.”

Now Thrush’s future is unclear. Times management is reportedly struggling about whether or not to add Thrush’s name to the list of media figures who have been fired for allegedly making unwanted sexual advances toward women. The hall of shame includes Matt Lauer, formerly of NBC News; Charlie Rose, formerly of CBS News; Mark Halperin, formally of NBC News; and others.

The media takes care of its own. And, as a member of the Washington/New York media, Thrush has friends who are trying to contain the fire.

There is “the danger of comparing Glenn Thrush to Harvey Weinstein,” worries Joe Scarborough, the co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

CNN host Michael Smerconish questioned whether “the pendulum might be swinging too far.” He said that Thrush’s suspension gave him “pause” because it seems that all the reporter is accused of is “bad judgment.” In one example — cited in the story — a 21-year-old intern said that, after a party, Thrush tried to hold her hand and kissed her twice before she started crying.

But Smerconish downplayed the misbehavior. Some of the other allegations about Thrush, detailed in the article, are much worse and include making unwanted sexual advances toward women with a lot less power than he had.

In a statement, Thrush apologized and blamed his behavior on “drinking heavily.”

Smerconish acknowledged that Thrush was “boorish and hammered,” but the host seemed skeptical that someone should lose his job over what some would consider sophomoric antics.

I don’t see why this is even a tough call. Of course Thrush needs to be fired — not just because of the allegations, and not just because the whole story is awkward for a newspaper that has tried to lead the way in exposing sexual impropriety in Washington and Hollywood.

No. Thrush should lose his job because the Times needs to take seriously the rules of professional conduct to which it holds other journalists. What is at issue is not whether Thrush is a good person, but whether he is — and was ever — a good journalist.

You see, I’m an old-school journo. I’m the same age as Thrush, and I’ve spent more than half my life writing for newspapers. And at each place I worked, whether it was as a reporter or columnist, my bosses were — in their gruff and gravelly voices — not shy about spelling out what was expected of me, what the rules of the profession were, and what would happen to me if I broke any.

One of those rules, which Politico had in place as well when Thrush worked there, was not to share a story with a source before it is published. That’s common sense. You can’t let the people you interview edit and massage your story before it runs. When you do that, you’ve stopped being a journalist; you’ve become a stenographer. You no longer report; you take dictation.

Last year, thanks to a Wikileaks dump, we learned that Thrush — while working as a reporter at Politico — shared a story pre-publication with John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton. In an email, Thrush begged Podesta not to tell anyone about their arrangement. He even sheepishly called himself a “hack.”

Well put, Glenn.

So the question isn’t whether Thrush should lose his job in journalism. It’s why he ever had one in the first place.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Blame politics for S.F. killer’s acquittal

As I absorb the reaction to the verdict in the Kate Steinle murder trial from my perch in Southern California, I am reminded of just how ignorant and dishonest the New York and Washington media can be in covering the immigration debate.

The San Francisco killing two years ago of 32-year-old Steinle by an illegal immigrant in front of her parents was a tragedy. And the fact that her alleged assailant walked out of court with nothing more than a conviction on a minor gun charge amounts to a travesty.

But contrary to what they tell you on Fox News and conservative talk radio, this had nothing to do with those fabled lands of make-believe known as sanctuary cities.

The right-wing media refuse to let go of that fantasy. But sanctuary cities aren’t real. This is because of three things: federalism, criminal law and common sense. Federal immigration agents don’t take orders from local officials who pass symbolic resolutions so they can feel more powerful than they are.

Nor are the local police who arrest bad guys or the sheriff’s deputies who put them in the county jail under any legal requirement to do the job of federal agents for them — except in Texas, where it’s now a state crime for local and state cops to not help federal immigration agents.

In the Steinle case, there is only one reason why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents didn’t take Jose Ines Garcia Zarate into custody when he was released from the San Francisco County Jail in April 2015. It’s because ICE didn’t issue a warrant demanding that Garcia Zarate be handed over. The agency only issued a “detainer” requesting that the suspect be kept in custody until immigration authorities could pick him up — when they got around to it, if they got around to it.

Garcia Zarate was set free  because he was small potatoes.

Sure, Garcia Zarate had at that point been deported five times, a fact that really angers critics of sanctuary cities. Yet they don’t seem too angry at those who employ illegal immigrants. Even with multiple deportations, Garcia Zarate was still a low priority for law enforcement. While he had been convicted of seven felonies, his offenses were tied to nonviolent drug crimes. He was not considered dangerous.

