Rick ... or Red?

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

Sanchez (on tape): This is the moment when the first federal officer actually comes in contact with Elian and Donato Dalrymple. You can see the pained expression on his face. Reports say, and these are reports from folks at the house, the little boy said, "Don't take me to Cuba! Don't take me to Cuba! Help! Help!"

Cafiero (voice-over): Just more unfiltered propaganda for the Miami relatives? You betcha. But as before the editorializing serves to inflame exile sentiment. Dozens of news outlets covered the raid. Not one of them confirmed the quote Rick reported. Later in the day, Rick led viewers step by step through the raid. He talked about Elian being "thrown" into one of the white vans, with the door being "slammed" behind him.

Sanchez (on tape): Is this the best way of removing a child from the home? Many I'm sure would argue not, given the scenario. The family had said they would not disobey the law if the police came to the home with a court order and asked for the child. As far as we know, they never asked for the child. They broke the door down and took the child -- and removed the boy forcefully ... and pay particular attention to the way he's being carried. Anyone who has children knows you put your hands under their buttocks, unless of course you've never carried a child, or you really are doing everything possible to get them out in a very fast way. But it's certainly not a ginger way of holding a child. It's not a delicate way of holding a child. It looks like they are dragging him out of the home.

Cafiero (voice-over): This is Rick at his scenery-chewing best! Take a look at the language here: "Many would argue ..." "As far as we know ..." Straight from the Pravda school of journalism! Notice also the way in which Rick treats the claims of the Miami relatives as gospel. "The family had said they would not disobey the law." At the same time, he portrays the government agents as a bunch of child-abusers. Although most Americans supported the raid, Rick is practically commanding his audience to seize the streets in protest. For Agent Sanchez and his boss, Fidel, the scenario is a dream come true! The heretofore clandestine revolutionary has fomented an armed rebellion against the United States government! Unfortunately for Rick the rebellion never really caught fire. But the resulting images of burning bonfires of trash and American flags defiantly waved upside down did manage to alienate the Cuban community from the national mainstream -- just as Agent Sanchez intended all along. Bring on the Jay Leno jokes!

Cut back to Max Castro, still waiting in his office.

Max Castro: I saw some of the coverage on Channel 7 and clearly they often framed the argument as about Fidel and not about Juan Miguel. They have to take responsibility for what they broadcast. They were manipulated [by exile leaders] into [framing the story this way], yes, but they were supposed to be journalists and not cheerleaders. I heard many people across the country who would never vote for Proposition 187 or for English-only laws who watched what was happening in Miami and were outraged at the fooling around with the flag and so forth. I think it does weaken the hard-liners to that extent. It made them look very unreasonable, certainly. It weakens them and may lead to a softening of the embargo. Right now, I think, they're talking about an exemption [to the embargo] for food and medicine.

Back live to Cafiero in the Satellite Center. On the screen behind her, the "Rick ... or Red?" graphic remains illuminated.

Cafiero: Now, Rick, we asked both the State Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office here in Miami if there were any active investigations into espionage activity involving you. Neither government agency would confirm that, which, as you and I both know, Rick, doesn't mean it's not true. In fact all the information gleaned from the videotapes, placed in context with your reporting over the five months Elian lived in Miami makes it, and I'm quoting New Times now, "highly likely" that you are a clandestine operative.

Sanchez: Now, is it true I refused to speak to New Times?

Cafiero: That's right, Rick. You declined requests from the newspaper to discuss your Elian coverage. Station spokesman Charlie Folds told New Times you are not giving any interviews on Elian, an apparently new policy put in place after your appearance discussing Elian on CNN's Newsstand program.

Jennings: Thank you, Carmel, for that report. These sensational charges of a communist conspiracy are not the first time Rick Sanchez's journalistic ethics have taken a hit. The Night Team's Holly Herbert is in Cooper City tonight to explain how the Seven news anchor has proven surprisingly resistant to scandal. Holly? Can you hear me?

Herbert (holding hand to earpiece): Yes, Laurie, I can hear you. And I am in Cooper City. In fact I'm standing directly in front of Rick's house. This suburbanized Siberia in Broward County is geographically and governmentally removed from the maelstrom of exile politics. Earlier today a child rode his bicycle. A dog ran across the street. Certainly not the type of American neighborhood where you would expect to find a communist double agent.

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