In a Saturday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, Geraldo Rivera, who interviewed Fidel Castro in 1977 when he worked at ABC News, mostly defended the Cuban dictator whose death was announced Friday night.
Rivera, while admitting earlier in the five-minute segment that "Communism stinks, we all know that," and that "Communism cannot compete with capitalism," nevertheless insisted in the segment's second half that the "all awful" view of Castro is "simplistic," and that "he will be remembered fondly" by the Cuban people.
Rivera's most ignorant claim in the segment's first half (full version here) was his prediction that "(President Barack) Obama's outreach to Cuba" will help "the legacy of Castro to crumble."
The aftermath of Obama's March visit indicates otherwise (links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):
The administration itself has already compromised democratic values ... Secretary of State John Kerry shunned pro-democracy figures—not their tormentors, as principle should have dictated—at the ceremony opening our embassy in Havana last year. The State Department, too, meted out rough treatment to the daughter of a murdered Cuban dissident because Castro government goons had complained about her presence at a press conference.
In response for our abasement Raúl Castro and the communist gerontocracy he leads have extended a collective middle finger, laughed at us and called Obama—our president—the equivalent of the “N Word.”
Then there's "the shame of Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser" (remember him?), essentially "denying that Cuba has any political prisoners," and the administration's willingness (or is it eagerness?) to compromise national security.
It's clear that Fidel Castro's death alone will have no influence on reversing this.
In the segment's second half, Rivera, challenged by Fox's Pete Hegseth about Castro's "legacy," insisted that there is an "other side" of Castro's 57 years of tyranny:
PETE HEGSETH: You use the word "legacy," and legacies are important. But if you look at the legacy of, of Fidel Castro, these people did want to leave their country. There was massive oppression and lockdowns of political dissidents and opponents. The middle class suffered greatly, set them back decades.
So why the reflexive desire for some to see him as this cult hero, anything other than what he was, which was a dictator who suppressed his people?
GERALDO RIVERA: Well, you know, I think that, you know, God bless you, I think that is an accurate summary, Pete, of the Castro on the dark side. But on the other side, if you were from the middle down in Cuban society in the hierarchy, and you've got free medicine that you didn't have under the dictator Batista —
HEGSETH: And bread lines.
RIVERA: If you've got some, if you could start a little business, if you could get access to higher education that you couldn't get unless you were an elite under Batista the dictator that preceded Communism and Castro and led to the revolution, you know you think of Castro in a whole different way.
And I think that in fairness when you look at him and talk about him — and I heard Governor Huckabee, and slamming him "He's a creep and a dictator and a repressive monster" and all the rest — but if you ask the man in the street in Havana today, sure they want to be in Miami or New York and they want to have cellphones and so forth —
HEGSETH: But they couldn't talk, Geraldo. The man in the street couldn't give their honest opinion, because they don't have free speech. The man in the street couldn't talk, because they'd be jailed if they were an opponent.
RIVERA (dodging Hegseth's question completely — Ed.): Well, I, you know, I've been to Cuba several times, you know particularly back in those days when they were really shut off. I think that we — it's very easy to have a simplistic view, that he was all awful for Cuba and the world, and I just don't think that's accurate. I think that the Cubans have a tremendous sense of pride over his legacy, and I think that he will be remembered fondly.
Yes, he was a leftist. Yes, he was a communist. Yes, his economic system failed. But the fact of the matter is, I mean, the Cuban medicine is renowned the world over. You know, there are aspects of his, what he left behind, that I think will be remembered.
I can't say I blame the Fox & Friends crew for coming perilously close to laughing in Geraldo's face at the end of the segment before going to a break. But it's also extremely troubling that people like Rivera and so many others insist on clinging to what Hegseth so accurately described, namely the "reflexive desire for some to see him as this cult hero."
At the Washington Post, Yale Professor Carlos Eire provided a full description of what Castro's regime really was in 13 succinct but fact-filled bullet points. Here's his response to Rivera's education- and medical system-related claims:
He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.
Now there's an interesting point of which I was unaware: Free school and free medicine trump all else. No wonder so many academics and educators love Fidel and Cuba so much.
Rivera is only the latest in a very long line of liberal journalists with an uncanny and infuriating knack for seeing the "not all bad" side of history's worst tyrants.
Roger Simon at PJ Media described this warped view perfectly in 2005. In assessing a book review by Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times, who essentially insisted that Mao wasn't "all bad" while reviewing a book (Mao: The Unknown Story) which estimated the Chinese Communist death toll during his reign at 70 million, Simon observed and decried a "blithe ‘the ends justify the means’ contempt for human life (that) boggles the imagination." (To "life" one can, and should, add "liberty.")
Geraldo Rivera perfectly exemplifies Simon's observation. So (in some cases to a lesser extent) do the various liberal commentators identified and described in Saturday morning NewsBusters posts by Brent Baker and Rich Noyes.
We'll certainly see many more Castro apologists horribly defending the horribly indefensible in the next several days.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.