In This Issue
Study: Tax Hike Hype; NewsBites: Dreaming of Gorbachev; Revolving Door: Sam's Sidekick; Does Magazine Deliver News or Reporters' Views?; On the Other Hand...; CBS Says Thanks for Nothing; Janet Cooke Award: Favoring Fidel: CBS This Morning
Study: Tax Hike Hype
George Bush pledged "no new taxes" if voters elected him President. And he won overwhelmingly. But the television networks didn't seem to get the message. A MediaWatch Study confirms the networks spent the weeks following the election repeatedly hyping the dangers of the federal budget deficit, and championing a tax increase as the solution.
During the month of November, ABC's World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News, CNN PrimeNews, and NBC Nightly News aired 22 feature length stories on the budget deficit. Statements by reporters or those interviewed on camera were tallied in two areas. First, suggestions for tax increases versus spending cuts to remedy the deficit problem. Second, statements placing blame for the deficit: whether with the White House, with Congress, or with both.
By a margin of nearly four to one, reporters and on-camera spokesmen called for tax increases over spending cuts to correct the budget deficit. A tax increase was suggested 41 times in three weeks on the four network newscasts. Nearly 60 percent came from reporters or anchors.
The mere 11 suggestions for spending cuts were offset by ten statements discrediting the feasibility or wisdom of those cuts. No air time was given to anyone suggesting a tax cut to stimulate economic growth.
Whom did the networks blame for the fiscal red ink? Matching the Dukakis campaign pitch, on thirty one occasions, reporters and spokesmen characterized the White House as solely responsible for the deficit. Reporters leveled the blame on Congress only twice in the time period. Congress and the Administration shared equally in the blame for the deficit spending 13 times.
Network reporters discredited the Bush pledge immediately. The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 47 points on November 11, just three days after the election, prompting ABC's Ted Koppel, the substitute anchor on World News Tonight, to blame the Bush victory: "Stocks nosedived, in part because investors are worried that George Bush's 'no new taxes' pledge may prevent him from reducing the deficit."
Ray Brady of CBS News claimed that Bush's no-tax pledge was "bothering many money men." His "money men" were two unidentified stock brokers, one of whom was quick to advocate "a severe cut in the defense budget" as necessary to head off "another financial crisis." Brady didn't allow anyone to defend the Bush pledge.
NBC's Mike Jensen said markets were worried that Bush would ignore the recommendations of the National Economic Commission members. "Many of them want to raise taxes," and "so do a lot of other experts," Jensen warned. But Jensen's only "expert" was a Harvard University economist who urged implementation of a national sales tax. Jensen neglected to mention that Bruce Babbitt's national sales tax proposal earned him fifth place in Iowa.
NBC's Irving R. Levine kept up the chant the next day. Saturday anchor Connie Chung introduced the report with unidentified "expert" opinion: "There are experts who insist President Bush will find a way to do what he said he would never do: raise taxes." Among the "experts" Levine consulted? Dan Rostenkowski and Alice Rivlin of the Brookings Institution, both liberal Democrats. Levine offered Bush a solution: "Calling a tax by some other name may eventually provide a way for Bush to climb down from the no-tax limb."
CNN's Candy Crowley announced on November 13: "Experts say Mr. Bush's hard line [on taxes] has led investors to cast an early vote of no confidence." Crowley ran a clip of Reagan explaining he'd "given up trying to guess why the market does that. I don't think it has anything to do with George Bush." But Crowley quickly countered with this wrap-up: "Market analysts say differently," adding they "predict that investors...will remain uncertain until they hear Mr. Bush singing harmony with Congress."
ABC's Lark McCarthy gave additional credibility to the desirability of the tax increase option by warning: "Already, Democratic politicians are predicting a fiscal train wreck unless Bush does something about the T-word: taxes."
NBC's Levine was ready with more advice for the President-elect on November 16. He suggested Bush use the bi-partisan National Economic Commission as a cover, "enabling him to back off his no-tax pledge."
