"Cuban Good Life" Awaits Elian; Miami Intolerant; ABC to Dump
1) Did the government suit against Microsoft prompt or
contribute to Tuesday’s stock market plunge? CBS didn’t mention the
Microsoft case, ABC downplayed it. Only NBC allowed that "investors are
worried now about government intervention in business."
2) The "Cuban good life" awaits Elian, promised
NBC’s Jim Avila who predicted his family would get "perks like five
free gallons" of gas and a monthly bag full of beans, shampoo and
3) Forget communist Cuba. ABC’s John Quinones complained
that Miami is "a community with very little tolerance." NBC’s
Katie Couric snidely relayed how some say "it's wrong to expect Elian
Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political
expression. They were talking about Miami."
4) Actor Andy Garcia took on Today’s Matt Lauer and Castro.
To Lauer’s astonishment, Garcia maintained that if he were in Cuba he’d
want his son to be raised in the United States since "it's a fate worse
than Hell" to grow up in Cuba.
5) ABC News President David Westin says they were tricked by
Bill Clinton. "We did not send" Leonardo DiCaprio "to interview
the President...No one is that stupid." They just wanted a celebrity look
at White House weatherstripping.
broadcast networks ignored or downplayed the role of the federal government’s
intervention in the market, via the suit against Microsoft, in driving down the
stock market for the second day in a row on Tuesday. All three evening shows
led with volatile day on Wall Street in which both the Dow and NASDAQ plunged
more than 500 points during the day before rebounding to a lesser loss.
"By any objective analysis the bears have not taken
over Wall Street -- at least not yet -- but you could certainly hear them
growling in the distance today," assessed CBS News anchor Dan Rather. In
his subsequent story reporter Anthony Mason made no mention of the impact of
the Microsoft ruling announced the afternoon before.
ABC’s Betsy Stark claimed Tuesday was "the worst
many could remember since the market crash of 1987." She later allowed for
a small role for the Microsoft decision: "Yesterday’s plunge in
technology stocks could be blamed at least partly on Microsoft. But the
broad-based decline the first half of today, which scorched both old and new
economy stocks, was driven largely by momentum."
Tom Brokaw opened the April 4 NBC Nightly News by
describing Wall Street’s day as "a bungee jump, a roller coast ride and
a near death experience all rolled into one heart-stopping day." Reporter
Mike Jensen did not mention Microsoft, instead blaming "momentum
players." But CNBC’s Ron Insana, who came aboard to run through reasons
experts cite for the volatile day, did raise the government’s interference as
"Did the decision
against Microsoft have any impact on the market? It may have. Investors are
worried now about government intervention in business. They say this could have
a chilling effect on the market, asking whether technological innovation will
be stifled in the future."
Havana NBC’s Jim Avila promised that if Elian Gonzalez returns to Cuba he and
his family will become part of the "Cuban good life," with five
gallons of gas a month, a bag full of beans and deodorant, plus tickets to
discos. But though CBS’s Randall Pinkston featured a Cuban neighbor who
thinks Elian should be with his father in Cuba, he at least acknowledged "Elian
would be returning to a very different place," a place with horse-drawn
carts and sewage in the streets.
For the April 4 NBC
Nightly News Avila delivered an attractive preview of what awaits Elian
upon his return. Avila began by claiming that the Cuban regime has moved
Elian’s father to an "exclusive neighborhood" in Havana. The
father, Avila added, is "from a
family of loyal communists with good jobs in the local government."
His "good job" -- cashier at a park.
Avila soon did Fidel Castro proud, happily relaying
communist propaganda: "If and when Elian returns he will become a
four-foot tall deity in a country that officially does not believe in God.
His classroom desk, a virtual shrine, the chair considered sacred reads
‘untouchable’ [video of words on back of chair]. His home, a
two-bedroom converted garage that has been re-painted and improved by the
government is comfortable. Here he has his own room, a luxury in
Avila then really poured it on:
future here likely to be the Cuban good life, lived by Communist Party
elite with perks like five free gallons of gasoline a month for the
family, a Cuban tradition called ‘La Jaba,’ the bag, which includes
extra rice, beans, cooking oil and sundries like deodorant, shampoo,
razors and shaving cream, about $15 a month worth of basics. Plus,
invitations reserved for the party elite to cultural events, sports,
discos and restaurants, access to the best medicine, expensive drugs like
heart cures not available to everyone in Cuba."
