Ed Driscoll

Interview: Humberto Fontova on the MSM's Love for Fidel Castro


Considering that Dan Rather’s shameful acts during the 2004 presidential election gave PJ Media its original name, I shouldn’t be astonished, but even at this late date, it’s still pretty amazing to think that a man who once held himself out as a quote-unquote “objective” journalist would say of Fidel Castro that he’s “Cuba’s own Elvis.”

That’s just one of the many radical chic romances the MSM and Hollywood still have for Castro and his socialist prison island, as veteran author, columnist and PJM contributor Humberto Fontova tells me today, quoting from his latest book, The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. During our interview, Humberto will discuss:

● When Ernest Hemingway viewed Che Guevara’s execution squads personally.

● How did The Godfather Part II become the MSM’s go-to guide for pre-Castro Cuba?

● Which film did Robert Redford present to Fidel Castro and the widow of Che Guevara in a private showing?

● What is Cuba’s  “Military-Tourism Complex”?

● What is Fontova’s take on Diana Nyad, who recently successfully swam from Cuba to Florida?

And much more. Click here to listen:


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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.


MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com, and we’re talking today with Humberto Fontova, the author of The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro.  It’s published by Encounter Books and available from Amazon.com and your local bookstore.

And Humberto, thank you for stopping by today.

MR. FONTOVA:  Man, thanks a lot for the invite.  It’s great to be here.  Heaven knows we have precious few outlets to get the truth about Cuba out.  Thank you for being one of them.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, let’s talk about a very different kind of media outlet, and that’s CBS. Humberto, your book has a quote from Dan Rather. Considering that Dan’s shameful acts during the 2004 presidential election gave PJ Media its original name, I shouldn’t be astonished, but even at this late date, it’s just mind-blowing to think that a man who once held himself out as a quote-unquote “objective” journalist would say of Fidel Castro, that he’s “Cuba’s own Elvis.” Could you explain the origins of that quote, and why Castro was and is viewed as a rock star by so many on the left?

MR. FONTOVA:  Well, the quote came from Dan Rather.  He visited Cuba in 1975, visited again in 1970 — he’s visited Cuba three or four times.  And if you see the pictures that — obviously, of him standing next to Castro, Dan Rather stood in line for Fidel Castro’s autograph during a luncheon in 1996 in the board room — get ready for this one, folks — of the Wall Street Journal in New York City in ’96.  Among the people standing in line for Castro’s autograph, and he got it, was Dan Rather.  He was behind Tina Brown and behind Barbara WaltersDiane Sawyer was so overcome with emotion at the event that she broke out of line, rushed up to Fidel Castro, wrapped her arms around him and smooched him warmly on the cheek.  And this is the man who jailed and tortured the most journalists in the modern history of the western hemisphere.  Yup.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, long before Dan Rather’s quote, is it true that Ernest Hemingway viewed Che Guevara’s execution squads personally?

MR. FONTOVA:  Right.  Ernest Hemingway had chums from going back to the Spanish civil war, Spanish communists, not Spanish leftists, Spanish Stalinists, who were Hemingway’s chums during the Spanish civil war.  These Spanish Stalinists then fled to the Soviet Union after Franco’s victory.  And those were the first communists that the Soviet Union sent to Cuba, obviously because they were Spanish and they spoke Spanish.  And most Cubans are Spanish anyway.  And so Hemingway had connections with these guys, the Soviets in Cuba, from thirty years before than most Cubans from the Spanish civil war, and he would actually mix up Thermos bottles full of Daiquiris and bring them to Che’s firing squad massacres, pull out a picnic chair and watch them and gloat as innocent Cubans were murdered by communist firing squads.

Now, some of our listeners may be going, my god, that’s a crackpot, you know, this Fontova guy — folks, that comes from an eyewitness who heard this and saw this, that is none other than George Plimpton, and that was written in the Paris Review, because George Plimpton was good chums with Ernest Hemingway and used to go to Cuba in ’59 and ’60 to interview Hemingway, and that’s when Hemingway said, hey, come on, Plimpton, I got something to show you, man, this is so much fun.  And Plimpton kind of bugged out of it after he realized where they were going.  But Hemingway is a long-time chum not only of leftist but of murderous communists.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, you mentioned Cuba during the ’59 and ’60 era.  As you mentioned in The Longest Romance, The Godfather Part II is a brilliant film, but how did it become the go-to guide for American media leftists on pre-Castro Cuba?

MR. FONTOVA:  It’s amazing.  That’s what I tell people.  You know, but why do you keep writing these books about Che and about Cuba?  I mean, who cares?  I say, look, really, I just get tired of people citing The Godfather II as the primary educational source on Cuba.  I don’t know — well, let’s face it, Americans as a general rule — I mean, we live in a culture and in a society, I’m not real proud to say, where the term “that’s history” is a pejorative.  So, in other words, most Americans sadly aren’t even aware of the history of their own country, how can you expect them to know the history of a foreign country, and too often they rely on Hollywood for that history.

