CyberAlert -- 04/11/2000 -- Cuban-Americans Bashed
Cuban-Americans Bashed; CNN Chief Clinton's Overnight Guest; "Stupid" ABC
1) A liberal denounced the Miami Cubans in a CBS Evening News story before a Castro henchman asserted that the Cuban-Americans used "a little boy just to satisfy their mean and narrow political interests." But those impugned got no time to respond.
2) Monday night NBC's Jim Avila finally let a dissident note that not all is wonderful in Cuba. Avila still insisted "Cuba is proud of its 98 percent literacy rate and free health care," but he admitted "there are few computers and virtually no Internet."
3) Regulation night on the CBS Evening News. "There are renewed calls for Congress to step in and rein in" the "out of control" airlines. CBS also highlighted how a Senator claimed the "funeral industry is poorly regulated," so "closer scrutiny may be needed."
7) "No one is that stupid," ABC News President David Westin insisted in denying they had Leonardo DiCaprio interview Clinton. Now he's admitted they did. The NY Times revealed DiCaprio and Chris Cuomo "introduce the segments, basically as co-hosts."
Corrections: The April 10 CyberAlert dropped Eleanor's last name, as in "Newsweek's Eleanor of the McLaughlin Group." That should have read "Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group." (She asserted that "to be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than being a poor child in Miami.") The same issue quoted NBC's Jim Avila on how Elian's mother worked "in Cuba's specially built foreign tourist haven, Baradaro." A reader kindly pointed out the correct spelling: "Varadero." The April 7 CyberAlert quoted CBS reporter Jeffrey Kofman, from in front of Elian's Miami home, relaying: "When Juan Miguel started speaking this morning on television they watched with rapped attention..." That should have read "rapt" attention.
Fidel Castro may indeed have won the battle for Elian and public opinion, but CBS's Randall Pinkston decided to use a story making that point to allow a U.S. liberal and a Cuban communist to denounce, without rebuttal, Cuban-Americans who fought to keep Elian in Florida. "The Miami Cubans...handled themselves in such a questionable manner," viewers heard in one soundbite while in another a communist asserted that the U.S. citizens used "a little boy just to satisfy their mean and narrow political interests."
CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts introduced the
April 10 story by saying the Elian fight has given Castro a "rare
victory." From Havana, Pinkston
opened his piece by relating how no parades or celebrations are planned
for when Elian arrives. Pinkston declared: "In the battle for public
opinion Castro has already won."
CBS didn't let any of those impugned to respond,
but Pinkston at least allowed: "Not that Castro hasn't used his own
people for Cuba's political interests. This demonstration space
[standing in front of rows of seats in an outdoor plaza] was constructed
after Elian's rescue with seating for thousands of government-sponsored
protesters. But Castro, known for his political savvy, realizes scenes
like this airport sendoff must stop. [video of Castro with Juan Miguel] He
must take the high road when Elian comes home."
A proud moment for all Americans. With reporting like this in which the anti-communists are "mean" and the communist thug is "savvy," it's no wonder Castro won the PR fight. He not only has the U.S. government on his side; he has the U.S. media too.
After a week of touting the privileged "good life" awaiting Elian in Cuba, Monday night NBC's Jim Avila finally allowed a dissident to note that not all is perfect in paradise. Avila, however, couldn't stop promoting the Cuban PR line about how "Cuba is proud of its 98 percent literacy rate and free health care," though he conceded "there are few computers and virtually no Internet."
(And, inspired by interest in Avila's reporting, such as how Rush Limbaugh on Monday read several Avila quotes cited in Jeff Jacoby's column, the MRC has posted a video clip of Avila's infamous April 4 story. Details at end of this item.)
Monday's NBC Nightly News opened with Avila's "exclusive" report from Havana on how an "American source" in meetings with the father told Avila the father has offered to go to Miami to pick up Elian. He would not go to the house, Avila related, but be reunited at an airport and then take Elian back to Bethesda, Maryland. Avila cautioned: "But here's the catch: If the State Department refuses the visas he's requested for a support group of Elian's friends, teachers and psychiatrists, Gonzalez says he will return to Cuba immediately with his son."
NBC then jumped to Avila's taped report in which he reported that a low key welcome home is planned in Cuba without parades. He added that Elian's school mates have been told to treat him as a classmate, "not a national hero."
Avila forecast Elian's life ahead: "But when
the excitement ends, what then for Elian? Cuban dissident Miriam Leba
(sp?) thinks Elian should return home, but warns that he will be subject
to a government convinced communism is the only answer."
Back on live, Avila concluded by stressing: "Tonight the Cuban government vehemently denies" Gonzalez is willing to go to Miami as the Cuban regime wants a reunion outside of Florida.
