Alan Gross, political prisoner. Those were four words missing from Emma Margolin's December 10 MSNBC.com story hailing the handshake between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro earlier today at Nelson Mandela's memorial service in Soweto, South Africa. Gross, a State Department contractor, has been languishing in a Cuban prison for five years.
There was a reference to "genocide" in the story, but that was from a quote from a Cuban official railing against the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba (emphasis mine):
View journalist Barbara Walters on Tuesday used Nelson Mandela’s funeral as a way to push for normalization of relations with Cuba. Absolutely struck by the fact that Barack Obama shook hands with President Raul Castro, Walters lectured, “The significance is that maybe this may change our relations with Cuba after 50 years, because it seems a little ridiculous to me that we recognize China and our relationship but we still do not have a relationship with Cuba.” [See video below.]
She enthused that the footage of Obama and Castro was “old enemies…shaking hands.” The host hyped, “It’s historic.” Walters has a history of touting communist leaders.
Reporting from South Africa on Tuesday's NBC Today about the memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams noted how the "dignitary section has some criminals, some thieves, some kings, some presidents" and that "Several have been life-long sworn enemies." He then proclaimed that President Obama's "handshake with [Cuban leader] Raul Castro was one of the better moments." [View video after the jump]
Williams gushed that oppressive dictators sitting side by side with democratically elected leaders of the free world was somehow part of Mandela's legacy: "What would Nelson Mandela say to all of them and say to all of this? Most of the speakers have urged the crowd, 'Go on, behave like him, live like him, be infused with his spirit going forward and maybe we could get some place.'"
CNN's Christiane Amanpour is clearly campaigning for the reelection of the current White House resident.
In an interview with Raul Castro's daughter Mariela to be aired later on Monday, Amanpour actually asked her guest, "Do you want Obama to win the next election?" (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
On Saturday's Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC, after recounting some of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Cuban government against its citizens, host Harris-Perry praised the efforts of Fidel Castro's niece, Mariela Castro, in securing sex change surgery as one of the medical services covered by the government-run health care system of the communist country as a promising development.
Playing off on a guest last week who compared Harris-Perry to Fidel Castro for supporting more regulations, the MSNBC host declared while holding a cigar: (Video at end)
Last November, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell admitted on air to being a socialist.
In a segment on "The Last Word" Tuesday addressing how Cuba - a country nearing economic ruin - is moving towards capitalism, O'Donnell said, "We are all socialists in this country who support public education, state funded universities, government-run hospitals, Medicare, Social Security, classic socialistic programs that have sensibly found their way into the American economy" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
The guess here is Associated Press writers Peter Orsi and Andrea Rodriguez believe their May Day dispatch from Cuba represents an example of objectivity and insightful analysis. Anyone with knowledge of how a country under the iron grip of a five-decade Communist dictatorship really operates would beg to differ.
It's not a stretch to believe that the folks at the Associated Press would rather not report bad news from that communist workers' paradise known as Cuba.
Just look at how the wire service has dealt with clearly significant news about the island nation's economy. Though the news, carried originally at the Miami Herald, is three months old, the AP as best I can tell finally got around to writing a story about it late Friday, the beginning of a summer weekend when few are following the news closely. How convenient.
Here is some of what the Herald's Juan O. Tamay reported on April 19:
Raúl Castro admits that Cuba has one million excess jobs The figures on unproductive workers in the government and its enterprises surprised even some Cuban economists.
The stunning figure was revealed by Cuban leader Raúl Castro himself: The Cuban government and its enterprises might have more than one million excess workers on their payrolls.
As is its custom from time to time, the Castro regime trotted out former refugee Elian Gonzalez for PR purposes yesterday. This time the cause of celebration was the 10th anniversary of the young man's return to the Communist regime on June 28, 2000.
Wiessert began by noting that "Elian Gonzalez says he's not angry at his Miami relatives who fought to keep him in the United States" and that he was "thankful [that] 'a large part of the American public' supported him being reunited with his father in Cuba."
Later in his article, Wiessert insisted that "Cuba has worked to play down the public persona of both" Elian and his father since June 2000, but that "the latest anniversary of their triumphant return proved an exception."
Filing his January 1 story from Santiago, Cuba, Washington Post foreign service staffer William Booth paid homage to the 50-year mark of the Castro revolution, pinning blame on "mostly hostile U.S. presidents" and a "decades-long trade and travel embargo" for the big 5-0 being celebrated as a "low-key event that was far removed from the triumphant displays and mass rallies of [Cuba's] socialist glory days."