Wow. How could anyone resist the promise of $15
worth of shampoo, deodorant and rice in a bag? Why not just stay in Miami
where you can get a job and buy it yourself and not be surrounded by those
who don’t get any deodorant or shampoo.
After a friend of the father got time to say not
everyone wants to leave Cuba, Avila concluded: "Tonight, Juan Miguel
Gonzalez has his visa to go to the United States. The question: Will he
use it and when."
Of course, it’s not up to him when or whether to
use it. Castro will decide.
CBS’s Randall Pinkston traveled to Juan Miguel
Gonzalez’s hometown of Cardenes. He showed CBS Evening News viewers how
"Elian would be returning to a very different place. In Cardenes this
is their version of a moving van [video of horse-pulled cart], public
sanitation is from a long time ago [video of liquid puddles of some sort
at side of road], and children amuse themselves playing in the
"Elian’s neighbor," through translator: "He’ll be
better off because he’ll be with his people, his father, his
grandparents, his little brother and the people he has always known."
neighbors like Isabel Alarcon there’s nothing more priceless than
of focusing on the oppression which will greet Elian in Cuba, even if
he’ll get some deodorant and a few beans in a bag, ABC and NBC over the
last two days have portrayed Cubans in Miami as the intolerant oppressors
worthy of condemnation.
Tuesday night ABC’s John Quinones complained that
everything in Miami is "colored by a hatred of communism and Fidel
Castro. It’s a community with very little tolerance for those who might
disagree." Monday morning Katie Couric opened NBC’s Today by
snidely remarking: "Some suggested...that it's wrong to expect Elian
Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of
political expression. They were talking about Miami." She added that
an unnamed writer called Miami "an out of control banana republic
ABC’s John Quinones began an April 4 World News
Tonight piece on Miami’s Cuban community: "Cuban-Americans, full of
fervor and outright anger, passionately determined to keep young Elian
from being returned to Cuba." He first looked at a family which fled
Cuba in the 1960s. The father was a doctor in Havana, but had to accept a
job in Florida as an orderly. "Yet his wife says even today she would
do anything to spare her children life under communism," Quinones
acknowledged. He played soundbites from the wife and her daughter before
transitioning to the dark side:
"It seems like
such a contradiction that Cubans, who profess a love of family and respect
for the bond between father and son, would be so willing to separate Elian
from his father. But in Miami it’s impossible to over-estimate how
everything here is colored by a hatred of communism and Fidel Castro.
It’s a community with very little tolerance for those who might
"The same people who claim to have left Cuba seeking freedom are
seeking to silence voices that might not be in agreement with what they
Quinones explained how Freyre is also an exile, one
of the few proclaiming support for Elians’s father. Maybe one of the
few, but given more time than the first family in the piece. Quinones
asserted: "The exile community, she says, should be ashamed for using
a six-year-old boy as a puppet in its stand against Fidel Castro."
After three soundbites
from Freyre, Quinones concluded by allowing the daughter in the first
family say that if Elian’s father loves him he’ll let Elian stay in
Monday morning Katie Couric opened the April 3
Today, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to expect Elian Gonzalez to
live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political
expression. They were talking about Miami. All eyes on South Florida and
its image this morning. Another writer this weekend called it 'an out of
control banana republic within America.' What effect is the Elian Gonzalez
story having on perception of Miami? We will talk with a well known
columnist for the Miami Herald about that."
In the subsequent segment Couric badgered Liz
Balmaseda, a columnist for the Miami Herald. Couric first asked: "You
think that Miami and the Cuban Exile community is getting a bum rap in all
this. How come?" She followed-up: "There is an impression out
there that Miami is pursing its very own foreign policy on this."
