The Miami Herald's Oscar Corral breaks a major story this morning about 10 reporters being paid anti-Castro propaganda money by the U.S. government. Specifically, the money came from the U.S. Office of Cuban Broadcasting, which runs Radio Marti and TV Marti, propaganda stations aired in Central and South America.
Corral focused on money paid to the reporters at El Nuevo Herald, which is published by the McClatchy Company, the Miami Herald's corporate parent. The leading offender was reporter and columnist Pablo Alfonso, who received $175,000 from the government for hosting shows on Marti. Alfonso and two other El Nuevo writers, Olga Connor and Wilfredo Cancio Isla, were fired.
That El Nuevo Herald has an anti-Castro agenda is hardly news, but the payments -- which Corral discovered through a federal FOIA request -- reveal just how corrupt the newspaper's reporters have really been.
But Corral downplayed perhaps the best-known name on the list of propaganda payouts, that of Helen Aguirre Ferre. He inexplicably didn't even mention that she's the long-time host of Issues, the public affairs show on South Florida PBS affiliate WPBT-Channel 2.
On that show, Ferre hosts journalists from all over South Florida
to discuss all kinds of political issues. The show, to put it bluntly, is dull as an old shoe. The boyishly pretty Ferre is curiously expressionless and dispassionate throughout. She asks bland questions as if they were programmed into her head through a computer chip. And I think the revelation about her propaganda payments helps explain it.
When looking at Ferre's resume, it's hard to imagine a more programmed (so to speak) "journalist." On top of her Marti ties, she's the opinion page editor of the Diaro Las Americas, a right-wing Spanish language newspaper begun by her father 50 years ago. She's a member of the ultra-establishment Council on Foreign Relations. And she's a "grand dame" in the sometimes creepy, sometimes charitable Knights of Malta, an elite and secret Catholic order that dates back to the Crusades.
Corral reports that Ferre received $4,325 from the government from 2001 through 2005 as a panelist on TV Marti shows. ''Guests are being paid for their time that they have to take in order to be able to accommodate the program,'' she explained, adding that she didn't think it was a conflict of interest (click here for a list of responses from the Marti Ten, I'll call them).
For one thing, that's funny coming from Ferre, since Channel 2 doesn't pay its guests (or it didn't pay me when I was the show anyway). And she says that a journalist taking money from a propaganda arm of the U.S. government isn't a conflict of interest? No, I'm sorry, Helen, that's the King Daddy of conflicts of interest and the fact that you don't see that should disqualify you from the business altogether. Sure you can keep working on your father's newspaper, but WPBT better wake up and find a truly independent voice to head its weekly show that discusses "the important topics facing South Florida ... [and] provides the type of extensive and probing analysis that addresses the community's continuous concerns."