Elian's "Freedom" in Cuba; Ros-Lehtinen Fired Back at Avila; Cuban Pioneers Just Like Cub Scouts
1) "They are exercising for the first time in seven months the opportunity to live really in freedom as a family," a Castro deputy claimed in comments highlighted by NBC's Jim Avila who then blamed the U.S. for making life "difficult" for Cubans.
2) Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen took advantage of her guest spot on CNBC's Rivera Live to scold NBC's Jim Avila for his "incredibly nauseating" pro-Castro propaganda in the guise of news reporting.
3) Dateline NBC painted a glowing picture of what awaits Elian. Keith Morrison insisted: "Elian is more likely to become a healthy adult in Cuba than in any other Third World country." Elian will enjoy Cuba's "universal free education" and the Pioneers are "very much like the Cub Scouts, camping trips and all."
4) The New York Times created a 28th Amendment, referring to the GOP preference to talk about partial-birth abortion instead of "suggesting overturning the Constitutional amendment allowing abortion."
5) Too much bias for one CyberAlert. Squeezed out today: Bryant Gumbel; ABC's hit from the left on the Medicare prescription plans of both parties for not spending enough; and Bill Maher on Bill Clinton: "Someday they will name high schools after him."
June 27 MagazineWatch, about the July 3 issues, is now online. The items
compiled by the MRC's Ken Shepherd and Tim Graham:
Elian and his family enjoyed their first opportunity to "live really in freedom as a family," NBC's Jim Avila obligingly passed along Thursday night in relaying "exclusive" comments from a Castro deputy. Avila then moved on to wondering if the U.S. will now lift the embargo, which he blamed for making life "difficult" for Cubans. Such a lifting is possible, Avila trumpeted, "because Castro outmaneuvered his sworn enemies in Cuban Miami."
Avila opened his June 29 NBC Nightly News report from Havana by reporting that Elian looked "bewildered and afraid" at the airport the night before because he was scared of the cameras. Elian now is living in a special "communist party owned villa," the same one Avila and CNN showed off back in April as a luxury mansion.
Avila then served as an
eager conduit for communist propaganda: "In an exclusive interview
with NBC News, Castro's second in command, Ricardo Alarcon, says Elian
spent his first day back in Cuba celebrating privacy."
At least CBS's Byron Pitts offered a less glowing look at Elian's arrival in Cuba, free of talk of "freedom" for him. He began his June 29 CBS Evening News piece from Havana: "Security around Elian's temporary house today was as thick as the heat in Havana. The curious and the press kept six blocks away. It's here the six-year-old will be quote 're-educated' in the ways of communist life, a life he returned to last night. The child who'd been chaffered in Suburbans and sports cars for months in America, left Cuba's airport in an old Russian sedan."
To see the house where Elian is now living, go to the April 19 CyberAlert to read about how both Avila and CNN's Martin Savidge trumpeted as "luxurious" -- better than his Miami home -- the house in Havana where Elian will "readjust," complete with pool and swing set. You can also see a RealPlayer clip of CNN's story: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000419.asp#1 
"That was incredibly nauseating," declared Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of NBC reporter Jim Avila's observations broadcast live from the Havana airport Thursday night on CNBC's Rivera Live. Avila had passed along the Cuban propaganda line about how Fidel Castro wanted to treat the Elian case better than had the Miami Cubans, so "he's not used as a political tool. You don't see Fidel Castro out there holding his hand up in the air....Castro realizes how those images work. He's very adept at that."
"After everything the Miami relatives told him about Fidel Castro he might have reacted as if he was watching the boogeyman in action," Geraldo Rivera worried. "So maybe it was a good idea Castro didn't show up."
From the airport in Cuba, Avila told Rivera on the June 28 show, in the beginning of an exchange caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "But no Fidel Castro was not here and that was by design, just the kids from the Cardenas school where, where Elian Gonzalez attended. And also the close relatives of Elian Gonzalez, Juan Miguel, the grandfather and grandmother were here as well. By design there were no politicians here. Cuba has been very careful trying to contrast the style of what's been going on here with what has been going on in Miami as part of the continued propaganda battle between the two sides."
After talking a bit
about lifting the embargo, Rivera asked about the mood in Cuba: "But
no anti-Clinton or anti-U.S. rhetoric?"
If only more conservative guests would follow Ros-Lehtinen's lead and use their guest slot opportunities to directly criticize biased reporting.
