Out of all the guests to talk Hugo Chavez's illness, CNN brought on Chavez-fan Oliver Stone on Friday. Stone lauded him as "magnanimous, warm, warm man, big man."
Anchor Suzanne Malveaux actually played clips of Stone's documentary involving Chavez, which Time magazine called a "love story" for the dictator. Yes, this is the same network whose founder said he trusted the North Koreans and defended Kim Jong Il.
[Video below. Audio here.]
Malveaux started off with this softball: "I noticed you were smiling as we were watching the documentary, that Chavez still makes you smile. What intrigues you so much about him to put him as a central figure in this doc that you did a couple of years ago?"
What about Chavez "intrigues" Stone? The organization Human Rights Watch features multiple reports on the state of human rights in Venezuela that it calls "precarious." However, Stone isn't the first Hollywood celebrity to praise Chavez.
"They want him. He's popular. The people love him," insisted Stone. "Well, the majority of people, because the living standards have gone up, and that's what's ignored in so much of the reporting on Venezuela."
And Stone included these laughers:
"[T]here's a very vocal minority that is against him, but they never won the elections. In fact, I think Chavez won 13 of 14 elections."
"So I think he's going to be mourned as a national figure who changed Venezuela forever. You have no idea how bad it was before him. The per capita income dropped for like 20 years straight. People were fed up. He represents hope and change, the things that Obama stood for in our country in 2008."
Malveaux wouldn't even press Stone until later in the interview, choosing first to ask if he was "in touch" with the dictator and how he's doing. She finally got around to citing Time magazine and Amnesty International as Chavez's "critics."
Stone brushed it off as "vague, scandalous, blurry stuff they throw out at Venezuela when you compare it to what the United States has done in Chile and Argentina, in Brazil in the past and what we did recently in Honduras. I mean, there's no comparison."
Meanwhile, this is a little of what the Human Rights Watch has to say about Venezuela:
"Without judicial checks on its actions, the government has systematically undermined free expression, workers' freedom of association, and the ability of human rights groups to function. Violent crime is rampant in Venezuela, yet few people are prosecuted or convicted, as law enforcement is seemingly unable or unwilling to effectively tackle it."
"Extrajudicial killings by security agents continue, and impunity for such human rights crimes remains the norm. Prison conditions are deplorable, and prison fatality rates are high due to inmate violence."
"While many Venezuelans continue to criticize the government, the prospect of facing reprisals – in the form of arbitrary or abusive state action – has undercut the ability of judges to adjudicate politically sensitive cases, and forced journalists and rights defenders to weigh the consequences of disseminating information and opinions critical of the government."
-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center