NBC's Andrea Mitchell Glows About Fidel Castro, Reminisces About Past Meetings

Following the death of communist butcher Fidel Castro on Black Friday, the Cuban exiles and their descendants took to the streets of Little Havana in Miami, Florida to celebrate the turning point for Cuba. But on NBC’s Sunday Today, reporter Andrea Mitchell glowed about the communist leader and shared her memories of him. “[Castro] was a voracious reader … And very, very aware of everything that was going on, very, very smart and very wedded to his revolutionary ideology,” Mitchell opined from Havana, Cuba.

Throughout her whole report Mitchell failed to mention the celebrations taking place in Miami, but did detail the mourning in Cuba. “Here in Havana, many people, especially the older generation, all reacting emotionally to the death of Fidel Castro,” Mitchell reported, “One woman overcome with grief, she says, ‘For me he is not dead.’

She even drew attention to Elian Gonzalez, who she quoted as saying, “’I wanted to show him everything I achieved that he would be proud of me. That's how it was with Fidel.’” Mitchell brushed over the whole Elian Gonzalez saga by simply calling it, “a national cause for Fidel Castro.” She failed to mention how her beloved Clintons had Gonzalez taken from relatives at gunpoint and shipped back to the communist island.

Cuban TV paid tributes all day and all night to the founder of the revolution, still a towering figure in the nation's imagination,” Mitchell went on say. She recalled one interview she had with the murderer, “Once telling me, ‘There will be no problem if I die tomorrow because we have lots of young people who are well trained who know what to do.’

The NBC reporter seemed fearful for how President-Elect Donald Trump’s Cuba policy would affect the communist country:

But, now we have to see what the reaction is going to be from the US side and there is basically a holding action here. They're very nervous about what to expect and the fact that President Obama has been so heavily invested in the changes the expectation is they can be undone. And they can be undone by canceling the executive orders.

Following her report Mitchell reminisced about her past encounters with the late dictator. “We would argue, he would have dinners or meetings or interviews starting at midnight going to 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning so sometimes hard just to keep up with him,” recounted Mitchell, “And he was a voracious reader questioning me about the politics and the economy in the US.

Transcript below: 

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NBC
Sunday Today
November 27, 2016
8:01:26 AM Eastern

WILLIE GEIST: Let's begin this morning with reaction from President Obama and the world to Fidel Castro's death. In Cuba, preparations are under way for his funeral which will be held at the end of nine days of national mourning there. Andrea Mitchell as made her way to Havana. Andrea, good morning.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning to you, Willie. Here in Havana, many people, especially the older generation, all reacting emotionally to the death of Fidel Castro. Leaders around the world are praising Castro but this is in sharp contrast to much of the political reaction back in the US.

[Cuts to video]

MITCHELL: In Revolution Square, in churches, preparations for more than a week of official mourning before a burial ceremony next Sunday. One woman overcome with grief, she says, “For me he is not dead.” Also, expressing emotion, Elian Gonzalez now nearly 23, who as a 6-year-old boy was shipwrecked on the Florida shores, his mother dying on that journey, returning him to Cuba became a national cause for Fidel Castro. Elian now says, “I wanted to show him everything I achieved that he would be proud of me. That's how it was with Fidel.”

Cuban TV paid tributes all day and all night to the founder of the revolution, still a towering figure in the nation's imagination. Even after he succumbed to illness and gave up power to his brother Raul. Young people marched. One saying, “It's painful for our country. This is the president we all loved.” No sign of the protesters against his family's human rights abuses, the so-called Ladies in White who march silently every Sunday.

When I interviewed Fidel Castro in 2002, he was defiant against US pressure to introduce political reforms. Telling me, “it isn't logical for anyone to set conditions for anyone else. The US has relations with other countries without setting conditions.”

In fact, he was always confident his cause would outlive him, defying 11 American presidents, writing a final column denouncing the US election only two weeks ago. Once telling me, “There will be no problem if I die tomorrow because we have lots of young people who are well trained who know what to do.”

[Cuts back to live]

GEIST: Andrea, as you know, Castro's regime began in 1959 with firing squads and the jailing of dissidents, and shutting down of media the list goes on and on, and yet there is an affinity there on the island of Cuba. What’s been the reaction there that you’ve seen today?

MITCHELL: Well, the reaction is muted and we have yet to see whether the protests develop today. You know, the Ladies in White, the women who march silently every Sunday have resisted all sorts of repression and marched throughout whether they do that today remains to be seen, it’s usually Sunday after church.

That said, I think Cuba has moved on in many ways. Raul had made so many changes. The market reforms, the opening to the US, which Fidel Castro never fully embraced and was critical of somewhat diplomatically if you will. But, now we have to see what the reaction is going to be from the US side and there is basically a holding action here. They're very nervous about what to expect and the fact that President Obama has been so heavily invested in the changes the expectation is they can be undone. And they can be undone by canceling the executive orders. A lot is in place, postal service, airline travel just beginning, regular commercial flights. So the addition of more cultural exchanges, more people traveling. That said, that is a turning point. They know and they're very, very conscious of the political changes back in the US.

GEIST: Andrea, you have spent a lot of time there in Cuba including a long, extended interview, in 2002, with Castro where he gave you a tour of the country, effectively. What were your personal impressions of the man up close?

MITCHELL: Well, he was so argumentative. I first went in 1999 when there were so many protests against the US at the height of the controversy over Elian Gonzalez, that 6-year-old boy. And we would argue, he would have dinners or meetings or interviews starting at midnight going to 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning so sometimes hard just to keep up with him. And we would debate the politics and the human rights abuses and the lack of free elections, and over the years, I had many interviews with him and he was still combative. He read everything. He had access to the internet, most people here did not back then. And he was a voracious reader questioning me about the politics and the economy in the US. And very, very aware of everything that was going on, very, very smart and very wedded to his revolutionary ideology.

GEIST: I loved hearing you say in one interview that you conducted with Castro, one of the answers lasted 45 minutes which gave you sometime to catch a nap.

MITCHELL: It did. Embarrassing. 

Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas Fondacaro
Nicholas C. Fondacaro