It’s a good thing that Rich Noyes of the watchdog Media Research Center keeps an eye on CNN. Good thing for CNN, too. Given the latest Nielsen ratings – the station is now ranked 17th during prime time – Ted Turner’s brainchild should be grateful for any and all viewers, whatever their motivation.
Last week, according to Noyes’s expose, “CNN aired a piece of Communist Party propaganda about how Cuba could serve as ‘a model for health care reform in the United States.’” The CNN report included clips from Michael Moore's Sicko as CNN's Morgan Neill, on location in a Potemkin Havana hospital, gushed about Cuban healthcare's “impressive statistics.” “Cuba's infant mortality rates,” he reported, “are the lowest in the hemisphere, in line with those of Canada!”
And indeed, according to UN figures, Cuba's current infant mortality rate places the country 44th from the top in worldwide ranking, right next to Canada (the lower the rate the higher the ranking). What CNN left out is that according to those same UN figures, in 1958 (the year prior to the glorious revolution), Cuba ranked 13th from the top, worldwide. This meant that robustly capitalist Cuba had the 13t lowest infant-mortality rate in the world. This put her not only at the top in Latin America but atop most of Western Europe, ahead of France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Today, all of these countries leave Cuba in the dust, with much lower infant mortality rates.
Moreover, Cuba's “impressive” infant mortality rate is kept artificially low by the regime’s chicanery with statistics and by a truly appalling abortion rate of 0.71 abortions per live birth. This is the hemisphere’s highest, by far. Any Cuban pregnancy that even hints at trouble gets “terminated.”
Also noteworthy is that, according to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the mortality rate of Cuban children aged one to four years is 34 percent higher than the U.S. (11.8 versus 8.8 per 1,000). But these don’t figure into UN and World Health Organization spotlighted “infant-mortality rates,” so the pressure is not on Cuban doctors to fudge these figures — at least not yet.
In April 2001, Dr. Juan Felipe García, M.D., of Jacksonville, Florida, interviewed several doctors who had recently defected from Cuba. He reported the following:
“The official Cuban infant-mortality figure is a farce. Cuban pediatricians constantly falsify figures for the regime. If an infant dies during its first year, the doctors often report he was older. Otherwise, such lapses could cost him severe penalties and his job.”
More interesting (and tragic) still, the maternal mortality rate in Cuba is almost four times that of the U.S. rate (33 versus 8.4 per 1,000). Curious, then, that so many mothers die during childbirth in Cuba, and so many one-to-four-year-olds perish, and yet Cuban children remain healthy precisely during the age when they can qualify as UN statistics.
Yet such grim health outcomes should not be surprising. For all the flattery lavished on Cuban health care by naïve documentarians and sympathetic reporters, the fact is that ninety-nine percent of Cubans have no more experience with hospitals like the one featured in Sicko and CNN than Michael Moore has with a Soloflex. Most Cubans will only see such facilities in their dreams.
So outraged were Cubans to see the lies about the country’s health care facilities repeated in Moore’s movie that they risked their lives by using hidden cameras to film conditions in genuine Cuban hospitals in an effort to alert the world about their true fate. At enormous risk, two hours of shocking – often revolting – footage was obtained with tiny hidden cameras and smuggled to Cuban-exile George Utset, who runs the superb and revelatory website The Real Cuba. The man who assumed most of the risk during the filming and smuggling was Cuban dissident Dr. Darsi Ferrer, a medical doctor himself. Dr. Ferrer was also willing to talk on camera, narrating the video’s revelations. Dr Ferrer works in these Cuban hospitals, a daily witness to the truth that some prefer to ignore.
Originally, ABC's John Stossel planned to show the shocking videos in their entirety, during a 20/20 show. Alas, on September 12 2007, the 20/20 show ran only a tiny segment on Cuba's “real” healthcare, barely 5 minutes long and with almost none of the smuggled video footage.
Enter Fox News, and Sean Hannity in particular. I contacted Hannity's producers regarding the smuggled videos and they immediately requested a look. Within hours they jumped on them and produced a blockbuster of a show. (Watch it here and here.) Fox viewers saw naked patients covered with flies lying on “hospital beds” consisting of a bare mattress; they saw buildings that would be condemned by the health board of any U.S. municipality serving as "hospitals”; and they heard Dr. Darsi Ferrer, along with other Cubans, describe their inability to obtain something as basic as aspirin. To be sure, Fox viewers also saw footage of Cubans being told by regime apparatchiks that aspirins and other medicines just might be available to them – but only if they paid in U.S. dollars, not the Cuban pesos they held out in desperation.
That’s the truth about Cuban health care. But you won’t hear it from CNN.