Just in case you thought Univision and moderator Jorge Ramos would display a pro-Clinton bias in Wednesday’s debate, the Spanish-language network’s top anchor hit Hillary Clinton with a doozy of a question right out of the gate: “Would you drop out of the race if you get indicted?”
Whoa. Clinton has faced many questions about her use of a private email server in seven previous debates, but the former secretary of state has apparently never been asked about being indicted or suspending her campaign.
In fact, journalists, in general, have avoided raising this worst-case scenario because an FBI probe of Clinton’s email practice is reportedly focused on security, not criminal activity (though investigators are also trying to determine whether a crime might have been committed).
It is of course possible (what isn’t?), but seemingly unlikely, that she will be indicted. Suggesting that the email investigation might prevent Clinton from seeking the presidency has mostly been the domain of Donald Trump and others with an agenda.
But Ramos went there — immediately after he reminded viewers that his daughter works on Clinton’s campaign. Ramos has made the disclosure before, but apparently felt obligated to get it out there again at the start of the debate to head off potential charges that he has a conflict of interest.
In addition, Univision chairman Haim Saban has contributed $2.5 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Clinton. It was as if Ramos and Univision decided to lead with the most pointed question they could think of to counter any appearance of favoritism.
Clinton pivoted off Ramos’s original inquiry to familiar talking points about retroactive classification and the private email habits of her predecessors, but when Ramos asked again, Clinton shot back: “Oh, for goodness — that’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.”
Ramos surely knew Clinton wouldn’t seriously entertain the prospect of her indictment or exit from the race. But his question wasn’t really about getting an answer. It was about making a point — that Clinton would get no special treatment from him or from Univision.