Balmaseda replied: "Because outside of Miami
this is being seen as a custodial matter. Inside of Miami people are
realizing that the only paternal figure who has emerged in this case is
Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro is obsessed with this child. And I think it
changes things. It has changed things in the last few months as he has
emerged and Juan Gonzalez has disappeared."
To which Couric
countered: "But Liz when all is said and done isn't this really a
custodial matter? Isn't this a question of who should be raising this
little boy? Why should politics be so paramount in the decision making
"I don't think politics should be paramount whatsoever. But what
began as a custodial matter. What began between relatives has emerged into
being essentially a move by Fidel Castro to take this child. Juan Gonzalez
has totally disappeared from the picture. And the fact that everyday
passes and he's not here is a statement in itself."
Couric made sure Cuban-Americans didn’t escape
blame: "But Fidel Castro isn't alone though, is he Liz in making this
a political hot potato? Obviously the Cuban Exile community is
contributing to this enormously."
"Yes but it's always easier to cover Miami. You don't need a visa to
come here. You don't need government approval for access. The hard story
to do is to go to Cuba and cover that in a free and objective way and that
is not happening."
Couric prompted her: "So what do you think?
Tell me specifically. What would the headline be if people were in Cuba
covering this story? And what kind of information would the American
public be getting that they're not."
suggested: "I'd like to be in Cuba, I don't get a visa to go to Cuba.
I think that what the people would probably see is a father that is being
pressured. And I don't know enough information because frankly we, the
cameras are all parked outside Elian's house in Miami."
Sadly, as shown in item #2 above, NBC has a reporter
in Havana but he’s more interested in highlighting Cuba’s "good
Couric ended by taking on Balmaseda’s contention:
"Father's being pressured? A father who doesn't want to take care or
doesn't want custody of his son?"
Andy Garcia bucked Today co-host Matt Lauer Tuesday morning, challenging
his assumptions about how fatherhood should trump communism. Garcia fled
Cuba as a young boy and, to Lauer’s astonishment, he maintained that if
he were in Cuba he’d want his son to be raised in the United States
since "it's a fate worse than Hell to...think that my children would
be growing up in that system over there."
Garcia argued that a communist indoctrination
program awaits Elian who "deserves the civil liberties that we so
enjoy here in the United States." As for Castro’s concern for kids,
Garcia reminded viewers how Castro has had fleeing boats capsized,
drowning many Cuban children.
Lauer introduced the April 4 interview segment, as
caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "Polls show a majority of
Americans think the little boy should go back to Cuba with his father. But
many of the 800,000 Cuban Americans living in Florida strongly disagree.
Cuban American actor Andy Garcia is in Miami this morning."
question: "I'm fine. There is so much emotion on both sides of this
issue Andy. And I know you feel that even if the father comes to the U.S.
Elian should stay here could you explain that for me?"
Garcia delivered a
perspective on life in Cuba not heard elsewhere on the networks,
especially not in NBC reporter Jim Avila’s focus on the Cuban "good
life" (See item #2). Garcia explained:
"Well you know
Matt I'm the product of the same fate that is awaiting Elian in the sense
that I left Cuba when I was about to turn 6 years old at the time. My
parents, were, I was very fortunate they were able to get me out of the
country. At that time there was laws passed that are still very much in
order in Cuba today which, the state, takes over the rights of the
children from their parents. So this is not really. You know you basically
go into an indoctrination program where you become a member of what they
call Los Pioneeros, which is Communist Pioneer Youth Group, which their
motto is, you know, 'Pioneers for Communism, We Will Be Like Che.' And you
know this is a very important fact that we must ascertain in this case
because it's not a normal custody case. In this case the father does not
have real legal rights over his own child. The father in this case is the
state and that's something that has to be taken into account."
Lauer pressed again: "But we're trying to read
the mind of this father. I know you feel that he has little control if any
over his actions and his statements. But can we be sure of that Andy, can
we say that this father truly doesn't want to stay in Cuba, and doesn't
want his child back there under any circumstances?"