On November 17, a mere nine days after Bush's victory, CNN's Frank Sesno pronounced Bush's no-new-tax stance dead, dismissing it as "fun while it lasted." Indeed, "many think taming the deficit," Sesno claimed, "is all but impossible without some new taxes." His source: liberal Democratic Congressman Bill Gray.
When Bush announced his OMB and Council of Economic Advisors selections on November 21, Deborah Potter of CBS took another swipe at Bush: "With most of his economic team in place, Mr. Bush can now focus on a specific plan to lower the deficit without raising taxes, which almost everyone outside his inner circle believes is impossible."
That same night, NBC's Tom Brokaw announced: "Even though Bush insists that he won't raise taxes, more and more prominent Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats, are urging him to do just that." Andrea Mitchell then proceeded to charge: "Bush gave the markets another case of jitters by once again saying that he was elected with a no tax mandate, no matter what happens to the deficit." That day the Dow rose three points.
By late November, reporters were finding all sorts of impending disasters because of the Bush pledge. "With medical costs still rising, and a President who pledges 'no new taxes,'" CBS' James Hattori ominously predicted, "the outlook for federal help appears grim as hundreds of rural hospitals remain on the critical list." NBC's Levine called the savings and loan "crisis" a "ticking time bomb that could quickly force George Bush to abandon his no new tax pledge."
The Sunday after Thanksgiving Mitchell made clear Bush had quite a few economic disasters to deal with, and offered a solution. As President, "he's stuck with all the problems he avoided during the campaign; enormous deficits, a collapsing dollar, jittery markets, the need for massive cuts in defense."
The networks spent November blaming "jittery markets" on Bush's no-tax pledge. But how does that explain a big market drop on October 19 of this year, when rumors of a scandal involving Bush that could possibly cause his political demise were circulating? Moreover, how does that explain a market recovery by early December that left the Dow higher than it had been before election day?
Could it be that investors, worried Bush would raise taxes, lost confidence in the economy, then regained it as Bush stuck to his no-tax pledge even under severe pressure? Probably no network reporter ever thought of that.
NewsBites: Dreaming of Gorbachev
Dreaming of Gorbachev. Nightline host Ted Koppel could hardly contain his excitement over Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's appearance before the United Nations on December 7.
"Imagine," Koppel began his show, as John Lennon's song of the same name played in the background, "a world where everyone is guaranteed freedom of choice, where all nations work together with space technology to protect the environment, where poor countries are forgiven their debts, and where nations trust one another enough to unilaterally reduce their armed forces."
Koppel concluded the melodramatic introduction by asking: "Who would dare to dream such a dream?" The answer: Gorbachev, of course, who Koppel claimed "dropped a diplomatic bombshell by making a global appeal to peace."
Cronkite Comes Clean. "I know liberalism isn't dead in this country," former CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite assured diners at a People for the American Way (PAW) banquet, "It simply has, temporarily we hope, lost its voice."
A December 5 Newsweek "Periscope" item provided several quotes from the November 17 address by Cronkite, who stepped down in 1981 after nearly two decades as anchor. "We know that unilateral action in Grenada and Tripoli was wrong," he declared, adding: "We know that 'Star Wars' means uncontrollable escalation of the arms race. We know that the real threat to democracy is the half of the nation in poverty." As for abortion, "We know that no one should tell a woman she has to bear an unwanted child."
So what should liberals do to bring about a resurgence? Cronkite excitedly proclaimed: "Gawd Almighty, we've got to shout these truths in which we believe from the housetops. Like that scene in the movie 'Network,' we've got to throw open our windows and shout these truths to the streets and the heavens. And I bet we'll find more windows are thrown open to join the chorus than we'd ever dreamed possible."
Just after PAW completed its anti-Bork campaign last year, the liberal group gave its "Spirit of Liberty Award" to Cronkite. Now we know why.
