CyberAlert -- 04/13/2000 -- Unsure Elian Better Off in U.S.

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Unsure Elian Better Off in U.S.; Pro-Castro Bias Dissected; Gore Exaggerations

1) Would Elian be "better off" in Cuba or the U.S.? "There's not a simple answer," insisted ABC's Peter Jennings. Morton Dean touted the "free" medical care and lack of crime in Cuba, though he also noted the bread lines, but did not mention political repression.

2) "Geez," Morton Kondracke exclaimed after hearing FNC's Brit Hume read aloud from a Newsweek article on how Elian can expect "a nurturing life in Cuba." He conceded liberal bias and even NPR's Mara Liasson was perplexed by the pro-Castro reporting.

3) ABC, CBS and NBC all reported how Elian was taken to the home of Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, but none reminded viewers how after seeing Elian with his grandmothers she had decided he should stay.

4) After updating viewers on the case of Walter Polovchak, Dan Rather assured viewers "it is not our intention to take sides or advocate any particular solution to the Elian Gonzalez case."

5) NBC Nightly News relayed without skepticism the claim that 4,223 children a year are killed by guns, but then devoted a whole story to discrediting the claim of gun advocates for how often a gun is used to prevent a crime.

6) Another Gore "exaggeration" was caught by and the Boston Globe detailed Gore's record of "embellishing truth," but ABC-TV instead focused on how Bush's "record as Governor raises questions about his commitment" to spending enough on health care.

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Signs President Clinton is Bored."


"There's not a simple answer," judged ABC's Peter Jennings to the question of whether Elian Gonzalez would have "a better life" in the democratic and free United States or the communist and bereft Cuba. Reporter Morton Dean described what kind of life awaits Elian in Cuba, touting the "free" medical care and lack of crime, but also highlighting the bread lines. Without mentioning political repression or the lack of freedom of speech, Dean concluded by acknowledging how Cubans "know they cannot match the material things available in the United States," but they "promise a warm welcome and a normal life for Elian."

World News Tonight anchor Jennings set up Dean's April 12 piece after stories on the day's latest developments in south Florida with Janet Reno's arrival:
"Beyond the questions of custody, the Cuban-American community in Miami has always argued, almost everyday in fact, that Elian Gonzalez would have a better life here in the United States than in Cuba. It's been argued before, and there's not a simple answer. But at this late date ABC's Morton Dean has been again to the boy's hometown of Cardenes."

Let's pause here for emphasis. The star of a U.S. television news operation, which is able to tilt its news to the left all it wants because of the First Amendment, believes there's "not a simple answer" to whether someone would be "better off" in a democratic and free nation or in a repressive communist one where free thought is not allowed and the command economy causes widespread poverty and misery.

From Havana, Dean began by showing Cubans looking a pictures of Elian inside a new "Elian room" in the Cardenes city museum.
Upon his return, Dean related, "Elian will quickly learn his old classmates chant his name daily and that his desk became a place of honor and the subject of billboards urging his return."
Over video of a cinder block structure painted aqua, Dean continued: "Other than a new government paint job on the Gonzalez home, Elian would find little else has changed. Ask Cubans what the pluses are in this society and they'll quickly mention free medical care, free education, the lack of serious crime and that their children live in a safe environment.
"Cardenes, like all of Cuba, shows ample signs of the central government's economic mismanagement and the severe effect of the U.S. embargo. Today, as everyday, a few blocks from the Gonzalez house, a bread line. The rum factories are a principal employer in Cardenes and a principal cause of pollution [video of belching smokestack]."
Over video of a man talking Dean relayed his word: "'I earn 224 pesos, about $10 dollars a month.' He says it's not enough, even teachers and doctors earn no more than $30 a month."

What kind of quality health care do you get for "free" from a doctor paid $30 a month?

Dean went on to outline how the "dollar economy," which included Elian's father, has improved things in Cuba: "The relatively new dollar economy makes a difference. Elian's father, and others from Cardenes, work at a nearby resort and are paid and tipped in dollars."
Over video of another man, Dean noted: "'Having dollars,' he said, 'allows me to buy some necessary things.'" Dean then concluded: "People here know they cannot match the material things available in the United States, but they promise a warm welcome and a normal life for Elian."