Garcia pointed out
the obvious, that maybe contrary to Katie Couric’s belief (see item #3
above) there is a place more repressive than Miami: "Well no, you can
never be sure of that. But what you can be sure of that there is only one
opinion in Cuba and that's the state opinion. And if the father had
contrary thoughts to that, those would never be voiced or be permitted to
be voiced. And that is a fact."
Lauer next asked: "I know you feel that the
father, that Castro originally wanted the father to come here with thirty
or so other people. And that's a clear sign that they are very much afraid
that this father would express his true feelings once he arrived on
Garcia noted how
Casto wants to decontaminate Elian after his months in the U.S.: "It
will be difficult for him to do so I think if he does come here because
they will never permit his other members of his extended family, his own
wife, his other children to come with him. So they will be sort of held
in, you know, house arrest there and it will be difficult for him to
actually express his true feelings. But the real issue here is really
what's best for the child. And in a normal custody case the child has his
day in court and the judge's, you know, determine whether the people that
are gonna take over the child's life, in this case the father who is the
remaining parent, is fit. In this case the parent, like I say in my
opinion, is really the state. And you'll be, as soon as he gets back to
Cuba he will be as Castro put it himself, 'begin the process of
decontamination.' Which apparently we've done to this poor child here in
the United States."
Lauer made the case that fatherhood should trump
communism: "You shared a little of your personal story about coming
here when you were about to turn 6. Let me ask you to take this and make
it a personal issue. You've got three children, is that right?"
Lauer: "So if
you were in Cuba and Elian was your child here in the United States could
you honestly say that you'd rather have him stay here than be reunited
with you in Cuba?"
affirmed the answer Lauer found baffling: "With complete conviction
Matt. I would never, it's a fate worse than hell to have my children, to
think that my children would be growing up in that system over there. I
mean I was a product of that. I was singing the International when I was
about to turn six years old before we left Cuba and I can tell you first
hand by many experiences the situation in Cuba for a young man is not a
good one. We had a terrible issue in 1994 with 72 Cubans who left on a
tugboat from Cuba and the Cuban fireboats or coast guard approached this
vessel and with fire hoses proceeded to drown and to capsize these boats
where 41 of the 72 died and amongst them were ten children. So this
personal obsession that Fidel has over this child is obviously for
political reasons. And this child if he goes back will become sort of a
pendant around, you know, Fidel's, you know, neck as his trophy and his
anti-American sort of mantle."
Finally, Lauer tried to apply the same criticism to
Cubans in Florida: "Isn't it also possible though Andy that he
becomes somewhat of a trophy to Cuban-Americans living in Florida if he
maybe Cubans in Miami have a better understanding of things than do the
media: "You know the people who feel passionate about this are people
who know the reality of life in Cuba. Those who do not know the reality of
life in Cuba would obviously side with the child reuniting with his own
parents. But I speak to you, not only as a friend, but, with, from the
deepest sentiments in my heart, I know for a fact that this child is in my
own heart, in my own opinion. This is my opinion. This child deserves the
civil liberties that we so enjoy here in the United States."
++ Watch Garcia take on Castro and Lauer. Late
Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of a
portion of this interview. Go to: http://archive.mrc.org
heavy criticism from his staff, ABC News President David Westin, in the
words of the Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes on April 4, "seems to
be distancing himself from Leonardo DiCaprio's Friday sit-down with
President Clinton." In fact, Westin is denying Saturday’s
Washington Post story about how ABC News asked the White House to have
Clinton sit down with DiCaprio, chairman of Earth Day activities on
Washington’s Mall, for an Earth Day-related ABC News special. (See the
April 3 CyberAlert for an excerpt of Howard Kurtz’s Post story.)
Westin claimed ABC only planned to have Clinton walk
around the White House building with DiCaprio to show environmental
improvements, such as low-energy lightbulbs and weatherstripping, but
Clinton insisted on a sit down interview instead. Even this new line,
however, has ABC News using an active participant in Earth Day in a
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Gail Shister noted how
"in his memo, Westin says ‘it's quite possible’ ABC News will use
none of the footage."