+++ Watch Avila's reporting from Cuba. As noted
above, on Monday MRC Webmaster Andy Szul went back and posted a video clip
of a portion of Avila's April 4 NBC Nightly News story. This is the
piece about the "Cuban good life" quoted extensively by Boston
Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby on Monday and highlighted by Rush Limbaugh on
his radio show the same day. In it, Avila claimed:
To watch a piece of
Avila's story via RealPlayer, go to:
Finally on this item, an update on the pronunciation of Avila. The second syllable is "ih" and the third "la," but as a reader pointed out and I confirmed by listening again to Avila, he does not pronounce his first syllable like the beginning the word avenue but like the first syllable in Ave, Maria. So it's Ahv-ih-la. Let's say it altogether now: Ahv-ih-la.
Regulation night on the CBS Evening News. Bob Orr concluded an April 10 story on public dissatisfaction with the airlines by highlighting how "there are renewed calls for Congress to step in and rein in" an "out of control" an industry. Minutes later CBS allocated a full story to a Senate hearing on how "investigating Senator Charles Grassley says the $12 billion funeral industry is poorly regulated, and the horror stories he heard today suggest why closer scrutiny may be needed."
-- "Passengers don't need a survey to know
that air travel can lead to horror stories," Bob Orr asserted in
relaying the results of a poll of airline passengers which found
complaints up 130 percent in 1999. Orr concluded:
-- Bob Schieffer began his story on anecdotes about
funeral experiences, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, by
After another witness testified about a woman who paid an operator $132,000, Schieffer continued: "And the high priced coffins and other gear don't always work. This woman broke down telling how her grandmother's remains spilled out of a faulty coffin into a mausoleum."
Following the three anecdotes, Schieffer allowed a
moment for the other side: "An industry spokesman called the
incidents isolated and reacted sharply."
Speaking of Republicans advocating more regulation and/or spending, on Monday's NBC Nightly News Lisa Myers checked in with a piece on how seniors protested in Sacramento over having to pay for their own prescriptions. After highlighting a couple who are paying $6,000 a year and "are outraged and frightened," she recounted a new HHS study showing those without insurance pay 15 percent more for drugs because they don't benefit from the discounts arranged by insurers.
So, conservatives in Congress naturally oppose
creating another entitlement? Wrong, as Myers soon showed: "Drug
costs have become such a huge political issue that politicians, as shown
in this TV ad, sponsor bus rides to Canada where some drugs cost half as
What exactly is the difference between a House Democrat and a House Republican?
unusual take of the evening, CBS's David Martin concluding his April 10
CBS Evening News story on the crash Sunday in Arizona of an Osprey, a
combination plane and helicopter:
Mikhail Gorbachev, "environmentalist activist." Sunday night ABC trumpeted Gorbachev's efforts to save the planet: "As leader of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev worked with Presidents Reagan and Bush to end the Cold War. Now he's working on cleaning up its legacy."
World News Tonight anchor Carole Simpson set up the
April 9 piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
Yang began: "Mikhail Gorbachev used to travel
the globe meeting world leaders, discussing affairs of state. Back then he
was warning about the threat of nuclear warfare. What a difference a
decade makes. Now he's sounding different alarm. 'I feel that the
environment is the number one global problem on the agenda of the 21st
century,' he says.
ABC's story reminded me of a "The Week"
section item which ran in the May 3, 1993 edition of Time magazine:
Can't beat that for a Gorbasm, a Rush Limbaugh term not heard recently.
CNN President Rick Kaplan, who stayed overnight in Clinton's White House while at ABC News, spent another night there with his daughter last Thursday night after the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner, USA Today disclosed. But Kaplan doesn't see anything wrong with it.
In his "Inside TV" column for April 10, USA Today's Peter Johnson revealed:
CNN president Rick Kaplan, who took some heat when he worked at ABC News for staying overnight at the White House during President Clinton's first term, spent another night there Thursday -- after Clinton roasted ABC News over "Leogate."
"No, I do not feel embarrassed, ashamed or compromised in any way, shape or form," Kaplan said Friday, after sleeping in the Queen's Room while daughter Alexis, 21, slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Generally speaking, it's an ethical no-no for journalists to get too cozy with people they cover. But Kaplan, a former Nightline, PrimeTime Live and World News Tonight producer, said Clinton's gesture won't affect CNN's coverage of him.
"Everyone has relationships," Kaplan said. "We met each other before either of us knew we'd amount to anything. He doesn't expect anything from me, and I don't expect anything from him."
Kaplan, a Clinton friend for 30 years, said the president gave Alexis an "amazing" 2 '-hour White House tour. "It was extremely nice of him to do it. In the waning months of his presidency, I felt, 'What the heck?'"
Let's examine Bill Clinton's priorities. He didn't have enough time to give Leonardo DiCaprio a tour of White House energy saving efforts, but did have enough time to spend two-and-a-half hours with a 21-year-old woman. Shocking. The Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner did not end until 10:30pm. Factoring in 15 minutes travel time back to home base, that puts Clinton with Alexis until at least 1:15am.