A "normal life" by communist standards. Dean failed to utter one syllable about political or religious freedom or human rights, nor what Elian has to look forward to in Castro's youth indoctrination group, the Young Pioneers, whose meetings he will attend without having any milk to drink.


"I don't understand why the news magazines and the networks...weren't all down in Cuba to figure out what is it like, what kind of life can Elian Gonzalez expect to live in Cuba in the Young Pioneers, you know, and all that kind of stuff." So wondered Roll Call Executive Editor and proud "moderate" Morton Kondracke on FNC Wednesday night after acknowledging that recent media coverage, which has admired Castro's Cuba, can only be explained by liberal bias. NPR's more liberal Mara Liasson was equally perplexed by the contention that life would be better for Elian in Cuba: "I can't think of anyone in the United States who would agree with that."

Well, several reporters for major media outlets do, especially NBC's Jim Avila as shown in previous CyberAlerts.

Picking up on some of the same news magazine quotes cited in this week's MRC MagazineWatch, FNC's Brit Hume raised in his show's panel segment with the "Fox All Stars" the issue of media coverage of Castro and Cuban-Americans. To watch a hunk of this discussion via RealPlayer, go to the MRC home page late Thursday morning where MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post it:

Hume introduced the April 12 segment on his 6pm ET/9pm PT Special Report with Brit Hume:
"Let's talk about another issue that's come up, and that is the portrayal in the media of the Cuban American community in Miami, which is, I think it raises the question of whether this is the one ethnic group in America that it's okay to bash. Let's look at a couple of quotes from the current round of newsweeklies. Here's what Time magazine says:
"'The 'banana republic' label sticking to Miami in the final throes of the Elian Gonzalez crisis is a source of snide humor for most Americans.' And now from Newsweek: 'In some ways, young Elian might expect,' this is if he went back to Cuba, 'a nurturing life in Cuba, sheltered from the crime and social breakdown that would be part of his upbringing in Miami.' Now, is it, what is that?"

The latter quote caused Morton Kondracke to start laughing as he exclaimed "geez!" Kondracke, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, answered Hume by conceding bias exists: "You know, half the time when Fred [Barnes], when Fred beats up on the press as being, you know, automatic chronically left-wing, I sort of scoff at that. I gotta say that there's not much else that, I don't understand why the news magazines and the networks, for that matter, weren't all down in Cuba to figure out what is it like, what kind of life can Elian Gonzalez expect to live in Cuba in the Young Pioneers, you know, and all that kind of stuff."

(Reporters are there for Time and Newswek, but they like the network reporters are using their stories to tout the "Cuban good life," as NBC Jim Avila put it, with five free gallons of gas a month and a bag of beans and deodorant. See the April 5 CyberAlert for details.)

Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard explained what's behind the media take, suggesting reporters are indulging in "an old genre that some people have recognized for a half century anyway, and it is 'anti-anti-Communism.' Mort, you remember it during the whole Nicaraguan Contras thing where then the thing was the Contras, they're worse than the Sandinistas. In Vietnam, you know, Diem, he's worse than the Viet Cong and so on. The American Left always attacks any group that is anti-communist by saying they're worse than the communists, and here we see it again. And the Cuban Americans are the latest victims of that. There's all this, or at best there's moral equivalence, you know, gee, it's totalitarian in Cuba, it's totalitarian in Little Havana, which is nonsense."

Even panelist Mara Liasson of National Public Radio was befuddled by the Newsweek view: "To make those kinds of assertions, that somehow his life would be better in Cuba. It's one thing to say that a child belongs with his father, it's another to say that growing up in a communist country is somehow better than being in Miami. I can't think of anyone in the United States who would agree with that."

Memo to Liasson: Please talk to Peter Jennings. He's unsure.

Hume quickly reminded her of the media quotes he had read earlier, adding: "You heard this out of the mouth of Katie Couric on NBC about Miami being the place where, she set up a description of what most people would say about Cuba and said well they were talking about Miami, that there is this equivalence thing out there."

Indeed, Couric opened the April 3 Today by announcing: "Some suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to expect Elian Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political expression. They were talking about Miami. All eyes on South Florida and its image this morning. Another writer this weekend called it 'an out of control banana republic within America.' What effect is the Elian Gonzalez story having on perception of Miami? We will talk with a well known columnist for the Miami Herald about that."

