Midterm elections: Why media pushes ‘Spanish-language disinformation’ talking point amplified by AOC
The threat of “Spanish-language disinformation,” which was amplified by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., ahead of the 2020 election, has been embraced by Democrats and the media alike, but a conservative Latino media watchdog believes the talking point is simply a ploy by the left to control the flow of information to Hispanic voters.
Media Research Center director of MRC Latino Jorge Bonilla believes the left’s push to control Spanish-language media will only increase as Democrats continue to lose Hispanic voters, and the potential takeover of Miami’s iconic, Spanish-language conservative talk radio station Radio Mambí by a George Soros-linked group puts a spotlight on the issue.
“I don’t necessarily believe that there is a disinformation problem on Spanish-language media, and part of the problem with this is that the term ‘disinformation’ has been dumbed down. It has been stretched like taffy to become, and to encompass, anything that the left doesn’t like or doesn’t agree with,” Bonilla told Fox News Digital.
“Spanish language disinformation became a thing for the left media and for Democrats, to put it bluntly, when Hispanics didn’t turn out and vote the way the Democrats wanted them to vote. We saw this in Florida in 2018 when it was expected, and it was polled that the state would go blue. But due to many factors, Rick Scott prevailed in his Senate election, Ron DeSantis prevailed in the gubernatorial. Both recount elections. Both were very . That began the sounding of alarms within the left,” he said.
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MRC Latino Director Jorge Bonilla sat down with Fox News Digital to discuss the media’s fixation on so-called disinformation targeting Hispanic and Latino voters.
By the 2020 presidential election, talk of “Spanish-language disinformation” was bubbling to the surface among liberals as then-candidate Joe Biden struggled to maintain previous Democratic margins with Hispanic and Latino voters.
“I mean, look, Joe Biden in Delaware, I think it’s like 95, 96%, 94% White state. Joe Biden never really had to do any Hispanic engagement in his life until he ran for president. And by then, it was late and there were people sounding the alarm that there is Hispanic engagement wasn’t doing very well,” Bonilla said. “At the same time, the Trump campaign was engaging, actively engaging the Hispanic community on multiple fronts.”
On September 14, 2020 – only a few weeks before Election Day – Politico published a feature headlined, “‘This is f—ing crazy’: Florida Latinos swamped by wild conspiracy theories,” which claimed a “flood of disinformation and deceptive claims” was damaging Biden in the Sunshine State.
A 2020 Politico article detailing alleged disinformation efforts cultivated to damage then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Politico reported that “wild disinformation” was “inundating Spanish-speaking residents of South Florida ahead of Election Day” and Hispanic independents were likely to be influenced by the media.
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“Democrats fear that’s where the role of disinformation and conspiracy theories might prove effective against Biden, because it plants seeds of doubt in an otherwise-Democratic bloc of the electorate that the former vice president needs to win,” Politico reported.
Shortly after Politico’s story was published, “Squad” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez took to social media and amplified the newfound talking point. She claimed a “massive Spanish-language misinformation campaign” was occurring online and urged followers to speak with Spanish-speaking relatives to ensure “that stuff” won’t impact them on Election Day.
“When people talk about, ‘Oh Latinos, their vote is shifting a little bit,’ because of enormous amounts of misinformation,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said a "massive Spanish-language misinformation campaign" was occurring online and urged followers to speak with Spanish-speaking relatives to ensure "that stuff" won’t impact them on Election Day.
Bonilla believes that was the moment the notion of Spanish-language misinformation went mainstream.
“Politico published the first piece… this became a thing. AOC amplified it, obviously, and when AOC lends her giant megaphone to things, it tends to get out there in the ether, and it tends to amplify,” Bonilla said, noting that nonprofit organizations began calling for a crackdown on Spanish Language media.
“That has led to what we see today, this snowballing of this narrative, which has led to other concrete actions,” Bonilla said.
Latino research firm Equis has also put a spotlight on Spanish-language misinformation.
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Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about it again in November.
“I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: Spanish-language misinformation campaigns are absolutely exploding on social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. It’s putting US English misinfo campaigns to shame. & they aren’t getting disclaimers the way English posts do,” she wrote.
The talking point has been embraced by liberal media, with The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, New Yorker, NBC News, Associated Press, Axios and other outlets running stories sounding the alarm.
