Did CNN Instruct Reporters to Sanitize Coverage of Fidel Castro?

February 20th, 2008 5:33 AM

An email has emerged that challenges CNN's journalistic integrity and institutional neutrality and calls all of it's Cuba coverage into question.

First reported by The Natural Truth blogger Michael Graham, Babalu Blog's Henry Gomez said he “independently confirmed” the email which issued marching orders directing the proper “[g]uidance” on reporting Fidel Castro's resignation. Gomez said he posted the full document, which was sent Tuesday morning by Allison Flexner, whose current position is unknown but at one point was a CNN producer of Cuban reports.

The email recommended against using wording that implies Castro didn't write his letter of resignation and to rely on reporting by Communist Party daily Granma. It then reminded “Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba” and “'[w]hile despised by some, he is seen as a revolutionary hero...for standing up to the United States.” 

Here is the email posted by Babalu (bold mine after email's heading):

From: Flexner, Allison
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:46 AM
To: *CNN Superdesk (TBS)
Cc: Neill, Morgan; Darlington, Shasta
Subject: Castro guidance

Some points on Castro – for adding to our anchor reads/reporting:

* Please say in our reporting that Castro stepped down in a letter he wrote to Granma (the communist party daily), as opposed to in a letter attributed to Fidel Castro. We have no reason to doubt he wrote his resignation letter, he has penned numerous articles over the past year and a half.

* Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba – namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration. in addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech.

* Also the Cuban government blames a lot of Cuba’s economic problems on the US embargo, and while that has caused some difficulties, (far less so than the collapse of the Soviet Union) the bulk of Cuba’s economic problems are due to Cuba’s failed economic polices. Some analysts would say the US embargo was a benefit to Castro politically – something to blame problems on, by what the Cubans call “the imperialist,” meddling in their affairs.

* While despised by some, he is seen as a revolutionary hero, especially with leftist in Latin America, for standing up to the United States.

Any questions, please call the international desk.


I can only imagine the firestorm of controversy if someone at Fox News issued an email like this about George Bush leaving office in 2009.

The desire for the media to bend over backwards to report leftists and leftist causes with balance is nothing new, but this is the first time that it looks like someone got caught.

The real test is what CNN and the rest of the media do now that this story is public. 

A totalitarian government can control who is allowed to report within its borders as well as control media access. NewsBusters has reported the media bowing to pressure from the Cuban government before.

When media need government permission to cover a country, their reporting is compromised. If this email is real, and CNN scripted its coverage of Castro leaving office, it begs the question, who penned that script in the first place?


Lynn contributes to NewsBusters and can be reached at tvisgoodforyou2—a t—y a h o o—d o t--c o m