Asner’s Castro connection

Actors Ed Asner, John Newton, Alice Evan and Peter Jason, took a break from their Nov. 29, 2006 tour of the Pentagon to pose the Defense Department's podium in the briefing room. The group was in town to promote the movie and Hallmark's "Cards for Troops" program and had spent time visiting with wounded servicemembers at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesday and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
Ed Asner

Actor Ed Asner, who turns 87 today, has been a longtime fan of Fidel Castro, 90, and has been active in a number of organizations and campaigns designed to shore up the Castro dictatorship. Among them: the International Peace for Cuba Appeal and the Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. (The Cuban Five, whom we’ve discussed briefly on this site, were spies who were imprisoned in the U.S. for several years.) Routinely, Asner has blamed America for Cuban Communism, his argument being that the U.S. embargo forced Fidel into the arms of the Kremlin. (Don’t try to explain to him that he’s reversed cause and effect.)

Not that he seems particularly bothered by Castro’s Communism. In 1998, visiting Cuba with Muhammed Ali, the American TV star had a friendly meeting with the Caribbean dictator; there is no record of his having breathed a word in criticism of the system Fidel had imposed on his people.

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Ever the good guy

On the contrary, Asner has more than once twisted himself into rhetorical knots in an effort to defend that system. Discussing the Cuban situation in 2003 on MSNBC, Asner was asked about Castro’s imprisonment of his critics. Asner didn’t hesitate to stand up for this practice, maintaining that Fidel had been compelled by (once again) the U.S. embargo of Cuba to resort to such “excesses.” When Pat Buchanan, his interlocutor, requested that Asner explain the connection, Asner asserted that Castro “feels the imminent threat of the Bush administration.”

030114-O-0000D-001 President George W. Bush. Photo by Eric Draper, White House.
Ever the villain

Did this mean, Buchanan inquired, that Asner seriously believed Bush intended to invade Cuba? Asner, while not replying with a direct and unequivocal yes, warned darkly that George W. Bush was “beginning to lower the crunch on Castro.” As evidence for this claim, Asner noted that the president had “just canceled student scholastic trips and museum trips to Cuba.” Buchanan proceeded to remind Asner that Fidel Castro had “persecuted his own people” and “denied them free elections for forty years” and that he was, in fact, “an unelected dictator who puts people in prison on his own.” Asner’s comeback, which demonstrated that the actor had long since accustomed himself to engaging in reflexive moral equivalence, was that America hadn’t had a free election in 2000, either.

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Asner in Elf

In 2003, a group called Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-America Hollywood protested the casting of the pro-Castro Asner as Santa Claus in the movie Elf, then in production. “If he dislikes the country that has afforded him the lifestyle and luxury that his earnings as a celebrity have afforded him,” asserted the group’s leader, “then maybe he should see how wonderful Cuba really is. I doubt he would be able to enjoy the freedoms he has here were he under Castro’s rule.” The campaign failed, and Asner has in fact played Santa several times now.

Age hasn’t withered Asner’s devotion to his cigar-chomping pal in Havana. Three years ago, in a letter addressed to donors to a Cuba-friendly group, he invited them to join him on a delightful trip to Fidel’s tropical prison. “This is a great chance,” he wrote, “to experience for yourself the lively, inspiring and creative people-to-people exchange the right wing is trying to block.”

Oh, and let’s not forget this: Asner was also hugely supportive of Hugo Chávez’s regime in Venezuela, signing a 2004 letter calling chavista Venezuela “a model democracy.” Chávez’s policies have since destroyed the Venezuelan economy, of course, but if Asner has issued any expression of regret for having encouraged all this, we haven’t been able to find it.

But that’s not all. More tomorrow. 

Brainless actor fond of penniless country

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Glover and Harry Belafonte at a 2009 cultural event in Havana

As we saw the other day, movie star Danny Glover had a soft spot for late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. If anything, however, Glover loves the Castros even more than he ever loved el caudillo. While routinely savaging Israel as an apartheid state and supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement against the Jewish state, Glover fiercely opposed the U.S. embargo of Cuba. As the editors of the New York Post noted last December, there was, at least, no ideological contradiction here: Glover supports BDS because he hates the only democracy in the Middle East; he opposed the Cuba embargo, quite simply, “because he admires Havana’s Communist regime.”