For more on Kaplan's efforts to help Bill Clinton and his political activism, check out these past CyberAlert items:
-- For how he in February 1992, while at ABC News,
advised Clinton on how to respond to the Gennifer Flowers story, go to:
-- For excerpts from a Vanity Fair profile which
detailed how Kaplan killed negative stories at ABC about Clinton, hired
Hillary, once worked for a Democratic candidate and thinks those who see
liberal bias are "liars," go to:
-- For how Kaplan once insisted of Clinton, "I
know he wasn't Slick Willie, and not a scourge," go to:
-- For how Kaplan complained that Ken Starr is
"putting obsession ahead of the best interests of the nation"
while Bill Clinton has had "extraordinary" achievements, go to:
Kaplan's right. The White House stay didn't "compromise" him. He was compromised long ago.
After a week of denial, on Friday ABC News President David Westin conceded his network did send actor Leonardo DiCaprio to the White House to conduct an "interview" with President Clinton for an ABC special tied to Earth Day. In an April 1 e-mail responding to a Washington Post story about the interview, Westin had insisted: "We did not send him [DiCaprio] to interview the President. No one is that stupid." Apparently they are that stupid at ABC News. In that e-mail Westin maintained that "all roles of journalists must be played by journalists (duh!)."
In Monday's USA Today Peter Johnson relayed Westin's new version of events: "In hindsight, Westin said, he erred in what he said in an original e-mail on the subject to staffers last week. In it, Westin said ABC had planned to have DiCaprio and the President chat while touring the White House....It turns out, Westin said Friday, that 'we had worked with DiCaprio to prepare some very substantive, policy-oriented questions,' which did, in fact, amount to an interview. 'It doesn't matter whether you're walking or sitting,' Westin said."
Johnson added: "He said ABC should not be judged on its editorial process with the special, but what ends up airing."
Not quite the standard ABC applies to politicians when the network focuses on the evils of the process of campaigns and fundraising and not on the legislative results.
No matter who asked the questions, it looks like ABC is putting together a special tilted to the left, maybe even totally one-sided. DiCaprio is Chairman of the Earth Day 2000 festivities scheduled for the Mall, so a news operation with any integrity would not use him in a reporting role or give him an unchallenged platform. But Jim Rutenberg reported in an April 10 New York Times article pointed out to me by MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey: "As it stood this weekend, both Mr. DiCaprio and the correspondent Chris Cuomo introduce the segments, basically as co-hosts."
Rutenberg also disclosed that "Paul Friedman,
Executive Vice President of ABC News, said producers 'allowed Mr.
DiCaprio to ask the President why global warming did not get the same
attention as deficiencies in health
care.'" Rutenberg noted that DiCaprio asked Clinton "about the
Kyoto environmental accord" and outlined how:
Rutenberg passed on a complaint from Rudy Bednar, Executive Producer of the special: "He said the criticism, both in the organization and outside, has been unfair. 'It's like the Moral Majority condemning a film and you ask them, 'Have you seen it?' and they say 'no,'" Mr. Bednar remarked."
Okay, I'll judge what ends up airing. If ABC News presents a balanced and fair look at environmental issues then it will give just as much time and credibility to global warming skeptics as to its advocates, just as much time and credibility to those spelling out the harmful impact of any global warming solutions pushed by liberals as to the benefits claimed, just as much time and credibility to conservative environmental experts to counter liberal claims of doom and just as much time and credibility to market-oriented solutions to any environmental problems as to advocacy for additional government regulation.
Yeah, I'm probably dreaming if I think ABC News has the integrity to produce that kind of show. But I'll give them a chance.
A contrarian take on the cost of the Starr investigation so often decried by media figures: Taxpayers benefitted and the media made a lot of money off the Lewinsky scandal. In the Washington Whispers section of the April 17 U.S. News & World Report, Paul Bedard unmasked:
Sure it was expensive, but the $52 million spent on independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr's probe of Whitewater, Travelgate, and Monica Lewinsky probably paid for itself and maybe scored a profit for taxpayers via tax revenues generated from book and video sales and TV specials. Unofficial tabulations of money made in the marketing of Whitewater and Monicagate alone are in the tens of millions of dollars, and the tax take should easily top Starr's budget, say tax pros. "It's difficult to imagine that the government received less than $52 million off private-sector spin," says Pete Sepp, vice president of the National Taxpayers Union.
Consider: ABC reportedly made $30 million-up to 35 percent taxable-on its Lewinsky interview; gobs of Clinton scandal books have sold well; Lewinsky profited through sales of handbags and flacking for Jenny Craig; lawyers made millions; cable TV fed off the scandal; even C-SPAN sold tapes. "It's probably one of the most bizarre public-private ventures ever," says Sepp.
END Reprint of item
Refreshing to see an effort in a mainstream publication at countering the usual liberal media mantra on an issue. -- Brent Baker
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