Mainstream Media Frenzy over Bogus Scandal
by Humberto Fontova
Last week the headline flashed from the New York Times to USA Today and from the BBC to Drudge. Both the AP and Reuters ran with the scoop. Even Editor and Publisher ran a story. The breathless reports told of intrepid reporters at the Miami Herald--prompted only by ingenious hunches and inspired only by public spirit-- uncovering a scandal of stupendous international import. The article in the Miami Herald that ignited the frenzy even included photos, (mug-shot style) of the ten miscreant journalists. The Herald's findings were staggering:
"U.S. Paid 10 Journalists for Anti-Castro Reports," headlined the New York Times.
"Journalists Paid to Blast Castro," said CNN.
"10 Miami Journalists Take U.S. Pay," read the headline in the Miami Herald itself, who's staff , contained two of the reporters besmirched by the scandal, Pablo Alfonso and Wilfredo Cancio. By an odd coincidence these were conspicuous on the Herald staff for their strong anti-Castroism. In a sanctimonious huff, the Herald brusquely fired them and cancelled all assignments with the besmirched Cuban-American free-lancer, Olga Connor.
From the Huffington Post to Michael Moore.com leftie blogs are all gloating, and characteristically so. The reports in the Miami Herald and New York Times depict a Republican payola scheme where knavish Cuban-American commentators were variously bribed and duped into parroting vicious Bush- ite propaganda against the Castro regime which was broadcast into Cuba via the U.S. government funded Radio and TV Marti.
Upon reading all this, and especially upon reading who were among the ten "bribed" journalists, Cuban-Americans could hardly apply themselves to the first business at hand (cancelling their Miami Herald subscriptions) for the convulsions in their midriff. To think that such as Miami radio star Ninoska Perez-Castellon, (who's husband is among the longest-serving political prisoners of the century after almost 30 years in Castro's Gulag,) and Pablo Alfonso and Carlos Alberto Montaner (both former political prisoners themselves and authors of multiple anti-Castro books) require bribes to submit anti-Castro broadcasts is beyond funny, beyond pathetic, beyond stupid.
So we have to expect it from the MSM, who also flip-flopped on this issue. Think about it, for years they've been telling us the opposite. The liberal mantra has it that those rich, dastardly and politically- powerful Cuban-Americans deviously direct U.S. policy. Traditionally we've been portrayed as the most fiendishly clever cabal to ever grease a palm, plant a story, fund a PAC, or place a severed horse's head in your bed. We make up a minuscule 1/300 of the U.S. population, yet – to hear the MSM and Democrats-- we control U.S. foreign policy with a firm testicular grip, against the wishes and interests of the entire U.S. population. That takes talent.
"Cuba Policy isn't made in Washington," harrumphed Bill Press in a CNN column. "It's made in Miami by former Batista supporters who think they can reverse history!"
"Bush's defense of the embargo serves a family voting bloc and little else," snarled Kathleen Parker in a column.
"A small number of powerful exiles in South Florida cow our politicians into keeping the crazy Cuban policy!" snapped media baron Al Neuharth in USA Today.
Back in the 80's, liberals claimed Radio Marti itself was a blatant kickback from the Reagan team to Reagan friend and backer, Jorge Mas Canosa, then head of the Cuban American National Foundation. In brief, the Cuban-American tail traditionally wagged the U.S. policy dog. Now they tell us it's the reverse. Consistency, please, MSM.
For the record, Radio and TV Marti are sisters to Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and The Voice of America. All fall under the management of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG.) For over half a century American and foreign commentators, academics and journalists have appeared on all these broadcasts and--just like the terrible ten just outed by the Miami Herald to the blast of trumpets-- all have been paid for their time. "For decades, some of the most prominent journalists in America have been paid to be on Voice of America," explained Larry Hart, spokesman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
But just let those dastardly (and most unforgivably, Republican) Cuban-Americans try it!
David Lightman of the Hartford Courant appears regularly on Voice of America-- for pay. "My view is, I'm a professional. I should be paid for my time. … I don't just wing it."
For years Martin Schram, a Scripps Howard columnist, has served as moderator on The Voice of America--for pay. "If they wanted us to simply volunteer our time, they wouldn't have a show," he said recently.
But just let those dastardly Cuban-Americans say the same!
In fact they say something different. "I'd do it for free," says one of the supposedly besmirched reporters, Juan Manuel Cao of Channel 41 in Miami. "But the regulations don't allow it. I charge symbolically, below market prices. And I'm proud to help break the censorship in Cuba."
Much like Radio Free Europe in it's heyday, Radio Marti offers a tiny taste of non-Stalinist broadcasting to a captive people. Alexander Solzhenitsyn told the Wall Street Journal in 1981: "American broadcasts are the mighty non-military force whose kindling power in the midst of Communist darkness cannot even be grasped by the Western imagination." But refugee's from Cuba's Communist darkness can easily grasp it and heartily agree.
These cracks in the darkness greatly annoy Cuba's Stalinist regime. And like clockwork, annoyance in Havana quickly translates into annoyance among American liberals. The symptoms quickly manifest in the liberal media.