He became dangerous when he accidentally shot Steinle by playing with a loaded gun he claims he found under a bench — a gun that belonged to a park ranger, who said he left it in his locked vehicle — and firing off a bullet that killed Steinle.

Steinle became — for then-presidential candidate Trump and conservative media — a martyr for the cause of eliminating sanctuary cities. That’s when ICE resorted to CYA. The federal agency pointed the finger at local authorities and insisted it wanted Garcia Zarate real bad and was denied access to the murderous fiend.

A nickel-and-dime criminal with a second-grade education who was living on the streets was, as a result of politics, suddenly raised to the level of famed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

That’s how prosecutors treated him, charging Garcia Zarate with second-degree murder and allowing jurors to consider first-degree murder, which requires premeditation and motive. They were never going to get that in this case from a jury. And while they gave jurors the option of convicting Garcia Zarate for the crime he actually committed, involuntary manslaughter, they either confused or angered the panel by giving them a menu of outcomes.

The prosecutors messed up. They should have just charged the defendant with what he actually did and take the bird in the hand. But political pressure likely got the better of them, and as a result, a killer did not answer for his crime.

We should not be surprised by any of this. Politics has a way of distorting reality and making the absurd seem plausible. And in the immigration debate, the effect is magnified exponentially.

Email Ruben Navarrette at He writes for The Washington Post Writers Group.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

The politics of ‘friendship’

My father has something that I’ll probably never have, and I envy him for it: lifelong friendships. He just turned 76 and he has two friends back home in Central California — Tom and Frank — whom he met in high school.

Friends for more than 60 years. Are you kidding me?

I don’t really do the friends thing. In fact, my wife — who hails from Guadalajara, Mexico, and attracts friendships like a flower attracts bees — teases that I have no friends.

That’s not quite true. But it’s close. I have lots of acquaintances, but very few friends.

What’s the reason? Take your pick.

I moved four times in my 30s. We’re all so busy. And I work in a profession where, there are times, it seems everyone wants something from you. This sort of thing breeds distrust.

I’m also part of the first generation of spouses that goes around bragging about how we married our best friends. If your best friend is also your husband or wife, the friend bond gets overridden by the marital one.

And, to top it off, we’re all plugged into social media sites like Facebook, which cheapen the very concept of friendship. When everyone is your friend, no one is your friend.

You’ve heard it said that, while family lasts forever, friends come and go. In the film “Stand by Me,” the narrator — played by Richard Dreyfuss — offers an observation: Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant.

You hope that a few pals stick around — through the good times and the bad. They might help you weather the setbacks, and live with the mistakes. Maybe they’ll be there when it’s time to say goodbye to loved ones.

Yet, it’s an undeniable fact of life that, throughout our days, we’re going to replace old friends with new friends, and then replace them all again. And many of them will drift away.

Still, I’ve come to realize in my later years that good and loyal friends are one of life’s greatest blessings.

In fact, you could say, the concept of friendship is so important that it’s worth defending in federal court.

Witness the recent bribery and corruption trial of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, which came to an end when U.S. District Judge William Walls declared a mistrial. Despite more than six days of deliberations, the jury declared itself deadlocked on all 18 counts against the New Jersey politician and his codefendant, Salomon Melgan. The wealthy Florida eye doctor was accused of buying political favors from Menendez with luxury vacations and campaign contributions.

In a novel roll of the dice that ultimately proved successful, the defense didn’t bother denying that favors were exchanged between the two men. But they did deny there was something nefarious going on.

Their explanation: friendship. Menendez and Melgan had been friends for more than 20 years.

Senators are people, too, the lawyers argued. And they’re allowed to have friends like the rest of us. So why can’t they do favors for those friends — as long as it’s not a direct quid pro quo in return for gifts or cash?

In the end, it seems, enough jurors bought that line of defense as offering enough of a reasonable doubt as to the men’s guilt that it deadlocked the jury and prompted the mistrial.

Menendez thanked his family and supporters, and chalked up the verdict to “New Jersey common sense.”

Not that the 63-year-old senator is totally out of the woods. At least not yet. Prosecutors could retry him, although they’d probably wind up with the same result if they did.

The Senate Ethics Committee has said it would resume an inquiry into Menendez that it started in 2012, but later deferred because of the pending criminal investigation.

And to think this whole nightmare for the New Jersey senator started not during a Republican administration, but under a Democratic president who, one would have assumed, would have been kinder and fairer to one of his own.

