Force Justified; Grandma: Elian "Finally" Happy; Clinton's Broken Promise Not Pursued
1) ABC decided that on "four key questions" the Miami relatives were wrong. CBS's Byron Pitts relayed how the reunion "was moving." On NBC a psychiatrist said the relatives "abused" Elian and Andrea Mitchell insisted "psychiatrists say the use of force was justified because Elian's greatest need was for his father."
2) From Cuba, NBC's Jim Avila fled two reports relaying the communist line from the grandparents. One "says Elian finally sounds happy." Avila reassured: "Juan, Sr. sees no permanent damage to Elian." Avila even allowed Fidel Castro to complain.
3) Monday morning ABC's GMA promoted how Greg Craig's photos show "a very happy little boy" and twice highlighted how Reno wept.CBS's Bryant Gumbel asked what hearings would "accomplish besides just so much Reno bashing?" NBC's Katie Couric shared the disdain.
4) On Sunday's This Week Democratic Senator Bob Graham revealed Bill Clinton "abrogated" an agreement since he promised just three weeks ago that "there would be no taking of this child at night." CNN mentioned it, but ABC's WNT and GMA skipped the charge.
5) George Will: "A climate conducive to such disgraceful government behavior was created by strange journalism, the implication of which was that Elian's mother must have been demented to risk...her life in order to get Elian out of Cuba."
Corrections: The April 23 CyberAlert quoted FNC anchor David Asman as asking Eric Holder: "Was this all a ruse for the raid, the negotiations which took place this morning?" He actually said "...early this morning." Another item reported that at 9pm ET Saturday MSNBC showed a "repeat of a Weekend Edition." The show is really titled Weekend Magazine.
Update: People Count: Hot on the Trail, a polemic hyping fears of global warming hosted by Jane Fonda, bumped by the Elian raid from its scheduled 10pm ET Saturday night showing, was run at 2pm ET Sunday on CNN.
The aftermath of the Elian raid led the broadcast network evening shows Monday night, April 24. ABC highlighted warnings against hearings and on "four key questions" about what happened decided the Miami relatives were wrong on all of them. Instead of expressing any concern for how journalists could not independently check Elian's welfare or for who from Castro's regime may be with him, CBS's Byron Pitts happily relayed how those at the reunion on Saturday "say it was moving" with "plenty of affection."
Rationalizing the raid, NBC's Andrea Mitchell highlighted a psychiatrist who asserted: "I think that the family has really abused this child, not in a sense of physical abuse, but this child has been kept from his family." Mitchell added: "Many psychiatrists say the use of force was justified because Elian's greatest need was for his father."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Linda Douglass ran
through the day's events with the Miami relatives in DC, Trent Lott
comparing Reno to Castro and some Republicans calling for hearings. She
cautioned: "With polls showing broad public support for reuniting Elian
with his father, some GOP strategists warn a Republican tirade against the
raid could backfire."
Next, Terry Moran addressed "four key questions" raised about what happened and flunked conservative critics and the Miami relatives on all four. First, "Did the agents have a search warrant?" Moran played this from Tom DeLay on Meet the Press: "There was no court order that gave them permission to raid a private home of American citizens." Moran judged, over a picture of a warrant: "Wrong. This is the warrant authorizing the search of the home and the seizure of Elian signed Friday night by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Duvay (sp?)."
A bit of disingenuousness from ABC and Moran. The point made by many critics wasn't about a warrant, but about doing what is normally done in such custody dispute cases: Go before a judge to have a hearing and then have the judge issue an order to the family to give up guardianship of the child. That way the decision is not an administrative one from the executive branch, but a decision by the independent judiciary.
Moran moved ahead. "The second question: Did the agents go and announce themselves or just rush in?" Moran decided: "What occurred in front of the house cannot be heard on the videotape, but it is clear there was a pause in the raid, the screen door opens and then twenty seconds later agents bash in the door."
For the third question Moran dismissed the idea the picture of father and son were faked and for the fourth question he looked at the dispute over whether a deal was imminent. He ran a soundbite from Reno friend and negotiator Aaron Podhurst, but concluded with Reno's assessment that no agreement could be made because of the family's refusal to come to DC.
-- CBS Evening News. From Andrews Air Force Base Byron Pitts related how Reno will be questioned by Senators "outraged by Saturday's pre-dawn raid in Miami." Congressman Lindsey Graham got to express the view that "Janet Reno's been a national disgrace for a long time," before Pitts ran a lengthy retort from Joe Lockhart.
