CyberAlert -- 04/17/2000 -- Rather's Tears

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Rather's Tears; Elian "Brainwashed?"; Stars Came Out for Gore

1) Dan Rather near tears. Referring to the video of Elian saying he does not want to go to Cuba, Rather demanded: "Did you weep?" After Elian's father replied that he's "run dry" of tears, a choked up Rather mumbled: "Ah, but a father never dries up."

2) After playing the tape repeatedly of Elian saying he does not want to go to Cuba, an MSNBC anchor asked a psychologist: "Do you think this young boy was brainwashed?"

3) ABC and NBC morning show stars treated Juan Miguel Gonzalez's statement as "very passionate words," but a week later were quick to question if Elian were "coached" and to impugn the Miami relatives by accusing them of "child abuse" over the video.

4) Bryant Gumbel rejected the idea that Cuban-American civil disobedience is analogous to the civil rights movement and noting how Cuban-Americans charge Castro with exploiting Elian, demanded if that's "any less reprehensible" than what they have done.

5) Gumbel also called the Elian video "the most disgusting thing I've ever seen," rued how a kid from Haiti would have been returned immediately and charged that the Miami relatives "don't care about" Elian. But few Early Show viewers heard the comments.

6) CBS's Randall Pinkston acknowledged that Cubans are not free to speak, but he insisted the Cuban "people appear untroubled by the lack of modern conveniences" and believe "that President Castro is responsible for all good things."

7) At a fundraiser featuring Clinton and Gore, Hollywood stars and moguls, including Steven Spielberg, Kevin Spacey, Ron Howard and Jay Leno, donated $2.8 million.

8) NBC's 4,223 "children" killed each year by guns includes 19-year-olds.

>>> "Little Havana vs. Seattle," the latest Creators syndicate column by MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell, is now online. Using some media quotes collected by the MRC's Tim Graham, the column contrasts the media's condemnation of those marching in support of Elian Gonzalez with how those same outlets praised the efforts of the far-left protesters in Seattle. To read the column, go to: <<<


Those who saw Dan Rather's interview with Juan Miguel Gonzalez on Sunday night's 60 Minutes know Leonardo DiCaprio's upcoming Saturday appearance on ABC won't be the first time this week a little acting occurred in a network news show. Barely more than two minutes into the CBS interview Rather showed a clip of the video of Elian saying he does not want to go to Cuba, then queried: "I want to ask you something man to man. After you saw that videotape for the first time, did you weep?" Gonzalez replied that "I have no tears left...I've run dry." Following a long pause, with voice breaking and upper lip quivering, Rather mumbled: "Ah, but a father never dries up."

Rather conducted the interview on Saturday and the CBS News Web site assuringly noted: "When the interview was conducted, there were no Cuban government personnel in the room, in the house, or on the grounds -- only Juan Miguel and the CBS News crew. Consistent with CBS News practice, no questions or areas of questions were submitted in advance."

Early in the interview Rather asked Gonzalez if he considered his son to have been "kidnapped," but Rather also asked if he's a "puppet" of Fidel Castro. Journalist Ann Louise Bardach served as Rather's expert on the case and she told Rather that Elian's mother only tried to come to the U.S. in order to join her boyfriend, not for political freedom. As for Gonzalez, Bardach insisted that "what happened here is that a kind of regular normal guy who's fairly unpolitical has been politicized by this drama." Sure enough, later in the interview, when Rather asked about enjoying freedom in the U.S., Gonzalez shot back with the communist propaganda line:
"I ask you what's freedom? Well, freedom is for example, in Cuba, where education and health care is free. Or is it the way it is here? Which of the two is freedom? For example, here when parents send their children to school they have to worry about violence. A child could be shot at school. In Cuba, things like that don't happen. So you can go to work and not worry. Which of the two is freedom?"

Sounds like the Cuban propaganda ministry watches U.S. cable news all day.

Rather began the 13-minute-long 60 Minutes piece by asking, "How is your son? How is Elian?" and then: "Do you consider that he has been kidnapped?" After Gonzalez's affirmative response Rather moved to the Elian video released on Thursday: "I know you've seen this videotape, but with your permission I want to show it to you again. Have you watch it, and tell us your reaction to the videotape please."