Tuesday night, only FNC picked up on the
controversy, with Jim Angle playing soundbites from White House Deputy
Press Secretary Jack Siewert denying Westin’s version and maintaining
that ABC News specifically asked for an interview.
Here are some excerpts from Tuesday’s newspaper
stories. First, from Lisa de Moraes in the Washington Post:
ABC News President David Westin seems to be distancing himself from
Leonardo DiCaprio's Friday sit-down with President Clinton. In fact, he
says it wasn't meant to be an interview at all -- a position disputed by
White House officials.
"We did not send him to interview the President," Westin told
his staff in an e-mail over the weekend. "No one is that
He said ABC sent the 25-year-old actor simply to do a
"walk-through" of the White House -- to look at its
weatherstripping and other environmental efforts for a prime-time special
-- when "the President announced he wanted to sit down and do an
interview with DiCaprio."
In that circumstance, Westin told The Post's Howard Kurtz yesterday,
"it's awfully hard to say, 'No, no, Mr. President.’"
But White House officials tell a slightly different story. They say the
request from ABC News, first made in February through the
administration's Council on Environmental Quality, was definitely for a
presidential interview. They say DiCaprio was always
understood to be the questioner, that Deputy Chief of Staff Steve
Ricchetti briefed Clinton on the request Thursday and that
the President approved it the next day. (An ABC spokeswoman says they
expected the president might answer some questions during the walk-through
but that it was White House staffers who insisted that Clinton had time
only to give an interview, not a full-fledged tour.)
Some ABC folks are appalled at the Post's report on Friday that the
network is using DiCaprio, Chairman of the upcoming Earth
Day festivities, in a news division special slated for late April. Westin
said in the e-mail that the program would cast DiCaprio
in the role of "a sincere, informed celebrity," but that
"all roles of journalists must be played by journalists (duh!)."
He said ABC might not even use the footage of Clinton chatting up the
"David Westin is making an effort to climb out of a hole that he
didn't originally dig," one ABC News staffer says. Westin prefers
to stress the big picture, telling The Post: "We have to make some
effort to do serious journalism for the DiCaprio generation."
Second, from Gail Shister’s story in the
....The troops needed calming, particularly in the Washington bureau.
Several high-profile correspondents made their displeasure known to
Westin, according to ABC insiders.
DiCaprio had been dispatched to the White House as part of an hourlong
ABC News environment special to air on or around Earth Day, April 22. He
was brought into the project by pal Chris Cuomo, 20/20 correspondent and
anchor of the special....
DiCaprio, a chick magnet, was chosen because of his concern for the
environment and because the broadcast is aimed at younger viewers, says
Phyllis McGrady, ABC News senior vice president.
The original plan called for DiCaprio and ABC News producer Rudy Bednar
to tour the White House with Clinton as he explained environmental
improvements that had been made, McGrady says.
When DiCaprio and crew arrived, however, they were told the President
didn't have time for the tour, McGrady says. Clinton then offered to talk
with DiCaprio, which they did for about 15 minutes
on the porch area by the Rose Garden, McGrady says....
For her part, McGrady is a tad surprised by the brouhaha. "Obviously,
we're not going to send Leo to the White House to interview the President.
We have plenty of qualified people here to do that..."
The DiCaprio segment was to run from 40 seconds to a minute, McGrady
says. But don't count on its showing up on the air. Ever.
In his memo, Westin says "it's quite possible" ABC News will
use none of the footage. Remember, that's a lawyer talking.
If they have "plenty of qualified people,"
why didn’t they send one over?
On FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume Tuesday
night, April 4, Jim Angle played this comment from Deputy Press Secretary
Jack Siewert, who maintained ABC News had requested an interview session:
"ABC News indicated that would be Leonardo DiCaprio that would ask
the questions. We negotiated as we always do and we put together an
interview, we told them we’d do an interview and we did an
This is one time when I believe the White House. I
bet the ABC News New York hierarchy is only backtracking now because of
the anger from an embarrassed Washington bureau staff.