CyberAlert -- 04/28/2000 -- Reno Showed Her "Humanity"

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Reno Showed Her "Humanity"; Elian Adjusting "Very Well"; CNN's Controlled Town Meeting

1) ABC led with how the officer in charge of the Elian raid "felt surrounded by danger." NBC and CBS stressed Janet Reno's concern for Elian: "She tells reporters...her thoughts were focused on the boy" and "Janet Reno may have shown her humanity."

2) NBC's Today and Nightly News picked up how Donato Dalrymple really isn't a fisherman, as if it matters. "Another blow to the extended Miami family," Tom Brokaw intoned, "one of their stars is not quite what everyone thought."

3) Elian "seems to be adjusting to his new life very well," Tom Brokaw gushed, with "friends and relatives arriving from Cuba to keep him company." But the Washington Times reported ten Cuban officials, including two First Secretaries, visited him at Wye.

4) Margaret Carlson asserted that having defended "the police who've gunned down innocent people," Rudy Giuliani has a "political tin ear" to complain about Reno's "stormtroopers."

5) U.S. News contrarians. Steve Roberts found the use of force "unreasonable" and Michael Barone compared the return of Elian to Cuba with the turn back of Jews from Nazi Germany. (Carl Bernstein rued Cold War thinking, insisting fathers trump totalitarianism.)

6) Media Reality Check fax report: "CNN's Dishonest Hillary Town Meeting: Network Failed to Tell Viewers or Web Visitors That Questioners Were Screened Before Show." Hillary: "She's hot."

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Classes Elian Gonzalez Has Missed."

8) Words you thought you'd never hear on network news: "A boom in consumer spending not seen since Ronald Reagan's first term."

>>> "Third time's the charm" for Reno. The Conventional Wisdom box in this week's Newsweek gave a sideways arrow to Reno: "Better late than never. Waco. Ruby Ridge. The third time's the charm." Yeah, she's gone from killing dozens to just terrorizing a few people. This quote was culled from the latest MagazineWatch about the May 1 editions, compiled by the MRC's Paul Smith and Tim Graham. The items covered:

1. The Clinton administration's raid to seize Elian Gonzalez received fairly straight coverage from Time and U.S. News & World Report, but Newsweek found "fiery...hotheads" and "militants" among the anti-Castro Cuban Americans.

2. Using the power of suggestion, Time's gay activist/reporter John Cloud wove together the Boy Scouts of America and the Ku Klux Klan over whether the Scouts have any freedom to associate.

3. Among the "Washington Whispers" at U.S. News: "Aides laughed out loud" when Hillary told New York voters "she's a hunter just like them," but she was awarded a license in Arkansas.

4. U.S. News Editor at Large David Gergen mysteriously argued Congress should grant Elian citizenship -- after he's sent back to Cuba.

To read these reports on the news weeklies, go to the April 25 MagazineWatch: <<<


The INS officer in charge of the Elian raid "said his officers felt surrounded by danger," and thus were justified in using force, ABC's Linda Douglass reported at the top of Thursday's World News Tonight.

CBS and NBC led with Rudy Giuliani's revelation that he has prostate cancer, but both shows ran pieces which highlighted how Janet Reno really had Elian's interest at heart. "She tells reporters that at the moment she ordered the raid her thoughts were focused on the boy," NBC's Pete Williams stressed in quoting Reno as worrying "how frightened" would Elian be when picked up by a stranger, but that she soon contrasted that with how "I wish that I could see him when his daddy gets on the plane." Byron Pitts assessed on the CBS Evening News that in displaying such concern and hope, "Janet Reno may have shown her humanity today." For the second day in a row, Pitts tried to discredit Marisleysis by relating how the government psychiatrist claimed Elian's feeling for her "are similar to the romantic feelings of a schoolboy for his teacher...or a wished-for girlfriend.'"

NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw declared: "And another blow to the extended Miami family today, one of their stars is not quite what everyone thought." The subsequent story picked up on a Washington Post report that Donato Dalrymple really isn't a fisherman, but was just along for the day when he came across Elian, as if that matters. See item #2 today for more.

Elian highlights from the broadcast network evening shows of Thursday, April 27:

-- ABC's World News Tonight opened with Linda Douglass showing soundbites from an interview with Nightline by James Goldman, the INS agent who led the raid: "The INS team leader said even before agents ordered the Miami relatives to open the door, people in and around the house tried to keep them out."
Goldman claimed: "The first thing I saw as the van doors were sliding open, was people yelling commands on the front lawn of Lazaro's home, directing people to form a human chain and just basically screaming and barking orders. And you could see where the organized resistance was beginning."