+++ To watch how Ros-Lehtinen took on Avila, go to the MRC home page late Friday morning where the MRC's Andy Szul and Kristina Sewell will post a RealPlayer clip: http://www.mrc.org 
Unfortunately, as item #1 above from the next night showed, Ros-Lehtinen's criticism didn't change Avila's approach to Castro and Cuba. And the very next morning, on the June 29 Today, Avila championed: "In this communist country Elian Gonzalez became a symbol of national unity. For the people of Cuba, Elian's return, vindication that children can be cared for in Cuba."
This recent round of
stories from Avila reminded me of his classic April 4 piece from Cuba in
which he celebrated all the "perks" of the "Cuban good
life" awaiting Elian's family in Cuba, including a monthly bag of
beans and deodorant as well as five gallons of gas. To read more about it
and/or to see a video clip:
It's hard to imagine anyone being able to outdo Avila for gullible acceptance of communist propaganda, but NBC News reporter Keith Morrison managed to in a Wednesday night Dateline piece watched MRC analyst Paul Smith. 
Will Elian face life in a "brutal, corrupt, impoverished dictatorship" or in a "decent place...that values children above all?" Morrison was stumped: "In Cuba that's a complicated question."
Morrison conceded that Cuba has a few problems, like "inadequate" housing, though "no one is homeless," but many more successes: "Cardenas boasts twice as many doctors as you'd expect to find in an American city the same size. Elian is more likely to become a healthy adult in Cuba than in any other Third World country." As for any indoctrination, the Pioneers are "very much like the Cub Scouts, camping trips and all, but with a socialist flavor and a revolutionary spin." Plus, "Cubans boast about their universal free education."
From inside a room in Cuba with a banner on the wall proclaiming "Revolucion!", Morrison opened his examination: "What sort of world will the boy inhabit back here in Cardenas? What kind of life awaits him. Indoctrination here at the Youth Communist League in preparation for a life in what an opinion piece in the New York Times called 'a brutal, corrupt, impoverished dictatorship'? Or, as they might say in one of these books or here [holding up Cuban book], a safe, decent place with a future that values children above all. Is either answer right? In Cuba that's a complicated question."
As his experts, he first turned to Fidel and Marta, parents of one of Elian's friends, who insisted there are problems everywhere in the world, not just in Cuba.
Morrison picked up,
putting much of the blame on the United States before lionizing Cuba's
supposed achievements: "And Cuba definitely has its share of
problems. A long list of them. With no money from the Eastern bloc anymore
and an American embargo throttling the island, times have been rough.
Elian Gonzalez is returning to a very poor country which, nevertheless,
can point to several successes. If Elian is sick, he will be treated in a
hospital that looks decidedly rudimentary by U.S. standards but Cardenas
boasts twice as many doctors as you'd expect to find in an American city
the same size. Elian is more likely to become a healthy adult in Cuba than
in any other Third World country. "Housing? Even
the government admits it's inadequate. Most apartments and houses are old
and small and often crowded with whole extended families, but no one is
homeless. Certainly not Elian, who will return to a house and bedroom
considered swank by Cardenas standards. Food? A few years ago there were
serious shortages. Some say there still are. But a look in the markets in
Cardenas, Elian's hometown, reveals a wealth of basic foods though not the
variety we're used to in the U.S. Some Cubans even told us they're
preoccupied with dieting. Marta and Fidel say it's unfair to compare
Cuba's Third World living standards with those in the richest and most
powerful nation on Earth but they told us, Elian's future can be much
brighter than some Miami Cubans have predicted."
Having dispensed with
that fear, Morrison moved on to allay other concerns: "So what is it?
Brainwashing or patriotism? In Cuba, as you might expect, Elian will learn
about a different system. Certainly a different hero than he would learn
in America. Next year in second grade Elian's curriculum will be heavy on
science and math. It will also include a morning assembly full of
political education, the Cuban view of economics and world affairs. Elian
will almost certainly rejoin the Pioneers as almost all Cuban children do.
It's very much like the Cub Scouts, camping trips and all, but with a
socialist flavor and a revolutionary spin. But besides politics, what will
he learn? Cubans boast about their universal free education. How good is
At this point Morrison was getting beyond preposterous. What kind of jobs exactly does Cuba have for which you could utilize a college education, assuming you could actually get a real one? How many software writers or engineers exist in Cuba? Or how many people utilizing a liberal arts degree?
