Letter from a friend to Today’s Matt Lauer

Babalu Blog and a few others have been watching closely as Matt Lauer (of NBC’s Today Show) reports from Cuba this week. As can be expected of the MSM’s coverage of Cuba, Today’s reportage has left viewers with an inaccurate impression of the island and the 48 years of Castroite destruction of the Pearl of the Antilles.

A friend of mine wrote Matt Lauer a letter about his broadcasting the Today Show live from Cuba. She gave me permission to post the letter on my blog, as long as I maintain her anonymity, which I will. The full letter follows.

This is the email I sent Matt Lauer, NBC the network and NBC 6 the local affiliate this morning:

I have been waking up to the Today Show since Barbara Walters anchored; I was in my teens, I am now a middle aged woman. I have followed your career and have admired much of your work. I don’t know if this email will get to you or not, but as do all who see you five mornings a week, I feel I know you and so will speak to you as if we really did know one another: The journalistic quality of this morning’s report left much to be desired. I feel sad and disappointed. I feel you sold out.

I understand NBC’s goals of setting up a bureau in Cuba dictated the premise for your report. I understand that you work for a conglomerate who decrees rules you must follow. But you are a journalist! You could have done so much better! You did nothing more than recite what was give to you by the government. You did what most other major news media do: you pandered to the tyrant’s regime. I don’t believe you bought it. I caught a couple pf phrases here and there, “Cubans are not allowed on the beaches”; “Cubans earn the equivalent of $.50 per day”; your question: “Wouldn’t the embargo be a leveraging tool for change?” I trust you would have asked more serious questions had you been allowed, but you weren’t, right?

You know you didn’t showcase one regular Cuban. You interviewed only those selected by the nomenclature. Did you research the pro-democracy movement? Did you request permission to interview the Ladies in White? (An internal opposition movement that unites the spouses, mothers and sisters of dissidents jailed by the government of Fidel Castro. These women protest the unlawful imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday wearing white clothing symbolizing peace, and then silently walking through the streets. They received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2005).

Did you make an effort to report on the sub-human conditions of Cuba’s political prisons? Were you denied?

Again, I heard little messages in your report: While standing outside the Cathedral you mentioned the word, “tourism apartheid”. I believe you weren’t fooled. I believe you slipped it in and hopefully someone in the millions of viewers caught it. Indeed, tourism apartheid is systematically practiced by the Communist regime against the people of Cuba . But why didn’t you emphasize this? Cubans are not allowed into the beaches, into the stores, into the hotels, on the plaza from which you were reporting. The grocery stores, shoe stores, clothing stores, all shops that sell the basic necessities of life do not accept the Cuban peso! The currency in which workers are paid is not accepted to purchase goods! This condition is unique to Cuba. You would have been the first US journalist from a major media source to report this! Instead of producing what could have been a journalistic coup, NBC and the Today Show chose to focus on the music, the “guayaberas”, the provocative dancing and the voluptuous shape of Cuban women.

Did you ask to visit a hospital? A real hospital for Cubans, not one for tourists? Had you done so you would have learned that while hospitals catering to tourists enjoy every comfort available in the modern world, women in delivery rooms must bring in buckets of water from home to wash themselves and their newborns! You would have learned that Cubans depend on their relatives in the US and around the world for everything from drugs to medical equipment to the light bulb for the operating room before a surgical procedure can be carried out!

If while standing in the Cathedral Plaza you could have asked how many would like to leave this Stalinist “paradise” and come with you to America, if you had offered them safe passage to anywhere in the globe, most if not all would have joined you without so much as a look back. Don’t you wonder why so many risk their lives to escape?

Matt, if after being fed the propaganda of the regime and offering the American public the innocuous pulp you presented, your journalistic soul still harbors questions about the real Cuban people, you can still do something about it:

  • You can contact Yarai Reyes, wife of an independent journalist Normando Hern�ndez. A 2007 recipient of the Pen Club International Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award which honors prominent figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression, Mr. Hernandez is languishing in a Cuban prison. (From the US you may reach her by calling: 011-5332-37564).
  • Mr. Hernandez was arrested in March 2003 along with 74 other journalists and activists considered to be dissidents by the Cuban government. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment under Article 91 of the Cuban Criminal Code.
  • You can contact Elsa Morejon, the wife of human rights’ activist, pro-democracy leader and President of the Lawton Foundation, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, sentenced to 25 years in prison. His crime: flying the Cuban flag upside down (an internationally recognized symbol of distress) as a way of protesting the abuses against human rights in Cuba.

    A physician and a very spiritual man who follows the philosophies of Gandhi and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Biscet is regularly beaten and subjected to brutal interrogations. As a black man, a non-violent activist struggling to bring democracy to Cuba , Dr. Biscet embodies the dreams of the 11 million Cubans on the island. Amnesty International has declared him a “prisoner of conscience”.

Your response to Ann on the fact that Elian Gonzalez’ family has not seen him since his abduction: “this divide between Cuba and the US”, sadly demonstrates that you don’t get it: The issue is between Fidel Castro and his murderous cronies and the Cuban people.

To save you or whomever reads this from speculation: I was born in Cuba , and have lived in the US for 48 years. I know of no one whose interest in the freedom of Cuba is based on “taking back properties”. What drives me as any other freedom-loving individual is the wish to see an end to this bloody and despotic regime whose only legacy after almost half a century is lack of basic human freedoms, thousands of political prisoners, forced exile for hundreds of thousands of its people, systematic government corruption and a “surveillance society”.

Sadly Matt, you are just as misinformed as everyone else in the US . As I write this I am overwhelmed not only by a feeling of indignation but more by the sadness of realizing that no one understands the tragedy of Cuba. Cubans living in Cuba have no voice. The world turns a deaf ear to the Cuban diaspora. Your report today only pandered to the basest desires of capitalism. You ignored the Cuban people’s tragedy and repeated scripted nonsense. I am angry and heartbroken. You report could have been a light in the darkness.