He also reported that those inside used a couch to black the door as those outside also worked to impede the officers: "It was a threatening environment, it got overwhelming at certain points. The people absolutely fought to prevent us to getting to the front door."

Douglass laid out the potential danger: "Goldman said his officers felt surrounded by danger. He said intelligence reports indicated some in the daily crowd had been convicted for gun crimes, and some may have belonged to an anti-Castro paramilitary group called Alpha 66."

Douglass also noted how agents were concerned about activity in the house behind the Gonzalez home. Goldman related how they learned the residents "were identified as Cuban Americans and that four of the five of them had significant criminal convictions for a variety of violent crimes."

Concluding her piece, Douglass noted that "the government has decided to aggressively promote its version of events in advance of next week's Senate hearings."

Of course, none of these charges addresses the fundamental question of the justification for deciding to seize Elian.

-- CBS Evening News. Byron Pitts noted how "four playmates arrived from Havana for a classroom reunion" with Elian before he briefly relayed how Reno claimed officers met resistance, such as a couch blocking the door and that someone grabbed the female agent carrying Elian.
Pitts then passed along, without rebuttal: "And more insight today on the relationship between Elian and his cousin Marisleysis, often described in the past five months as his surrogate mother. According to a written affidavit by the government psychiatrist who interviewed the six-year-old, Elian did not see her as a maternal figure. 'His feelings for Marisleysis,' the doctor wrote, 'are similar to the romantic feelings of a schoolboy for his teacher...or a wished-for girlfriend.'" [ellipses as in text on screen]

After reporting how an appeals court rejected the request by the relatives for visitation and a guardian, over video of the raid Pitts painted Reno as a real humanitarian: "Even the U.S. Attorney General wondered out loud what many in America were wondering when they first saw these images."
Reno: "How he would feel suddenly being put in the hands of a stranger, what would he think, how frightened would he be. And I kept thinking, I wish that I could see him when his daddy gets on the plane."
Pitts concluded: "Janet Reno may have shown her humanity today, but the Justice Department showed us the bill. The Elian Gonzalez saga has already cost U.S. taxpayers $578,000."

-- NBC Nightly News. Pete Williams noted how four of Elian's classmates had arrived and that the court had denied the request from the relatives for access and a guardian. He then ran through how the INS claims to have met resistance during the raid and played a soundbite from the same INS agent featured on ABC. Williams added that the INS insisted the gun carried by the officer in the infamous photo had the safety in the on position.

Williams moved on to Reno's spin: "Attorney General Reno defends the operation as a legitimate show of force. She tells reporters that at the moment she ordered the raid her thoughts were focused on the boy."
Reno: "What would he think, how frightened would he be. And I kept thinking, I wish that I could see him when his daddy gets on the plane."


"The real story behind the man who calls himself Elian's savior," Tom Brokaw promised in plugging an upcoming story on the April 27 NBC Nightly News about the man who held Elian in the closet and is credited with pulling Elian from the ocean. Brokaw introduced the piece: "And another blow to the extended Miami family today, one of their stars is not quite what everyone thought."

Without mentioning the Washington Post, Fredricka Whitfield summarized an April 27 Post story on how Donato Dalrymple is really not a fisherman but a house cleaner who agreed to drive his cousin's boat for a day as his cousin, Sam Ciancio, fished. Ciancio said he's the one who really dove into the water to save Elian. Whitfield related how Ciancio claimed Dalrymple really thinks Elian should be with his father. Since the rescue, the two cousin have had a falling out as Whitfield relayed how Ciancio thinks Dalrymple "has used a six-year-old boy to find fame."

As if journalists don't choose TV over a newspaper for the fame and celebrity.

Thursday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Katie Couric asked Andrea Mitchell: "Alright, let me ask you finally about this fisherman, Donato Dalrymple. The one who rescued Elian five months ago and then tried to hide him in the closet when federal agents rushed in last weekend. I understand there is new information about him, this morning."
Mitchell: "Katie, yes. A lot of people were wondering about Dalrymple and what he was doing at the house when the agents rushed in the middle of the night. Well the Washington Post reports this morning reports that he is no fisherman. He cleans houses for a living. Thanksgiving day, the day he rescued Elian was the very first time he'd ever gone fishing and he wasn't fishing he was driving the boat for his cousin."

"He is no fisherman." I hadn't realized it was such a noble profession which no one should dare lay false claim to performing.


The networks noted Thursday night how classmates from Cuba had arrived at the Wye River Plantation to keep Elian company, but didn't bother to inform viewers of what the Washington Times reported the State Department had admitted earlier in the day: Ten Cuban government officials visited Elian the day he moved to Wye.

