By: MARK FITZGERALD
An Editor’s Note clarified a point in the story. The CANF held a press conference to call that
note a ‘retraction.’ The Times says no, its story is solid. The nasty feud continues.
An Editor’s Note intended to clarify a New York Times story about the Cuban-American National Foundation alleged financing of violence against Fidel Castro’s government has only intensified the war of words between the newspaper and the exile group.
In a Miami press conference, jubilant CANF leaders hailed the Editor’s Note published in Aug. 16 editions of the Times as a “retraction” and “a victory for truth and justice” both for the foundation and the family of its late founder, Jorge Mas Canosa.
Immediately after that press conference, however, the Times issued a statement of its own, emphasizing that the note was not a retraction.
“The fact that the Cuban-American National Foundation held a press conference today and characterized it as such is another example of CANF spinning the story and distorting the truth,” the Times statement read.
At issue in one sense was just one word in one sentence in a controversial two-part story that ran July 12 and 13. But in another sense, the contretemps following the Aug. 17 press conference were just a continuation of the larger battle the highly influential Cuban-American lobbying group has waged against mainstream papers ? especially the Miami Herald and the New York Times.
The Times story was based on extensive interviews with Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who said he had organized a violent anti-Castro campaign that included a series of hotel bombings in Cuba last year. Posada said he was financed by Mas and other CANF officials.
The Times note blamed “an editing oversight” for reporting in one sentence that CANF leaders “supported” the hotel bombings.
“The word was not intended to mean that Mr. Posada said the foundation leaders had paid specifically for the hotel bombings,” the note said. “But, as was made clear elsewhere in the article, Mr. Posada said Mr. Mas and other leaders of the foundation did not earmark money for specific operations, and asked not to be told how he used their funds.”
Following an uproar among CANF leaders and supporters, a nervous Posada ? disguised and speaking from an undisclosed Caribbean location ? said in a videotaped interview, first released by CANF, that he had lied about Mas’ role in his interview with the Times. He also said his comments were “magnified” in parts of the article.
In an Aug. 17 letter to the Miami Herald, Times managing editor Bill Keller said the newspaper stands by all the details of the stories.
“Contrary to your (CANF press conference) story this morning,” Keller wrote, “we did not recant something we had reported, we clarified something that was wide open to misinterpretation. You might say the error we were correcting was the error of those who misread our original articles.”
After the first article appeared, CANF demanded a retraction and said it would file a defamation lawsuit against the paper. CANF said Posada’s subsequent interviews and the Times’ own reporting “effectively eviscerated the main theme underlining the articles . . . that the foundation’s leaders were behind the bombings in Cuba.”
“This (Editor’s Note) underscores what we have said from the beginning,” CANF spokesman Fernando D. Rojas said, “that the New York Times articles were false in their basic premise. The entire premise of these stories has been completely discredited and exposed as a complete falsehood fabricated by a reporter (Ann Louise Bardach) hell bent on attempting to destroy the reputation of Jorge Mas Canosa and the CANF at whatever cost.”
The stories were written by Bardach, a contract writer with the Times, and Larry Rohter, the paper’s Miami-based Caribbean and Central American correspondent.
At the Miami press conference, CANF vice president Jorge Mas Santos, the son of Jorge Mas Canosa, said the foundation is still demanding the Times make public the tapes of Posada. He said CANF may yet take legal action against the newspaper.
“Contrary to your
story this morning, we did not recant something we had reported,
we clarified something that was wide open to misinterpretation”
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site:http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher August 22,1998) [Caption]