Still, politics can be complicated. Even as a Democrat, Menendez had long been a significant thorn in the side of the Obama administration. He spoke out against the Iran nuclear deal and — as a Cuban-American — emerged as an outspoken critic of Obama’s efforts to open diplomatic relations with Cuba. So the administration went after him tooth and nail.

But Menendez fought back against the power and strength of the federal government, armed with the only weapon he had at his disposal. It was simple and pure — and, ultimately, triumphant.

Score one for friendship.

Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a columnist for the Daily Beast, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” and the host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

’Coco’ proves Latinos are best at telling their own stories

SAN DIEGO — Hey Hollywood, it’s time you asked: What can brown do for you? Scratch that. It’s long past time.

The U.S. film industry is supposed to be the imagination capital of the world. Yet, for decades, producers, directors and studio executives — most of them liberal — couldn’t imagine that the secret to successful Latino projects was to do something that liberals hate to do: surrender control to Latinos.

The creative left think they are the smartest, best and most enlightened people on Earth, and you want them to hand over the power of making films to people they apparently see as inferiors who are better suited to making beds, making lunch or making lawns look nice? You must be loco.

A Latina novelist recently revealed on social media that she tried to pitch a Hollywood executive on a story about a group of young Latinas at an Ivy League college. She failed. The movie guy — a white male — couldn’t get beyond the setting. Wouldn’t it be more realistic to put them in a state college, he suggested.

You can’t fix stupid. I hope this guy’s next movie is a western. He can play the south end of a horse headed north.

It turns out that a movie with a Latino theme, Latino writer, Latino co-director, Latino cast, and Latino consultants that isn’t just meant for Latinos can crack open the pinata and send candy flying through the air.

The treats come in the form of the delightful hit movie “Coco,” an animated musical that honors the Day of the Dead. The Disney and Pixar production has earned both critical acclaim and blockbuster box-office success. The film raked in an estimated $71.2 million over the long holiday weekend. It also took in another $82.2 million from foreign markets, most notably Mexico.

Oye Hollywood, can you hear us now?

Co-directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, who also wrote the screenplay, “Coco” centers on a 12-year-old Mexican boy named Miguel who wants to be a musician despite his family’s objections. When a mishap takes him to the “other side,” he meets his ancestors — who, in death, give him a new lease on life.

The cast of “Coco” includes Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt and Alanna Ubach.

And no one played a housekeeper or a gang-banger? What kind of crazy movie is this?

“It was never even a choice. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to have an all-Latino cast,” Unkrich said in an interview. “From the moment we conceived this idea, we wanted a film that wouldn’t have any cliches or stereotypes and that would be as respectful as possible.”

Latinos love a good paradox. And so my compadres managed to make a fun film about, of all things, death.

I’m not surprised. For Latinos, death is not this sad and dark ending. It’s just a curve in the road on a journey into the afterlife. We take comfort in our belief that, one day, we’ll all be seated again at our abuela’s table savoring her chile colorado and homemade tortillas.

For years, Latinos tried to tell Hollywood the first step to courting us as customers was to respect us as human beings. People have to be able to tell their own stories in their own way. Alas — on diversity issues, as with sexual harassment and pay inequity for women — Tinseltown has a tin ear.

Hollywood only respects the color green. Hopefully, entertainment executives will look at the box-office success of “Coco” and get the message. Maybe other studios will push through those Latino projects that have been stuck in development since California was part of Mexico.

And as long as we’re doling out messages, Bratt has a strong one for his fellow Americans. The 53-year-old actor — who was born in San Francisco to a Peruvian Quechua mother and white father — has been doing television and films for three decades.

“Latino culture is as American as apple pie. As American as chips and salsa. So the film celebrates that fact on some level,” Bratt said.

Bravo. That sentiment alone is worth the price of admission.

You had better believe that, somewhere on the other side, as dinners simmer on the stove, our abuelas are beaming with pride.

Reach Ruben Navarrette at

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

10 mistakes journalists make that hurt our credibility

SAN DIEGO — There is a debate raging within the media over our favorite subject: the media.

Someone told me recently that Americans are information rich and knowledge poor. One reason for this is that journalism is broken. We just can’t agree on how to fix it.

Consider the contrasting views of former New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse and Emmy Award-winning former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson. Each has written a book detailing her experience as a journalist and offering thoughts on where the profession is headed.