Gonzalez complained, as voiced by a translator: "This is child abuse and mistreatment what they're doing to this boy. And it is something that has been induced because these aren't the boy's true feelings. That's not the way this boy feels. And I know I'm right in saying that we have to take him back immediately because what they're doing is making this child suffer. The way they're abusing him, turning him against his father."
Playing empathetic, Rather inquired: "Tell me what you felt, not just in your head but also your heart when you saw and heard on that videotape your son say, 'Papa, you can stay here but I don't want to go to Cuba.'"
Gonzalez: "Well, I can tell you that above all, despite everything I was feeling, and everything I was suffering at that moment, I saw the betrayal inside my boy -- that they made him do these things. Actually, he's suffering more here amongst them than he suffered in the sea."
Rather: "I want to ask you something man to man. After you saw that videotape for the first time, did you weep?
Gonzalez: "I'm going to tell you the truth. I don't have any tears left. I've cried too much. During this whole period of time, I've cried a lot and suffered greatly and I'm still in pain. To tell you the truth, I have no tears left. I have, I don't know, I've run dry."
Rather, after a long pause, seeming to approach tears with a breaking voice and quivering lip: "Ah, but a father never dries up."

++ Watch this portion of the interview and judge for yourself whether Rather engaged in a little dramatic play-acting. Monday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a clip in RealPlayer format. Go to:

To read CBS's transcript of the 60 Minutes story, go to:,1597,184594-412,00.shtml


Network anchors and reporters didn't hesitate to condemn the Miami relatives for releasing video of Elian saying he does not want to go back to Cuba -- just before they all played it. And played it again and again all day Thursday. You don't have to agree with the Cuban-Americans who want Elian to stay put to think it's going a bit far to accuse the relatives of "brainwashing" Elian, but that's just what one MSNBC anchor did last Thursday afternoon.

At about 1:20pm ET on April 13, Mika Brzezinski, one of three anchors of MSNBC's womens' issues-focused Home Page show, interviewed psychologist Robin Goodman. Goodman was not pleased with the public relations move by the Miami family, insisting, "The thing that's also worrisome: Is he afraid of his father or these old women and these other people who he's talking about that would be the people taking him to Cuba, not his father."
Brzezinski jumped in: "It really raises a lot of questions, and I know the question a lot of people are asking is do you think this young boy was brainwashed?"

Goodman answered, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well, you know, it's hard to say exactly what brainwashing would be, but what we know is that six-year-olds will try desperately to do what they think the grownups around them want them to do and say because he doesn't want to jeopardize his position with, right now, the only people that are taking care of him and loving him. It's a terrifying position for him to be in."


ABC and NBC morning show stars didn't see anything propagandistic or disingenuous in Juan Miguel Gonzalez's statement read at Dulles airport live during their April 6 broadcasts, but a week later reporters on both shows were much more discerning about Elian's video, repeatedly wondering if he had been "coached" and if having him tape the video made him a victim of "child abuse."

Back on April 6 NBC's Katie Couric referred to Juan Miguel Gonzalez's "very passionate words" and ABC's Jack Ford insisted "these are his words," as neither raised the likelihood that communist officials wrote the words for him.

Obviously the motivations behind the expressed wishes of a six-year-old are hard to assess and so questioning what led to Elian's words was reasonable, though linking the video to "child abuse" seems extreme, but the two networks betrayed their bias in the case when they failed to raise questions about the legitimacy of the words from Elian's father. (See the April 7 CyberAlert for details on how they assessed his comments.)

-- Thursday morning, April 13, ABC's Good Morning America picked up the video as broadcast by Univision. After showing it, co-host Charles Gibson warned: "This was a home movie made by the family. You don't know to what extent the boy may have been coached, and as I say, this may be an end game strategy by the family to try to influence this. That videotape given to Univision, played this morning, we recorded it, played it back for you."

-- The next day, Friday, NBC's Today caught up with GMA and showed the video, but not before co-host Matt Lauer questioned the motive behind it: "And then what about that videotape of Elian that the family released on Thursday? Was that proper? The last ditch effort of a loving family or was it a desperate manipulative move bordering on child abuse? We'll talk about that as well."

The video really upset Katie Couric. She introduced an interview segment: "Now more on this home videotape that the Miami relatives released of Elian on Thursday. Was that a proper or a desperate manipulative move bordering on child abuse? Maxine Waters is a Democratic congresswoman from Los Angeles and Lincoln Diaz Balart who was born in Cuba is a Republican Congressman from Miami. Good morning to both of you. Congresswoman Waters, let me start with you. After watching the home video that Elian's relatives released Senator Tom Harkin said the family should be charged with child abuse. Do you agree?"