Still On Quayle's Tail. Even after the Bush-Quayle ticket's resounding win, the networks continued to attack the Vice President-elect. On CNN's PrimeNews Frederick Allen judged Quayle "too adolescent to take over." Allen reported "there's also talk of making him head of the National Space Council," sarcastically adding, "though presumably not of sending him there."
The next day, November 11, NBC's Andrea Mitchell served as a conduit for Quayle's enemies, devoting an entire story to criticisms of the future Vice President. Bush aides, Mitchell claimed, "worry that he will listen too much to conservatives, and they worry about the influence of Marilyn Quayle," who, horror of horrors, is "more conservative than her husband." Mitchell concluded: "Bush advisors hope that Quayle will cooperate and become completely irrelevant."
Ethical Line. President Reagan pocket vetoed an ethics bill on November 23 on the grounds the overly broad measure would discourage people from taking government jobs. On ABC's World News Tonight reporter Jeanne Meserve had this to say: "The Reagan Administration has been repeatedly accused of playing loose with government ethics, and the announcement of this pocket veto while the country is distracted by the Thanksgiving holiday is bound to renew charges of sleaze."
Meserve is not the only reporter who expressed that view. The next day CNN's Larry Woods asserted "surveys say" trust in government "has been eroding throughout our entire political system and glaringly so during the Reagan-Bush Administration."
The Racist Review? Editors of the Dartmouth Review can attest that offending the liberal sensibilities of Dartmouth College not only threatens your status as a student, but also means 60 Minutes assumes you're guilty even before they arrive to film a story.
Here's the background: The Review published a transcript of a lecture by music professor William Cole, a rambling diatribe on life during which he called white students "honkies." Review staffers later approached Cole to offer him the opportunity to reply. Cole claimed he was attacked by the students who the college suspended for the incident.
The CBS News show sent Morley Safer to investigate the controversy surrounding the conservative student newspaper. So did he consider it a case of students trying to exercise their free speech rights? No, he bought the line of the administration, charging that "the perceived racism of the Review has made it an embarrassment to a lot of the faculty." Doing his best to whitewash Cole's conduct, Safer dismissed his classroom obscenities as "street language familiar to most students." Safer alleged during the November 13 broadcast that a description of Professor Cole's face as "crinkling up like a mudpie" represented "overt racial innuendo." Yet Safer didn't bat an eye when Professor Cole complained that one of the Review staffers was "in my aura space, you know, that inch or so away from your body."
How They Saw Sununu. When President-elect George Bush selected John Sununu as his Chief-of-Staff, the networks eagerly tagged him as a conservative. On the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather called the New Hampshire Governor a "champion of the hard-right." Leading off CNN PrimeNews, anchor Lou Waters described Sununu as a "hard-line conservative."
Nearly two weeks later Senate Democrats elected George Mitchell the new Majority Leader. But CNN and CBS failed to greet him with the same ideological labeling. On CBS reporter Phil Jones ignored Mitchell's liberal views, describing him as the "son of a janitor, a man who worked his way through law school to become a federal judge and Senator from Maine."
CNN's Pam Olson portrayed Mitchell as "the image of a younger, more aggressive person," who is "considered a thoughtful politician, an eloquent speaker who does well on television." ABC's Brit Hume, however, identified Mitchell as the "most Northern and most liberal of the candidates running," who "fought to impose steeper taxes on higher income, a classically liberal position."
Rather Fond of Richards. New York Daily News columnist Liz Smith reported "a gang got together" in New York City on November 18. They "speechified and gathered up money in buckets" for Texas Treasurer Ann Richard's probable 1990 run for Governor. "A goodly crowd of New York Texans and pals showed for Richards," Smith reported in her December 13 syndicated column.
Among them: CBS News anchor Dan Rather and wife Jean. Richards leaped into the national limelight after delivering a scathing personal attack against George Bush at the Democratic National Convention.
Shooting Down the Truth. "We are not interested in doing political diatribes," NBC Vice President for programming Alan Gerson promised The New York Times when asked about the political implications a prime-time TV movie on the KAL-007 downing.