In Greenhouse’s book, “Just A Journalist: On the Press, Life and the Spaces Between,” she writes: “The opposite of objectivity isn’t partisanship, or needn’t be. Rather, it is judgment, the hard work of sorting out the false claims from the true and discarding or at least labeling the false.” As Greenhouse sees it, a journalist doesn’t just have the right to express opinions but the obligation to do so — if it is in the pursuit of truth. And, she insists, journalists have every right to be voters and activists because they don’t stop being citizens when they enter the profession. She also thinks the job’s standards can be too rigid.

Attkisson sees things differently. As she spells out in “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote,” she thinks the media is in a mess of its own making. The public doesn’t trust the media anymore, she says, because journalists have violated their own standards. As Attkisson said in a recent video for the digital media organization PragerU: “We in the business of journalism have exempted ourselves from the normal rules that used to govern us, and so the most egregious kinds of reporting errors are becoming more common.” She added that most Americans “want their news straight up,” and they’re not getting it that way.

The secret is out. Organizations used to ask me to speak about stories that the media covers. These days, they ask me to talk about the media itself — and its propensity toward “fake news.” How did the Fourth Estate get this far off course?

Here are 10 mistakes that my colleagues and I have made in just the last year that hurt our credibility:

— We’ve broken our own rules. Reporters are supposed to keep their opinions to themselves. Anchors are supposed to tell you the news, not tell you what to think.

— We’ve divided up into teams. In the age of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites that encourage direct interaction, journalists who work for different companies are free to snipe at one another.

— We’re surrounded by the likeminded. The industry is not diverse. Many journalists are white, come from the same socioeconomic backgrounds, went to the same schools, and live in cities.

— We take criticism personally. Despite belonging to a profession that thrives on criticizing others — especially elected officials — many journalists have thin skin.

— We’ve become too comfortable with hypocrisy. The recent wave of sexual harassment scandals involving media figures — Charlie Rose, formerly of PBS and CBS News; Mark Halperin, formerly of ABC News and NBC News; and Michael Oreskes, formerly of NPR and The New York Times, etc. — shows that journalists don’t do a good enough job of policing their own backyard.

— We try to be social workers and social engineers. Our job is to constantly try to tell better stories. That’s it. Instead, we’ve gotten sidetracked into the totally different mission of making better people and building a better society.

— We take our cues from Washington and New York. These big cities have been given free rein in shaping the national discussion, while paying too little attention to what matters in small towns and rural areas.

— We let our bias show. Many of us are anti-Trump and pro-Democrat. We don’t even bother to hide it anymore. In fact, many of us seem proud of our activism and partisanship.

— We tell ourselves that the ends justify the means. This is especially true in our battles against “deplorables,” including the one in the White House.

— We haven’t done a good job of telling our own story. Readers don’t know the difference between editorials, columns (this piece) and news articles. Television viewers confuse reporters, anchors and commentators. We’ve mixed it all together.

So how does the media get back on track — and rebuild the public’s trust? We have to stop being defensive, be more introspective, and admit we have a problem. We need to look in the mirror and confront what we’ve done wrong. Then, every day, on the job, we have to make it our mission to improve our craft and win back our audience.

Ours is a remarkable country. We need a media worthy of it.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

A time to harvest gratitude for farmers

VISALIA, Calif. — Whenever this country mouse comes home to Central California, as I did recently to speak to citrus farmers, one thought comes to mind:

“How is it that a nation like ours — founded not by politicians but by farmers — finds it so difficult to show the proper respect for farming?”

A holiday set aside for us to be thankful and indulge our palate seems like the perfect time to show gratitude to those who supply the bounty. Or as Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, puts it: “If you criticize farmers, don’t do it with your mouth full.”

If there’s one thing for which Americans should be grateful, it’s that we don’t have to depend on other countries for our food supply. If there are two things, it’s that there are still people who will do the hard and dirty job of picking crops — even if we have to import them.

Who are these folks? Not the 22-year-old barista at Starbucks with dreams of writing a screenplay.

Take it from someone who grew up on his grandfather’s ranch, I get it. Times change. Families evolve. People leave the farm. Many of us live in cities and raise kids who think vegetables come from supermarkets.

Don’t laugh. My Harvard roommate, who was from New York City, once asked what time of year we pick raisins.

Hint: We don’t pick raisins. We pick grapes, and the sun does the rest.

But just because many Americans have abandoned the farm doesn’t mean they should also abandon common sense about farming. For instance, no matter what you hear from populists on the right and the left, it is not true that most farmers exploit workers to maximize profits. That’s how you go out of business.

