AP Ties Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio to 'Convicted Drug Dealer'

AP couldn’t let Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio hand out juice at a campaign event in Miami without connecting them to cocaine. What? David Fischer’s story was headlined “Host for Romney event is a convicted drug dealer.” It began: “Mitt Romney held a campaign event Monday evening at a Miami juice shop owned by a convicted cocaine trafficker.”

In 1995, cocaine trafficker Jorge Cabrera gained access to Al Gore and Hillary Clinton at separate fundraisers after giving $20,000 to the DNC. When that story broke a year later, CNN tried to describe him as a “commercial fisherman.” AP’s story continued:

Romney appeared at El Palacio de los Jugos, which is owned by Reinaldo Bermudez. Court records show that Bermudez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 1999 and served three years in federal prison.

Appearing with Romney was Sen. Marco Rubio. Both men handed out juices to an excited crowd after making brief remarks. Romney was filming a campaign ad at the juice shop, aides said.

The Romney campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Phone calls placed by The Associated Press to the juice shop weren't answered.

Bermudez told the Miami New Times that the Secret Service vetted everything about him when the Romney campaign asked to use his fresh fruit and vegetable stand and that they knew about his criminal record.

"Here in Miami there are a lot people with money who have had problems with the law," Bermudez told the New Times. "Thankfully, we all have the opportunity in this country to re-enter society when we've done something wrong."

Does anyone believe AP would have leaped on this detail about who sold the juice – a man with one drug offense in 1999, with time served – if Obama had an event at the same venue?

For a historical match on Jorge Cabrera, here’s a quick summary from the book Whitewash, which I wrote with Brent Bozell:

Then there's the tale of Jorge Cabrera, cocaine smuggler. The Cuban-born American citizen was already a convicted drug smuggler when the Democrats solicited him (as he was traveling in Cuba) for money despite his criminal record. He donated $20,000 to the Democrats in 1995, and gained access to a south Florida fundraiser with Al Gore in November -- and a White House Christmas party hosted by Hillary in December. Cabrera was photographed with both Gore and Mrs. Clinton.

Three weeks later, he was arrested inside a Dade County cigar warehouse, in a drug bust which found 500 pounds of cocaine. Cabrera was charged with trying to smuggle three tons of cocaine and 30 cases of Cohiba cigars into the United States, and was sentenced in late 1996 to 19 years in a federal prison. The Democrats did not return his money until October 19, 1996, when reporters started inquiring

The CNN story was illuminating. It showed the picture of Cabrera taken with Hillary Clinton, with Frank Sesno explaining, “That’s commercial fisherman Jorge Cabrera next to the First Lady last December.” Commercial fisherman? That’s a funny title, as you try to explain all the cocaine seized.

On Today, NBC weekend host Jodi Applegate made Cabrera’s photos with Gore and the Clintons sound like unintentional fender-bending accidents. She said to Tim Russert, “Jorge Cabrera, a convicted drug smuggler who gave $20,000 to the DNC, wound up at a fancy dinner with Al Gore, wound up at a White House Christmas party with Hillary Clinton. But they gave the money back when they found out about his background. It may not look good, but is there any proof that anything was done wrong?” At least Russert acknowledged the White House had “no standards when it came to raising money.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis