Fidel Castro and his pals at the New York Times

Fidel Castro and his pals at the New York Times

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New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in 1960. Photo, Columbia University.
New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in 1960. Photo, Columbia University.

WASHINGTON, December 19, 2014 — In 1957, the FBI’s man in Havana had little to say in his report to Washington concerning the American journalist he was shadowing. “Available information in this office as well as that available to other interested Embassy agencies, fails to substantiate claim.”

The “claim,” made by the Cuban government of Fulgencio Batista, was that New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews might be a communist or had “leftist tendencies.”

Prior news reports said Fidel Castro had died in a battle with government forces in the high country of the Sierra Maestra. Matthews — like the 19th century journalist Henry Morton Stanley, who marched across Africa to find the elusive Dr. Livingston — was more than delighted to have found his man.

“No one connected with the outside world, let alone with the press, has seen Senor Castro except this writer. No one in Havana, not even at the United States Embassy with its resources for getting information,” the gushing Matthews reported.

Of Castro’s merry band of bearded brothers, Matthews insisted their “program is vague and couched in generalities, but it amounts to a new deal for Cuba, radical, democratic and therefore anti-Communist.”

“Above all,” Castro told Matthews, “we are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to the dictatorship.”

By 1961, when Castro’s communist leanings were clear for all to see, Matthews was hesitant to believe his lying eyes.

“Once Fidel Castro’s regime was labeled Communistic, for the most part it became almost impossible for the American journalists and editors to go against the overwhelming public, although it was the press that created the hostile opinion — like Frankenstein’s monster.”

Poisoning America’s view of the Cuban Revolution, said Matthews to University of Michigan students, without a hint of irony, “was the intense emotionalism with which the American press covered the executions following Castro’s triumph.”

Two years later Soviet nuclear missiles based in Cuba triggered a U.S.-Soviet crisis that nearly brought the world to war.

Some interesting facts concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis came to light during a conference on the super-power contest held at Harvard University in 1989. Sergei Khrushchev, son of the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, released a letter that his father received from Castro in the midst of the crisis.

“If the imperialists actually carry out the brutal act of invading Cuba in violation of international law and morality,” a desperate Castro barked at his Soviet masters, “that would be the moment to eliminate such danger forever through an act of clear and legitimate defense, however harsh and terrible the solution would be, for there is no other.”

“Is he proposing that we start a nuclear war?” said a shocked Nikita Khrushchev, “This is insane.”

Shortly thereafter, Khrushchev agreed to remove Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba provided President Kennedy promised the U.S. government would never invade the socialist prison island.

That means the life of 9-year-old future director Michael Moore narrowly escaped nuclear incineration as demanded by the Caribbean dictator he and his socialist-chic Hollywood comrades so admire.

Last November, an editorial appeared in the New York Times advising the Cuban government to release American hostage Alan Gross in a prisoner exchange.

“If Alan Gross died in Cuban custody,” warned the Times, “the prospect of establishing a healthier relationship with Cuba would be set back for years. This is an entirely avoidable scenario, as Mr. Obama can easily grasp, but time is of the essence.”

The Times failed to explain why it is in America’s interest to save the isolated communist anachronism. No matter, President Obama took their advice. The U.S. will extend diplomatic relations with Cuba and add the imprisoned island to the long list of Latin American nations it is the distinct privilege of American taxpayers to subsidize.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose members do business overseas, love Obama’s outreach to Cuba. “Cuba has changed some of its economic policies to lessen government control of ownership of Cuban businesses,” said a statement from the Chamber, “and subsequently, their private sector is growing.”

Who knows, American business might be able to do for Cuba what it’s done for China: exploit slave labor to produce cheap products for Wal-Mart while bolstering the economic and military strength of a repressive, totalitarian regime.

Ernesto Londoño, a member of the New York Times’ editorial board, insists that he and his colleague’s prisoner-swap advice to Cuba and the U.S. government was not “a trial balloon from the [Obama] administration to see how these issues would play out in public opinion,” Londoño told the Washington Post.

The historic bond between the New York Times and the Castro regime bears that out.

“You have taken quite a risk in coming here,” Fidel told Times’ correspondent Herbert Matthews in his jungle hideout in 1957, “but we have the whole area covered, and we will get you out safely.”

“There was one road block to get through with an Army guard so suspicious our hearts sank, but he let us through,” Matthews recalled.

“After that, washed, shaved and looking once again like an American tourist, with my wife as ‘camouflage,’ we had no trouble driving back through the road blocks to safety and then on to Havana. So far as anyone knew, we had been away fishing for the week-end, and no one bothered us as we took the plane to New York.”

What columnist George E. Sokolsky wrote of the morally depraved Matthews in 1961 can be applied to the newspaper that employed him.

As a people, we do not usually enjoy wholesale murder. In fact, we do not enjoy them even retail. Perhaps that is why bull-fighting never took hold in this country. Murder is very unpopular except on TV and there nothing is real. Perhaps we could have liked Castro better, had he killed fewer Cubans. It would seem that Herbert Matthews is too defensive of an actual and manifest evil and that history unfortunately is giving his ideas a raw deal.

Then along comes the “transformative” Obama to reverse history’s trend and give Castro and Matthews’ dying, discredited “ideas” a shot in the arm.


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