But that is exactly what the November 28 movie "Shootdown" turned out to be: a two hour anti-U.S. government diatribe producers readily concede they based on the R.W. Johnson book, Shootdown: Flight of 007 and the American Connection. Johnson claimed the plane was deliberately sent over Soviet air space by the CIA.
NBC's picture chronicled the battle of "Nan Moore" (played by Angela Lansbury), whose son was killed when the Soviets shot down the 1983 flight, to learn "the truth." Judy Merl and Paul Eric Myers, who both wrote for the politically infused Cagney & Lacey series, made a left-wing conspiracy theorist a main character in putting together the "Shootdown" screenplay. During a lengthy lecture the theorist convinces "Moore" there "is no logical way to explain how Chun [the pilot] got where he did by accident."
A while later the character narrates a dramatic re-creation of KAL-007's last minutes. His explanation of "what happened" came right from Johnson's book: The pilot lied about his position and ignored repeated warnings from the Soviets. NBC insisted some opposing views get time, so producers added a brief Donahue scene of reporter Seymour Hersh arguing the plane went of course by accident. But these smattering references to other explanations are overwhelmed by the blame America conspiracy emphasized throughout.
One party the movie never blamed for the tragedy: the Soviet Union. No wonder the Soviet news agency Tass praised it as "the first attempt by U.S. film makers to tell the truth about the Boeing 747 flight."
Revolving Door: Sam's Sidekick
Sam's Sidekick. For the past seven years ABC's Sam Donaldson has relied on the help of someone with solid liberal credentials: Mari Hope, his assistant at the Washington bureau correspondents desk. An October Washington Times profile of Donaldson referred to Hope as "a former legislative assistant." Asked about this, she eagerly volunteered that "the L-word" describes her views. Hope explained she carried the title of Deputy Administrative Assistant to U.S. Rep. Ron Wyden when she helped "set up his office" just after the liberal Oregon Democrat was first elected in 1982. Hope also worked for the 1980 Carter-Mondale campaign.
NPR to Capitol Hill. Keith Morrison, Legislative Assistant to U.S. Representative Thomas Foglietta since April and a former National Public Radio (NPR) staffer, has been promoted to Legislative Director for the Pennsylvania Democrat. In early 1984 NPR hired him as Los Angeles bureau researcher. He moved to Washington a few months later where he put in a stint on the assignment desk at NPR headquarters until May 1985.
A Progressive Move. Judith Miller, the Washington reporter in the mid-1970's for The Progressive, a far-left monthly magazine, will soon begin a new editing assignment for The New York Times. Since early 1987 Miller's held the number two position in the Times Washington bureau as News Editor. Just after election day, however, she went on leave to complete a book about World War II. On February 1 Miller moves to New York to oversee media company news for the "Business Day" section.
Bush Connection. MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour off-air Capitol Hill reporter Susan Morrison, Deputy Communications Director for the 1980 George Bush for President Committee, has resigned from the PBS show. She has not announced any new plans. Her decision to join the Bush campaign came as quite a surprise in 1979 given her position at the time: Director of Communications for the Democratic National Committee. In 1976 she served as Field Director for the presidential effort launched the late Senator Frank Church.
After the demise of the Bush campaign, Morrison landed an assignment editor slot with the ABC News Washington bureau. CBS News hired her away in 1984, making her Assignment Manager, replacing Anne Edwards who quit to become scheduler for Mondale-Ferraro. The Washington position allowed Morrison to work near Martin Plissner, Executive Political Editor for CBS News, and her husband.
So which side of the political spectrum holds her allegiance? In 1980 a Washington Post Magazine staffer wrote: "There are moments, however, when Morrison is clearly troubled by the ideological tenor of the Bush campaign. After a speech in Concord, N.H., in which Bush waxed particulary Reaganesque, Morrison confessed, 'I started thinking about the issues today. I got depressed.'"
Does Magazine Deliver News or Rporters' Views?
