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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday April 25, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 17)

Those "Fiery Hothead" Latinos; Boy Scout Bigots; Hillary Get Your Gun

1. The Clinton administration’s raid to seize Elian Gonzalez received fairly straight coverage from Time and U.S. News & World Report, but Newsweek found "fiery...hotheads" and "militants" among the anti-Castro Cuban Americans. "Conventional Wisdom Watch" suggested the "third time’s the charm" for Janet Reno after Waco and Ruby Ridge.

2. Using the power of suggestion, Time’s gay activist/reporter John Cloud wove together the Boy Scouts of America and the Ku Klux Klan over whether the Scouts have any freedom to associate.

3. Among the "Washington Whispers" at U.S. News: "Aides laughed out loud" when Hillary told New York voters "she’s a hunter just like them," but she was awarded a license in Arkansas.

4. U.S. News Editor at Large David Gergen mysteriously argued Congress should grant Elian citizenship – after he’s sent back to Cuba.

On the covers of this week’s newsmagazines: Newsweek emphasized a photo of a frightened Elian being taken away by a female INS agent with the headline "Seizing Elian." Time magazine played up the other photo showing a happy Elian reunited with his father with the headline "Papa!" U.S. News & World Report (which clearly closed their "book" before the Saturday dawn raid) featured "Vietnam’s Forgotten Lessons." Two magazine columnists overtly critique media bias this week: Newsweek’s George Will on Elian and U.S. News writer John Leo on Elian, Rudy Giuliani, and yuppie high-tech millionaires.


Newsweek’s "Conventional Wisdom Watch" was devoted to the Elian custody battle and subsequent raid. Not surprisingly, praise was reserved solely for Reno and the INS.

CW gave a sideways arrow to Reno: "Better late than never. Waco. Ruby Ridge. The third time’s the charm."

The INS also garnered a sideways arrow: "Upside , picked up the package without shooting. Downside, let photographer do shooting"

Two points on this. To them Elian is further dehumanized to the status of a "package." Second, it is always interesting seeing a press organization actually wishing freedom of the press had not been exercised. The media got a down arrow, since Elian was a "victim" of TV newsies: "Now that Camp Elián is closed, need new victim for 24/7 coverage."

"Dad" got an up arrow: "Andrews pictures tell the story: Blood is thicker than politics." The Miami family, of course, was hit with a down arrow, "Old: "You want him, come get him. New: You fascists snatched him with force." Marisleysis Gonzalez was granted her own whimsical sideways arrow: "Old: Loving caregiver. New: Leading candidate to replace Kathie Lee (¡Oh, Reg, por favor!)."

All three magazines contained full reports on the moments leading up to and events taking place during the INS raid on Elian’s Miami home. U.S. News and Time presented fairly straight factual reports and mainly stayed away from derogatory labels on the Miami family and the Cuban American protesters. However, this was clearly not the case in Newsweek. Evan Thomas and Martha Brant referred to "hotheads" and "militants" in their article on the Elian raid. Were they applying these labels to Janet Reno, the Clinton Administration, the Justice Dept or the INS? Of course not, these labels are solely reserved for the much-maligned Miami family and the Cuban American community.

Here are the examples: "The fiery Marisleysis, who had been hospitalized at least eight times for stress, had told some community-relations workers that if the Feds came into the house, they could be ‘hurt’….The hotheads around Lázaro had long warned that if Elián went to Washington, he risked getting hijacked by Cuban diplomats. ‘They would put Elián in the trunk of a car with diplomatic plates, and the next thing we know he'd be back in Cuba. Taking him to see his father is like taking him to Fidel Castro,’ said Ramon Saul Sanchez, a militant who led chants and organized human chains outside the bungalow."

Leading chants and running human chains are "militant" actions. So what about last week’s anti-capitalist protests in Washington? Last week, Newsweek’s Tom Morganthau did identify "radical environmentalists" in the mix, but presented the protesters as too hip for the square capital as he began: "New age politics came to Washington last week, and the city, which enjoys guerrilla street theater about as much as an Easter snowstorm, buttoned up as if besieged by the Huns."


Time’s John Cloud, a gay activist posing as a reporter, previewed the upcoming Supreme Court case between the Boy Scouts and the homosexual lobby. "If the Scouts win, they will help activists on the right reinforce a crumbling heteros-only wall around key social institutions (marriage being the most fraught). The case will also help decide how much legislators can advance gay equality."

