Still Fronting for Fidel at the New York Times - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Still Fronting for Fidel at the New York Times

The left’s longtime moral-political blindness to communist dictatorships never ceases to amaze, and few cases have been as consistently and wondrously spectacular as the New York Times, from the likes of Walter Duranty apologizing for Stalin in the 1930s to Herbert Matthews resurrecting Fidel Castro in the 1950s. As to the latter, the Times has fronted for the Castro regime for a half-century and counting. The newest exhibit is a jaw-dropping piece in the July 5 edition, where the target is not (of course) Fidel or Raul Castro but (predictably) an anti-communist Republican, and a presidential contender—Marco Rubio.

“Cabaiguan, Cuba—In the lush countryside and teeming city neighborhoods where Senator Marco Rubio’s family cut sugar cane, toiled in tobacco mills and scraped by to make a better life for their children, the first Cuban-American to have a plausible chance to become president of the United States is the island’s least favorite son.” So begins the article by Times reporter Jason Horowitz. And so begins the article with a fatal flaw from the outset, namely: There is no way—absolutely none—that any foreign reporter on this prison-island where dissent is brutally punished could possibly expect to get an accurate representation of whether Marco Rubio is favored. Quite the contrary, if Citizen X says Rubio is bad, he’s likely telling us Rubio is good. Either way, no Cuban in this thoroughly unfree country can freely speak to a foreign reporter on something like this. It will not happen.

Nonetheless, the Times proceeded. What the article said next would be laughable if not so sad.

“If Marco Rubio becomes president, we’re done for,” Héctor Montiel, 66, told the Times, offering a vigorous thumbs-down as he sat on the Havana street where Rubio’s father grew up. “He’s against Cuba in every possible way. Hillary Clinton understands much more the case of Cuba. Rubio and these Republicans, they are still stuck in 1959.”

The ironies here are numerous. For starters, Cuba, in point of direct and observable fact, is stuck in 1959, courtesy of the Castro boys and their ideological marriage to Marxism. Second, what Mr. Montiel has just told the world, through an inexpressibly naïve New York Times, is that Marco Rubio—and not Hillary Clinton—better understands the case of Cuba.

And yet, the Times, unfazed, employed this implicitly unreliable “criticism” by a repressed citizen as some sort of serviceable evidence against Rubio. Look at the next line: “Resistance to Fidel Castro’s Communist government has served as the foundation of Mr. Rubio’s personal and political identity…. He has argued for years that normalized relations with the United States would only strengthen an oppressive Cuban government that impoverishes its people, limits access to information and violates human rights.”

To further indict Rubio (not Castro), the Times grabbed another Cuban unfree to speak his true feelings about Rubio, about Castro, about the banning of boats, about the banning of private garden plots, about the banning of free press, about the monitoring of foreigners, about the manipulation of reporters by the regime’s handlers: “He wants to kill us!” Alain Marcelo, 46, told the Times, as he sat outside his majestic “shack” emblazoned with yellow “Viva Fidel y Raúl” graffiti. “He’s our enemy!”

The “he” here is Marco Rubio, not a Castro.

Reverse the terms of this quotation and you’ll get closer to the truth: “He [Castro] wants to kill us!” Alain Marcelo, 46, told the Times, as he sat outside his majestic “shack” emblazoned with yellow “Muerte Fidel y Raúl” graffiti. “[Castro is] our enemy!”

The Castros have killed numerous Cubans, and impoverished and enslaved many more. The Castros have been Cuba’s enemy for over a half-century. Cuba’s enemy sure as heck hasn’t been Marco Rubio.

Nonetheless, next follows this from the Times: “As Mr. Rubio has intensified his opposition, Cubans have begun to view him as the most prominent of American hangmen.”

Who’s the hangman for Cubans? Marco Rubio.

Alas, this is why I quit reading the New York Times years ago. It became hazardous to my mental and physical health. I read it now only to collect instances that confirm my research on communist dupery of liberals, where the Times has remained a source of inexhaustible, unmatchable value.

All of this is, in a word, breathtaking. But tragically—yes, tragically for so many Cuban people over the decades—this kind of ideological-intellectual insanity for Castro by the New York Times is old hat. The most insidious example was the infamous case of Herbert Matthews.

Matthews’ extraordinarily biased and influential reports from Cuba, based on exclusive interviews with Fidel and pals in hiding, breathed entirely new life into Fidel’s movement, which the world had given up for dead. Che Guevara himself would later contend, “When the world had given us up for dead, the interview with Matthews put the lie to our disappearance.”

Matthews’ page-one, three-part series on Castro first appeared in the New York Times on February 24, 1957. It was a blockbuster. I cannot give all the details here. For more, read my chapter in my short book, All the Dupes Fit to Print. But in short, it was a horrible piece of “journalistic” work. Matthews upheld Castro to the American public (and wider world) as a sort of blessed hybrid of George Washington and FDR. Castro, according to Matthews, offered “a new deal for Cuba, radical, democratic and therefore anti-Communist.” He framed Fidel as not just a democrat and anti-communist, but a constitutionalist, a beacon of liberty, an advocate of freedom and free elections, an anti-colonialist, an anti-imperialist, a champion of social justice … and an extraordinarily eloquent one at that. Wrote Matthews:

Senor Castro speaks some English, but he preferred to talk in Spanish, which he did with extraordinary eloquence. His is a political mind rather than a military one. He has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the Constitution, to hold elections…. “Above all,” he said, “we are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to the dictatorship.” … “[Our] soldiers … will serve a free, democratic Cuba.”

Ah, yes—a free and democratic Cuba. Whatever happened to that?

Herbert Matthews’ article was a masterstroke for the communist cause. It is no exaggeration to say that the Daily Worker itself could not have produced such a powerful piece of political propaganda. After all, such a piece would not have been believed in the Daily Worker, but the Times was the Times—daily bread for the liberal/progressive masses. (“Give us this day our New York Times.”) The impact of his article was huge for Castro, and a major blow to the efforts of anti-communists (the relatives of Marco Rubio) who wanted to save their island from a man who would soon take all their property and most basic civil liberties.

Conservatives would later joke, quite uneasily, that Castro had gotten his job through the New York Times.

Unfortunately, this kind of service by the New York Times has not ended. A new generation of Times reporters is picking up the torch, educated at universities that teach that the only bad thing about communism was Joe McCarthy. In the latest chapter in the Times’ book on Castro, it frames Marco Rubio, the anti-communist, as Cubans’ bad guy, their anti-liberator.

The goal this time appears to be to help Hillary Clinton get her job, as well as help the Castro brothers keep theirs.

Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is Editor of The American Spectator. Dr. Kengor is also a professor of political science at Grove City College, a senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values, and the author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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