Neuharth Hails 'Shrewd, Slick’ Castro, Recalls Telling Him: 'Touche!’

In his weekly Friday column, USA Today founder Al Neuharth hailed Fidel Castro for how “he outfoxed 10 consecutive U.S. Presidents” and, recalling a meeting with him 20 years ago, Neuharth wrote that he found him “brilliantly briefed” with a “quick, slick comment” after Neuharth told him that profits from Gannett’s other papers subsidized losses at USA Today: “Aha, your company and my country are both socialistic!” Neuharth’s reaction to the oppressive communist dictator's contention:
I paused, said “touche” and lifted a glass of Cuban rum. Then we talked capitalism and socialism and sports until 3:55 a.m.
How cozy.

(Screen shot is from a 2004 Smithsonian event carried by C-SPAN, MRC CyberAlert article.)

Neuharth argued that “our government could have captivated Castro with smart communication rather than castration.”

“USA Today Founder Al Neuharth: Limbaugh 'Idiotic,' Bloggers Full of 'Stupidity,'” read the headline over my June 18, 2007 NewsBusters posting.

For dozens of examples of journalists hailing Castro's achievements, check the MRC's Special Report, with many video clips, "Fidel's Flatterers: The U.S. Media's Decades of Cheering Castro's Communism."

Amongst the featured quotes, this from a ludicrous August 13, 2004 USA Today story, "Cuba pursues a 120-year-old future," by reporter Eric Sabo:
There’s a good chance that Fidel Castro, who marks his 78th birthday today, could keep going for another 40 years, the Cuban leader’s personal physician says....Cuban officials say the same revolutionary zeal that has driven nearly five decades of socialism can overcome the ravages of time....At least 40 different Cuban research groups are said to be at work unlocking the secrets of aging. The research ranges from studying special diets to basic research on genetics.
In his February 22 column, “Fess up: We messed up with foxy Fidel,” Neuharth called for normalized relations, trade and travel with Cuba before he reminisced:
Personal insight into what a shrewd, slick guy Castro has been in outsmarting us:

Brilliantly briefed, he opened our 10 p.m. meeting with this question:

"Mr. Neuharth, I understand your new newspaper lost a lot of money. How did you pay the bills?"

My honest but naive reply: "Our Gannett company has more than 80 very profitable newspapers. They helped out financially."

Castro's quick, slick comment: "Aha, your company and my country are both socialistic!"
I paused, said “touché” and lifted a glass of Cuban rum. Then we talked capitalism and socialism and sports until 3:55 a.m.

My hunch then and now is that our government could have captivated Castro with smart communication rather than castration. It's time to talk to Cuba's new leaders.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center