Nets Cheer ‘Historic Moment’ in Cuba, Barely Mention Dissidents Kept Out

August 14th, 2015 4:38 PM

While all three broadcast networks on Friday celebrated the American flag being raised at the newly-reopened U.S. embassy in Havana, CBS ignored Cuban dissidents not being invited to the ceremony, while NBC and ABC gave mere seconds to the controversy.

At the top of CBS This Morning, co-host Gayle King proclaimed “a new era for the United States and Cuba,” adding minutes later: “ just a few hours the American flag will once again fly over Havana. Secretary of State John Kerry left Joint Base Andrews this morning for the Cuban capital. He is the nation's first top diplomat to visit the island in 70 years.”

In the report that followed, correspondent Margaret Brennan declared: “Well, a cold war standoff will end here in Havana when the stars and stripes fly once again on the island.”

She wrapped up the segment by noting some of the attendees at the event: “A number of congressmen and prominent Cuban Americans are flying down to witness this historic moment. And Vinita, that includes the very same marine guards who shut down this embassy all those years ago.”

She skipped dissidents opposed to the Castro regime being kept away.

During a CBS News Special Report at 10:30 a.m. ET, correspondent Vinita Nair similarly avoided any mention of the dissidents.

Co-host Matt Lauer led off NBC’s Today: “Banner day. Secretary of State John Kerry set to raise the American flag over the newly re-opened U.S. Embassy in Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years.” Minutes later, fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie announced: “And now to the historic moment that is set to unfold in Cuba a little bit later this morning.”

Reporting live from Havana, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt gushed: “Secretary of State Kerry will be landing here in a few hours....So this moment will be steeped in history when he steps off the plane and on to Cuban soil. And the world will be watching. Today marks the promise of a new day for the United States and Cuba.”

Lauer specifically asked: “Who else gets an invitation to this event?” Holt responded:

There will be eight members of the U.S. Congress, there will also be members from the Commerce Department and Treasury Department who were instrumental in making this all happen. We should also note there will be three ex – former U.S. Marines who lowered the flag here in 1961. They will be part of this ceremonial flag raising.

The morning show failed to mention the dissidents. However, Holt and chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell did give a mere 19 seconds to the topic during a 10:30 a.m ET NBC News Special Report:

HOLT: We should note there’s been push-back and criticism that Cuban dissidents have not been invited to the ceremony that we’re watching right now. Secretary Kerry will meet with some of them later on at a different event.

MITCHELL: A smaller event and one that does not have any press coverage, so there’s criticism of that today. Even a editorial in The Washington Post against it.

The Post article Mitchell referenced issued a scathing rebuke to the Obama administration:

The official U.S. explanation for excluding the dissidents is that the flag-raising ceremony is a government-to-government affair. This is lame. Inviting the dissidents would be a demonstration to Raúl and Fidel Castro of what the flag stands for: people freely choosing their leaders, a pluralism of views and a public engaging in the institutions and traditions of a healthy civil society. Not inviting them is a sorry tip of the hat to what the Castros so vividly stand for: diktat, statism, control and rule by fear.

ABC’s Good Morning America offered a single full report on Cuba, with fill-in co-host and World News Tonight anchor David Muir reporting: “We're going to turn now to a historic moment this morning, the raising of the American flag over the U.S. embassy in Cuba for the first time in 50 years, marking what many hope is the start of a new relationship.”

Correspondent Jim Avila waited until the very end of his report to offer a scant 11 seconds on the dissidents: “Also attending today's flag-raising ceremony, an American delegation, some Cuban diplomats but no Cuban dissidents. They, instead, will have a private meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry at the ambassadors residence.”

Unlike CBS and NBC, ABC did not break into programming with a special report later that morning.