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The Cuban Payola Scandal That Wasn’t
By Humberto Fontova | September 15, 2006

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, leftie blogs are all
gloating, 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 left-wing mantra has it that those rich, dastardly,
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 1/300th 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, leftists 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 leftists. The symptoms quickly manifest in the left-wing

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 er
udite 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 it thinks.

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’

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. Today’s gloating and
name-calling critics will never undergo “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 all the
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

By the way, that CNN bureau’s long-time reporter, Lucia Newman, recently
moved over to Al-Jazeera. I think they call this a “lateral career move.”

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. How interesting.

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 the Castro regime.
Her specialty was U.S. bashing. 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.

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