Opinion Time at TIME.
Pundits have offered many interpretations for why Michael Dukakis lost. Take this explanation from liberal historian Garry Wills: "Bush won by default, and by fouls. His mandate is to ignore the threats to our economy, sustain the Reagan heritage of let's pretend, and serve as figurehead for what America has become, a frightened empire hiding its problems from itself."
Such anti-Reagan, anti-Bush rhetoric appeared in a liberal opinion journal, right? Perhaps Mother Jones or The Nation. No, it ran in the November 21 Time. Surely it must have been an opinion piece, a Time "essay?" Again, no. It was the conclusion of a seven page "Nation" section election analysis.
How did such blatant opinion get into a news magazine? MediaWatch asked Time publicist Brian Brown, who admitted: "We hired him on a contract basis. So obviously we wanted his opinion." Why weren't readers alerted to this? He insisted: "Time was very up front when we launched our new format two months ago, saying we were indeed going to be more provocative, and in being provocative become opinionated." But when Time changed its design on October 17, Managaing Editor Henry Muller assured readers: "Time is above all a newsmagazine."
But another article in the same issue shows it really has become a forum its reporters opinions. An article by Associate Editor Jill Smolowe reviewed the foreign policy challenges in Central America. She wrote that Reagan "can claim credit for laying the groundwork for democracy in El Salvador" and "the Sandinistas' most salient achievements have been to consolidate their power, build a formidable military machine and suppress dissent."
But in her conclusion, she rejected Reagan policies, offering these options for the Bush Administration: "[admit] the Contras are never going to topple the Sandinistas," "[admit] the Sandinistas are not going to do anything, including setting up a system of free elections, that might cost them their power," so "Washington should acknowledge the legitimacy of the Managua regime and resume direct negotiations," and "offer to lift its economic embargo," all in exchange for some assurances by the Sandinistas.
On the Other Hand...
CBS News On China. While many journalists continue to extol mainland China for its reforms, correspondent John Sheahan is the first to thoroughly document one of the communist regime's darkest sides: its forced abortion campaign. His November 24 CBS Evening News report described the program in a surprisingly frank way: "No children without permission. An abortion if pregnant without authorization. And sterilization if somehow there is a second child."
Sheahan's investigation proved just how widespread and severe the policy really is. He featured a Chinese woman who was forced to have an abortion at five months and later forcibly taken away for sterilization. Two American doctors on a medical exchange told a particularly grim story of an abortion on a woman 31 weeks pregnant. Sheahan asked: "That's almost eight months, can one really use the word 'abortion?' One of the doctors concluded: "It's like murder."
While the government claimed in the report that it does not condone isolated instances of forced abortions, Sheahan found otherwise: "All abuses are blamed on local family planning organizations, but local authorities are under pressure to fulfill the government order to keep the population down....The policy of prohibition, abortions, and sterilizations is stricter than ever."
NBC News On Nicaragua. In his reporting over the past few years, reporter Ed Rabel has more often than not been sympathetic to Sandinista views. Recently, however, he documented how the communist regime has precipitated shortages of food and medical supplies. Instead of blaming the Contras, Rabel charged on the November 11 Nightly News: "Malnourished and wounded children often lack food, medicine, and pain killers in part because the Sandinistas refuse to accept millions of dollars in American aid, aid approved specifically for the children by the U.S. Congress. At least one huge container full of U.S. supplied medicine sits unopened in a Managua customs warehouse."
He went on to outline the growing disenchantment among Nicaraguans: "Many Nicaraguans just want out. Fed up with the Sandinistas, a flood of people, including skilled workers, technicians, and professionals, stand in line each day for visas to leave the country."
CBS News On Afghanistan. During Gorbachev’s early December visit to New York, ABC, CNN, and NBC spent much of their nightly newscasts praising his reform efforts and his openness in the world arena. The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather tempered its praise with exclusive footage from Afghanistan. CBS News has frequently challenged the Soviet Union with hardhitting reporting on the now nine year old war, and its early December four part series "Afghanistan: The Soviet Failure" was no exception.