Back to the FNC discussion, Kondracke reminded viewers: "When you're seven years old in Cuba, you cease to get your milk allotment because they don't have enough milk down there. Now that's something I haven't seen. Cuba is regarded as some sort of paradise for workers and health care and stuff like that."

I haven't seen it either on network television from their reporters in Havana.

To hear something about the downsides of growing up in Cuba, check out a rare network outlet for a less than glowing assessment of Cuba from actor Andy Garcia whose comments astonished Matt Lauer last week on Today. Garcia described the indoctrination of the Young Pioneers and maintained that he'd rather have his son in the U.S. if he were trapped in Cuba. To watch and read Garcia:

For much more from the two magazine articles quoted by Hume, go to this week's MRC MagazineWatch painstakingly compiled by Tim Graham. (This is the same edition sent Wednesday via CyberAlert.) Go to:


ABC, CBS and NBC all led with stories Wednesday night about how Elian's relatives took him to stay at the home of Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, but none mentioned how after seeing Elian meet with his grandmothers a few months ago she had changed her mind and decided he should stay with the Miami family.

ABC's Peter Jennings opened the April 12 World News Tonight by boosting Reno's abilities: "Good evening. Can she do it. That's the question. Can the Attorney General bring this chapter in Elian Gonzalez'z life to a close gracefully with the force of her personality or will she have to use the declarative power of the law?"

Introducing a story on the day's activities, Jennings announced: "The Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez have taken the boy to the home of a nun, who is to some extent sympathetic to their cause. ABC's Ron Claiborne is there this evening. Ron, do the Miami relatives know the time is almost up?"
Yes, he answered, before running a soundbite from O'Laughlin, President of Barry University. But he didn't remind viewers of how, after seeing the fear the grandmothers had of the Cuban security personnel who accompanied them, she had changed her mind and decided Elian should stay.

Dan Rather began the CBS Evening News by intoning: "Attorney General Janet Reno flew to Miami this evening intent on persuading the boy's relatives to obey the law and give him up."

CBS's Jim Axelrod, as well as NBC's David Bloom on NBC Nightly News, both featured soundbites from O'Laughlin but didn't mention her change of view.


"It is not our intention to take sides" in the Elian case Dan Rather assured viewers after running a piece recalling the 1980 case of Walter Polovchak.

For the Fidelity-sponsored "The American Dream" segment on the April 12 CBS Evening News Rather profiled Polovchak, now 32, who as at age 12 asked to stay in the U.S. and not return with parents to Ukraine. Six years later, at 18, he was granted citizenship.
After explaining how, like Elian, Polovchak was at the center of media attention back in 1980, Rather updated viewers, though he didn't mention what kind of career Polovchak has pursued: "Today, Palovchak is married with a six-year-old son and a new house. He is living his American dream."
Polovchak observed: "American dream means to me freedom, the ability to practice any religion you want to, the freedom of speech. The American dream is what I got when a government allowed me to stay in this country."

Back on camera after the taped piece ended, Rather noted how Polovchak has twice visited the now independent Ukraine and "re-established warm relations with his parents."

Rather then added this unusual advisory: "And this editor's note. In reporting Polovchak's story tonight, it is not our intention to take sides or advocate any particular solution to the Elian Gonzalez case."


After running highlights from Tom Brokaw's afternoon town meeting in Denver on guns with President Clinton shown on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News Wednesday night relayed without skepticism the claim that 4,223 children a year are killed by guns, but then devoted a whole story to discrediting the claim of gun advocates for how often a gun is used to prevent a crime.

Reporter Roger O'Neil began his story by showing how by going to a private dealer it's easy to buy a gun in Colorado without a background check. O'Neil then, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, looked at two men with opposing views:
"When the Colorado legislature convened in January, it killed a proposal to close that [gun show] loophole, and for two fathers with very different views, it's the new moving target in the gun war. Kelly Barnett, teaching his six-year-old about guns, NRA member, says more laws won't stop more Columbines."
Kelly Barnett: "I believe that it's the, America's moral fiber that's in decay."
O'Neil: "But Tom Mauser, whose son was killed at Columbine, is dedicating his life to sensible gun control."
Tom Mauser: "I'm sure he would say, 'Dad, I'm glad you're walkin' in my shoes. Keep up the fight.'"