This Thanksgiving Day, let’s remember that farming remains a thankless profession.

You’re a hostage to the weather, blackmailed by labor unions, and subject to the whims of the market. You get up early to tend the crops, and stay up late doing the books. You worry about having enough water and enough workers.

You have to deal with insects one minute and politicians the next; one is a parasitic menace with an insatiable appetite that can wipe out a harvest because it usurps resources and only cares about its own survival. Then you have the bugs.

You are often played for a sucker by elected officials who see you as an ATM. Democrats take your money and promise to get you more water; Republicans take your money and promise you a dependable workforce. Neither delivers.

You inherit a farm from your father and spend your whole life caring for it with blood, sweat and tears — only to have your own kids come back from college one day and announce that they don’t want to be in the family business. Time to sell.

I don’t speak for farmers. But, because I listen carefully when they speak to me, I can tell you there are five things they want you to know.

• First, even if our national pride won’t let us admit it, Americans are not going to do these jobs. Not ever. Most millennials would rather work for Apple in Silicon Valley than go pick apples in the Yakima Valley.

• Second, farm work isn’t unskilled labor. Lawmakers who think that America should admit only “skilled” immigrants need to spend a few hours in the fields where human beings work with the speed of machines but with more precision.

• Third, speaking of machines, while it may be convenient for restrictionists to dream about robots replacing farmworkers, that won’t happen. Many crops still need to be picked by hand. Besides, anything with an “on” and “off” switch needs to be tended to by people.

• Fourth, while it’s easy for politicians to kick the immigration reform can down the road, farmers don’t have the luxury of waiting 10 or 12 years to bring in their crops. They need a solution now.

• And fifth, farmers aren’t part of the “elites” who are supposedly keeping down the working-class. Often, the workers decide the wages that they’re willing to work for. If they don’t get that price, they’ll go up the road to the next “Help Wanted” sign.

The populists are way off track. Farmers aren’t the problem. And, out here in the real world, they’re tired of being the scapegoats while the rest of America refuses to accept its aversion to hard work.

An aversion that explains why there are so many “Help Wanted” signs in the first place.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Moore’s story is murky, but some things are crystal clear

SAN DIEGO — The Roy Moore scandal is as messy as they come. Yet, even through all the dirt and slime, some things have come into focus.

But first, the mess. Last week, The Washington Post published an article detailing the stories of four women who claim that the Alabama Republican pursued them in the 1970s when they were teenage girls. One of the accusers said Moore undressed and fondled her when she was just 14.

Now a fifth woman has come forth to say that Moore — who is running to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions — sexually assaulted her when she was 16 and Moore was the county’s top prosecutor.

Beverly Young Nelson told reporters that, in 1977, she was working as a waitress at a restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama, and that Moore was a regular customer. One night, Nelson said, he offered to drive her home. Instead, she said, he wound up locking her in his car and forcing her head into his crotch as he struggled to pull her shirt off.

“I thought that he was going to rape me,” she said. “I was twisting, and I was struggling, and I was begging him to stop. I had tears running down my face.”

Moore finally relented, but he warned her to keep quiet, she said. “You’re just a child,” he allegedly told her. “I am the district attorney of Etowah County. And if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.”

If Nelson is telling the truth, then Moore answered his own question about why his accusers haven’t come forward until now. He also would have acknowledged that — even in a state where the age of consent is 16 — a girl that age is still “a child.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Nelson said she will repeat her claims under oath — if she is called to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The candidate denies all the women’s accusations. We may never get to the bottom of this, and thus know with absolute certainty who is telling the truth.

Nevertheless, some things are clear. I count five.

— Conservative TV and radio host Sean Hannity torpedoed Moore. What was meant to be a friendly radio interview backfired due to a series of inconsistent and incoherent answers from the candidate. When Hannity asked if Moore had dated girls as young as 17 while he was in his 30s, Moore responded: “Not generally, no.” So then, only on occasion?

— Moore’s supporters appear to be most hyped up not by their fondness for him, and a certainty that he did nothing wrong, but by their disgust with the media and their belief that the Fourth Estate will destroy anyone with a worldview different than its own.

— It hurts the media’s credibility that it focuses on the misbehavior of politicians yet comparatively underplays allegations of sexual harassment in its own sandbox by the likes of former ABC News Political Director and MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin, former NPR Vice President of News & Editorial Director Michael Oreskes and others.

