USA Today admits it lied over Cuba

Campaign News | Monday, 29 March 2004

Award winning journalist fabricated tale of migrants lost at sea

The resurrection of Jacqueline and other ghosts

By Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada

A new style is making headway in US journalism: to reveal that some of its main stories were the spurious work of frauds violating every ethical principle in order to lie, falsify and plagiarize.

Take the case of Jayson Blair, who last year cost the principal editors of The New York Times their jobs. It continues making celebrity waves and the media has invited him to promote a book on his adventures.

Then came USA Today?s turn. On March 19 the daily informed its readers, in two long articles, that its star journalist, Jack Kelley -with the most awards accumulated in a brilliant 22-year career and a five-time nominee for the Pulitzer -is really a liar of Olympic proportions.

USA Today discovered this in a thorough investigation that uncovered a long series of grossly fabricated reporting.

We will address only one case, which USA Today considered the worst, and which refers to Cuba.

Summary: In February 2000, Kelley wrote -and USA Today published- a horrifying story completely invented from start to finish, in which each fact was absolutely false. It concerned the supposed death of a group of illegal immigrants shipwrecked on the way to Florida, guided by the moon in the middle of a fierce storm.

To give the melodrama more flavor, the article carried the photo of a young Cuban woman, identified as Jacqueline, photographed by the astute reporter, which -according to him- was taken shortly before the unlucky girl lost her life (together with her baby son) in the fury of the sea.

USA Today?s inquiries proved there was no such attempt to emigrate on the day cited by the journalist, no shipwrecks and no storm. The sea was calm and there was not even a moon; to top it off, Jacqueline isn't Jacqueline.

Her true name is Yamilet, and she appears in the explanation now offered by the US newspaper alive and well, and holding the famous photo of her that Kelley took ? on the balcony of her house.

She and her husband are currently living in the United States. They traveled there calmly and legally, by plane, in a flight of less than 50 minutes, and they bitterly complained of the crude fabrication.

The "tragedy" of Jacqueline was not only published, it was big news for its editors and given cover headlines in the daily that circulates throughout the United States. It was also reproduced in Reader?s Digest.

Kelley gave solemn conferences on it to tireless promoters of "human rights", as serious and honest as he, the most brilliant correspondent USA Today has ever had.

More than a few deceived North Americans cried for Jacqueline. Her tragic "death" was manipulated by the annexationist rabble in Miami. Soon we can expect another book from Mr. Kelley.

The media, that today claims to be offended by this violation of what they would have us believe is their professional ethics, will devote space to promote it.

Will this be the end of this story? How will Jacqueline?s return to the land of the living be limited and what will be the sacred mystery of her resurrection?

After all, Kelley lives in a country where lies and deceptions are practiced naturally, day and night, from the White House down, by an administration that has a mortal allergy to the truth.

They lied about the worst terrorist attack ever suffered by the US people, they lied to the entire world in order to unleash terror and war everywhere, and they constantly lie to perpetuate a senseless policy.

Following the example of their political leaders, the executives of huge corporations alter data, deceive their stockholders and the State, and become illegally rich.

One after another the scandals flood the media, which of course counts among its membership some of the most notorious frauds, who lied under oath to Congress -like Oliver North and certain Watergate burglars - now counselors of public opinion.

As for Cuba, what Kelley did is repugnant. But he is not unique, far from it.

The poor man follows a tradition that, with rare exceptions, has been the US media norm since January 1, 1959. The list of news peddlers that have lied and deceived about Cuba for 45 years would make a never-ending narrative.

How many tons of paper was wasted defending Batista?s torturers and murderers from the first days? How many melodramatic stories have presented them as innocent victims of revolutionary justice?

Who remembers the illustrious reports that described a spectacular landing in 1961 at the "port" of Bayamo, the village that since its founding in 1514 has always been very far from the sea?

Who transformed the terrorist Batista henchman Armando Valladares into a poet?

Who invented the lie that he was paralyzed? Did anyone apologize to the Parisian authorities who waited for the athlete with a wheelchair?

Has anyone explained to avid readers awaiting the first poem from the man the US media claimed was an inspired and prolific bard?

These are just a few examples of what has been a campaign as shameless as it has been prolonged.

And the worst is that it hasn't stopped. At the same time that USA Today recognized the unacceptable anti-Cuban lies of its reporter, the latest Village Voice included an article by a Mr. Hentoff, another professional liar.

At the end of his gibberish he echoes something already published in The Nation, the respectable liberal North American publication.

That was a curious, or better said bizarre, article by the famous writer Arthur Miller, someone who already has a Pulitzer Prize.

It must be recognized that in his quick visit to Cuba, Miller neither invented shipwrecks nor "killed" anyone. But he was no less delirious. It appears that his feverish imagination led him to talk with ghosts and prevented him from seeing reality.

Miller passed through Havana, but didn't see it. That is the only way to explain his description of the Plaza de Armas as a place occupied by government institutions where state employees sell Marxist pamphlets.

Everyone knows this Plaza is always full of visitors and that there are numerous private merchants selling their books according to the rules of supply and demand. The government has nothing to do with these bookstalls.

As in all used book markets, one can find many titles, and that includes those by US authors. Presumably the vendors offer Marxist books because someone wants to buy them. Should they be prohibited? Are there doubts about the free market or a yearning for the McCarthy years?

If The Nation or the Village Voice wants to be in style, they don't need an investigation as meticulous as that of USA Today.

It would be enough to send someone to look at the books and interview the famous vendors.

Preferably someone who understands Spanish, because not all the ghosts of Havana speak English.

*The author is president of the National Assembly of Peoples Power (Cuban Parliament).

For the original story in which USA Today admits its guilt:

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