NEW YORK (AP) -- Univision is dropping the Miss USA pageant and says it will cut all business ties with Donald Trump in a spiraling controversy over comments the Republican presidential candidate made recently about Mexican immigrants.

Donald Trump, left, and Miss Connecticut USA Erin Brady pose onstage after Brady won the 2013 Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas in 2013 (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari, File)

The company said Thursday it would pull the plug on its Spanish-language coverage of the pageant July 12 by its UniMas network. It also has severed its business relationship with the Miss Universe Organization, which produces the Miss USA pageant, due to what it called "insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants" by Trump, a part owner of Miss Universe.

During his presidential campaign kickoff speech last week, Trump accused Latino immigrants of bringing drugs, crime and rapists to the U.S. He called for building a wall along the southern border of the U.S.

In an interview Thursday, Trump said his criticism was directed against U.S. policymakers, not the Mexican people or government, adding that Univision would be defaulting on its contract if it doesn't air the pageant and he would take legal action.

"At Univision, we see firsthand the work ethic, love for family, strong religious values and the important role Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans have had and will continue to have in building the future of our country," said the New York-based Univision Communications Inc.

Both cohosts also pulled out of the show Thursday, while Colombian singer J Balvin on Wednesday canceled a planned performance on the pageant.

NBC is scheduled to go forward with its own airing of the pageant, as it has done since 2003.

Trump said Univision is submitting to pressure from Mexican leaders to punish him for positions he voices as a candidate on the campaign trail.

"They don't want me saying that Mexico is killing the United States in trade and killing the United States at the border," Trump said. "Univision is totally laying down for the Mexican government. ... They want to silence Donald Trump. And Donald Trump can't be silenced. ... I have great respect for Mexico and I love the Mexican people, but my loyalty is to the United States."

Univision declined to comment on Trump's remarks.

In severing her ties with the show, Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sanchez, one of the two cohosts, cited Trump's comments.

"Since I heard Trump's speech, as a Latina I felt a lump in my stomach. `It's got to be a joke,' I thought," the star of the Lifetime series "Devious Maids" told The Associated Press.

Also on Thursday, Chilean actor-producer Cristißn de la Fuente, the show's other cohost, had strong words for Trump. "It's a shame that such an important institution as Miss USA is now in the hands of a clown."

Ricky Martin also took to Twitter to blast Trump.

"A lot of hatred and ignorance in his heart," he tweeted.

On Wednesday, Colombian singer J Balvin canceled a planned performance that was to have aired on both UniMas' and NBC's telecasts.

A spokesman for Balvin said in a written statement that the singer's management told the Miss Universe organization to withdraw his name from an announcement about participants in the Miss USA program.

This year's UniMas telecast would have been the first in a five-year contract that Trump said "has no termination rights." Univision's wholly owned Spanish-language UniMas network, founded in 2013, is available in 70 million U.S. homes.

 

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