Throughout his career Rick has remained obsessed with Cuba and Cuban issues. He won a local Emmy in 1983 for his series "When I Left Cuba." He occasionally refers to his Cuban-born mother on the air. In 1993 the Sun-Sentinel recorded Rick's on-air reaction to a story about uncontested Cuban elections: "If you'll pardon the commentary, what a sham! What an insult to the Cuban people. If it wasn't so sad, it'd kind of be funny."
In hindsight, Rick and Laurie, this rhetoric may very well be a case of overcompensation. Given his background, what seems obvious here is that Rick, or should I say Agent Sanchez, has been plotting for years, making himself into a beloved local icon while patiently waiting for his opportunity to wreak havoc on democracy. Back to you.
Sanchez: Wait a minute, Holly. Wanna go back to something at the beginning of your report. Did you say I was born in Cuba?
Sanchez: And you said my mother is Cuban, and that I sometimes talk about her on the air?
Herbert: Correct, Rick.
Sanchez [looks at Jennings, shakes his head]: It's indisputable that the majority of living persons born in Cuba pledge fidelity to a communist government. In fact I think everyone agrees most spies for Cuba have at some point in their lives actually lived in Cuba. Knowing this, isn't it reasonable to conclude I am one of Castro's minions?
Herbert: That's exactly the point, Rick.
Sanchez: Gotta ask this one straight out: Have you been able to determine if I am now or ever have been a member of the Communist Party?
Herbert: Not at this time, Rick, but we're working on it. From what sources who dislike you tell us, I wouldn't be surprised at all.
Sanchez taps his desk with a pencil. He furiously shuffles some paper. The camera zooms in on Jennings. A graphic of a pounding gavel appears over her shoulder.
Jennings: Thank you, Holly, for that report. Here to help us make sense of all of this is Seven's legal advisor, Howard Finkelstein. Actually sitting in for Howard tonight is Sun-Sentinel media critic Tom Jicha. A warning to viewers in advance: Jicha does not have a ponytail. Tom, good to have you with us.
Jicha: Good to be here, Laurie.
Jennings: Tom, even before the INS raid, you wrote in your column that "WSVN-Ch. 7 didn't even fight the good fight. Rick Sanchez, who weeks ago abandoned any pretense of being a reporter to become an advocate for the Miami Gonzalez family, was particularly unprofessional."
Jicha: He definitely was. He just abandoned any pretense for neutrality. He was fair and impartial only if you defined his viewers as that small segment of people who were protesting in Little Havana. He allowed people to go on the air and say anything they wanted unchallenged. Rick just walked in lock step with Elián's spokespeople.
Jennings: Did he offer any explanation? I mean, he didn't just come right out and tell you he was one of Castro's operatives, did he?
Jicha: He told me 60 percent of his audience is Cuban. His ratings are excellent. That was his defense of why he did what he did. If that's what you want, well fine. But Rick Sanchez is not a journalist. He's an entertainer, as most people on TV are. Just don't even claim to be objective, as Rick will do. Just come off for what you are. If you want to be a cheerleader for that group, then fine.
He's entitled to his opinion, but at least be honest about it. They never ever framed this as an issue of Elián being reunited with his father. It was always whether or not the boy would be returned to communist Cuba. They are the ones that framed it that way; they are the ones who put it as either a victory or a defeat for Castro. The others framed that to an extent, but at Seven it was presented solely in those terms. I hold them responsible for how the Cuban community reacted. I think they helped ratchet up the emotion in the community by framing it in this way.
Sanchez: But Tom, aren't you viewing this from a Broward perspective? After all, your newsroom is in Fort Lauderdale.
Jicha: Rick, I live in a community in Kendall, Winston Park. There is a mix of maybe 40 percent each of Cubans and Anglos, and 20 percent of anything else. On the day Elián was seized, there was no uprising in my community. There were garage sales and kids riding on bicycles. Six or seven miles of lunacy was not at all reflective of most Miamians. Why [wasn't WSVN] out in Winston Park and West Kendall? Why weren't they in other areas, even in Coral Gables? I'm sure they would have found a lot of people who were disappointed in the raid but who weren't carrying on like this. If you watched Channel 7, you would think everyone of Cuban descent in the Miami area believed and acted the same way. They didn't tell both sides of the story, and that's [violating] the first rule of journalism.