Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Americano Media.
In recent political elections, far-right Spanish-language talking heads have been notorious for using digital platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp to spread fake news and unsubstantiated commentary. Many have been forced to use these channels because journalistic standards, like the process of fact-checking, make it difficult to air or publish false claims on news outlets. Unlike news platforms, on social media and mobile applications, anything goes. But a new Spanish-language conservative media company is hoping to give the right some legitimacy.
After launching at SiriusXM in March 2022, Americano Media is expanding their radio presence to television with ambitious plans to win over center-right Latines and otherwise independent or Democratic-leaning Spanish-speaking voters in the upcoming election cycle. According to a report by Politico, CEO and founder Ivan Garcia-Hidalgo has hired more than 80 Latine producers and journalists to expand into television with studios in Miami, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C. Billing itself as “Fox News in Spanish,” the network launched a $20 million marketing campaign in January with the help of investors and is gearing up to generate another $30 to $50 million this spring to draw in new viewers. With the Spanish-speaking diaspora gravely impacted by misinformation, one has to beg where Americano Media stands in the fight against fake news.
"Americano’s news team works hard to report the truth and the hosts of our our opinion shows seek truth to arrive at their opinions. Our audience knows exactly who is presenting news and who is presenting opinion," Garcia-Hidalgo tells Somos.
"With the Spanish-speaking diaspora gravely impacted by misinformation, one has to beg where Americano Media stands in the fight against fake news."
He continues: "We understand the slow but steady shift of the Hispanic vote toward Republicans makes leftists nervous. But Americano isn’t under the spell that it’s a mis- or disinformation problem; Hispanics are leaving the Democrat Party for far more profound reasons with the party."
Evelyn Pérez-Verdía, the director and founder of anti-disinformation agency and consulting firm We Are Más, doesn't see it that way. In South Florida, where she lives, Pérez-Verdía learned that thousands of people followed Spanish-language channels on Telegram and Whatsapp that promoted QAnon conspiracy theories and other false information tying the U.S.’ Democratic Party to Latin American dictatorships.
“These unregulated channels and disinformation actors are being very savvy in connecting with groups based on where they come from, what they believe, and the fear of living in a country filled with the same violence they’re escaping from,” Pérez-Verdía tells Somos. She warns that conservative institutions like Americano Media align with these sentiments and could harmfully reproduce them. “These actors are creating language that scares them away, depriving them of facts they deserve, that would otherwise make them independent or liberal. It scares them and it plays with their transgenerational trauma.”
In 2021, Somos published an investigative story that looked at the ways politicians on both sides of the political aisle exploit Latine trauma to win votes. In the report, Somos Deputy Director Raquel Reichard shares multiple examples of how some Republicans use words like socialism and communism as scare tactics that trigger painful memories of political violence, intimidation, and loss for many Latines and Latine immigrants.
“These unregulated channels and disinformation actors are being very savvy in connecting with groups based on where they come from, what they believe, and the fear of living in a country filled with the same violence they’re escaping from.”
Similarly, under the slogan “No Más Fake News,” the outlet alleges that it is ending a so-called free speech imbalance — gesturing to the abuse of free speech that exists in some Latin American countries but does not in the U.S. According to Reichard, deceptive language like this is part of a McCarthyian effort to either win or suppress Latine voters through fear.
For Pérez-Verdía, what Garcia-Hidalgo calls “free speech imbalance” actually refers to the journalistic ethics and standards that prevent the spreading of misinformation (unintentionally incorrect or misleading information) and disinformation (deliberately deceptive information) in the news media. Pérez-Verdía warns that while misinformation and disinformation have been going on for centuries, it’s now dangerously unregulated and borderless thanks to the Internet. And with perceived legitimacy from rising alternative news platforms, there are no signs of this epidemic of misinformation waning in the 2024 election.
But Americano Media isn't worried about concerns around misinformation. While right-leaning, the CEO says the outlet's reporting is fair and balanced. "We also work hard to include all perspectives," Garcia-Hidalgo adds. But it bears underscoring the network’s affiliations and talking heads. For instance, Garcia-Hidalgo’s political résumé is expansive, and it includes leading trade missions in Latin America with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, sitting on Mitt Romney’s Hispanic Steering Committee, and serving as a Latine surrogate for the 2020 Trump Campaign — which supported dangerous conspiracy theories such as those by QAnon.
"While misinformation and disinformation have been going on for centuries, it’s now dangerously unregulated and borderless thanks to the Internet."
Other notable figures at the startup: Michael Caputo, a staunch GOP operative who advised in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and briefly served as an official at the Department of Health and Human Services at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, is the chief communications officer. Alfonso Aguilar, former Chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship under President George W. Bush, is Americano’s political director. And Mayra Flores, the South Texas Republican who became the first Mexican-born woman in Congress in 2022, is a senior political contributor.
Despite its employees' political ties, Garcia-Hidalgo believes the outlet is still able to produce "the best Spanish-language news and opinion content."
When asked if the outlet will speak to vulnerable and ostracized Spanish-speaking immigrants, like Black and Indigenous communities, the CEO alleged it already is. "We cover all issues important to all corners of our audience, and I’m sure we’ll continue to report on stories all Hispanics will find valuable," Garcia-Hidalgo says.
He continues: "We’re expanding across the U.S. in 2024, and this will provide far more opportunities for us to create content for the most underserved media audience: Hispanics seeking quality Spanish-language news and opinion." No mention of marginalized Black or Indigenous Latines.