Couric's next question: "Congressman Diaz Balart how do you defend their actions?"
Couric then queried: "So you think making and airing this video is perfectly acceptable, in fact, appropriate?"
She did at least wonder: "Congresswoman Waters shouldn't the little boy's feelings or desires be known if in fact this is the case?"

Interviewing INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, Lauer asked:
"I'd like to ask you about the videotape that was released on Thursday, Commissioner Meissner. It showed Elian sitting on his bed saying things like, 'Poppa I don't want to go back to Cuba. You can go back or you can stay here but I don't want to go back.' Do you think that tape is exploiting this young boy?"

As picked up by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, he took the same angle with Spencer Eig, lawyer for the Miami family:
"Let me ask you about this videotape that was released yesterday showing Elian sitting on the bed saying, 'Poppa I don't want to go back to Cuba.' Is that not exploiting this six year old boy?....But this young boy is obviously being coached by someone behind the camera, isn't that exploiting him?"

-- Friday Good Morning America viewers also heard the "child abuse" charge. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this lengthy question from GMA co-host Charles Gibson to Lazaro Gonzalez's attorney Roger Bernstein:
"Let me turn to this issue of the videotape that was released yesterday morning, in which this boy, a lot of people feel looking coached, says he does not want to go back to Cuba, 'Father, if you'd like to stay here, that's alright, but I don't want to go back.' Some impartial parties, Roger, who have no stake in this case one way or the other, and who are very eminent in the area of child psychology -- Dr. Alvin Poussaint, for instance, at Harvard, says this [quote onscreen] 'is going to make a reunion with his father much more difficult for him, and it is just a shame.' And Poussaint went on to say, 'They have successfully convinced Elian to abandon his father, and that's brutal.' And then on the political scene, someone like Senator Tom-"
Bernstein, interrupting: "Well, may I-"
Gibson: "Let me just quote one other, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, again, who has no part in this case, but said [quote onscreen with elipses], 'the family is flouting the law...they ought to be charged with child abuse [because] that's what it is...flagrant child abuse.'"


A Crossfire-like shouting match erupted Friday morning on CBS's The Early Show over Elian, for once making the program a bit interesting. Bryant Gumbel, naturally, took the liberal side, rejecting the idea that Cuban-American civil disobedience is analogous to the civil rights movement and asking if exploitation of Elian the by Cuban-Americans is "any less reprehensible" than what they claim Castro has done.

For the April 14 segment Gumbel first went to former independent counsel Joseph DiGenova: "In a legal sense, there any legal justification for what's going on in Miami right now?"
DiGenova insisted: "No, none whatsoever, Bryant....This is a tragic situation. The boy has been exploited and that terrible videotape that was shown yesterday is an example of why that community is not enjoying public support."
Gumbel followed up with a leading question: "Do you think that community is now out of control on this issue?"

Turning to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Gumbel demanded: "The Cuban-American community has been supporting clear disobedience of the law. How do you justify that?"
Ros-Lehtinen: "This is just incredible. Now it's become fashionable and okay to slander the Cuban-American exile community when we have shown through 41 years of exile here in the United States that we are a very patriotic community, that we're very thankful that the United States has given us an opportunity to express free ideas. And I think that that's what we have shown, and we are showing this with the Elian case."

Gumbel engaged in an argument with her about whether the family has broken the law. Ros-Lehtinen contended at one point: "We should remember that when slavery was the law in the United States, some people acted with civil disobedience against that. And when women were denied the right to vote, some people acted in civil disobedience against that."
Gumbel retorted: "I'm, I'm not, I'm not sure those are legitimate analogies."

Gumbel soon went to Professor Pam Falk, a CBS consultant, and charged: "Cuban-Americans, Ms. Falk, have been quick to point fingers at Castro for exploiting the little boy. Are their actions any less reprehensible?"
She corrected Gumbel on the law-breaking: "This is a family battle in which both sides have passions. And I think the idea that the Cuban-American community is violating the law is wrong. What they're trying to do is say, 'We won't be party to this, but we will obey the law.'"

The discussion soon became a shouting match between Ros-Lehtinen and DiGenova over the motives of Cuban-Americans.