“Before the 2020 U.S. election, the Latino community was inundated with misinformation and conspiracy theories on political and health issues — including inaccurate claims that coronavirus vaccines don’t work, Democrats were illegally harvesting ballots, a Biden administration would put the United States under the control of ‘Jews and Blacks,’ that Joe Biden was a socialist and not a ‘real Catholic,’” the Washington Post reported in February. “The 2022 elections may be no different.”
In this Sept. 29, 2020 file photo, Eddie Collantes stands with an American flag draped around his shoulders as he attends a debate watch party hosted by the Miami Young Republicans, Latinos for Trump, and other groups in Miami.
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Many of the stories focus on social media platforms, where Spanish-language moderators and fact-checkers apparently aren’t as thorough as their English-speaking peers. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has “requested meetings with leaders of Meta, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter… to discuss what steps platforms are taking,” Axios reported.
Reports often fret that people whose families fled leftist dictatorships are being fed “misinformation” about socialism in America. Earlier this year, Stephanie Valencia, a former Obama White House staffer who will co-control Radio Mambí if the deal s, told Axios that “false claims that President Biden has endorsed socialism” is among the key issues that must be addressed. The Washington Post recently quoted a 70-year-old retired massage therapist who claimed a friend “began parroting claims that Biden would turn the country into a socialist state” after listening to Radio Mambí.
In April, NBC’s “Meet the Press Reports” ran a lengthy segment about “misinformation in the Latino community” that described the phenomenon as a “crisis.” During the report, NBC News even grilled a Cuban exile over her media consumption before noting that her daughter “worries that the government propaganda her mom experienced in Cuba is coloring her perception of what factual information looks like” in the United States.
A prominent Radio Mambí host told Fox News Digital the anti-communism talk radio station is regularly accused of spreading misinformation or “fake news,” but the conservative staffer objects to that notion.
“Fake news for the Democrats, mainly in South Florida… is when we say, for example, that inflation is on a 40-year record high. When we say things about Biden’s son, Hunter Biden,” the Radio Mambí host said.
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A group bankrolled by liberal billionaire George Soros is set to purchase 18 Hispanic radio stations across 10 different markets in the United States.
(Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
When the Washington Post covered the looming sale of Radio Mambí to the Soros-backed group, the paper declared that the sale “has become a flash point in a debate about Spanish-language misinformation.”
“Democrats have blamed Spanish-language AM stations like Radio Mambí for spreading falsehoods that cost them votes in 2020 — such as repeating Trump campaign claims that President Biden would turn the United States into a socialist state — and fanning conspiratorial doubts about who won that election,” the Post reported.
Many Radio Mambí staffers feel claims of “misinformation” will be used to censor conservative views by the stations new owners. Valencia once penned a 2021 column in the Washington Post headlined “Misinformation online is bad in English. But it’s far worse in Spanish.”
Former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a critic of Radio Mambí whose Florida Keys district flipped Republican when ex-Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez defeated her in 2020, has claimed she asked the FBI to investigate Latinos “being confronted with a surge of disinformation.” She even compared Republicans to Russians to make her point.
“Just like we’re fighting Russian disinformation abroad, we need to fight Republican disinformation at home,” Mucarsel-Powell tweeted in April.
In a recent special report for MSNBC on Florida’s Hispanic voters, correspondent Paola Ramos reported on a “perfect storm” of factors that made “disinformation more infectious.”
“This is what we found in Florida, as voters head to the polls for the midterms. The fears of a stolen election, the trauma of communism, the complexity of navigating identity. All of that creating a perfect storm that makes today’s disinformation more infectious, the culture wars more polarizing, and the Republican Party more appealing to certain Latino voter,” Ramos said.
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Bonilla believes that Spanish-speaking voters accessing information “outside of approved sources” has become problematic to Democrats.
“And this is why the sale of these Univision radio stations to a Latino media network backed by George Soros is such a big deal,” he said. “This is about power and about the control of information and about forcing a certain group of individuals to only be able to access information through approved sources.”
Bonilla expects “the howling and the screeching and the whining about Spanish language disinformation” to continue past the 2022 midterm elections and impact the 2024 presidential election.
“The ongoing effort to try and control the flow of information to Hispanics will only increase,” Bonilla said.
Fox News’ Charles Creitz and Andrew Kugle contributed to this report.