Univision has been consistently supportive in its coverage of convicted FALN terrorist Oscar López Rivera. Now that López Rivera has been released per the terms of the commutation of his prison sentence by former President Barack Obama, the network is set to air an exclusive interview on Sunday's edition of Al Punto that is best described, in the most generous possible terms, as terrorist apologia.
In the segment, host Jorge Ramos largely avoids asking any tough questions of the convicted terrorist, allowing López Rivera and U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez to take a self-indulgent victory lap. López Rivera is defiant throughout, and Gutiérrez was gushing in his sycophantic praise of the FALN bombmaker, going so far as to compare him to George Washington. Here are two of some of the most jarring exchanges. First, López Rivera stuns the audience by unironically delivering this line:
OSCAR LOPEZ-RIVERA, FORMER BOMBMAKER-IN-CHIEF, ARMED FORCES OF PUERTO RICAN NATIONAL LIBERATION: I do not support. I do not support activities where human life is put in danger. And that, for me, it's really important that it be known.
This sounds noble and altruistic except that the use of explosives, by definition, places human lives in danger - and that at the time of his arrest in 1981, the FBI found six pounds of dynamite and four blasting caps in his Chicago apartment. So to say otherwise is a bald-faced lie that Ramos just waved through as Gutierrez smiled beatifically.
Speaking of Gutiérrez, the Illinois congressman played a different role here than what we are accustomed to seeing from his appearances on Al Punto. Gutiérrez served as equal parts surrogate, spokesman and fanboy to López Rivera, as opposed to his usual snarling anmesty advocacies. Although we did see some snarl when Ramos asked López Rivera the only thing resembling a tough question - the old "what would you say?" to Joseph Connor, son of one of the fallen at the 1975 Fraunces Tavern bombing.
Here's how Gutierrez jumped in hallfway through López Rivera's unrepentant ramble, in what is without a doubt one of the more disgusting displays we've seen from a sitting Member of the United States Congress:
U.S. REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ: Look Jorge, I think that it is very important that the following be stated: and it is that our comrade Oscar López Rivera was never charged with what you are talking to us about right now. Let's be clear. The FBI, the Department of Justice could have charged my comrade and brother (OLR) with that, or anything else, because he never recognized the jurisdiction of the colonial judicial system. But they never charged him. Now they come talk about things, 30 years later. I also feel great pain when I see a child that loses his father, and I believe that we all see that. In Puerto Rico, violence has existed against the pro-independence movement since the moment that the Armed Forces of the United States Army entered and occupied Puerto Rico. So we're not going to talk about this for that. No. We're going to move forward. I am very happy that Oscar is here. That he can give us his vision, that he can bring us his tenacity, his integrity, and his vision for a Puerto Rico where we all stand as women and men what are worthy of standing on this soil with pride and confidence in ourselves. I feel great confidence that my brother Oscar will take us to another level, political(ly) social(ly) here on this island of Puerto Rico, where we are the ones that will be in charge of our future.
It is not often that a sitting Member of Congress takes the side of a convicted terrorist against the surviving loved ones of the victims of a terrorist attack, but here we are. Gutiérrez and López Rivera could've been gracious, and sought some high ground by addressing Connor directly as prompted by Ramos, and expressed some regret over what happened at Fraunces Tavern. Instead, they both sound like Hyman Roth in The Godfather II, ranting about his grief over Moe Greene and this being "the business we've chosen." Except, of course, that neither Frank Connor nor any other of the victims of those terror attacks chose the FALN's business. "What about our dead?" was the most classless response to that question.
Here again, Ramos just waves them along. In his haste to ask whether López Rivera is like Nelson Mandela, he neglected to point out that no one was ever charged in the Fraunces Tavern bombing due to U.S. Department of Justice procedure at the time, and the lengthy sentences handed down in Chicago.
By the way, how much does Rep. Gutiérrez admire Oscar López Rivera? This much:
CONGRESSMAN LUIS GUTIERREZ (D-IL): Like all the great leaders and heroes of the struggle for the fatherland and for their nation. That is where he will be placed. Look, if this were the war for the independence of the United States, of the 13 colonies, Oscar Lopez-Rivera, in the London newspapers, they would have said the same of him that they said of George Washington. Look, the struggle for independence is a struggle that every people has the right to and a responsbility, as Oscar has said, to do.
Gutiérrez goes on to say that "One day, soon, I hope to be here, in my homeland, fighting (for Puerto Rico's independence) alongside my brother and leader Oscar López Rivera". If Gutiérrez is so intent on taking up the struggle, then I suggest he resign from Congress, forego his imperial Yankee pension (which is fully vested), pick up a machete, and take his struggle to Puerto Rico. Otherwise, he can go back to Chicago, keep pushing for amnesty, and stop pretending that he speaks for the Puerto Rican community on the island and beyond.
There is no indication that Al Punto is going to include the viewpoints or perspectives of those who have been harmed by the FALN, whether it's Joseph Connor or any other of the surviving loved ones of it's horrific attacks. Univision's coverage of Oscar López Rivera has been quite consistent in terms of its slant, and this interview is no different.
The interview was recorded, incidentally, in advance of the expiration of López Rivera's house arrest. It remains to be seen whether Al Punto will air any of López Rivera's more recent remarks post-release, such as his shoutout to the murderous regimes in Venezuela and Cuba, and his refusal to renounce armed struggle in the pursuit of independence for Puerto Rico.
Furthermore, the interview may have been in violation of the terms of López Rivera's pre-release custody; specifically, a prohibition on speaking to media while under house arrest. Univision included "just a few hours before his release" into its YouTube title of the interview, but López Rivera responds "tomorrow" when asked when he might be going to the beach. López Rivera went on to hold his press conference from El Escambrón beach in San Juan on the day of his release.
Shame on Univision, a leading sponsor of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade honoring Oscar López Rivera, for its willingness to air what amounts to little more than terrorist hagiography and pro-independence propaganda.