Bryant Gumbel called the Elian video "the most disgusting thing I've ever seen," rued with Mark McEwen how a kid from Haiti would have been returned immediately and charged that the Miami relatives "don't care about" Elian, but few Early Show viewers heard the discussion. That's because it occurred just after 7:55am in "co-op time," a time used for local news by virtually all but the puniest affiliates.

Fortunately, Early Show transcripts on Nexis include what CBS is sending out during the local news time and I came across this on Friday's show, as provided by Burrelle's to Nexis. After arguing about whether the situation would be different if it were Elian's mother trying to get custody, this exchange took place:

Gumbel: "...I don't know -- I don't know if all of those -- all those people would be out there screaming if it was reuniting a boy with his mother. I really don't know that. I -- I'm not sure."
Co-host Clayson: "This is about Fidel Castro. This is about Cuban-American politics."
Gumbel: "Unfortunately, yeah."
Clayson: "This is not about a mother and a father."
Mark McEwen, weather guy: "The gentleman who sat over there said if the kid was from Haiti..."
Gumbel: "You know as well as I do..."
McEwen: "...he'd back there -- would have been back there the next day."
Gumbel: "You know as -- it -- yeah. I mean, they wouldn't have even let him set foot."
McEwen: "That's right."
Gumbel: "Goodbye."
McEwen: "Yeah."
Gumbel: "But I do think there's a lot of outrage among -- among Americans about what's going on down there. I mean, the number..."
Clayson: "Oh, I do, too."
Gumbel: "The numbers are frightening..."
Clayson: "Well..."
Gumbel: "...among non-Latin whites. I think it's something like 77 percent. And among African-Americans, it's, like, 93 percent."
News reader Julie Chen: "Wow."
McEwen: "It's the kid's father. It's not the neighbor coming to get the child."
Clayson: "That's right. That's right."
McEwen: "It's his father. And these people who didn't know the kid six months ago know best? I don't get that. I don't buy that."
Gumbel: "And they don't care about him."
McEwen: "Nope."
Gumbel: "I mean, they really don't."
Clayson: "Oh, they care somewhat about him."
Gumbel: "Oh, I disagree. I think they care about him as -- I'll tell you, this tape is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen."
Clayson: "Well, I agree with you on that."
Chen: "It is."
Clayson: "But I don't think that's..."
Gumbel: "That tape is disgusting."

And on it went, at least according to the Nexis transcript. It makes me take pity on small market viewers who must endure this chatter every morning.


Looking ahead to Elian's life back in Cuba, CBS's Randall Pinkston on Thursday morning acknowledged that Cubans are not free to speak, but Pinkston insisted "people appear untroubled by the lack of modern conveniences" and believe "that President Castro is responsible for all good things." He spent most of his piece touting or letting Cubans trumpet the Castro-line about educational achievement and free medical care.

MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed Pinkston's piece on the April 13 Early Show. It also appeared in a slightly different form on Saturday's CBS Evening News. Pinkston began the Thursday Early Show story:
"We've been taking a look at what life will probably be like for Elian Gonzalez when he does come back. You know, Cuba is a communist country, free speech doesn't exist here, but people will talk to you and if you listen between the lines you can get a sense of how it will be for Elian when he does return. In Cuba living is unhurried, people appear untroubled by the lack of modern conveniences. In small towns like Cardenas, no running water indoors, open drainage, horse drawn taxis."
Woman as translated by Pinkston: "Life is very good, we have everything in this country. Education is free, so is medical care. Housing is good thanks to our commander Fidel Castro."
Pinkston: "Her testimonial reveals a bedrock of government-fostered belief that President Castro is responsible for all good things. One achievement: life expectancy. Surprisingly Cuba is nearly equal to the United States, due in part to an extensive health care system. Cuba also has one of the highest literacy rates in the Western Hemisphere. Education through college is free, but there are limitations."
Another woman as translated by Pinkston: "Just like everybody, I would like to visit other countries."
Pinkston: "Well, why haven't you gone?"