In the media's world is any gun control not "sensible"?

O'Neil proceeded to promote a publicity gimmick as he walked among thousands of little shoes: "This week at the State Capitol, 4,223 pairs of shoes were laid out, pressure on lawmakers to pass more gun control legislation. Why 4,223? That many children are killed in a year by guns."
He added that all the shoes show a "sobering picture" of gun violence.

4,223 would be 81 "children" a week. I don't have the numbers to cite here, but I'm quite sure the "children" number includes those up to age 19 or 20, so includes older teenagers killed in drug fights and gang violence, not the picture conveyed by NBC in showing small shoes worn by elementary school age kids.

But NBC wasn't interested in dissecting that number. They had to make time for Pete Williams to discredit a number forwarded by gun rights advocates. Williams opened his piece by recounting the story of a man who used a gun to thwart an intruder by pointing it at him. Williams noted that the NRA says self defense with gun happens 2.5 million times a year, or 6,800 ties a day. He allowed Gary Kleck, who did the phone survey which came up with those numbers, to say the actual number might be higher.

Then Williams countered: "But many criminologists think there's no way to be sure and that the number is likely much smaller. They say a phone survey is a bad way to estimate something that happens to a small segment of the population."
Professor Jens Ludwig, Georgetown University: "Especially rare events like defensive gun use, where people view them as a heroic or a laudable act, and so there's some tendency for people, or there may be some tendency or temptation for people to exaggerate or brag."
Williams: "In fact, few scholars think the number of guns used for self-defense each year is in the millions. Many say it's more like several hundred thousand, and Kleck notes that he counts not only the time a gun owner actually points or fires it, but also when the owner just threatens to use it without even showing it."
Williams repeated another anti-gun argument: "But even counting those examples, advocates of gun control warn that it's actually more dangerous to have a gun at home. They cite figures that show the risk of suicide is five times higher in homes with guns, and they say accidental deaths are higher, too."
Concluding, Williams did return to the case made by the man in his original anecdote: "Still the debate is over for Mike Merz. For him the only number that counts is one -- the number of times he thinks a gun made him safer."

Some legitimate criticisms of the pro-gun arguments, but where's the equal scrutiny of the claims made by the other side?


Monday brought another Gore "exaggeration" as detailed by and on Tuesday a front page Boston Globe headline read, "Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing Truth," but ABC's TV news broadcasts ignored both. Instead, on Tuesday night ABC focused on how George W. Bush's "record as Governor raises questions about his commitment" to spending enough taxpayer money on government health care programs.

Peter Jennings introduced the April 11 World News Tonight story, the only full campaign report run so far this week by a broadcast network:
"In Ohio today, presidential candidate George W. Bush took his first stab at a health care plan for the nation. Mr. Bush proposed tax credits to help the working poor buy health insurance. Anything approaching universal health care is an issue that the Democratic candidate Al Gore would claim is his. Mr. Bush is trying to move in."

Instead of approaching Bush's big spending plan from the right and questioning the need for another program transferring money from earners to the poor, reporter Dean Reynolds took on Bush from the left for not having made enough people in Texas rely on government. Reynolds opened, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"His aides have long claimed Bush is a different kind of Republican candidate, one who reaches out to those who've seldom voted Republican in the past. Today in Ohio was a perfect example. The Texas Governor toured a job training center catering to Latinos in Cleveland and then unveiled a $40 billion proposal to help low income Americans buy health insurance from private companies."

After a soundbite from Bush saying low income families must have access to health insurance, Reynolds pounced, measuring commitment by how much of other people's money he had spent: "But Bush's record as Governor raises questions about his commitment. While he has raised spending for some health care programs, a quarter of his state's people still lack health insurance, and the state health commissioner Bush picked is quoted as saying he doubts insurance coverage makes much real difference to health. Moreover, Texas ranks near the top of the nation in the rates of AIDS, diabetes and tuberculosis, and near the bottom in immunization, mammograms and access to doctors. To win the election, Governor Bush will need support of independents and conservative Democrats, but while his rhetoric reaches out to those voters, his record in Texas on key issues of concern to them may undermine his appeal."