Cloud never labeled the Lambda Legal Defense Fund as liberal but noted that "most major conservative groups in the U.S., from the Family Research Council to the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, have sided with the Scouts."

To tone down the activism, Cloud whimsically noted how gay plaintiff James Dale is hardly the Boy Scout type today, but he also kept weaving the Ku Klux Klan into the Boy Scout story. He reported "gay-activist attorneys" say "the issue isn't so much a group's right to exclusivity – no one is arguing that the Ku Klux Klan must admit Jews – as it is whether a group like the Boy Scouts, which generally welcomes every boy, can claim that being anti-gay is part of its core values."

Later, Cloud more directly associated the BSA’s "anti-gay" position and KKK racism: "Boy Scouts attorney George Davidson protests that their anti-gay position is ‘hardly under a rock,’ but he admits that if you check out, read the Boy Scout Handbook or go with your son to a troop meeting, you'll hear nothing about gays. He also acknowledges that, perversely, if they were more stridently anti-gay – if they were the Boy Scouts of the K.K.K.– they would have a clearer First Amendment claim that admitting gays would destroy everything they stand for."

Like many gay activists, Cloud can’t understand why the Boy Scouts might refrain from hammering pre-pubescent children with discussions of homosexuality. As for the Scouting Web site, who would expect a promotional Web site – Join the Boy Scouts – to lead with their lawsuits?

Time also included a sidebar highlighting "The Scouts’ Worst P.R. Problem" – a 15-year-old boy left the boy Scouts because "I was shocked that the Boy Scouts, which are supposed to embrace the best in our country, are embracing the worst: bigotry." They did not focus on the Gay Left’s worst P.R. problem: the amicus brief in favor of the Boy Scouts’ freedom to associate by Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty.


Among the "Washington Whispers" gathered by Paul Bedard at U.S. News: "It seemed like pandering when first lady and Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton told upstate New York voters that she's a hunter just like them. Aides laughed out loud, and the National Rifle Association dared Whispers to prove she had the required hunting license. Challenge accepted, here are the results of our probe: Hillary hunted with her dad as a kid, and she bagged a duck while first lady of Arkansas. Was she legal? The state game commission says she was – and still is! Every state first family gets a lifetime hunting license."


U.S. News Editor at Large David Gergen started his editorial by saying he wished the INS had done it right the first time, meaning Elian being sent back to his father in Cuba pronto.

"When Elián was found floating on an inner tube five months ago, the Immigration and Naturalization Service could have done what it does in other cases of refugees coming to these shores: Officials could have placed him in a government facility in Florida while they determined his identity and where he properly belonged. If it had, the boy would probably have been quietly returned to his father long ago. Instead, the INS – an arm of the Justice Department – decided to place Elián in the care of his great-uncle and other Miami relatives. It also issued a statement saying that his fate was for a state court to decide and agreed to wait for the relatives to file an asylum suit, which they did. Anyone with an ounce of political sense would have foreseen that Cuban-Americans would rally behind the boy." Rather than follow the appeals process as set out by the laws of our country, just send him back to a totalitarian dictatorship because those pesky Cuban Americans might make some noise.

However, Gergen’s piece did contain an interesting tidbit of information that has been little reported if at all in the national media. In discussing the Court of Appeals ruling in the Elian matter where the Justice Department was criticized and Elian ordered to stay in the country, Gergen uniquely described one of the judges who unanimously ruled in the case. "A New York Times headline said the court had a ‘conservative bent,’ but among the three judges was an African-American appointed by President Clinton." The media has been parading psychologists, mental health experts and officials with close ties to Bill Clinton who support the Administration position on Elian but once a Clinton judicial appointee rules against Justice in the case, no mention at all. This is significant especially give the fact that the judge is an African American where polls show many African Americans favor sending Elian back to Cuba as soon as possible.

Finally, Gergen ended with a shining example of twisted media logic, proposing the good deed Congress should perform for Elian after he is sent back to Cuba.. "There is one good turn Washington could still do for Elián González. If he is sent to Cuba, Congress should pass–and the president sign–a law granting him American citizenship should he ever return to the United States. The bet here is that he has immensely enjoyed his taste of freedom."

If Elian is sent back to Cuba, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Castro will do everything in his power to make sure Elian never returns to the United States. Of course, if Congress makes Elian a U.S. citizen, perhaps Castro will recognize his rights, grant him the right to travel, express himself, organize demonstrations against the Cuban government. And some day pigs will fly.

-- Paul Smith




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