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Glover accepting a prize in Havana

By all accounts, Glover has spent a remarkable amount of time in Cuba. According to the Washington Post, he “goes there all the time with little fuss.” He’s attended an annual Havana film festival several times.   In 2011 he accepted a “cinema award” in Havana;  in the same year he took part in a Havana event entitled “Cuba and the Afro-Descendant Peoples of the Americas.”

lethal[1]He’s made it clear that he sees Cuba as some kind of utopian society that’s free of, among other things, racism. In a 2012 interview with the Cuban state media, he gushed that the Cuban Revolution is infused with “an extraordinary will to find truth and to reveal the new human being, the new man and a new woman.” The official Cuban daily Granma has called the relationship between Glover and Havana “intense….It was love at first sight, and not only has it stood the test of his frequent visits, but it is growing deeper and deeper, through discoveries and affinities.”

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Paquito D’Rivera

Quoting this statement in his memoirs, the distinguished jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera – who fled Cuba after his musical style was condemned by the Castro regime as “imperialist” – wryly observes that “Castro’s black victims from Havana…haven’t been among [Glover’s] discoveries and affinities.” Listing the names of several black Cuban human-rights activists who’ve been imprisoned by the Castro regime, D’Rivera asks: “Has Danny Glover denounced the sentences perpetrated against these heroic black Cubans?…On the contrary, Glover’s solidarity is for the man who subjugates black Cubans.” Indeed, we’ve searched the Internet unsuccessfully for any indication that Glover has ever spoken up for any of the Cuban natives who’ve been incarcerated for criticizing their own government.

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Glover visiting Gerardo Hernández in prison

Glover was especially active in seeking the release of the so-called “Cuban Five” – a group of Cuban spies who were imprisoned in the U.S. for many years. (They’re now free.) The Cuban government itself admitted that they were spies, but this didn’t keep Glover from calling them “heroic men.” He became especially close to one of them, Gerardo Hernández, who’d also been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder (this for his involvement in the “shoot-down of unarmed civilian planes piloted by members of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue”). Glover visited Hernández frequently in prison, and described him as his “spiritual brother” and “one of the greatest people I ever met.”

This, then, is the real Danny Glover. And however many times you may see his name online preceded by the word “humanitarian,” just remember: it’s not exactly the mot juste.  

Danny Glover: lethally stupid

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Danny Glover, Hugo Chávez

We’ve devoted a certain amount of attention on this site to top-drawer Hollywood stooges like Sean PennRobert Redford, and Steven Seagal, but so far we’ve neglected to cover one of the most assiduous ones: Danny Glover, star of such films as The Color Purple and Lethal Weapon, and, um, Lethal Weapon 2, and – let’s see, what else? – oh, yes, Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4. To read the most prominent sources, you’d think Glover is a prince of a guy. “He is an active supporter of various humanitarian and political causes,” reads his Wikipedia page. On IMDB, he’s identified as an “[a]ctor, producer and humanitarian.” On his own Facebook page he calls himself an “actor, producer, activist, and humanitarian”; the h-word is also front and center on his official website

Yet look beyond the PR and you’ll find that Glover’s outsized enthusiasm for despots makes some of his fellow Tinseltown tyrant-fans look almost irresolute by comparison.

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Danny Glover, Hugo Chávez

Let’s start with Venezuela. Glover was chummy with the late strongman Hugo Chávez for years: along with Harry Belafonte, Cornel West, and others, he met with the caudillo back in 2006. So close was he to Chávez that El Presidente actually set up financing for a couple of movies Glover planned to produce – one of them about Simón Bolívar, the other about Haitian rebel leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. (Neither of these films has yet materialized, although the latter is listed as forthcoming on Glover’s IMBD page.)

Glover’s love for the Caracas regime didn’t end with Chávez’s death. Last year, when a gang of the usual suspects, among them Oliver Stone and Tom Hayden, wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress expressing support for Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, Glover’s name led the list of signatories.

But Chávez isn’t the only dictator, alive or dead, with whom Glover’s been chummy. Guess who his other fave is? We’ll take a look at that friendship on Monday.