And I have had college professors — I’m on that YAF speaking circuit, I’m happy to say, and lots of times people will rebut my speeches or attempt to, and professors will.  And I’ll say, we, wait a minute, how can you say that?  I mean, you saw the footnotes in my book.  They say, yeah, but I also saw Godfather II.  We have got college professors in this country that will cite The Godfather II to refute the footnotes in my book.

MR. DRISCOLL:  And I think it’s — in your book you quote either John Stewart or Chris Matthews saying that —


MR. DRISCOLL:  — all I need to know about pre-Castro Cuba I learned from The Godfather, Part II? 

MR. FONTOVA:  Yeah.  That is John Stewart.  He says, all I know about Cuba pre-Castro I learned from Godfather II.  Now, Chris Matthews was slightly different because he says, man, everybody who saw Godfather II knows what Cuba was like before Castro.  That’s Matthew’s quote.  And the sad part of this, and it leads to what I just said, is that John Stewart is widely regarded as the top news source for Americans under 40.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Earlier this year, Robert Redford revealed his love of Vietnam-era leftist radical chic, with his film, The Company You Keep. But Redford has a long relationship with Cuba. He starred in the 1990 film Havana, directed by Sydney Pollack, on the fall of Batista era, and as you write in the Longest Romance, Redford held quite an unusual private screening of the 2004 film, The Motorcycle Diaries, which he produced. Could you talk about that?

MR. FONTOVA:  Yeah.  In effect, The Motorcycle Diaries, which just like The Godfather II, is a good movie as a movie, you know, but The Motorcycle Diaries presents itself as a factual film, and obviously, it glorifies Che Guevara.  It was produced in conjunction with Castro’s propaganda ministry.  A lot of it was shot in Cuba.  A lot of the prepping of the stars for it were done — was done in Cuba essentially by Castro’s propaganda ministry.

And prior to the movie being released in the United States, Robert Redford felt obligated, whether it was a written rule by the Castro regime or just out of courtesy, for whatever reason, he went to Cuba and gave a private screening of The Motorcycle Diaries to Hilda Guevara, Che Guevara’s widow, and Fidel Castro to get their permission, their benediction to release the movie in the U.S.

Can you imagine, Ed, if let us say, you know, one of these movies that you see, HBO movies, about the Reagans, Nancy Reagan about — can you imagine if a Hollywood guy had to rely on the permission of Nancy Reagan to release a movie?  We’d never hear the end of it from the very Hollywood people.  Oh, artistic freedom; oh, censorship, and all that BS.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Humberto, I wanted to veer off on a slightly different angle for a moment. There’s a phrase you use early in The Longest Romance, in which you mention Cuba’s  “Military-Tourism Complex.” What does that refer to?

MR. FONTOVA:  Well, essentially — the only thing properly describable as an industry in Cuba nowadays is tourism.  Three million tourists visited Cuba from the United States — uh, from the world last year, half a million, 500,000 of them visited Cuba from the United States.  The hotels, the entire — the bus lines, the Hemingway Marina, the entire Cuba infrastructure — tourist infrastructure is owned by the Castro’s military in conjunction with some foreign robber barons, most of them Spanish, as in from Spain.  And so every penny, lira, pound, loonie, whatever, that tourists spend in Cuba lands in the pockets not of the Cuban people but of the people in Cuba with the highest motivation to maintain the Stalinist status quo, and also the only people in Cuba with guns.

That’s why — you know, you hear the argument very often, you know, well, you know, we opened it up, that everybody could travel to Cuba, if we just fund the place with tourists and so forth, good grief, wouldn’t that blind side the commies and Euro-commies?  No, folks.  The evidence is in.

For instance, in 1958 — and during the 1950s, an average of 200,000 tourists visited Cuba.  For the last twenty years, ten to fifteen times that many have been visiting Cuba annually, spending millions upon millions.  And the regime last year, according to Freedom House, according to the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders had a ten-year record of repression last year, not in spite of the tourism windfall, because of the tourism — because of the tour — the military is fat and happy and cocky, and they’re entrenching themselves, so it’s having the opposite effect of what the — let us say the Libertarian argument would be.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Speaking of tourism, I don’t know if you’re familar with Cuban-American blogger Val Prieto, but back in 2004, he coined the phrase, “Omnipotent Tourism Syndrome” to describe how leftists enjoy flying down to Cuba to sort of revel in the squalor. In your estimation, what do American leftists think about the Cubans that the Castros hold in subjugation?