Over a series of happy photos of Juan Miguel and Elian,
Pitts relayed the official line put out by Juan Miguel's lawyer: "With
tension building around them, Elian and his father are said to be bonding
nicely behind the secured gates at Andrews Air Force Base, few visitors and
plenty of affection. Those who were there for the weekend reunion say it was
Anchor John Roberts then passed along results of a CBS News poll. On the "forcible removal," 51 percent approved and 44 percent disapproved. "Would relatives have given Elian to father voluntarily?" No said 63 percent, yes replied 26 percent. "Acting in the boy's best interest?" The father, thought 54 percent while only 33 percent said the Miami relatives.
Jim Stewart provided a rundown of Friday night events,
highlighting two last minute events. First, a supposed comment from
Marisleysis that "there are more than just cameras in the house."
And: "The second was a last ditch appeal from by several prominent
Miamians, including attorney Aaron Podhurst, an old friend of Attorney General
Janet Reno, to broker a compromise. Podhurst said today he thought he'd been
close to a deal."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw led with a new NBC News polls showing 73 percent agree Elian belongs with his father and that on the method of removal, 49 percent disapproved and 48 percent approved.
Pete Williams emphasized the interrupted talks:
"The Miami intermediaries, who volunteered to make a last minute deal,
say today that with just a little more time none of his would have been
necessary. That they were so close to a peaceful solution."
After a clip of Reno on Today, Williams related that
after Reno gave the go order: "Eric Holder, Reno's deputy, says he
holds Reno in his arms and she weeps. A Miami lawyer, who spent all night on
the phone with Reno hoping to work out a deal, says she was still on the line
after the raid."
Kerry Sanders ran through the options facing the Miami family and the role of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in determining asylum, before Brokaw ran reaction clips from Bob Smith, Sheila Jackson-Lee and George W. Bush, noting that Al Gore avoided comment.
For the In Depth segment Andrea Mitchell looked at the
Monday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens
noticed, Katie Couric also gave credibility to Elkind: "Because we forget
the impact all these protestors treating him like some kind of saint outside
the home in Little Havana is having as well. That must be so confusing for a
Terrible, it is that the networks are so eager to blame the victims of the armed government invasion of their home while cooperatively passing along the PR photos from Juan Miguel's lawyer.
Grandmas in the morning, Grandpa in the evening. From Cuba, NBC's Jim Avila fled two reports relaying without dissent the communist line about happy grandparents. Avila even tossed in some comments from Fidel Castro, such as: "Instead of having the kid kidnapped, now the family is kidnapped."
On Today Avila found "relief that Elian is with his dad, but for Castro and the grandmas the struggle goes on until both are on Cuban soil." How inspiring. Avila passed along how one grandparent "says Elian finally sounds happy." In a NBC Nightly piece he trumpeted how "In Elian's Cuban family, communism and loyalty to Castro began with Juan Gonzalez, Sr., Elian's grandfather."
Avila reassured viewers concerned about the corrupting influence of freedom: "Juan, Sr. sees no permanent damage to Elian" from his time in Miami.
-- April 24 Today. Avila opened his propaganda broadcast
from Cuba, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "The grandmas
of Cardenas. They started the fight for Elian. Energized an island. Went to
the United States in a failed mission to bring him back. And now that father
and son have been reunited they walk triumphantly through the Gonzalez family
Avila continued: "Elian has called his other grandmother too. Two weeks she could not talk to her. But Raquel Rodriguez whose daughter fled to Cuba and died in the water says Elian finally sounds happy. She laughed at allegations by the Miami family that her daughter was abused by Juan Miguel or that Elian is afraid of him. She lived with them and says she would know."
Following a comment from her, Avila reported: "A
family now deeply divided. Mariela, Juan Miguel's mother says she would oppose
any visitation for the Miami family."
-- April 24 NBC Nightly News. From Havana, Avila told
Tom Brokaw, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Tom, here in
Cuba the prospect of Elian and his father staying in America for months has
both the government here and the family demanding their immediate return. In
Elian's Cuban family, communism and loyalty to Castro began with Juan
Gonzalez, Sr., Elian's grandfather, father to Juan Miguel, known as
'Poppy' to both. Policeman for 25 years, unfazed by Saturday's pre-dawn
Monday morning ABC's Good Morning America, which questioned the authenticity of the family's video last week, promoted how Greg Craig's photos show "a very happy little boy" and twice highlighted how Reno supposedly wept in Holder's arms after giving the raid order. On CBS's The Early Show Bryant Gumbel put the burden on the Miami family for preventing a deal and asked what hearings would "accomplish besides just so much Reno bashing?" NBC's Katie Couric shared the disdain, asking Janet Reno if she thinks Republicans are "exploiting this issue politically?"