— The issue isn’t just whether Moore did anything illegal. It’ll be enough to end his political career if Alabama voters decide that he behaved in a way that was immoral. Voters have the right to vote for or against someone based on integrity and character. If they decide Moore has neither, he’s done.

— And, even if Moore pulls off a political miracle and wins this Senate seat, it still won’t end the drama. We can expect GOP senators to refuse to seat him. And if he does get seated, he’ll be a pariah who is constantly at odds with his own party. One can’t be effective that way.

For Moore, the picture looks bleak.

Republicans in Washington have sent a message. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan say they believe the accusers and that Moore should step aside. Even Sessions, the man that Moore wants to replace — while not calling on the Republican to drop out of the race — said this week that he has “no reason to doubt these young women.”

Meanwhile, one of the creepier stories to emerge from all this revealed that Moore was reportedly banned from a local mall in the 1980s because he had a habit of hitting on teenage girls. It’s nice to know that some places still have standards of decency.

Does that include the Senate? We’ll have to wait and see.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Latinos know America has problems, but we’re not one of them

SAN DIEGO — For Latinos, the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election marks the day when a demagogue who treated the nation’s largest minority like a pinata was rewarded with the highest office in the land.

On the campaign trail, Trump’s slights against Latinos included: accusing Mexico of sending people who are “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime”; promising a “deportation force” modeled on President Eisenhower’s 1954 repatriation effort known as Operation Wetback; challenging a provision of the Constitution that says U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants — what Trump called “anchor babies” — are U.S. citizens; insulting Jeb Bush’s Mexican-born wife when he retweeted “#JebBush has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife” even though Columba Bush came here legally; glibly calling Mexican immigrants “bad hombres”; and making the racist claim that Gonzalo Curiel, a U.S.-born federal judge, could not be fair in adjudicating a lawsuit against Trump University because the judge is “Mexican.”

As president, Trump has continued his assault on Latinos by: picking Jeff Sessions as his attorney general despite the fact that the former senator had an appalling record on immigration and civil rights; pardoning Joe Arpaio after the former Arizona sheriff was convicted of defying a federal court order to stop enforcing immigration law and profiling Latinos; ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allowed undocumented youth to stay in the United States temporarily; backing a Senate bill that would cut legal immigration in half and create a skills-based entry system that would keep out people from Latin America; cracking down on affirmative action; advancing the fictional narrative that there are so-called sanctuary cities where illegal immigrants live happily ever after; and putting Puerto Rico on notice that the island would soon be on its own as it recovered from Hurricane Maria.

Living as a Latino in the Trump era is surreal. To take a page from Dickens, it’s the best of times — and the worst of times.

The best: The fact that the nation’s 57 million Latinos now represent about 18 percent of the U.S. population, and will likely reach 25 percent by 2030, has grabbed the attention of the political parties. And the fact that all those people spend about $1.7 trillion annually on goods and services — and, according to a recent study, boast an annual “Latino GDP” of more than $2.1 trillion — has attracted notice from companies and corporations from Main Street to Madison Avenue.

The worst: All that positive attention comes with negative consequences. As more people court Latinos, a lot of white Americans are feeling left out, marginalized, displaced and forgotten. And this terrifies them to the point where they lash out and support carnival barkers like Trump who promise to return them to their former glory by cutting immigration, ending racial preferences, getting out of trade deals, and bringing closed-down factories back to life.

You would think that a demographic group that holds most of the wealth, runs Wall Street, controls Hollywood, shapes academia, drives media and dominates politics would be more secure.

But apparently white people scare easy. And many of them seem intent on creating an America that is scary for Latinos.

At Halloween, do we really need groups of teenagers dressing up like “Trump’s Wall”? Can’t we do without high school sports fans chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” when a mostly white school plays one that is mostly Latino?

And could we have just one show on Fox News that doesn’t paint Latino immigrants as a drain, a danger and a drag on society? Every time I watch the channel, I feel like I should fire my housekeeper because she is probably stealing the silverware.

Oh, and if your lazy and entitled millennial can’t find a summer job picking strawberries, you know who to blame.

I admit that, most days, I wake up confused. As a Latino, I’m not sure if America loves me — or hates my guts.

I don’t claim to speak for all Latinos, and yet I know I’m not alone when I say to Trump and his tribe: You’ve had your fun, much of it at our expense. Now it’s time to back off! This country has its problems. But we’re not one of them. America is bigger than you, and better than this. That’s why we love it — unconditionally.

About that, there is no confusion.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns