ABC, NBC Ignore Obama Photo Op with Che Guevara Mural; CBS Hails ‘Last Mission of the Cold War’

On Monday night amidst the voluminous amount of Cuba coverage, ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News made sure to not inform their viewers of an ominous and disturbing backdrop hours earlier when President Obama and a portion of the U.S. delegation stood in Havana’s Revolution Square with a mural of the brutal leftist leader Che Cuevara behind them. 

While the CBS Evening News stepped up and made sure to show this visual, the broadcast started off on a pro-Cuban note when anchor Scott Pelley proclaimed that this week (and not 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union) was when the “Cold War with Russia” ended as “Air Force One flew the last mission.”

Pelley also gushed that the President “arrived in a country still waiting to exhale” over half a century after “the world held its breath over Cuba.”

The tone of the network’s Cuba coverage changed seconds later when State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan began her report by taking note of the President posing in front of a mural in Havana depicting the face of the murderous Guevera:

It was a striking image, President Obama in Havana's revolution Square with a giant outline of communist icon Che Guevera looking down, a gesture to a troubled past on a day President Obama focused on the future....Since arriving yesterday, the President has delighted the Cuban people by touring Old Havana and reviewing Cuban troops, but after their meeting today, Mr. Obama said he had a frank discussion with Raul Castro about Cuba's human rights record. 

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell lamented that the issue of human rights had “overshadowed” this trip by illustrating what transpired at the press conference featuring Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, but Brennan took a different line:

Castro got taste of America's freedom of the press when he was asked about Cuban political prisoners. Clearly frustrated, he denied there were any. “What political prisoners,” he said. But just yesterday, the regime arrested more than two dozen protestors. 

Brennan also featured anti-Castro activist Antonio Rodiles, but she was shown letting him speak (as opposed to Mitchell being shown lecturing him): “You allow them to do all these violations and at the same time, you are giving more economic possibilities, then for sure they are getting the signal, they understand that they can this whatever they want.”

In one other significant observation concerning the Monday network evening newscasts, CBS was the lone network to actually mention that Cuba has been a communist regime for nearly 60 years. 

Back when the Obama administration first announced the policy change on December 17, 2014, the communist influence of the Castro government fetched only one mention when CBS Evening News fill-in anchor Norah O’Donnell described Cuba as being ruled by a “communist dictatorship.”

The transcript of the lead segment from the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on March 21 can be found below.

CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
March 21, 2016
6:31 p.m. Eastern

SCOTT PELLEY: Few Americans thought they would live to see this day. An American President meeting with a Communist president named Castro in Havana. 55 years after eight U.S. aircraft bombed the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow the Castro dictatorship, Air Force One flew the last mission of the Cold war with Russia. Once the world held its breath over Cuba, President Obama arrived in a country still waiting to exhale. Margaret Brennan is in Havana. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: It was a striking image, President Obama in Havana's revolution Square with a giant outline of communist icon Che Guevera looking down, a gesture to a troubled past on a day President Obama focused on the future. 

OBAMA: This is a new day. 

BRENNAN: Since arriving yesterday, the President has delighted the Cuban people by touring Old Havana and reviewing Cuban troops, but after their meeting today, Mr. Obama said he had a frank discussion with Raul Castro about Cuba's human rights record. 

OBAMA: To the extent that we can have a good conversation about that and to actually make progress, that I think will allow us to see the full flowering of a relationship that is possible. In the absence of that, I think it will continue to be a very powerful irritant. 

BRENNAN: Castro got taste of America's freedom of the press when he was asked about Cuban political prisoners. Clearly frustrated, he denied there were any. “What political prisoners,” he said. But just yesterday, the regime arrested more than two dozen protestors. Activist Antonio Rodiles was among them. 

ANTONIO RODILES: You allow them to do all these violations and at the same time, you are giving more economic possibilities, then for sure they are getting the signal, they understand that they can this whatever they want. 

BRENNAN: The Obama administration argues that the best way to improve human rights is to invest in Cuba's future by strengthening economic ties. 

HORACE CLEMONS: You will merely mush down with the heel to go backwards. 

BRENNAN: Horace Clemons and his Cuban-born business partner Saul Berenthal will open the first American-owned factory in Havana since the communist revolution. They'll sell this tractor to Cuban farmers still relying on cattle to plow their fields. Berenthal fled Cuba as a child.

SAUL BERENTHAL: I have made peace with the past. I have been able to not only understand what happened and even figure out that the best way to heal is exactly to do what we're doing. 

BRENNAN: American executives are also here as part of the President's delegation. Starwood Hotels just inked a deal to be first American hotel operator in Havana in nearly 60 years and, Scott, Google is in talks to increase internet access on the island. 

PELLEY: Margaret Brennan, our woman in Havana tonight. Margaret, thank you very much.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center