A top adviser on Hispanic issues to John McCain’s presidential campaign said Sunday that a joint interview with McCain and Sarah Palin planned for Univision last fall had to be canceled because Palin was unprepared to discuss Latin America policy.
“She did not feel comfortable speaking about issues regarding Hispanics and Latin America,” GOP consultant Ana Navarro told Univision anchor Jorge Ramos in an interview. “Those are not topics that come up frequently in Alaska. So she asked to cancel the interview and, unfortunately, you were already there.”
With both McCain and Barack Obama aggressively courting the Hispanic vote, each sat for multiple interviews with Ramos, whose evening news broadcast on the Spanish-language channel draws millions of viewers.
Both presidential candidates also agreed to a joint sit-down with their running mate. But on Oct. 9, the day that McCain and Palin were to face Ramos together outside of Milwaukee, only the Republican presidential candidate sat for the interview.
A campaign source familiar with the events leading up to the interview described it as a near-crisis situation, with McCain officials worried that Ramos would say on the air that Palin wasn’t appearing because she was not capable of discussing Hispanic issues — a charge disputed by one current Palin aide.
“Initially, campaign staff was suggesting we tell Univision there had been a scheduling conflict and have only McCain do the interview,” said the source. “I could not see how this would not be worse, though, because McCain and Palin were doing a joint rally in the outskirts of Milwaukee and the interview was to be conducted immediately after in the same arena.”
So, this source said, “we told Jorge Ramos the truth: She was not briefed, not familiar with the issues and just was not comfortable giving the interview.”
Part of their fear stemmed from the fact that it was the second time campaign officials had to cancel the joint interview session, according to two McCain sources.
Originally, McCain and Palin were to do a joint interview with Ramos in the days immediately after the September convention. But Palin, feeling unprepared, pulled out and McCain wound up talking to Ramos by himself in Colorado Springs.
After the campaign had to again put only McCain on with Ramos, the candidate intervened, according to Navarro.
“At that point, John McCain asks me to start traveling with her, to brief her on those issues, and to have that interview — so that she would feel comfortable speaking [about Hispanic issues],” she told Ramos Sunday.
Later in October, Palin would ultimately be interviewed by Ramos, at which point she admitted that she did not know how many illegal immigrants there were in Alaska.
Navarro now says that Palin was not ready to be president and was uninformed on Hispanic issues.
“Look, I think that, frankly, she does not understand issues concerning Hispanics and Latin America,” the Florida-based consultant said Sunday. “She is from Alaska, which is quite an isolated and faraway state. I don’t know how much you know about Alaska, but I don’t know very much about Alaska’s issues. So I didn’t think that briefing her on issues was something I should apologize for or feel badly about.”
Asked why she was going public, Navarro said: “I am uncomfortable with Sarah Palin. I have nothing against her. I’ll say she’s a very talented woman. Yet I think she owes John McCain her gratitude and loyalty. Let’s be clear: Today she is a rich and famous woman thanks to John McCain, who chose her. I think it’s not elegant. But of course, I know melodrama and soap operas sell books, not boring stories.”
While not disputing that the interviews were canceled, Palin aide Jason Recher said it was McCain’s advisers who made the decision — and not because she was unfamiliar with the issues but out of concern that she was not well-versed with McCain’s views on Latin American policy.
By Recher’s account, Palin was ready and willing to do the interview.
“The whole point of Ana Navarro being there was not to prep on Hispanic issues. he whole reason for her being there was to prep on John McCain’s stance on Hispanic issues,” said Recher, who traveled with Palin during the campaign and is now with her on her book tour.
When Palin finally did talk to Ramos, Recher recalled, McCain’s top advisers were “over the moon” about her performance.