By: Mark Fitzgerald Cuban group buys full-page Miami Herald ad zapping the paper and publisher David Lawrence sp.
OVER THE YEARS, Jorge Mas Canosa's Cuban American National Foundation has used bumper stickers, bus posters and billboards to blast the Miami Herald and publisher David Lawrence Jr. Last week, however, the fervently anti-Castro group used the Herald itself to level an attack on Lawrence and his paper. "Why So Much Hate, Mr. Lawrence?" read the headline over the full-page ad published July 28 in both the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, the Herald's Spanish-language daily. The ad accused the Herald of distorting comments Mas made in an interview with El Pais, the national newspaper in Spain, that made him sound anti-American. "We are stunned that the Herald has knowingly chosen to publish comments out of context and use them in yet another attempt to undermine the Cuban American National Foundation's integrity in the South Florida community," the ad said. "[T] he Herald once again has broken with journalistic principle in order to unfairly attack our institution along with the values, traditions and history that we all treasure. What is truly 'un-American' is David Lawrence's and the Herald's vicious, absurd and unfounded campaign." At issue was the Herald's reprinting of comments Mas made to El Pais about whether Americans would take over Cuba in the event of Fidel Castro's fall from power. "That's bull??," the story quoted Mas as saying, using the dashes. "They haven't even been able to take over Miami. If we have kicked them out here, how could they possibly take over our own country?" The comments reawakened a controversy about Cuban-Americans that never quite dies in the Miami area. In their ad, the foundation said Mas was trying to be pro-American. "It was a passionate and poignant rebuff of the anti-American sentiments in the foreign press, and of the 'blame America first crowd' in this country who advocate a change in the U.S.-Cuba policy and lifting the U.S. embargo of Castro's dictatorial regime," the ad said. Many South Floridians, however, apparently saw the comments as confirming their view that Cuban-Americans are not "real Americans" and reserve their primary loyalty for their island homeland. The foundation's ad accused Lawrence of "inciting the elements of racism and hate that regrettably exist in our community" and of "modern day McCarthyism" by orchestrating a "witch hunt" against Mas. The ad called on the management and shareholders of Herald parent company Knight-Ridder Inc. "to bring an end to this senseless confrontation." In a column on the opinion page the same day as the ad, Lawrence said the paper had made several attempts to confirm the quotes with Mas and get his comment, but Mas did not respond. When Mas did issue a statement, Lawrence noted, the paper ran it verbatim as a letter to the editor. Lawrence said the Herald received "an outpouring of letters, most condemning what Mas had to say," which the newspaper published in proportion to the numbers for and against the foundation's chairman. Anti-Mas letters that were "nothing more than hate-filled stereotyping" were deliberately not published, Lawrence said. But Mas himself heated up the controversy with remarks July 21 on the Spanish-language radio station WQBA. Speaking of Lawrence, Mas said, "Definitely, this is a personal matter. It is a matter of a person who is mentally sick." In his column, Lawrence said the issue, to him, is not personal, despite "strong statements about this newspaper and me, its publisher," Lawrence wrote. "We accepted it in the spirit of making it possible for readers and advertisers to express a broad range of opinions ? even if we might not agree with them." "It's worth noting that the equivalent advertisement could never run in totalitarian Cuba," Lawrence concluded his column. ?( Continuing their feud, an anti-Castro group bought this ad in the Miami Herald to chastise the paper and publisher David Larence, who responded with a column.) [Photo & Caption]