Mr. Trump Went to Mexico, And It Made for Surreal TV

For NBC News and Telemundo anchor José Díaz- Balart, the whole event was pure surrealism; it was like watching Buñuel’s 1929 silent masterpiece Un Chien Andalou; for Univision’s (and Fusion’s) archpopular TV anchor Jorge Ramos, it was “the meeting of the most unpopular,” a “strange couple” meeting publicly in front of millions of incredulous viewers on both sides of the border.

The Aug. 31 meeting between Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City took Mexicans on both sides of the border by surprise after Trump tweeted only a day earlier that he had accepted an invitation by Peña Nieto to visit Mexico the following day. Why would a head of state of a sovereign nation receive a bully who had spent a great deal of his campaign mocking Mexicans and vowing to build a wall between the two nations?

Yet, the seemingly impromptu visit took place with millions watching live on TV, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook Live a joint press conference in which a subdued Trump spoke of Mexicans as “tremendous, amazing people” while Peña Nieto expressed his “respect” for Trump despite his previous attacks.

The meeting was important enough for both Univision and Telemundo to suspend regular programming and air it live from Los Pinos, the Mexican presidential residence. Univision dispatched national correspondent Luis Megid from his base in San Francisco to Mexico City, while NBCU sent Telemundo — and NBC News — anchor Díaz-Balart to take a front seat at the event. Díaz-Balart covered the visit in Spanish and English for Telemundo and MSBNC later that night. Both networks also had a live stream of the press conference online and covered it amply on their respective afternoon and nightly news.

Only a few hours after the Mexico City visit Trump took flight again, this time bound for Arizona where he addressed a crowd of enthusiastic supporters about his immigration plan. But instead of the subdued tone Trump displayed hours earlier in the Mexican capital, his speech was incendiary, promising not only to build a wall but to have Mexico (and its “tremendous, amazing” people) pay for it.

But by the time Trump’s speech in Arizona kicked off (9 p.m. ET), both Univision and Telemundo had gone back to their original schedules, airing their nightly telenovelas: Tres Veces Ana and Sin Senos no hay Paraíso, respectively.

After all, as Univision’s Ramos put it himself, the damage had been done. Trump had “won” the meeting of the unpopular in Mexico City.