Two Future U.S. Presidents Face-Off California History

Steve Propes

A translation of the word grandchild into Spanish is nieto; as in Belmont Shore’s Nieto Avenue, part of the fabric of the Long Beach area and Southern California for 250 years via explorer and California mission builder, Jose Manuel Perez Nieto.

Nieto’s great, great, great grandson, Rafael Nieto is currently adjunct faculty in film and electronic arts at CSULB. His professional background includes stints with the ABC Network in the 1980s, Telemundo in the 1990s and “editor and audio guy” at Channel 11, KTTV, between 1998 and 2009.

In that latter capacity at KTTV, Nieto had a memorable encounter with the future U.S. President, Donald J. Trump.

In 2006, Trump was booked on the morning news show, “When he first hit it big with ‘The Apprentice,’ the morning show was booking people who had hot series. He came in with his producer, Mark Burnett. He was a big deal back then too. It’s like the flavor of the month, the flamboyance, the ‘you’re fired,’ his trademark. He’s a brand, which he keeps pushing. I never got into the show, was not a fan.”

Nieto described his job at the juncture. “That day, my job was to mic (microphone) him up and give him cues. It’s not my job to give feedback. I was pleasant. I got this vibe from him, he took a look at me. I took it as ‘What the hell are you doing here?’

“Then I heard him say, ‘They let anybody into this place.’

“I said, ‘Hi, let me adjust your tie a little bit.’ It’s a mic check.’

“He said, ‘Do I need to do a mic check?’

“I was just trying to do my job. Just do the mic check. He was ornery.” Job completed, “I said, ‘Okay I think we got it.’”

“He asked me, ‘How long have you been here?’

“My family’s been here since 1769.”

Nieto could have, but didn’t say, “My ancestor built those California missions. He received a land grant for building all those missions.”

“Jose Manuel Perez Nieto, was part of the Portola Expedition, which started in 1769. He was recruited by the Holy See in Mexico City to build missions for the Franciscan friars. The expedition arrived in San Diego from New Spain, now known as Mexico, Sonora. They worked their way up to San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano to the Presidio in San Francisco.”

In 1784, Nieto was granted the Los Nietos Rancho. “My ancestor’s land grant was from the L.A. River to the Santa Ana River, from the ocean to the mountains. The grant was then acquired by names like Stearns, Downey, Temple, who married into the family.”

In about 1834, he built Rancho de los Coyotes. Nieto died in 1848. Bixby came later, buying land from Abel Stearns.” Temple sold his rancho to Flint, Bixby & Co. in 1866.

Informed of Nieto’s deep family roots, Trump didn’t respond.

“At that point I considered the source. I didn’t take that seriously. I didn’t care enough about this guy to be offended.”

Nieto graduated from Long Beach Woodrow Wilson High in 1971.

While at Telemundo in 1992, Nieto had a problematic encounter with another future president. “George HW Bush was running against Bill Clinton. His sons, George and Jeb did a junket on Spanish TV. Jeb’s wife was going to do most of the speaking. My supervisor came in to my edit bay, said, ‘Hey, the Bush brothers are coming in.’

“I’m not interested. I don’t want to be a prop in the photo op. Don’t bring them in here.”

Jeb and George W. entered with Karl Rove. “George W. stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Hi. I’m one of the little brown ones.’ In August 1988, George HW had called Jeb’s children, ‘My little brown ones.’”

“Their jaws just dropped. George W said, ‘That’s just my daddy.’

“I told him, ‘He’s the leader of the free world and he can’t name his brown children.’ Jeb said, ‘I’m their father.’

“Telemundo told me that was uncalled for. I didn’t give Trump anything to complain about.”

“Two months after Trump’s inauguration, I was coming home from Pasadena to Montebello. A guy in a red hat yelled at me. ‘Screw you, make America great again.’ I let him go on ahead, but he cut me off twice. He got out of his car, running at me. I sidestepped his punch, let him go forward.” I told him, ‘You hit my car,’ which he had wanted to do.

“I trained to work on a security detail for Caesar Chavez, learned how to take a blow without getting injured. I stayed calm in that situation. Not going to maim someone.

“I wouldn’t have taken Trump so seriously if I hadn’t been attacked. I was attacked as a consequence of his inauguration. I refused to be a prop for the Bush brothers, don’t want to be a token now.”


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