Thursday night ABC's Peter Jennings relayed: "Young Gonzalez got some new Cuban company today, four schoolmates arrived from Havana to spend a couple of weeks with him and his father in Maryland."

Though he had no independent verification, NBC's Tom Brokaw passed along how Elian is adjusting "very well" to his new surroundings: "The youngster seems to be adjusting to his new life very well with still more friends and relatives arriving from Cuba to keep him company."

In a story on the front page of the April 28 Washington Times, reporters Tom Carter and Jerry Seper disclosed:

The State Department allowed 10 Cuban government officials to visit Elian Gonzalez the day he was moved to a Maryland estate in what government critics say is an attempt to turn the compound into a "Cuban re-education camp."

The names of the Cubans who visited Wye Plantation on Tuesday were not released, although a State Department list said the group -- remarkable for the care of a small group of children -- included two first secretaries, one second secretary, two counselors, four support officers and the "spouse of second secretary." The reason for the visits was described as delivering supplies.

One of the first secretaries is believed to be Armando Collazo, who is suspected in an attack earlier this month on anti-Castro demonstrators outside the Cuban Interests Section.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican, Thursday charged that the boy was "being placed under a systematic program of brainwashing and it is being done on U.S. soil, under the protection of U.S. officials. What do a dozen Cuban state security agents have to do with the bonding process between a father and a son. It is monstrous and Orwellian."

Cuban President Fidel Castro, in a speech in Havana this week, insisted it was essential to immediately begin Elian's "rehabilitation" process to recover from the trauma of his "kidnap" by the Miami relatives and his dramatic "rescue" by armed U.S. agents last weekend....

END Excerpt

To read the entire story, go to:


Rudy Giuliani has no standing to complain about how Janet Reno sent in "stormtroopers" to get Elian, Time magazine's Margaret Carlson asserted on Thursday's Good Morning America. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught the charge in Carlson's assessment of how Hillary Clinton performed in CNN's "town meeting" the night before:
"Elian Gonzalez, the less you say the better. Nobody wins, you know, saying too much on Elian Gonzalez, and I think she handled that just perfectly and Rudy being Rudy -- and I take most of my, you know, I read Gail Collins [of The New York Times] all the time because she's following that race so closely -- you know, when Rudy is pure Rudy, he's not good, and after, you know, being known for, you know, defending the police who've gunned down innocent people, for him to call this, you know, stormtroopers and wade into the middle of it seems, you know, a political tin ear at best."


CyberAlerts this week have quoted many reporters who supported Reno's raid, including all the mainstream outlet journalists on Capital Gang and Inside Washington over the weekend, but a couple of reporters weren't thrilled with it. On Sunday's CNN Late Edition Steve Roberts of U.S. News did not think the use of force was justified and Tuesday night his U.S. News colleague Michael Barone compared the return of Elian to Cuba with how the U.S. turned back Jews from Nazi Germany while Watergate veteran Carl Bernstein rued Cold War thinking and maintained father's right trump totalitarianism.

-- CNN's April 23 Late Edition. Steve Roberts declared:
"The whole way this raid was conducted, Janet Reno's impatience certainly justified, but the use of force I think not justified. I think that picture that's become so famous around the world shows that the force was unreasonable the way it was applied. I think the administration will pay a political price, and they should, but also in terms of the courts, this administration has said there's only one issue, and that is who speaks for the boy, and it's the father and therefore end of story. The courts have already said that there are questions to be considered. What about the boy's mother who did try to bring him here to freedom? What about the interests of the child? I think there are arguments within the legal framework that this administration has been blind to, and I think Connie Mack has a point."

-- Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC/CNBC on April 25. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this exchange:
Michael Barone: "I think that Gore is hurt for the moment but the United States hurts in the long run, Chris. Because it was just like the St. Louis with a ship load full of Jewish refugees from Europe before World War II. We turned it back from our port. Those people went there, were killed. This is a spectacle of Bill Clinton and the incompetent Attorney General Janet Reno turning over a child to totalitarian government. They had been trying assiduously, although sometimes stumbling to do that. I think it's a moment of shame for the United States. And if a majority of people approve it in the polls it is even more so a moment of shame. As the St. Louis was."
Carl Bernstein, who is now fronting for "I think that all the vitriol is not quite justified. I think first of all the idea that we're re-fighting the Cold War."
Barone: "Well is it a totalitarian country or not?!"
Bernstein: "That we're re-fighting the Cold War, now that we're finally past it, is ridiculous."
Barone: "Well is it a totalitarian country or not?"
Bernstein: "Of course, of course it is. But this child..."
Barone: "Do we want to send people back to totalitarian?"
Bernstein: "Just let me say the kid ought to be with his father."


