Radio MVS fired Carmen Aristegui after she stated on the air that the office of Mexican President Felipe Calderón needed to publicly address persistent rumors that the president is an alcoholic. Instead of ending anything, the journalist’s firing has ignited a firestorm in Mexico.
The allegation that the president has a drinking problem is hardly new. Aristegui’s call for the president’s office to address the issue came after opposition lawmakers held up a banner during a congressional session which was, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, translated to read in English: “Would you let a drunk drive your car? No, right? So why would you let one drive your country?”
Aristegui is not unemployed, by the way. She hosts a program on CNN en Español and writes a column for the daily newspaper Reforma. She refused to read a public apology on the air, which she said the president’s office had demanded of Radio MVS. The broadcaster then fired her, charging that she had violated its ethics rules. Aristegui insists that she did not.
Having stood her ground, Aristegui drew a large turnout to a news conference in which she defended her actions. She said Calderón had a “tantrum” after her on-air call for him to address the alcoholism issue. The journalist said the real reason she was fired is that Radio MVS doesn’t want any controversy while its broadcasting license is up for renewal.
RBR-TVBR observation: Had President Calderón simply ignored the on-air comment it would have attracted little attention. Instead, people around the world are being told that the President of Mexico is a drunk. He is now under far more pressure, not less, to address the issue.