On December 5, Dan Rather revealed the war effort has been stepped up: "Soviet troops have mostly withdrawn, but in a desperate attempt to prevent the collapse of government forces, the Soviets are now conducting some of the heaviest bombing of the war." Portraying the war as a "disaster" for the Soviet Union, Rather described the situation in Kabul: "The Soviets drive SKUD missiles around town, in what Western diplomats say is a clear attempt to bolster the regime and intimidate the public."
Rather summed up the Mujahideen position in the last installment: "Mikhail Gorbachev said yesterday, it is time to heal the wounds in Afghanistan. But for the rebels there will be no forgiveness. Over a million Afghans have been killed. There will be no healing. There will only be scores to settle."
In contrast, ABC News concentrated on the Soviet side of things in Afghanistan the past few weeks, blaming the freedom fighters and the U.S. for the continued Soviet presence. On November 4, Walter Rodgers declared: "These increased Afghan guerrilla raids on Soviet and civilian targets are what caused the Russians to suspend their troop withdrawals." On December 6, ABC's John McWethy stated "Mikhail Gorbachev is expected to complain about U.S. continuing help for the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan, aid," McWethy worried, "that is costing Soviet lives."
CBS Says Thanks for Nothing
Thanksgiving provided CBS with an opportunity to offer a verdict on what eight years of Reaganomics has meant to America.
Reporter Bob McNamara began an Evening News story: "Seattle: the Pacific Northwest's most polished, prosperous city. With the rich bounty of its nearby waters, and its orchids, on the face of it these seem the best of times. But here, as elsewhere, times could hardly be worse for thousands. Today, soup kitchens feed more people than ever, and sadly, more families, more children."
McNamara acknowledged 16 million new jobs have been "created across the country in this decade, but," he cautioned, "there's a cruel hitch. A recent Senate Committee report says that of those new jobs, half of them pay wages below the poverty level for a family of four."
The report he accepted at face value, McNamara failed to note, was prepared by the Democratic staff of the Senate Budget Committee which had to use statistics going back to 1979 to make its case. The same Census Bureau Current Population Survey figures the Democrats used show just the opposite after eliminating the Carter years from the average. Since 1982, 61 percent of new jobs pay $20,800 a year or higher, twice the poverty level for a family of four.
Ignoring this fact, McNamara concluded that "for more and more young families," on Thanksgiving Day 1988, there is "little to be thankful for."
Janet Cooke Award: Favoring Fidel: CBS This Morning
The earthquake in Soviet Armenia led Mikhail Gorbachev to cancel his planned trip to communist Cuba. It also left CBS This Morning on their own for two days of reporting from the island nation. How did co-host Kathleen Sullivan and the This Morning crew fill the time? By giving an excessively glowing and romantic view of life in Fidel Castro's Cuba. For their coverage from Havana on December 8 and 9, CBS This Morning receives the December Janet Cooke Award.
The morning show all but ignored the totalitarian nature of the Cuban regime, only alluding in passing to the human rights violations, the lack of civil liberties, and the disastrous economic condition brought on by the communist system. What did Sullivan prefer to highlight? Take, for example, her opening on December 9: "Meanwhile here in Cuba, it has been life under Castro for 30 years. It is a country with a struggling economy, but also with a model health care program and a lively arts scene. All morning we're going to have a taste of Cuba."
A half hour later, she again dismissed the violations, emphasizing two supposed accomplishments of the communist regime: "Going around Havana, it's easy to see buildings in disrepair, the food rationing, and limited freedom of dissent, but Cubans are most proud of their schools -- almost everyone can read here -- and they are most proud of their medical care -- free for everyone." Her most incredible claim was that the youth of the nation "all have benefitted from Castro's Cuba."