Morrison moved along to
how everyone in Cuba has a chance at the good life:
No s**t Sherlock.
Morrison elaborated on
the obvious: "Human Rights Watch, an organization monitoring human
rights abuses across the globe, says that Cubans who speak out publicly
against Fidel Castro or his government frequently face harassment by the
police or imprisonment. If Elian decided to oppose the Cuban government,
might he face repression? Amnesty International says Cuba has at least 350
such political prisoners in its jails."
Morrison finally got to
some negatives about Cuba, but quickly jumped to trumpet improvements:
"And there are other restrictions. Elian would not be able to travel
abroad without first applying for an exit visa from the government. If he
vacationed in Cuba, he'd have to stay at a hotel set aside for Cubans. The
big tourist hotels are reserved exclusively for foreigners. But lately
some of those government restrictions have been lifted. Cuba was once
officially atheist. Now Elian will be free to worship in any religion.
Since the Pope's visit in 1998, more Cubans attend church services than
ever before and Christmas is now an official holiday. And if you ask this
writer, Elian would have more personal freedom as well. Miguel Sanchez
says he never belonged to the Communist Party and yet he graduated from
the best schools in the country. He says he never volunteered a single
hour in the fields and yet receives permission to travel abroad regularly.
And even though some of his science fiction novels reflect the difficult
everyday reality of his country, four of his books have been published, in
Layva: "He has to live in his environment and his environment is this country. These kids are the future of Cuba, of the Cuba we are going to have tomorrow."
Morrison concluded: "For Elian, tomorrow will most likely mean a lifetime of celebrity in a country that will want to insure he succeeds. And in the long strange adventure of Elian Gonzalez, this may be the ultimate irony. By claiming so publicly that Elian would go home to a harsh life of deprivation and maltreatment, Castro's Miami enemies have helped make sure that no matter how Cuba evolves, Elian will be very well treated indeed."
Treated better than the truth was by Morrison.
Morrison ignored some informative video in NBC's archive. Back on April 4 actor Andy Garcia maintained on the Today show that if he were in Cuba he'd want his son to be raised in the United States since "it's a fate worse than Hell to...think that my children would be growing up in that system over there." To read more of what Garcia said and/or to see a clip of it via RealPlayer, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000405.asp#4 
A news story in the Thursday, June 29 New York Times added a 28th Amendment to the Constitution, an "amendment allowing abortion," MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey observed. Friday's paper carried four corrections, but none dealt with this erroneous additional constitutional amendment.
The error came in the 18th paragraph of a "news analysis" piece by Washington Bureau reporter Richard Berke about reaction from the presidential candidates to the Supreme Court decision overturning Nebraska's ban of partial-birth abortions. Berke asserted: "The court's ruling is discouraging for Mr. Bush and many Republicans not only because it gives Mr. Gore another rationale to talk about the court. In addition, the Republicans' embrace in the last few years of eliminating late-term abortion allowed the party to maintain its anti-abortion position in a way that is more palatable to many voters than suggesting overturning the Constitutional amendment allowing abortion. Even many Democrats who favor abortion rights tell pollsters they object to late-term abortions."
Of course, abortion is legal now because of the Roe v Wade decision, a creative interpretation by a majority of the Supreme Court in 1973 of a "right to privacy" in the Bill of Rights, but not a constitutional "amendment" which requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states.
So much bias and so little space. Having given so much deserved space to
Morrison's tribute to the joys of Castro's Cuba, I'm out of room before I
got to several other items I'd planned to run, including:
-- The Today show's interview with Greg Craig in which Craig claimed to have no idea who paid for the plane which flew Elian back to Cuba.
-- World News Tonight's Thursday night hit from the left on the Medicare prescription plans of both parties. ABC anchor Kevin Newman plugged the upcoming story: "Also ahead, 'A Closer Look' at the two big plans in Washington to pay for prescription drugs: Will either one be enough?" He later added: "Neither plan will provide all the help many senior citizens need."
-- Bill Maher, host of ABC's Politically Incorrect, on Bill Clinton. On Wednesday's Tonight Show he hoped: "I think someday they will name high schools after him and kids will proudly play for the Bill Clinton Fighting Cocks."
Just too much bias, but that means plenty more material for the next CyberAlert, probably on Wednesday, when I plan to get to all of these bits of bias. -- Brent Baker 
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