José Díaz-Balart: ‘I’m Not an Activist, I’m a Journalist’

By Jordan Chariton 

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JoseDiazBalartPolitics may be the family business, but José Díaz-Balart decided long ago that journalism was his passion. This morning, Díaz-Balart, who anchors Telemundo’s evening news and its Sunday public affairs show, adds another hour of live TV, as host of MSNBC’s 10amET hour. (MSNBC and Telemundo are both owned by NBCU.)

“If you’re going to watch my show to be strictly reaffirmed that your personal opinion is the only good ones, you’re going to have some moments of bitterness,” Díaz-Balart told us in an interview last week. “It really is about opening up lines of dialogue, opening up to other communities, opening up to other thoughts across the board.”

That goes against the grain of most of MSNBC’s afternoon and evening programs, which lean left, toward a progressive audience. Díaz-Balart is the younger brother of republican congressman Mario Díaz-Balart and former GOP Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart. The family has strong ties to South Florida’s Cuban community. Díaz-Balart’s aunt was Fidel Castro’s first wife.

Born in Ft. Lauderdale, Díaz-Balart graduated from New College in Sarasota, where he began his career as a radio reporter. With TV jobs on both sides of the border — as Central American bureau chief for Univision in El Salvador, later reporting for WTVJ in Miami as well as CBS News This Morning — doubling his workload pales in comparison to what the people he reports on, are facing right now.

“You know what difficult is? Difficult is crossing the border right now at 105 degrees Fahrenheit as a little kid. Difficult is the people who are working construction in South Florida or California under the heat for 12 hours…what I’m doing is a privilege.”

Díaz-Balart has shown passion for the issue of immigration reform, but says he’s a journalist first. “I would have to disagree with those who say that by calling this a humanitarian crisis, that is me being an advocate for one position or the other. I’ve heard the White House use that term, and I’ve heard John Boehner use that term. I’m not an activist, I’m a journalist.”

And at MSNBC, his brand of journalism won’t include obsessing over ratings. “I really don’t worry about the ratings until the ratings come knocking on my door…either good or bad news.”