-- April 24 Good Morning America. Interviewing Elian's
cousin Georgina Cid, Jack Ford demanded:
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that in opening the
7:30am segment, Diane Sawyer revealed: "Well, during the break we kept
talking with Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, and he told us that after
this raid he went in the office with Janet Reno and he held her in his arms.
Well, let's listen to what he said happened."
A half hour later GMA viewers were treated again to the
tale. After relaying Podhurst's insistence a deal was imminent, Terry Moran
reported: "Finally, there was one human detail that emerged out of all
this. Eric Holder a little while ago described the scene in the Justice
Department, after the raid went down."
Then why focus on the emotions?
-- CBS's The Early Show. MRC analyst Brian Boyd picked
up on this exchange from a lengthy panel discussion:
Later, Gumbel asked Menendez: "Congressman, some of your colleagues have called for congressional hearings on this matter. I know you support such hearings. What would they accomplish besides just so much Reno bashing?"
-- NBC's Today. Katie Couric shared Gumbel's disdain for hearings, setting up Janet Reno: "The House Republicans say they want to hold hearings into the raid. Do you think they're exploiting this issue politically?"
Talking with Tim Russert about NBC's poll on the raid,
Lauer wrapped up: "And real quickly. One other point in the poll. 2 to 1,
Americans are opposed to congressional hearings on this subject. Is that just
because most people are tired of hearing about it?"
On Sunday's This Week on ABC Democratic Senator Bob Graham told Cokie Roberts how Bill Clinton lied to him, or his term, "abrogated" an agreement, since he promised just three weeks ago that "there would be no taking of this child at night."
But the media have largely ignored the allegation. ABC's own shows have refused to pick it up as MRC analyst Jessica Anderson found it was not mentioned on Sunday's World News Tonight or Monday's Good Morning America. Nor did CBS or NBC mention it Monday morning or evening, though Tuesday morning Matt Lauer pressed Joe Lockhart about it on Today. (More on Today's interview in the next CyberAlert.) CNN's Inside Politics raised Graham's charge on Monday's Inside Politics.
As the two sat in chairs across the street from the
Miami house, Roberts opened the interview by asking the Florida Democrat:
"You in your statement, which was harshly critical of this raid yesterday
morning, said that the government had, by the action, had renounced the
commitment of the United States not to take Elian away in the middle of the
night. Did you feel that, why did you think there was such a commitment?"
+++ See and hear Senator Graham relate how he was backstabbed by the President, a fellow member of his own party. On Tuesday, MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of the portion of the April 23 interview quoted above. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 
Interviewing White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart on the April 24 Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff did raise Graham's claim: "Let me just quote something that Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, has said. As you're aware, he said the President promised him three weeks ago, gave him a verbal commitment, that agents would not go in to get the boy in the middle of the night, in the darkness. And yet that's exactly what happened."
Some familiar quotes in George Will's "The Last Word" column on the back page of the latest Newsweek. He picked up quotes from last week's Notable Quotables from the MRC to illustrate the media's complicity in creating the climate which allowed the government to use force to snatch Elian.
Here's an excerpt from the column in the May 1 Newsweek:
A climate conducive to such disgraceful government behavior was created by strange journalism, the implication of which was that Eli'n's mother must have been demented to risk, and lose, her life in order to get Eli'n out of Cuba. Peter Jennings mixed exasperation and hauteur about the relatives' reluctance to speed Elian back to totalitarianism: "Once again the government has failed to get the kind of cooperation from the relatives that might allow the case of this young boy to end in a civilized manner that is best for him." Katie Couric resorted to archness: "Some suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to expect Eli'n Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political expression. They were talking about Miami." The New York Times disdained Miami as a "banana republic" and used a headline to express the obtuseness of Cuban-Americans: "Communism Still Looms as Evil to Miami Cubans." Still.
Eleanor Clift decided communism is merely a "lifestyle": "To be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than being a poor child in Miami and I'm not going to condemn their lifestyle so gratuitously." NEWSWEEK reported that although Eli'n's prospects in Cuba would be "limited," Cuba's lifestyle has virtues: "In some ways young Elian might expect a nurturing life in Cuba, sheltered from the crime and social breakdown that would be part of his upbringing in Miami. The boy will nestle in a more peaceable society that treasures its children."
To read his entire column, go to:
To read more of these types of quotes, go to:
From the April 24 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Janet Reno Pet Peeves." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Having to brush up on Spanish just to read hate mail.
Plenty of wacky stuff in Leonardo DiCaprio's ABC News special on Saturday. Will try to get to that tomorrow.-- Brent Baker 
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