After weeks of frantically knocking on doors and hoarse from phone calls, Diaz-Lanz finally appeared at a public hearing before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. The date was July 14, 1959.
Mr. SOURWINE (Chief Counsel). Is Castro friendly to the United States?
Major DIAZ. No.
Mr. SOURWINE. But Fidel Castro has said on many occasions [as dutifully transcribed and transmitted by the New York Times] that he is friendly to the United States. You are saying that this is not true?
Major DIAZ. He is lying.
Mr. SOURWINE. You know there are many who say that Fidel Castro is not himself a Communist.
Major DIAZ. I am completely sure that Fidel is a Communist.
Mr. SOURWINE. You are completely sure that Fidel Castro is what?
Major DIAZ. “That Fidel Castro is a communist. Also, I'm prepared because the communists have a well-known system of trying to destroy the reputations of anyone who disagrees with them.”
The New York Times was quick out of the gate. “In Cuba there are no communists in positions of control,” stressed Herbert Matthews in a fresh article. “The accusations of Major Pedro Diaz-Lanz are rejected by everybody.”
But as Diaz-Lanz warned, when outing communists, their denial is only half the story. The truth-teller must also be defamed. Not to worry! The New York Times was eminently worthy of the task.
"Sources (Castro or his henchmen) tell me that Major Diaz-Lanz was removed from his office for incompetence, extravagance and nepotism," continued Herbert Matthews' front-page article in the New York Times on July, 16 1959 (the very day following Diaz-Lanz’ testimony!)
And Castro's U.S. propaganda minions were just warming up. The New York Times had sounded her bugle. Now the rest of the media pack rushed in behind her (remember, this was 1959) yapping and howling and wagging their tails, panting to join the hunt. They were all too eager for a chance to mob and maul a man who risked his life and went stone-broke to warn America about what turned out to be the gravest threat in her history.
"It's an outrage that Congress should give a platform for a disaffected Cuban adventurer to denounce the Cuban revolution as Communist!" barked Walter Lippmann a few days later in the New York Herald Tribune. "It would be an even greater mistake even to intimate that Castro's Cuba has any real prospect of becoming a Soviet satellite," (italics mine) Lippmann stressed a week later in a Washington Post.
Lippmann's Pulitzer Prize the year before, by the way, noted "his distinction as a farsighted and incisive analyst of foreign policy."
“To our American friend Herbert Matthews with gratitude. Without your help, and without the help of the New York Times, the Revolution in Cuba would never have been.” (a beaming Fidel Castro decorating Herbert Matthews with a medal during a visit to the New York Times offices in April 1959.)
“Foreign reporters -- preferably American -- were much more valuable to us at that time (1957-59) than any military victory. Much more valuable than recruits for our guerrilla force were American media recruits to export our propaganda.” (Che Guevara 1959.)
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.