Echoing the rhetoric of the regime on health care she declared: "[This] is a clinic, and it is the heart of a health care system which has been called a 'revolution within a revolution.' Of all the promises made by Fidel Castro in 1959, perhaps the boldest was to provide quality health care free for every citizen." Did Castro accomplishment that? Yes, according to Sullivan, who gave statistics on the rise in life expectancy and the plunge in infant mortality all since Castro came to power. She went on to inform viewers that Cubans are provided "high-tech medicine," "multiple organ transplants, and "primary care...in the neighborhood." In addition, "the elderly get checkups at their home once a year just to see if anything's wrong."
Sounds like a veritable paradise! Sullivan obviously thought so, gushing: "Enough people expect such good medical care here that Cubans are offering packaged surgery tours to other Latin Americans. The price includes air fare, hospital stays, and even some free site-seeing." But Sullivan neglected to mention that all her statistics were official government ones which are suspect -- at best. Independent sources, such as National Academy of Sciences demographer Kenneth Hill and Poverty of Communism author Nick Eberstadt have shown that: that the Cuban government may indeed be glossing over poor health statistics; that infant mortality is not decreasing and may even be on the rise; and Cuban health conditions are no better, perhaps worse, than in other Latin American countries.
And how do Cubans really feel about their medical care? According to a confidential report by the Cuban Communist Party, obtained by the Cuban American National Foundation, of 10,756 respondents to a 1987 survey in one province, 87.6 percent are disappointed with their health care. Complaints revealed accounts of women dying during childbirth due to incompetent doctors, infections from surgery, and shortages of vital medical instruments.
Over the two day period, everyone interviewed by Sullivan was a friend of the Castro regime. On the first day, Sandra Levinson, of the left-wing Center for Cuban Studies, complained: "I think there are a lot of young people who simply cannot appreciate... what the revolution has given them. They take for granted free health care, free education."
On Day Two, Sullivan interviewed the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, Ricardo Alarcon, but she wasn't interested in Cuba's continued engagement in Angola, asking instead "Why didn't [South Africa] want to sign [the withdrawal agreement]?" She did ask why Cuba continues to send troops around the world, but never challenged Alarcon when he preposterously claimed Cuba only sent doctors and teachers to Nicaragua and that Cuba came to the aid of the Angolan government only after South Africa invaded.
Sullivan devoted another segment to the arts, declaring: "Well we should point out that there is really no state censor here in Cuba." Who better to back her up than a communist writer, Pablo Antonio Hernandez, who concluded: "There is not. There is not. There is not." She didn't mention his Castro connection. Were any political dissidents or human rights activists brought on to counter the communist officials? Not one. Sullivan tried to explain why: "The Cubans wouldn't allow us to see their prisons where many human rights violations have been reported. In fact, we contacted some prominent human rights activists to appear with us, government officials heard about it, they weren't very happy, and pretty soon the activists stopped returning our telephone calls."
But what about prominent Cuban dissidents who now reside in the United States, such as Ricardo Bofill who was forced to leave Cuba in October. He was leader of the Cuban Human Rights Committee, a group which counted up to 15,000 imprisoned in Cuba for political reasons. Certainly, Cuban authorities couldn't have stopped that interview.
Why would CBS News give in to demands to show only what made Castro look good? Would CBS This Morning have ventured to Chile if Pinochet denied them access to his opponents, allowing them only to air the views of his admirers?
No CBS News employee was willing to defend the segments. Numerous calls to Kathleen Sullivan went unreturned. Calls to Senior Producer Gail Steinberg were also ignored. Producers Bebe Crouse and Gordon Rothman accompanied Sullivan to Cuba, but refused to discuss the show, as did press spokesman Tina Wynn. They referred MediaWatch to CBS News Vice President Ted Savaglio and Executive Producer David Corvo, both of whom were, coincidentally, on vacation.
It seems CBS treated the trip as a holiday vacation, not as a serious, investigative endeavor. "There is something that is really special about this place," Sullivan marveled at one point, "and it's a fever and a life that is all of what the samba is about and all that the Latin beat that you do feel very much coming about."