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Karen Finney: Castro Had Literacy Program For Re-Education Purposes, Libraries Were For Propaganda


Democratic operative Karen Finney knocked Sen. Bernie Sanders for praising Cuban dictactor Fidel Castro for literacy programs. Finney said Castro used literacy to spread propaganda, not to educate the public. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Politics is perception, and Sanders has an issue for doubling down on this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Fidel Castro first came to power, which was when? Fifty-nine? Does that sound right? CUOMO: Fifty-nine, ’60. SANDERS: OK. Do you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing. (END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Now, Sanders is in a pickle here, because you don’t give a Pat on the back to a despot. His new argument is, Hey, President Obama made similar comments. Biden was not having it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: What I said is what Barack Obama said, in terms of Cuba, that Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think — UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boo. SANDERS: Really? Really? Literacy programs are bad? (CROSSTALK) SANDERS: What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and health care. That was Barack Obama. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama was abroad. He was in a town meeting. He did not, in any way, suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government. I never say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my private conversations, but the fact of the matter is, he in fact, does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime, and does not now. SANDERS: Look, authoritarianism of any stripe is bad, period. That is different than saying that governments occasionally do things that are good. (END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Did that help? Let’s discuss with our political all-stars. Hilary Rosen, Phil Bump, they’re back. Joining us Patrick Healy, Wajahat Ali, and Karen Finney. Let’s get some new people into the mix here. What did you think, Patrick? Did he clean it up? PATRICK HEALY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don’t think he cleaned it up. And I think Joe Biden, we’re reporting, Joe Biden and Barack Obama talked today. Joe Biden wanted to go over this pretty clearly with Obama so that he was framing it right. And I think that was one of Biden’s strongest answers here. It’s — it’s a hard place for all the Democrats to be in, because in a way, yes, it’s an easy hit to criticize Castro in Cuba. But then you’re also somehow, by extension, possibly criticizing universal health care, free education goals that many Democrats have. So it can be a little hard — it can be a little hard to skate this for liberals in the party who might see it a certain way. But I think Biden — but I think in a lot of ways, Biden pushed back very effectively. CUOMO: I’ll give it to you policy-wise, but the dividing line is despot, right? You can have the policy without having the despot. Go ahead, Finney. I hear you. KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, OK. Having been to Cuba, I’m sorry, Patrick, you’re completely out of line. That is a ridiculous statement. There is no comparison between saying we want single-payer health care or we want a system where everybody gets health care, and saying, Hey, Castro did a good thing. And here’s the piece that he — that Bernie leaves out every single time. The reason that Castro did that was to indoctrinate people into their communist propaganda. That’s why they did it. And it’s not like they then built libraries so people could read whatever they wanted. No, they had a full shutdown on any outside information other than the propaganda coming from the government. That’s part of the problem. HEALY: No, I think — I think that that’s true, Karen. I’m not — I wasn’t disagreeing with you. I was saying that, essentially, for Biden — for Biden to get into this with Bernie, to make this hit as cleanly as possible, it gets — it gets — Bernie is able to do a pivot. That’s the reality, the issues that he wants to be able to talk about. But I think, again, I think it was a very strong comment by Biden on it.

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