Rick ... or Red?

Could Rick Sanchez, Miami's most notorious journalistic windbag, actually be an agent of Fidel Castro?

Cafiero (voice-over): Now remember, Rick, this is your very first on-air appearance after Elian's rescue. Note how you're already casting aspersions on Juan Miguel Gonzalez's parental instincts, and typecasting him -- ironically -- as a pawn of the Castro regime. This seems to have been your plan all along: to serve as an unfiltered delivery system for the exile community's absurd -- and unsubstantiated -- propaganda. Now check out this report, delivered in late March.

Sanchez (on tape): Interestingly tonight the family of Elian Gonzalez is saying the little boy is himself fearful of Fidel Castro. They say his mother secretly taught him since he was a little boy about Fidel Castro's quote cruelty. And someday, she told him, she would take him away from Castro and from Cuba.

Back live to the anchor desk.

Sanchez (tapping his pencil insistently): Hold on a second, Carmel. I don't see the connection between these clips and communist agitating. Isn't it possible that, you know, maybe I'm just being a bombastic blowhard here? I mean, given my reputation, isn't that more likely?

Cafiero: If this were just some two-bit reporter from another station, perhaps. But Rick, you are "one of the most recognized television anchors in South Florida," according to the WSVN Website. That same Website touts your "keen reporting skills" and commends you for having acted, during Hurricane Andrew, as "a constant voice of hope."

Sanchez (blushing slightly): That was my finest hour.

Cafiero: And for you to treat this story in such a wildly unethical manner, I'm afraid, suggests a hidden agenda. Here's where the New Times research proved invaluable. The newspaper discovered a seemingly innocuous story that lent a fresh perspective to your Elian coverage, Rick.

Cut to archive footage of a WSVN broadcast. Activate more whooshing sounds. Hit more of that eerie piano music.

Cafiero (voice-over): February 18, 2000. Immigration and Naturalization Service official Mariano Faget is arrested and charged with spying for the Castro government. WSVN broadcast the arrest, with file footage of Faget in his office supplemented by new footage of yellow police tape cordoning off his Kendall townhouse. Rick discussed the arrest with senior reporter Mark Londner.

Sanchez (on tape): Mark, if this gentleman was partially responsible for who gets asylum in the United States, isn't it reasonable to conclude, then, that there may be other spies among us?

Londner (on tape): I don't know if it is reasonable to conclude. But the INS says it will review all cases that Mr. Faget had to do with.

Cafiero (voice-over): Londner may have been too hasty in his judgment. During a subsequent interview, exile leader José Basulto reminded viewers that Faget is only the latest spy to be outed. Just two years ago, Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque infiltrated Basulto's organization, Brothers to the Rescue. It's reasonable to conclude, Basulto implied, that there are others.

Cut to silver-haired man barking into the camera.

Basulto: It's a joke! It's been known to us for years. And these are just a few of the very many! I'd say this runs at least more than 1000 spies here in Miami, and many of them very well located.

Cafiero (voice-over): More than 1000 spies? At the highest levels of power? Government? The media? New Times asked the obvious question: With all these spies running around, isn't it reasonable to conclude that some of them may have infiltrated the WSVN Newsplex?

Jennings: Yes?

Cafiero: That's right, Laurie. And if you were a Castro double agent, and it was your intention to undermine Miami's exile community, what do you suppose would be the most influential position to hold?

Jennings: Um, maybe, like, mayor or something?

Cafiero: Not quite. In the unique media vortex created by the Elian Gonzalez story, the central players were people like Rick, who helped frame what should have been an open-and-shut custody case as a pitched battle between Cuban exiles and Fidel Castro. Rick's ostensibly idiotic comments were in fact an ingenious campaign aimed at rousing Miami's exiles to undreamed-of heights of impassioned irrationality. When the dust settled in Little Havana after the INS minivans sped away, Rick had successfully marginalized the exile community. Let's go to the videotape. In this first clip, from December 6, Rick launched a crusade against the National Council of Churches, an American religious organization that attempted to reunite Elian with his father. Lucia Newman is a reporter for CNN based in Havana.

Sanchez (on tape): I'm sure you can understand how, Lucia, so many people here in South Florida and in fact many in the country ... [believe] it's not really Mr. Gonzalez speaking. It's Fidel Castro that's speaking for Mr. Gonzalez. And now we have this National Council of Churches speaking for Mr. Gonzalez as well. And a lot of people are wondering why all of a sudden the National Council of Churches is allowed to go to Havana on a moment's notice, an organization which is very well tied to the Cuban Council of Churches in Havana, which as you know is tied to the Cuban government. Are they beholden to the Cuban government?

Newman (on tape): Well, I don't know if one can say the largest U.S. religious organization, the one with the most ... I think there's something like 56 million orthodox and Protestant churches that belong to the National Council of Churches -- that is in any way an organization that is linked to a communist ideology. I think that would be going too far.

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