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Cue the giant whooshing sound. Add a bombastic voice-over, a flashing graphic, some dynamic music. Cut to a man and a woman sitting behind a curved gray desk inside a vast room. In the background: video monitors, red railings, the bobbing heads of lackeys answering telephones.
Dark-haired female: Good evening, everyone. Tonight the Night Team is hearing shocking reports out of North Bay Village about a newscaster -- a very high-profile broadcaster -- who might not be who he seems. I'm Laurie Jennings.
Swarthy, preternaturally tan male: And I'm Rick Sanchez. A weekly newspaper in Miami is speculating that ... let me see if I've got this right ... that I, WSVN anchor Rick Sanchez, am a secret agent agitating for Castro's Cuba. We go right away to the Satellite Center and to Carmel Cafiero, who is standing by with details. Carmel, this shocks the conscience.
Pan to a flame-haired woman standing before a large television monitor in a room apparently constructed for air-traffic control.
Cafiero: That's right, Rick. As WSVN's lead anchor, you stand accused tonight of serving two bosses: your viewers here in Miami, and a communist dictator residing just 90 miles away. Critics of your sensational broadcasting style are claiming you are, in large part, responsible for the civic unrest that followed the removal of Elian Gonzalez from the home of his relatives in Little Havana. Those disturbances, you may recall, served to weaken the position of Miami's exile community while strengthening Fidel Castro's iron grip on power.
Sanchez (interrupting): Ah ... wait a second here, Carmel. You just used the word sensational. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that mean good?
Cafiero: Not in this context, Rick. You see, a close examination of your performance over the course of the Elian saga reveals your reporting helped make the entire Cuban-exile community appear ridiculous. This turn of events, Rick, seems to be exactly what you wanted all along. It's a story you're only going to see here on Seven, and it's one we considered calling "Anchor ... or Agitator?" "Journalist ... or Communist?" before finally settling on "Rick ... or Red?"
The "Rick ... or Red?" graphic, incorporating a flowing Cuban flag, appears onscreen. The mood is set with haunting piano effects. Bleed into a montage of civic unrest: tires burning on Flagler Street, upside-down flags flying, Marisleysis Gonzalez crying, and finally, giant images of Rick Sanchez and Fidel Castro juxtaposed so as to appear smiling broadly at each other.
Cafiero (voice-over): It's been more than a month since the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service reunited little Elian Gonzalez with his father -- an action supported by the majority of Americans. In the aftermath of the raid, images of overturned Dumpsters and impassioned Cuban-American protesters flashed across the nation's television screens. A community long celebrated for its industry, and respected for its political clout, tonight finds itself regarded as little more than a national joke.
Leno: You know, that might not be a bad idea, sending O.J. to Florida. Maybe that'll mean the Cubans won't be coming over here anymore!
Cafiero (voice-over): While Cuban exiles are serving as a punch line, the regime of Cuban President Fidel Castro is stronger than it has been in years.
Max Castro: I think the Elian situation gave a transfusion to the Cuban government. Fidel was able to say, "Look how unreasonable the exiles are. They want to take a child away from his father." That strategy had a certain amount of success, whereas in Miami the exile community came across as very obstinate, entrenched, and very, very politicized.
Cafiero (voice-over): How did this happen? How did a totalitarian government famous for jailing dissidents score a public-relations coup in what should have been a straightforward custody dispute? The answer is being provided tonight by an unlikely source.
Cut to videotape of a dark conference room. A lone figure slumps in the shadows, watching a small television. Boxes of videotapes lie about him. He is eating a chocolate-chip muffin purchased from Dunkin' Donuts.
Cafiero (voice-over): A researcher for New Times recently spent two weeks sequestered in the basement of the Miami-Dade County Public Library watching every WSVN newscast from Thanksgiving -- the day Elian was found clinging to an inner tube -- through April 22, the day of the INS raid. The newspaper discovered that you, Rick, consistently played the role of media agitator, fanning the flames of anti-Americanism in Little Havana.
Cut to archive footage of Sanchez in the Newsplex. He's wearing a different suit. His face is a shade less tan. Script at the bottom of the screen: November 29, 1999.
Sanchez (on the tape): His father wants him back in Cuba. The question is: Will this custody battle mean this little boy's freedom could be lost? Seven's Brian Andrews is live with some of the developments coming from Cuba -- and some would say, Brian, [Sanchez snickers] coming really from the Castro government.