Since 1961, The New York Times editorial board has consistently opposed the break in U.S.-Cuba relations, and used major historical events such as the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Mariel boatlift, and the Elian Gonzalez standoff to argue for the restoration of relations.
In her meticulously researched paper, Marie Sanz tells the story of the NY Times’ editorial leadership and the positions it took during each presidential administration. She examines the NY Times’ publishing of editorials that preceded the restoration of relations during the Obama administration, which raised questions about whether the Times had been tipped off to the development. Sanz also covers Fidel Castro’s relationship with the media, how U.S. public opinion toward Cuba changed over time, and the secret talks between the U.S. and Cuba that led to the announcement that relations would be normalized on December 17, 2014.
By the time Obama became president Cuban-American views had begun to change dramatically. A February 2014 study, titled “U.S.-Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change,” conducted on behalf of the Atlantic Council stated: “The majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle are ready for a policy shift. Most surprisingly, Floridians are even more supportive than an already supportive nation to incrementally or fully change course. This is a key change from the past: Cuba used to be intractable because Florida was intractable. This poll argues that is no longer true.”
A few weeks before the dramatic announcement of the breakthrough normalization, The New York Times had found itself in the forefront of American media commentary after publishing six editorials in six consecutive weeks in October and November, and one more in December advocating for the end of the embargo and a normalization of relations.
Soon thereafter came the dramatic announcement that the White House and the Cuban government had decided to do precisely what the Times had just advocated.
The timing of the Times’ cascade of editorials raised questions and a few eyebrows regarding the possible influence of the American media in shaping U.S. policies toward Cuba, or conversely about the power of the U.S. government to use influential American media to promote support for a controversial foreign policy decision.
“That’s a hell of a lot of well-timed Cuba editorializing. Perhaps a bit too well-timed? Did The New York Times editorial board get a little heads-up from the Obama administration on all this stuff?” grumbled the Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple in a December 18 post.
“None,” responds Ernesto Londoño, the author of the editorials – in English and Spanish – and the youngest and newest member of the editorial board of The New York Times.
Marie Sanz is the Joan Shorenstein Fellow (fall 2015) at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was previously senior correspondent for Agence France Presse in Cuba. While at the Shorenstein Center, Sanz will write about the changing relations between Cuba and the U.S. through the lens of the media.
Listen to Sanz discuss her paper
Read the entire paper, “The Persistent Advocate: The New York Times’ Editorials and the Normalization of U.S. Ties with Cuba”
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