ABC, NBC Cheer Imminent Opening of U.S/Cuban Embassies; A ‘New Era’

On the heels of President Barack Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that the United States and Cuba will soon open respective embassies in Havana and Washington, the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC covered the story on their evening newscasts with ABC and NBC expressing particular enthusiasm at the move and little to no criticism of the President’s Cuba policy.

In addition, the networks failed to label Cuba’s government as communist with ABC and NBC further declining to bring up the authoritarian nature of the Cuban government.

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt touted the “historic announcement” with the change drawing “cheers and some strong opposition, including from many Republicans in Congress,” but urged viewers to consider that “beyond the politics, the biggest change will be in people's lives.”

Correspondent Gabe Gutierrez immediately began promoting the Cuban side in proclaiming that “Havana welcomed the news” in anticipation of “something not seen in more than half a century” as “the American flag will fly here.”

Gutierrez also gushed over the affect that the President has already had on the Cuban economy in noting that “[s]ince President Obama opened the door to normalized relations in December, Cuba's tourism industry has surged, pulling in $1.7 billion.”

In the only reference to the opposing viewpoint, Gutierrez cited “critics” as believing that “the Obama administration is rewarding the Castro regime despite its human rights violations.” 

A soundbite from Republican Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) blasting the decision was played next and then it was back to promoting the White House line as Gutierrez ruled that “even in Miami's Little Havana, an anti-Castro stronghold, today's announcement was met with hope by some.”

Reporting from Miami, Gutierrez concluded:

The American and Cuban embassies are now set to open later this month and Secretary of State John Kerry is planning a visit to Cuba, a thaw in relations accelerated by a handshake between President Obama and Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral, followed by a push from Pope Francis himself.

ABC’s World News Tonight spent only 54 seconds on this story, but wasn’t without holes as fill-in anchor Amy Robach and senior national correspondent Jim Avila included zero criticism whatsoever of the policy regarding the Communist nation.

Instead, Avila explained how he visited the building in Washington D.C. that will serve as the Cuban embassy and gushed that “they're ready to raise the flag on the newly installed flag pole” as “[t]he ambassador show[ed] us the folded flag ready to be hoisted over the refurbished site the week of July 20th when diplomatic relations are officially resumed.”

Over on the CBS Evening News, a slightly more balanced report was offered from chief White House correspondent Major Garrett. Moments after he pointed out that the President used identical language during part of his speech to then-White House Press Secretary James Hagerty when he announced the severing of ties in January 1961, Garrett spent a few moments explaining the views of those against the President:

[B]ut opponents in Congress, citing continued political repression in Cuba, remain deeply skeptical. They can refuse to fund embassy operations or hold up the President's nominee for ambassador, and only Congress can lift the long-standing economic embargo on Cuba.

Following a clip of Ros-Lehtninen, Garrett concluded by mentioning the bipartisan nature of the opposition to the moves, but also that “three polls conducted since December show bipartisan majorities favor lifting trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from July 1's NBC Nightly News can be found below.

NBC Nightly News
July 1, 2015
7:09 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: New Era]

LESTER HOLT: A historic announcement today from the White House. President Obama making it official after more than half a century at odds, the U.S. and Cuba will reopen their embassies in Havana and Washington within weeks, the biggest step yet in normalizing relations between the two countries. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas. Progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don't have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn't working, we can and will change.

HOLT: That change is bringing cheers and some strong opposition including from many Republicans in Congress, but beyond the politics, the biggest change will be in people's lives. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez has more. 

GABE GUTIERREZ: Havana welcomed the news. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CUBAN: After all these years, it seems that it's happening. 

GUTIERREZ: And prepared for something not seen in more than half a century, the American flag will fly here. This building will be the U.S. Embassy in Cuba for the first time since it closed back in 1961. “I think it will improve our economy,” this woman said. Since President Obama opened the door to normalized relations in December, Cuba's tourism industry has surged, pulling in $1.7 billion. High hopes, but many obstacles remain. When we visited Havana recently, we spoke with restaurant owner Miguel Morales. He told us he can't get supplies in Cuba, things like spoons and condiments, and has to buy them when he visits family in the U.S. Halia Bustamante told us internet access is a problem, frustrating to Cubans and a barrier to investment. 

HALIA BUSTAMANTE: We don't have access to the information. 

GUTIERREZ: Critics say the Obama administration is rewarding the Castro regime despite its human rights violations. 

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSWOMAN ILENA ROS-LEHTINEN (Fla.): They're never going to change. The only change will happen when Cuba changes, and that's not happening anytime soon. 

GUTIERREZ: But even in Miami's Little Havana, an anti-Castro stronghold, today's announcement was met with hope by some. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE IN LITTLE HAVANA: I think it's good for the people. It's time. 

(....)

GUTIERREZ: The American and Cuban embassies are now set to open later this month and Secretary of State John Kerry is planning a visit to Cuba, a thaw in relations accelerated by a handshake between President Obama and Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral, followed by a push from Pope Francis himself.

NB Daily Foreign Policy Cuba Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Video President Barack Obama President Obama Gabe Gutierrez Lester Holt Jim Avila Amy Robach Scott Pelley Major Garrett Barack Obama Raul Castro
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