Booth's 14-paragraph article failed to label either ailing despot Fidel nor ruling substitute despot Raul Castro as dictators, although the man they deposed in 1959, Fulgencio Batista, was tagged as a "despised dictator."
What's more, the word "revolution" to describe the Castro regime a total of seven times in the story, four of them by Booth himself, the other three in quotes from Castro. At no point did Booth quote a Cuban dissident or any Castro opponent, although he made efforts to paint the younger Castro brother as something of a reformer:
Fidel will someday disappear, but MSM nostalgia for the Cuban revolution is forever. Good Morning America devoted a segment today to celebrations in Havana marking the 50th anniversary of Castro's dictatorship. The thrust of Jim Avila's report was that, yeah, there are those who "complain" about that oppression stuff, but the key is that Cuba is free from los Yanquis!
JIM AVILA: It is Raul Castro who now runs the country, with Fidel incapacitated. He brought the celebration back to where in 1959, he, Fidel and Che Guevara came out of the Sierra Maestra mountains to overthrow the American-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista.
Cut to clip of Batista and Pres. Nixon exchanging smiles and a handshake. Funny: Avila referred to Batista as a "dictator", but never used that term for the Castro boys.
AVILA: That was ten American presidents ago. And while many Cubans complain about economic conditions and oppression, most still take pride in their independence.
Leave it to the mainstream media to highlight the latest "accomplishment" of the Castros’ oppressive regime.
One of Yahoo.com’s front page news items Monday morning linked to a story from the Associated Press about Elian Gonzalez’s entrance into Cuba’s Young Communist Union. The short uncredited story put the news this way:
The Cuban boy at the center of an international custody battle eight years ago has joined Cuba's Young Communist Union.
Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde quotes Elian Gonzalez as saying he will never let down ex-President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, who succeeded Fidel earlier this year.
CBS's "Early Show" gave a fairly glowing report from the May Day celebration in Havana, Cuba, May 1, on changes Cuban President Raúl Castro has made in the country. Reporter Elizabeth Palmer called the leader's brother, Fidel Castro, a "revolutionary hero."
Fidel Castro handed provisional power to Raúl Castro, his younger brother, in July 2006. Raúl Castro officially took over the presidency in February 2008 after Fidel Castro fell ill.
Anchor Russ Mitchell said the May Day celebrations in Cuba signaled a "new era" for the country, and Palmer touted reforms like "cell phones," "text-messaging," opening of "resort hotels" to Cuban citizens and "shiny new Chinese buses."
At NewsBusters we've been noticing the reticence the media are showing in characterizing the Castro Brothers regime in Cuba as a Communist dictatorship. Today's Miami Herald came a bit closer with its February 26 article ("Old-style socialist takes the No. 2 job in Cuba"), although it painted Raul Castro's deputy as a "devout socialist" and results-oriented problem-solver.
Of course, there are "devout socialist" politicians in numerous countries the world over who abide by the results of free and fair elections and respect the rule of law, two things sorely lacking in Cuba.
No matter, the Herald's Frances Robles seemed more interested in painting Raul Castro's number two as though he were Che Guevara with a hearing aid (emphasis mine):
In a report yesterday from Cuba, Anita Snow of the Associated Press, with the help of the headline writers at ABC, seemed intent on telling any Yanqui imperialists or hard-liners in Miami's Little Havana who might have any ideas of doing something rash during the transition of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul to forget about trying anything (HT Rush Limbaugh; story #4 at link; link will be available until next Monday):
Below the page break I've included screen grabs taken around 3:50 p.m. today for top stories at Newsweek.com, one having to do with John McCain and how his denial of an affair with Vicki Iseman "invited a game of catch me if you can," the second about the rise of a Raul Castro, a dictator who "promises change."
The latter, flashing a peace sign, looks somewhat avuncular. McCain, however appears to bear a scowl on his face in a photo shot apparently aboard a campaign airplane.
Oddly enough, the "old guard" is still labeled "revolutionary" twice in the story by Miguel Bustillo and Carol J. Williams:
MIAMI -- Cuba's parliament signaled Sunday that the status quo of a stunted state-run economy and strained relations with the United States will persist for now as it named Raul Castro to replace his ailing brother, Fidel, as president and chose another aging revolutionary as the nation's No. 2 leader.