"CNN's Dishonest Hillary Town Meeting: Network Failed to Tell Viewers or Web Visitors That Questioners Were Screened Before Show." The latest Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check fax report, written by the MRC's Tim Graham, is now up on the MRC's home page, thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul. Go to or read it below:

On Wednesday night's Inside Politics, Bernard Shaw asked Wolf Blitzer to explain the format of their Late Edition "town meeting" with Hillary Clinton at 10 PM ET at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Blitzer replied: "The format is open ended. I'll start off with a few questions of my own, some hopefully news-worthy kinds of questions, then we're opening it up. There will be about 300, almost 400 people here and they'll ask whatever is on their mind, whether it's issues involving New York state, national issues, or international issues. Remember, a Senator from New York -- every Senator deals with all these kinds of issues, and so I'm sure there will be a wide range of questions, and if necessary I will follow up and make sure that the necessary follow up is there as well."

Blitzer was dishonest. It wasn't "open-ended." Buffalo News Washington Bureau Chief Douglas Turner reported that university officials submitted to CNN all the names of students attending to CNN, and that "Questions from university students have been screened by CNN staff members." University administrators gave CNN students' phone numbers. One student, Eric Judka, told the News that CNN contacted him and asked if he would like to ask a question. "They said they would be contacting me between 4 and 5 (p.m.) to ask me the nature of the question."

In a conversation with the MRC, Turner explained that Blitzer and other CNN officials didn't return phone calls for 24 hours before he talked to spokeswoman Kelly Keane. He called their behavior "slippery," especially CNN's calls for student questions on Tuesday afternoon for a Wednesday night broadcast. Although no one found evidence that Hillary received questions in advance, Turner suggested "That's an embarrassingly long period of time for mischief to occur."

In today's New York Times, Blitzer said "Mrs. Clinton had not requested, and CNN would not have permitted her to have, any control over what questions would be asked or who would be admitted to the hall. Mr. Blitzer said that CNN reviewed questions from audience members only to ensure variety and to avoid repetition, and screened the audience to make certain that it included only registered voters who live in New York." (In fairness to CNN, the ideological tilt of questions was fairly balanced -- but there were zero questions about any Clinton scandal.)

In comments before, during, and after the show, Blitzer never explained to viewers that the questions and questioners were screened in advance. Today's Amy Paulson report on doesn't include it either. A Nexis search found CNN analyst Bill Schneider appeared once and Blitzer appeared twice this morning without mentioning the screening.

CNN's Frank Buckley ended a story early this morning with a very vague reference that "his [Giuliani's] campaign, in a statement issued earlier, described Mrs. Clinton's event as carefully scripted, totally contrived and utterly fake."

All reporters, with the exception of an Associated Press reporter and photographer, were excluded by CNN from the auditorium, including the SUNY-Buffalo student newspaper. In all of the overnight dispatches filed, AP's Marc Humbert never mentioned the screened questions or the exclusion of his colleagues. He did find space for a man who disliked Clinton to praise Hillary: "She's hot."

END Reprint


From the April 27 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Classes Elian Gonzalez Has Missed." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "The Proper Way To Greet an INS Officer Sticking a Gun in Your Face"
9. "Don't Show and Not Allowed To Tell"
8. "How To Be Good at Baseball, But Not Great 'Cause Then You'll Defect"
7. "Conversational North Korean, So You Can Speak With Practically the Only Other Commies Left"
6. "Band-Aid Restoration and Re-Use"
5. "Ricky Ricardo: The Only Good American President"
4. "The Internet: What It Is and Why We Won't Let You Use It"
3. "Horse and Carriage Driver's Ed"
2. "Two Plus Two Equals Whatever Fidel Says It Equals"
1. "Nutritious, Well-Balanced Meals: Who Needs 'Em?"

And from the Late Show Web site, some of the "also-rans" which did not make the final cut:

-- "Maintenance and Repair of 50-Year-0ld Cars"
-- "Testifying Against Traitors In Your Family"
-- "Plato, Socrates, Castro and Other Great Thinkers"
-- "The Cuban Computer: A History of the Pencil"
-- "Cuba on One Dollar a Year"
-- "Terrible Things That Could Happen To You If You Think"


Words you thought you'd never hear from a network reporter: Economy now as good as during the Reagan years. CBS reporter Russ Mitchell in an April 27 CBS Evening News story:

"In the first three months of this year the economy grew at an annual rate of almost five-and-a-half percent, triggered by a boom in consumer spending not seen since Ronald Reagan's first term."

But don't count on the media bemoaning a new decade of greed any time soon. -- Brent Baker

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