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Obama to take part in Univision town hall

September 20, 2012|By Christi Parsons
  • President Obama arrives at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, New York. Obama will take part in a Univision town hall Thursday afternoon.
President Obama arrives at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, New York.… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- President Obama’s appearance Thursday at a town hall here completes a historic event for Latino voters in the U.S. – the first time both major party presidential nominees have sat down for an hourlong meet-the-candidate session with a Spanish-speaking television network.

The session with Obama will be livestreamed and broadcast in Spanish and in English, with questions coming from Univision television news hosts. As he speaks, Obama’s words will be simultaneously translated on earpieces for Spanish speakers in the live audience.

Republican Mitt Romney participated in the first half of the “El Gran Encuentro” event here, on the campus of the University of Miami, on Wednesday.

The event wasn’t the first choice of Univision executives, who had hoped that the Commission on Presidential Debates would select one of their journalists to participate in the face-to-face debates between the candidates this fall.

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When the list of debate moderators came out a few weeks ago, several people at the network were stunned to see that there were no journalists of color at all in the schedule, said Jose Zamora, a spokesman for Univision News. The network chief executive sent a letter asking the commission to reconsider.

But Univision anchor Jorge Ramos took it up with the network’s audience, explaining the situation on-air – in Spanish – and urging viewers to complain to the commission.

Latino voters will play a crucial role in the election. In crucial states like this one, their candidate preference and level of turnout could decide the outcome.

Within days, both candidates had committed to participate in a town-hall style event in close proximity to one another.

Thursday’s event is to be live-streamed at 2:10 p.m. in English on the Univision Noticias Facebook page and in both English and Spanish on UnivisionNoticias.com, according to the network.

It will then be broadcast at 10 p.m. EDT on Univision America radio stations across the country.

 “The main goal is that the Hispanic community is informed about this election,” said Zamora. “They need to know what the candidates are thinking… and they need to hear it in their language and culture.”

PHOTOS: Mitt Romney’s campaign gaffes

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

Twitter: @cparsons

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