Woman: "Well, I imagine, I don't know, there are no opportunities."
Pinkston: "With few exceptions Cubans aren't free to leave the country. Yet many have the same dreams for their children as Americans. What do you want your daughter to be when she grows up?"
Third woman: "Whatever she wants."
Pinkston: "The system may change by the time this little girl and Elian are adults, but for now most jobs are government controlled. Salaries are fixed and very low. Everyone depends on government subsidized food allowances and low cost housing. In Cardenas, Elian's hometown, I met a retired boat builder. His pension, approximately $8 a month. Compared to life before Castro, how is it now?"
Man through Pinkston: "Life wasn't good in the other government but we had everything. Now things are very different. You have to see and hear and keep quiet because you can't do anything about it."
Pinkston concluded: "And because they don't want to get in trouble with their government, they won't say what their government should do about it. One thing we do know is that the focus here is on what the American government is going to do about getting Elian out of Miami. They're saying that the US government should use all authority, all federal force to do that. And they're also saying that they will not, whenever Elian comes home, they will not be having a big celebration because they don't want to be accused of doing what the Miami relatives have done. Which is to use Elian as a lighting rod for political purposes."


Al Gore has won over the hearts and wallets of Hollywood moguls and stars, just as Bill Clinton had in 1992. Transferring his Hollywood popularity onto his Vice President, Bill Clinton chose a Saturday night Democratic fundraiser in Beverly Hills to make his first joint campaign appearance with Gore in over a month. Among the celebrities in attendance pitching in donations totaling $2.8 million were, according to Reuters and AP: Steven Spielberg, Kevin Spacey, Melanie Griffith, Antonio Banderas, Ron Howard and Jimmy Smits. In an unusual decision, the press was allowed to cover the event.

And for those who thought David Letterman treated George Bush poorly earlier this year, Al Gore has a friend on NBC in the same time slot. Another name on the guest list: Jay Leno.

An early morning Reuters dispatch on April 16 by Thomas Ferraro reported:

Hollywood celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg and Kevin Spacey donated $2.8 million at a Democratic fundraiser on Saturday night that featured President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore....

Gore suggested it would be a mistake to turn the reins over to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, his Republican rival, who favors using the record surplus to fund what the Vice President said would be "a risky tax scheme."

"It would be like a bunch of investors saying, 'Let's get rid of the team that made (Academy Award-winning movie) 'American Beauty' and get the one that made 'Howard the Duck,'" Gore said, drawing laughter and applause.

Clinton got another round of applause and laughter when he went to the microphone and said, "I loved 'American Beauty,' ... but I actually loved 'Howard the Duck.'"....

Other entertainment figures at Saturday's gala included Melanie Griffith, Antonio Banderas, Ron Howard, Jay Leno and Jimmy Smits.

END Excerpt

In an April 16 AP story, Scott Lindlaw filled in some details:

....The two men came together later in Beverly Hills for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser that netted at least $2.8 million.

Music mogul and Democratic superdonor David Geffen was hosting the event with DreamWorks SKG co-founders Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Singers Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow attended, as did Jay Leno actors Kevin Spacey, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Smits, Kim Delaney, Rene Russo, Edward James Olmos and Antonio Banderas.

The politicians and the stars mingled on the balcony of Greystone Mansion, a gothic castle overlooking downtown Los Angeles and, for a night, a knot of protesters. It is reputed to be the largest home ever built in Beverly Hills.

END Excerpt


Update. The April 13 CyberAlert cited an April 12 NBC Nightly News story by Roger O'Neil, who in a report from Denver promoted a misleading 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."

CyberAlert suggested that most of those annual deaths were not the accidental type the word "children" conjures up, but of older teens.

Indeed, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens alerted me to a March 3 NRA report, which explained:

On March 2, 2000, President Clinton tried to persuade the public to support so-called "Triggerlock" and "smart" gun laws, by falsely claiming that 13 children are killed with guns every day. (NBC "Today Show") The claim is commonly made by anti-gun politicians and activists....

The statement is simply untrue. To reach the fraudulent "13 children" figure (alternately and even more dishonestly expressed by some "gun control" advocates as "5,000 per year" or "one every 90 seconds"), the President and those with the same agenda count anyone under the age of 20 as a "child." The reason is simple: There are relatively few firearm-related deaths among children, but a much greater number among juveniles and young adults ages 15-19. Add both age groups together, call that total "children," and the number of deaths among "children" is dishonestly increased 569%....

End Excerpt

To read the report, go to:

In case you were wondering, Patriot's Day is a holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts commemorating the April 19, 1775 battle of Lexington and Concord -- back when Bay Staters still cared about high taxes and liberty and realized it might be beneficial to have armed citizens. -- Brent Baker

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