MTP: NYT’s Helene Cooper Praises Castro, Scolds ‘American View’ of Him

In the wake of the death of Cuba’s brutal dictator, Fidel Castro, President Barack Obama released a statement that failed to condemn him for his crimes. The statement left NBC’s Meet The Press moderator Chuck Todd perplexed on Sunday, asking The New York Times’ Helene Cooper “Why was it so positive?” Cooper blamed Todd’s confusion on “a very Americano-centric view of Cuba,” and argued that Obama had a more nuanced understanding of Castro.

She denounced America’s understanding of Castro, “which is Castro as the, you know, satanic demon.” “But I think what President Obama’s statement reflects is that nobody in the rest of the world sort of agrees with you,” she stated before going on to praise the communist dictator and recalling how she grew up admiring him:

The Castro that I grew up knowing as a child growing up in Liberia was a Castro who fought the South African apartheid regime that the United States was propping up. It was a Castro that sent Cuban soldiers into Angola and helped to bring down apartheid South Africa. And so there's a lot of—There’s a lot of ambivalence when you look Fidel Castro that’s usually not reflected here. I think what President Obama's statement was doing was reflecting that. But I know you disagree with me.

But Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute quickly retorted Cooper’s depiction of Castro as a hero, and reminded viewers of who Castro really was. “You can't forget that he did this all on the backs of the Cuban people,” she said forcefully, “This was an absolute dictatorship that crushed this island beneath their jack booted heel.” She then listed off the numerous other murderous bands that he supported from around the world:

Summarily shot people for disagreeing with the Castros, for 50 years they have been -- they murdered their political opponents and supported groups like Hezbollah, Iran, Maduro and before that Chavez, the FARC, and others. Let's not forget who he is to America.

Cooper’s only response was to try and brush off the facts by responding, “Again, this is a very American-centric view of Castro.” So, does every Cuban fleeing Cuba on makeshirst boats have an "Americano-centrist view" of Castro and his atrocities?

Matt Bai from Yahoo! News chimed in to share how frustrated he thought Obama felt because of Castro’s death. Bai whined that when Obama was elected he was supposed be the millennials turning a page on history, but, “History just wouldn't quite get out of his way on his timetable. And here it is the very closing act of his presidency and finally he gets Castro out of his way too late.

Transcript below:

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NBC
Meet The Press
November 27, 2016
11:20:44 AM Eastern

CHUCK TODD: And I think the question is obviously, what -- of what president Obama has done gets left in by Donald Trump. But before we go way from President Obama, his statement yesterday got a lot of people upset because of what it didn't say. Let me put it up. Here is what he said on Castro:

“We know that this moment fills Cubans—in Cuba and in the United States—with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact if this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

I have to say, Helene Cooper, it's the most positive statement I have heard a president of the United States put out Fidel Castro. Why was it so positive?

HELENE COOPER: Well first of all, I think I disagree with you guys on the-- you present a very – and Mario Rubio just did that, a very Americano-centric view of Cuba, which is Castro as the, you know, satanic demon that the United States has -- in many ways he has been. But I think what President Obama’s statement reflects is that nobody in the rest of the world sort of agrees with you.

The Castro that I grew up knowing as a child growing up in Liberia was a Castro who fought the South African apartheid regime that the United States was propping up. It was a Castro that sent Cuban soldiers into Angola and helped to bring down apartheid South Africa. And so there's a lot of—There’s a lot of ambivalence when you look Fidel Castro that’s usually not reflected here. I think what President Obama's statement was doing was reflecting that. But I know you disagree with me.

TODD: No. No. No, I mean, Matt she brings up a good point. No, no, she brings up a good point in that -- Castro's reputation around the world is much different than it is here in the United States.

DANIELLE PLETKA: But that still ignores the fact-- Ok, you may like what Castro did in South Africa. I don't. But, you can't forget that he did this all on the backs of the Cuban people. This was an absolute dictatorship that crushed this island beneath their jack booted heel. Summarily shot people for disagreeing with the Castros, for 50 years they have been -- they murdered their political opponents and supported groups like Hezbollah, Iran, Maduro and before that Chavez, the FARC, and others. Let's not forget who he is to America.

COOPER: Again, this is a very American-centric view of Castro.

MATT BAI: I can't tell where Danielle is on Cuba. [Panel laughs] Look, she might be vacationing there. I disagree a little with Helene, and I take your point about the world view although President Obama is the president of America. He is not president of the world. And there is an American view of this.

But, I will say there was something poignant, to me, about Castro's death in these final eight weeks of the Obama presidency. Because as I look at it, and it's not everybody's view. But I think, when he was elected in 2008, part of the promise, part of what people felt was the sense of turning a new generation turning the page on all that history, including the Cold War history. History just wouldn't quite get out of his way on his timetable. And here it is the very closing act of his presidency and finally he gets Castro out of his way too late.

Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas C. Fondacaro