Media frenzies against those dastardly right-wing Cuban-Americans are an old and recurring story (recall Elian.) Just this past June the frenzy involved hysterical reports of a lust to "ban books" by Cuban-Americans parents. "Miami-Dade School Board Bans Cuba Book," headlined the New York Times on June 15. The campaign was portrayed as completely unprecedented in nature and thoroughly fascistic in intent, prompting even the ACLU to ride to the rescue.
Yet a simple phone call to the American Library Association would have revealed that over the past two decades, every single year sees between 400 and 600 such schoolbook protests in the U.S. by parents, much of it over material considered "racially insensitive." As a result, 257 books including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye have been yanked from public libraries.
But just let those right-wing Cuban-Americans try it!
I suppose it's asking too much that editors at the Miami Herald read American history, or know the history of America's most famous journalists, or to be conversant with the most basic laws involving contractors with any branch of the U.S. government. But you'd think these erudite editors might read their own paper. On March 31, 2002 two different El Nuevo Herald (the Miami Herald's Spanish language sister) articles reported that Mrs Connor and Pablo Alfonso (the same ones now being depicted as knaves and scoundrels for hosting shows on Radio Marti) hosted programs on Radio Marti. The article even boasted of the amount Mrs Connor was getting per show!
Yet last week a "disappointed" Jesús Díaz Jr., president of the Miami Herald Media Co. said these payments violated a ''sacred trust'' between journalists and the public. Then why did his own paper boast about the magnitude of this "violation" 4 years earlier and reward the "violator" with more and bigger assignments for over half a decade?
"The payments to journalists were discovered in documents recently obtained by The Miami Herald as a result of a Federal Freedom of Information Request on Aug. 15," read the bombshell Miami Herald article. Herald managing editor Tom Fiedler then adds that it was all part of a two year long investigation. We're supposed to be impressed.
We are indeed impressed--because unlike CIA memos and classified Warren Commission transcripts-- all payments by the Broadcasting Board of Governors are a matter of public record and easily obtainable in at most two days. If it took the Miami Herald's intrepid staff two years to obtain information any wino can get in two days with one phone call, the Herald's got much bigger problems than they think.
The Herald impresses us further by consulting and quoting assorted "ethicists" to echo their charges. ''This is such an obvious textbook case,'' echoes University of Florida journalism professor Jon Roosenraad. "This is exactly like a business reporter during the day going out and moonlighting as a PR person for a local company at night and then going back to the paper the next day and writing about `his' company.''
Here's an essay question for you, professor Roosenraad. Edward Murrow, John Chancellor, Hugh Sidey, Fred Barnes and many others accepted and accept payments from Voice of America. Does your course include ritual denunciations of them as "textbook" journalistic scoundrels? Explain.
Pablo Alfonso contracted with The Voice of America's sister agency Radio Marti-- with full disclosure to his employers. He also proved his ethical code like few American journalist (not to mention Journalism professors) ever have. In the late 60's Alfonso was arrested in Cuba for publishing Catholic literature. Under threat of torture by a Stalinist regime he refused to renounce his moral principles and was thrown into in its dungeons for years. Oh to be a fly on the wall of Havana's Villa Marista torture chamber while some of those now gloating and name-calling (for some reason Mr Michael Moore waddles to mind here) undergo subtle "questioning" by Castro's goons!
It so happens that The Miami Herald has plenty cause to investigate its staff. But they're looking for dirt in all the wrong places--or right places given their current agenda which is widely rumored to be the opening of a Havana Bureau. Back in 1997 when CNN craved a Havana Bureau Ted Turner was much less subtle. "Castro is one helluva guy!" he gushed to a capacity crowd at Harvard Law School. "You people would like him! Most people in Cuba like him." Within weeks CNN was granted it's coveted Havana Bureau, the first ever granted by Castro to a foreign network.
By the way, that CNN bureau's long-time reporter, Lucia Newman, recently moved over to Al Jazeera. A "lateral career move" I think they call this.
To many it appears that The Miami Herald is simply carrying out character assassination hits assigned by the Cuban regime. The evidence is more than circumstantial. Just two weeks before the Herald's hits on the ten journalists, the hosts of the Castro regime's TV show Mesa Redonda denounced some Cuban exile reporters as being on Bush's payroll and claimed some would soon be axed by the Miami Herald. Hummmm...?
As Cuban-American author and Miami radio host Enrique Encinosa speculates: "Interesting how the Castro regime knew of these firings in advance. An intelligence analyst would look at three possibilities: either Castro's DGI has a mole at the Miami Herald; worse still, Cuba has an agent in an important decision-making capacity at the paper; or the Miami Herald is negotiating and cooperating with the Castro regime."
More interesting still, The Miami Herald recently hired a reporter named Janet Comellas, a lifelong Cuban national and recent "migrant" who until November of 2005 was a prominent propagandist for Cuba's Stalinist regime. Her specialty was U.S. bashing. Obviously her's was obviously not a lateral career move like Lucia Newman's. Given Camellos credentials and specialty, she's assured an illustrious carder in America's mainstream media. The New York Times probably already has their eye on her as Maureen Dowd nears retirement.
Humberto Fontova is the author of Fidel; Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant, a Conservative Book Club Main Selection