World News Tonight this week skipped Gore's latest misstatement of fact and they didn't have to go far to learn about it. The Web page featured an article: "At it Again? Gore Prone to Exaggeration." In the April 10 piece, Kendra Gahagan relayed:

From inventing the Internet to inspiring the film Love Story, Al Gore's penchant for exaggeration is well known. Today, he may have stretched the facts again.

In a speech honoring his mother at the Nashville City Club in Tennessee, the Vice President told an anecdote about how Pauline LaFon Gore was invited for lunch at the club in 1971, only to be summarily kicked out of the main dining room due to the club's all-male policy.

Gore went on to recount how his mother's ouster drew local outrage and she was a key instigator in the club's changing its rules toward women: "The resulting outrage, especially among young professional women here in Nashville, caused a revolution -- a minor one, albeit -- but a major change in the life of this club and a few days later, this city club was opened to women and the charter was changed."

It was a speech by a doting son honoring his mother, who was also being awarded a bachelor of arts degree 67 years after she attended, but never completed, university classes. And Mrs. Gore was indeed ahead of her time, as one of the first 10 women to earn a law degree from Nashville's Vanderbilt University in 1936.

But what the vice president didn't mention was that the minor "revolution" his mother sparked at the Nashville City Club did not open the club's membership to women, as his comments implied -- only its dining rooms -- and even that didn't happen until weeks after Mrs. Gore's visit, not a mere "few days later," as Gore claimed. The Nashville City Club did not go on to admit women as members until September 1985, 14 years after Mrs. Gore's visit....

END Excerpt

To read the entire story, go to:

"Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing Truth," announced the headline over a lengthy April 11 Boston Globe story by Walter V. Robinson and Michael Crowley, which began:

Vice President Al Gore brings a remarkable life story to the presidential race: His father was such an unwavering supporter of civil rights that it cost him his Senate seat. His older sister was the first-ever volunteer in the Peace Corps, that heroic outpost on President Kennedy's New Frontier.

By Gore's account: He was raised in hardscrabble Tennessee farm country. He was a brilliant student, in high school and at Harvard. And despite his political pull, he received no special treatment, opting instead to go to Vietnam where he was "shot at."

After his Army service, he spent seven years as a journalist, and his reporting at the Tennessean in Nashville put corrupt officials in prison.

As a junior member in the US House, he was a major force: He wrote and then spearheaded passage of the Superfund law. He even authored the US nuclear negotiating position. And at a time when President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev faced off on the superpower stage, Gore had his own meeting with Gorbachev.

And, of course, he created the Internet.

At various times in his political career, Gore, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said all those things about himself and his family.

None are quite true.

Some are exaggerations grown up around kernels of biographical fact. Others are simply false. A few, like the boastful claim about the Internet, have become comic fodder, even for Gore....

END Excerpt

To read the entire story, go to "Record Shows Gore Long Embellishing Truth."

The Globe also provided a list of 18 of Gore's assertions with counterpoints for each at "A long history of questionable statements and claims."

Both pieces are featured on the Globe's campaign page, which has a normal length URL:


From the April 11 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs President Clinton is Bored." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Spent weekend alphabetizing thousands of lawsuits pending against him
9. Weekly radio address features less talk, more rock
8. Every twenty minutes, calls Area 51 to ask "Any new aliens?"
7. Often cuts cabinet meetings short to catch "Judge Judy"
6. Hefty intern starts working in Oval Office, and he doesn't even grab her ass
5. Watched every episode of "Falcone"
4. To stir up controversy, gave Delaware to the Dutch
3. In addition to Leonardo DiCaprio, agreed to do an interview with little girl in Pepsi commercials
2. Has started smoking cigars
1. Actually tried to sleep with Hillary

And, from the Late Show Web page, some of "the also-rans" which didn't make the final cut:

-- Keeps complaining to staff, "There's no one to do"
-- Installed some windows in the damn corridor
-- Says nailing 300-pound interns "Just not what it used to be"
-- He's now harassing himself
-- Finds himself looking forward to daily chats with Al Gore
-- Calls in Secret Service several times a day to frisk him
-- While having sex with interns, does crossword puzzles

Well, that's better than discussing troop deployment with a Congressman -- Brent Baker

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