Accuracy in Media

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has not backed down nor apologized for his praise of Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro, which sparked bipartisan criticism over praising an authoritarian leader who had a poor human rights record.

Sanders, in a 60 Minutes interview, claimed that Castro’s Cuba decreased illiteracy rates and should be praised for doing so.

“It’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

He has since defended his initial comments in the last debate in South Carolina, which was also criticized by other presidential primary candidates on-stage.

Previously, we suggested that Cuba’s literacy rates went up during Castro’s rule based on a United Nations report on literacy rates. But Hans Bader at CNS News pointed us to data that contradicted the United Nations report. For example, Cuban educational progress has slowed compared to its Latin American counterparts since Castro’s revolution and now, their counterparts have closed the gap on educational achievements like literacy.

Also, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler noted that Cuban literacy was fourth among Latin American countries in the 1950s. Before Castro’s rule, Cuba already had top rankings in health care and education, including low infant mortality rates in the 1950s. This information directly contradicted Sanders’ claim that Castro immediately improved the country’s literacy.

Sanders’ claim was based on misleading data from the United Nations which ignored historical context. Yet the mainstream media failed to challenge Sanders on the validity of his claim or the data that he based his claim on. It should continue to ask Sanders questions about his Cuban literacy rate claim, specifically about how education was already doing well in Cuba before Castro’s rise to power.

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