So much for Washington Post staff writer Manuel Roig-Franzia waxing poetic about the tech-savvy younger generation of Communists in Cuba. "Party Elders Triumph in Cuba," as Raul Castro has been formally named the new dictator, a February 25 Post headline informs readers. Party elders?! That's language suitable for a story about the role of superdelegates in the presidential nomination process for the Democratic Party, not when describing window-dressing "elections" in one-party Communist dictatorships.
Roig-Franzia opened his article with a lament that a "younger generation" of Communists has been "bypassed" by the Geritol crowd:
HAVANA, Feb. 24 -- Cuba's revolutionary old guard consolidated its hold on power Sunday when the National Assembly bypassed a younger generation of politicians and named Fidel Castro's brother, Raúl, president and a hard-line communist first vice president.
Here in Ithaca and no doubt in other liberal bastions across the land, you can still see cars festooned with those bitter bumper stickers: "Re-Defeat Bush!" and "Bush: Selected, Not Elected!" Those sentiments remain reflected in an MSM still smarting from Florida 2000. All of which made Ann Curry's words on this morning's Today, announcing the ascendancy of Raul Castro in Cuba, so ironic.
ANN CURRY: In the news this morning, we begin with Cuba and its [first] new president in nearly half a century. Raul Castro was officially chosen on Sunday to take over from his brother Fidel who announced his retirement last week.
With the symbolic passing of the torch - from Fidel Castro to Raul Castro - comes hope of changes in Cuba, well at least among some in the media.
Even though no one is predicting Cuba to usher in a new wave of Adam Smith-style capitalism, there might be some changes according to ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."
"[H]e's talking about significant reforms - liberalizing trade, economic reforms designed to ease poverty in a country where the average person earned $19 a month in the hope of consolidating his own power," ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman said on the Feb.19, 2008, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson."
Chris Matthews on this afternoon's Hardball, speaking with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.).
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Congressman Burton, why do you think Cubans on the island still support the Castro brothers? What is it that allows that lock on those people to continue?
DAN BURTON: I don't think they do support Castro, I don't think they supported Fidel or Raul. That is a Communist regime where they have block captains who watch everybody in each invidual block, and anybody that even speaks out against the government ends up in a gulag.
Writing in the January 16 Financial Times, reporter Marc Frank takes a look at Cuban politics as though it were an actual liberal democracy, not a Marxist dictatorship. Frank finds no irony or contradiction-in-terms in the way he qualifies the election as a public ratification of a pre-determined outcome. And in what amounts to a laughable print edition subheading, Frank's editor wrote this in the subhead to "Castro keeps world guessing on retirement":
Even if the head of state stands down, he may still be able to exert power from the sidelines, writes Marc Frank.
Gee, ya think?!
Here are the first few paragraphs of Frank's page 3 report, with my emphasis added:
Covering Raul Castro's July 26 hour-long Revolution Day speech, the Washington Post characterized the fill-in dictator's latest speech as one that "hits capitalist notes while placating hard-line party loyalists." But in truth Castro's speech was the typical Communist agitprop fare: empty promises for more pay, a call for harder work from the people, and above all else, blaming the United States for the collectivist economy's failure.
"Wearing his trademark tinted eyeglasses and military uniform, Castro, 76, struck distinctly capitalist notes before tens of thousands of flag-waving Communist Party loyalists," reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia noted in his July 27 story, filed the day before from Camaguey, a city 350 miles east of Havana.
Yet from Roig-Franzia's article itself, it becomes clear Castro is not a Latin incarnation of Milton Friedman. A little more foreign investment is the only capitalist bone to be thrown Cuba's way.
Nothing says "idealistic" like brutally suppressing freedom and imprisoning courageous advocates of democracy. At least in the view of CBS News, apparently.
At 7:21 a.m. EDT on this morning's "Early Show," CBS's Kelly Cobiella reported from Havana on the occasion of Cuba's national day. Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez asked Cobiella about the prospects for change.
CBS "EARLY SHOW" CO-ANCHOR MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: There's no question that Fidel and [his brother] Raul are different types of leaders. I'm sure we'll see it when he speaks later. He doesn't have Fidel's charisma and he seems a little bit more open to change. As he solidifies his power, what kind of changes do you think Cubans can expect to see?
That's when Cobiella went into Fidel-fan mode . . .