Orlando Sentinel Editor Plays Softball with Castro-backer Hugo Chavez

"Softball Chavez Interview From Leader of U.S. Editors"

That's not exactly the kind of headline Charlotte Hall would like to see on Cuba Solidarity Day, but it's how Gawker summed up the Orlando Sentinel editor's sit-down with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Hall, who also serves as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, pitched a friendly game of softball with Castro regime backer Chavez recently.

From Gawker:

In her Chavez profile, Hall did eventually, if briefly and obliquely, reference the missile charges against Chavez. She also included two sentences, near the end of her article, about Chavez's suppression of opposition media. But the article's few skeptical notes were overshadowed by the warm overall tone and Hall's smile in the accompanying picture.

You can judge for yourself by reading Hall's May 18 interview here. Here's but one excerpt that conveys Hall's "warm overall tone" in spite of Chavez's history of silencing political critics:

Chávez jokingly referred to himself as a "prisoner" of the palace who is simply driven or flown from place to place with no freedom and that retirement could mean family time, baseball (the love of his youth) and painting and singing (other favorite pastimes).

But then he said, "My fear is that when I leave this palace, I will never abandon politics. A decent amount of people will not let me get too far from politics. When I leave I will do whatever the revolution demands of me." That could be teaching, which he loves, he said.

Last year Chávez, 53, tried unsuccessfully to push through changes in the constitution that would have permitted the president to serve an unlimited number of terms. The narrow defeat of the proposal in December has energized the opposition.

Isn't that sweet? Chavez feels so imprisoned by the trappings of power that he sought to be constitutionally eligible to rig elections to keep him in his presidential mansion indefinitely.

Hall's soft treatment of Chavez is particularly vexing in journalistic circles given her position as a spokeswoman for American journalism and defender of the freedom of press. After all, Reporters Without Borders, an international journalist safety watchdog group, ranks Venezuela and Cuba numbers 114 and 165 respectively in its Press Freedom Index.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.