On 'Today' Cuban Dupe Declares: I Love Fidel!

If this morning's Today show segment on Cuba is any indication expect Matt Lauer's visit to the communist country tomorrow to gloss over much of Fidel Castro's brutal regime. Previewing the Today show anchor's trip, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported on Castro's health and actually highlighted an unidentified Cuban citizen wishing Castro well as he exclaimed: "I care about him. I love him!"

Judging from Mitchell's report 'Today' viewers may also get more than their fair share of Cuban mouthpiece Ricardo Alarcon tomorrow, as the Cuban National Assembly president was featured as the go-to-guy for the latest on Castro's health. While Mitchell did air one soundbite from Condoleezza Rice criticizing the regime, she then went on to depict Cuban opinion on Castro as merely "divided." Neither Mitchell nor Lauer bothered to mention critics of Castro often end up being imprisoned or worse.

The following is the full segment as it occured on the June 4th edition of the Today show:

Matt Lauer: "Now to Cuba where Fidel Castro has shown up on television for the first time in four months. The new images, broadcast over this weekend, show a more vigorous Castro, even as questions remain about his government's future. NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has more on that story. Andrea, good to have you here in New York."

Andrea Mitchell: "Good to be with you. Good morning, Matt. Well ever since Castro had emergency surgery last July his condition has been a closely guarded state secret in Cuba. But now after almost dying, he appears to be recuperating from a very serious intestinal illness. In the new video, Castro is seen greeting a visiting official from Vietnam. Still in the hospital the Cuban leader appears healthier and looks as though he has gained back some weight. Although Castro was seen with a Chinese delegation in April, the new video is the first officially released by the Cuban government since January. Last month, in a written statement to Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, Castro complained about having to cut his hair and beard to appear in such official photos. Why is he still largely out of public view?"

Ricardo Alarcon, Cuba National Assembly President: "In such a situation people remain away from, from the limelight, from the publicity..."

Mitchell to Alarcon: "But is he now off the intravenous?"

Alarcon: "Yeah, yes, of course. No, he's completely out of that."

Mitchell: "Cuban officials insist that Castro will eventually come back and run the country but the 80-year-old Cuban leader has not appeared in public since last August, missing birthday celebrations and last month's May Day parade. The new video may have been released, in part, to reassure die-hard supporters who want to see their ailing leader."

Unidentified Cuban: "Our leader's care, 'cause I care about him, him. I love him."

Mitchell: "But Condoleezza Rice, in Spain last week, issued a harsh warning to Cuba's caretaker government, led by Castro's brother Raul, that the U.S. will take steps to support Castro's opposition."

Condoleezza Rice: "The free world stands with them and is not prepared to tolerate an anti-democratic transition in Cuba but that Cubans deserve freedom, they deserve democracy and all free peoples should stand for that."

Mitchell: "As we will be reporting tomorrow from Havana, Cubans are, in fact, divided often along generational lines about Castro, just as Cuban-Americans are increasingly divided about U.S. policy toward the island, Matt."

Lauer: "It's an emotional subject, no question about it, Andrea."

Mitchell: "Oh boy, is it."

Lauer: "Thanks. And as Andrea just mentioned we will be reporting live from Havana tomorrow as Today goes inside Cuba for a rare look in this island nation, a place close to America's shores but far, far away in terms of ideology. It's a country off-limits to most Americans but much of the world has been vacationing there and building there for the last dozen years or so. We're gonna show you what's going on there now. That's Today Inside Cuba, tomorrow morning, here on our program."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.