MR. FONTOVA:  They — they don’t think about it.  They don’t.  Obviously, if you’re going on a vacation, you’re not going down this thinking about policies.  And the tourists that go to Cuba, primarily Canadian, over a million, 1.1, 1.2 million tourists from Canada have been visiting Cuba; they don’t see that.  They probably have no idea that it’s going on, and they’re not going to dig into it to see if it’s going on.  They go straight from the airport to the fancy beaches which are, by the way, maintained strictly — we call it tourist apartheid because Cubans, especially the darker-skinned ones, are banned from the tourist enclaves under penalty of billy club and Soviet machine guns.  So they don’t know what’s going on in Cuba, and they are helping them.

I do Canadian TV shows, I’m proud to say, once every couple weeks on news, and I explain to them, you folks are propping up that regime.  But most people are unaware of that, I think.

MR. DRISCOLL:  What was your take on Diana Nyad, who recently successfully swam from Cuba to Florida? And how does it compare with the plight of many Cuban citizens who’ve attempted similar aquatic journeys to escape Castro’s regime?

MR. FONTOVA:  Our listeners should realize that over twenty times — look, the estimates of the people who died trying to escape East Germany over the Berlin wall we don’t know, but none of them are over 1,000.  I’ve seen estimates from 200 to 500, maybe to about 900 of people died trying to escape.  The estimates of people that died trying to escape Castro’s Cuba are around 50 to 70,000 have died trying to escape Cuba, and they have died much more horribly.  Yes, they had died by machine guns, like so many unfortunate East Germans did, but they died at the jaws of sharks.  They died of drowning, of exposure.

Now, if you read it superficially, which is what I suspect most people did, and Diana did, oh, well, gosh Humberto, I mean, what’s wrong with that gal, you know, you gotta really hand it to her, she — no, no, no, no, no.  She did this in collaboration with the Stalinist regime.  She went down there — anything that you do from Cuba, and that applies to press bureaus, ABC, NBC, CBS, movies, you do in conjunction with the Stalinist regime or you don’t do it.

She naturally went down there, and she came out against the embargo, that it was cruel, and so forth.  And she revealed that in college she would put Che Guevara posters on her wall, and naturally, she recited the usual thing about the fantastic Cuban healthcare.  And she also revealed that the regime had wanted her originally to swim in the opposite direction, from Key West to Cuba; otherwise, too many people would equate it with the number of people who try to escape Cuba.  But the only reason she didn’t do it in the manner that the regime wanted was because of the currents would not have allowed her to make it.  So she did this in collaboration with the regime.  In the opinion of me and many Cuban Americans, she was desecrating the graves of 50,000 plus Cubans who died horribly on that same route.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Yeah, there’s a really depressing metaphor that you mention in The Longest Romance, when you write that while most of us think of the ocean as scenic and beautiful, a number of Cubans hate the ocean; they think of it as the walls keeping them trapped on this prison island.

MR. FONTOVA:  It is.  And back in 1960, you know, Che Guevara talked about creating a “new man,” you know, a new socialist man which would be unlike — I guess, be unlike a normal human being.  And you know, if a way, they sort of succeeded in that with many Cubans.  Cubans have come to regard the ocean, the sea, the beautiful turquoise waters that surround Cuba which historically was a place of recreation and fun.  They are now regarding it as jail bars.  They are regarding it the same way that East Germans saw the wall, and that is just awful.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Humberto, last question: Fidel Castro is currently 87 years old. His brother Raul is 82. How long do you think that  Communist Cuba will remain a prison island, and how do you see its future playing out?

MR. FONTOVA:  Sadly — yeah, Raul is 83, just made 83, but their dad lived into his mid 90s, you know, so they probably have a few more years to go.  And as I mentioned, there are so many people making a killing right now from Cuban tourism.  The Cuban military essentially runs Cuba, you know, with Fidel — with Raul and Fidel a little bit as an advisor, but they run Cuba, and they have absolutely no incentive to change the status quo.  They are making a killing.

So I’m sorry to report — I’d love to be optimistic, but chances are, unless we apply something properly describable as an actual embargo — if we were to enforce the embargo laws that are on the books, I think we probably could start squeezing them, but they’re making such a killing that the military guys, most of them are in their 70s, and they’ve got their kids and their families, running, you know, that gold mine known as Cuban tourism.  They want to keep this thing going, and they don’t want the system to crumble.

So sadly, I don’t know, it might go the way of, say, in Eastern Europe where, what, the KGB in conjunction with the Russian Mafia runs the place.  It’s a depressing scenario unless we could actually apply an embargo.

MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll, and we’ve been talking with Humberto Fontova, whose personal Website is at www.hfontova.com. He’s the author of The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. It’s published by Encounter Books, and available from Amazon.com and your local bookstore.

And Humberto, thank you once again for stopping by PJ Media.com today.

MR. FONTOVA:  Anytime, amigo.  You all got my number.  Call any time.  Thank you.

(End of recording; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)

Transcribed by eScribers.net, with minor revisions (including hyperlinks) by Ed Driscoll. Artwork created using background image by Shutterstock.com.

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