Federally funded Radio Televisión Martí spews anti-Semitic slander
Our money paid for this lying anti-Semitic screed.
It was broadcast in May, five months before a South Florida political fanatic mailed a pipe bomb to George Soros, favorite target of anti-Semites and their right-wing enablers. Cesar Sayoc, charged with sending bombs to Soros and 13 other perceived enemies of Donald Trump, was animated by crazy talk emanating from the unhinged far-right media.
Apparently, the unhinged far-right media includes Radio Televisión Martí, a taxpayer-funded relic of the cold war and a famously ineffective disseminator of anti-Castro propaganda, sustained by Congress (with $800 million so far) as a political sop to Cuban exile hardliners.
On May 15, Radio Televisión Martí, which operates out of studios in Doral, broadcast a
15-minute segment invoking that hackneyed trope about Jewish financiers controlling the world. The video, with cheesy music, attacked Soros, an 88-year-old Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, as a “multimillionaire Jew” and a “non-believing Jewish financial speculator of flexible morals.”
Radio Televisión Martí added the truly starting news, for those of us who remember mortgagebacked securities and credit default swaps, that Soros was the very “architect of the 2008 financial collapse.”
Soros’ repute stems from his Open Society Foundations which, since 1984, has contributed more than $14 billion to groups that advance such objectional causes as human rights, the rule of law, a free press, education, public health and LGBT across the world.
Radio Televisión Martí, however, repeated scurrilous claims that Soros was “financing antiestablishment movements” intent on “destabilizing societies and cultures.” That he supported narcoterrorists and enabled Cuban meddling in Latin America. All this, just “to fill his pockets,”
At the time, hardly anyone noticed that a federal agency was spewing anti-Semite conspiracy theories. Perhaps, because the broadcasts command such a sparse audience. But last month, the Cuban Triangle, a Washington-based blog that tracks Cuban issues, featured a report on the video. Mother Jones, followed by other media, picked up the story.
Initially, former Miami Mayor Tomás P. Regalado, who landed the job as director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (which oversees Martí) in June, seemed to shrug off the Soros attack. Just needed more balance, he told Mother Jones.
That changed after Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake read the story. He was enraged by the notion of "taxpayer-funded anti-semitism" and demanded an investigation. “At a time when hate-filled rhetoric is having a devastating impact inside the United States, it is irresponsible for any agency of the federal government to perpetuate unfounded conspiracy theories . . ." Flake said in a letter to Regalado’s bosses at the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
Suddenly, Regalado decided the Soros report – which was apparently cobbled together from various YouTube videos retrieved from the Internet -was reprehensible. The reporter and news director responsible for the broadcast were put on administrative leave and the video was pulled from the Martí website.
Of course, the broadcast only added to the altright’s vilification campaign against Soros. Lately, he has been accused of hiring faux protesters to participate the Women’s March (dubbed by Fox News as “George Soros’ March on Washington”), teen-led demonstrations against gun violence, anti–Brett Kavanaugh protests in the halls of Congress. Even the migrants marching out of Central America.
As if without Soros, it would never have occurred to women that the White House was occupied by a genitalia-grabbing misogynist, or to high schoolers that lunatics with assault weapons were on a nationwide killing spree, or to sexual harassment victims that Kavanaugh was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice despite questions about his past. Or that it was Soros money – not violence and poverty – that convinced a band of Central Americans to head for El Norte.
But Radio Televisión Martí is an entity of the
U.S. government’s Office of Cuban Broadcasting, with a $28 million annual budget and a federal mandate to practice actual journalism.
In a way, the controversy around the Soros video is only theoretical. Radio Martí, which began broadcasting in 1985 (adding TV five years later), has long been jammed by the Cuban government. Martí is like the fabled tree falling in the forest with no one to see.
A 2010 investigation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee found that Martí has “received negligible support from among the Cuban people and has had almost no impact on Cuban Government behavior and policy.” The report recounted problems “since its creation” with “miniscule audience size, Cuban Government jamming, and allegations of cronyism and malfeasance” and “failure to adhere to accepted journalistic standards.” including “broadcasting unsubstantiated reports as legitimate news stories
Eight years later, Sen. Flake’s angry letter echoed that criticism, calling Radio Televisión Martí “a waste of money” on which “hundreds of millions of dollars have been squandered over the years on the production of lackluster programming that has consistently fallen short of U.S. Goals to promote democracy inside Cuba. Even worse, for years much of the content has never even reached its intended audience . . .”
And now the attack on Soros. “The rise of antiSemitism inside the United States is bad enough,” Flake wrote. “American taxpayers should not be funding its dissemination.”
Fred Grimm (@grimm_fred or [email protected]), a longtime resident of Fort Lauderdale, has worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida since 1976.