MSNBC Minimizes Obama-Castro Handshake, Calls Ted Cruz Walkout a ‘Stunt’

December 11th, 2013 2:19 PM

Once again, the folks at MSNBC have whitewashed the bloody history of a Communist dictator in order to provide political cover for President Obama. Following video of President Obama shaking hands with Cuban dictator Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, the folks at the Lean Forward network jumped to President Obama’s defense.

Appearing on his daily MSNBC show on December 11, host Thomas Roberts mocked the controversy over the handshake while calling Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) decision to walk out during Raul Castro’s speech a “a stunt to make some attention and some news about himself." Cruz, is the son of a Cuban immigrant and doubtless found the notion of Raul Castro speaking deeply offensive.

As the segment continued, neither Roberts nor his all-liberal “Agenda Panel” made note of the fact that President Obama chose to shake hands with a man that has a history of jailing political prisoners, including USAID subcontractor American Alan Gross, who remains in a Cuban prison to this day. As my colleague Ken Shepherd noted, Gross's ongoing imprisonment was also ignored yesterday in a gauzy article about the Castro-Obama handshake.

Granted, in an awkward moment thrust upon him, it's arguable that it was only polite for the president to shake Castro's hand. We doubt, however, that the MSNBC network would feel that way were it President Bush in office and with an American government contractor languishing in a Cuban prison. 


See relevant transcript below.



December 11, 2013

11:30 a.m. Eastern

THOMAS ROBERTS: On the agenda panel, reporter Irin Carmon. MSNBC contributor and Professor at Lehigh University James Peterson and The Daily Beast special correspondent, Michael Tomasky. Great to see all of you. And I want to begin with the one handshake that has outraged so many conservatives. Yesterday's memorial for Nelson Mandela, the president shaking hands with Cuba's communist leader Raul Castro. Now here's the Republican reaction followed by Secretary John Kerry. 

ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Mr. Secretary, sometimes a handshake is just a handshake, but when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Raul Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy. 

UNKNOWN PERSON: Should he have not done it? 

JOHN MCCAIN: Of course not. Why should you shake hands with somebody who is keeping Americans in prison? I mean what's the point? Neville Chamberlin shook hands with Hitler. 

JOHN KERRY: The president said in his

ROS-LEHTINEN: And would you say Raul Castro

KERRY: No, absolutely not.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you, sir.

KERRY: And we -- you know, my

ROBERTS: So meanwhile we know that 

IRIN CARMON: Well, from the start conservatives have alleged that Obama is a crazy socialist with a some sort of Manchurian plan to undermine America, so this imagery perfectly fits into that narrative. But of course President Obama has shaken hands with many a dictator who has human rights abuses. He's also said that he has a policy of engagement, so maybe he came in saying that he was going to make it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit their families. He's lessened some of the restrictions on that. This can be a good sign that there might be more positive engagement to come. 

ROBERTS: Alright, so we heard there, James (Peterson), from senator McCain comparing Castro to Hitler. Obviously the senator has shaken hands with some notorious characters. That's Muammar Gaddafi right there, the Libyan dictator. It's a bit of a hypocrisy. That happened back in 09 but should Senator McCain watch out what he’s saying? Because obviously the senator knows what he’s doing there. I think, I'll tell you my theory. I don't think the president knew that that was Raul Castro. If we play that video again, you can say Castro saying to him, I'm Castro. He goes up there he shakes his hand. Watch, Castro pulls him back. He's like I'm Castro. Oh! Oh, well that's great. Oh, okay. Anyway, that's my philosophy. We'll see if anybody would ever admit to that. I don't think he knew it was. Look at this, over 90 heads of state are there. Does the president know the seating chart? I don't think so. But whatever. 

JAMES PETERSON: He might not know the seating chart. I find it a little hard to believe he wouldn't recognize Raul Castro. Let's just take your theory at face value, Thomas. In this kind of situation, at the commemoration celebration of Mandela's life, someone who’s life was committed to resistance, revolution but also forgiveness and reconciliation, it doesn't seem to me to make proper diplomatic etiquette or any kind of sense what so all for the leader of the free world to walk in there and try to pick and choose who he's going to interact with. It seems to me that the best move here is to shake hands with the leaders of the world. Obviously he doesn't agree with all these leaders nor does he support all their policies. By the way, those leaders don't necessarily agree with Mr. Obama or agree with President Obama and/or support all of his policies. So I think it's much ado about nothing. And you're right, Senator McCain is, quote unquote, guilty of these same kinds of hand shake exchanges as well. 

ROBERTS: Well you make a great point.