Univision recently plumbed a new low by airing a crime special that featured a graphic reenactment of the terrorist attack at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida. Incredibly, the network aired the special over the pleas and objections of victims, survivors, and surviving loved ones of the atrocity.
Here's how Orlando Sentinel columnist and TV critic Hal Bodeker reacted as Univision took the old maxim "if it bleeds, it leads" to its horrifying conclusion:
The re-enactments of the massacre that left 49 dead were chilling, violent and unnecessary. The graphic scenes showed patrons being shot, terrorized and left for dead. The camera lingered over bodies of the slain on the floor and patrons suffering while cowering in fear.
Why foist these horrendous scenes on viewers? Why put survivors and victims’ families through the torture?
Open-hearted survivors shared their stories with Univision, but their comments were placed next to those terrible, elaborate re-enactments. The Pulse bathrooms were re-created with unnerving detail that would stun anyone who knew the club.
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What's worse, it appears that Univision played fast and loose with the ethics of securing releases from Pulse survivors. Here is such an account from one of the survivors as given to Deadline Hollywood:
“They told me that they had conducted an interview with me a while ago but I couldn’t remember it. She said we didn’t have the paperwork for my interview and they wanted to get it signed,” said Orlando Torres, who survived the shooting in the Pulse bathroom by playing dead. “I never did sign the release form. I felt like they were trying to trick me. I put my faith in Univision and they are doing this to me? They even knocked me off their Facebook page when I objected and wrote a statement that they tried to trick me signing this release form for this show.
“They even have someone playing my part, some actor. The gunman touched me and I thought he was going to shoot me in the back. I played dead. I didn’t want that being re-enacted. What are they thinking?” he added. “Emotionally, this is distressing me. I broke down and cried.”
Torres said he was told by three friends who saw the promo that they appear to be using his story, and the actor even looks like him. “They never have had my permission to do something like this,” he said.
In fairness, this isn't even Univision's first attempt at trying to extract some ratings from the Pulse terror attack. Recall the network's trotting-out of "Miguel", alleged lover of the Pulse shooter, for a special of his own despite the FBI's quick debunking of that angle. But let's take "Miguel" and Univision at their word for a quick minute. If the motive behind the Pulse attack was indeed hatred -specifically, hatred of Central Florida's Hispanic (majority Puerto Rican) LGBT community- then Univision is guilty of the worst sort of hypocrisy. Because you cannot "RiseUp against hate" on the one hand, only to turn around and attempt to turn a profit off of hate. Such institutional virtue signaling means nothing when those same institutions are willing to attempt to profit off of such a horrific event, despite the protestations of Pulse victims, survivors, surviving loved ones, and the broader community (LGBT or otherwise).
I was careful to emphasize "attempt to profit" because this shameless exploitation of human pain and suffering aired on the ratings abyss that is post-Don Francisco Saturday night. In other words, Univision willfully and callously revictimized an entire community for no good reason, no matter how hard Communications SVP Jose Zamora might try to spin the "journalism" angle. Softcore spatter porn that is based on a true story serves no journalistic interest whatsoever.
As a resident of Central Florida, I've seen the impact that this terror attack has had on our entire community. The Pulse 49 deserve better from Univision, as do the Pulse survivors, and all of Central Florida. Until Univision apologizes to those it has revictimized, it forfeits any claim to speak for the "Rising American Mainstream". News and entertainment boss Isaac Lee should especially keep that in mind before making his next moral pronouncement.