NPR — WLRN Backs Down on Banned Book and Author Interview

NPR’s Miami affiliate back-tracked yesterday after canceling an interview with author Stephen Kimber because the subject was “too incendiary and fears of a negative reaction from certain segments of the community.” (See original emails below)

Yesterday, after repeated calls to the station from this author, Joseph Labonia, general manager of the station, overruled his program director host,  Joseph Cooper.

Labonia said, in a public spanking — that noted that Cooper was not part of the news team:

“We want to do more than express a mea culpa, however. We want to make this right. As a result, WLRN’s news division (to which Mr. Cooper does not belong) will be interviewing Stephen Kimber, the author of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five,  this Friday on its weekly Florida Roundup show. We will accord Mr. Kimber his say, but we will also ask him our own hard questions about his claims.”

Joseph Cooper, the host of WLRN’s Topical Currents show, which originally canceled Kimber’s interview, said to The Nuevo Miami Herald, “In my fiduciary capacity I have a responsibility to the community…and (WLRN)….. for this community, it just seems a little too much.”

What Mr. Cooper seemed to be saying is that the local NPR station might be faced with possiple terrorism and a boycott from the Cuban exile community while the station is in the midst of a fundraising drive. All NPR stations are facing the loss of federal funds this year.

Joseph Cooper disagreed with some of the books’ assertions that the spies might have been unjustly convicted when he cancelled the interview

A day later Cooper was overruled by the station manager, Labonia, who said the station is a “communal roundtable” and above all a “tolerant forum.”

Stephen Kimber has been a journalism professor for 30 years, and is the author of nine books.

A few years ago, while researching a novel – a love story – he found out about the case of the Cuban Five, a true story about spies, counterspies, terrorists, and murder, which was causing a major rift between the U.S. and Cuba that’s still ongoing today. The undisputed essence of the story is that Fidel Castro sent five spies to break up terrorist activities being hatched by Cuban exiles in Florida.

What Lies Across The Water Stephen KimberKimber wrote a factual, heavily researched book, What Lies Across the Water, and has been on a book tour promoting it in Washington, New York, and Boston. As part of the book tour his agent arranged for him to go to WBGH, an NPR affiliate in Boston, for a radio interview to be aired today on the NPR station WLRN, in Miami, a city where 35% of the population traces its roots to pre-Castro Cuba.

Kimber is not an ideologue, and the book is not a polemic. He is interim director of the of the journalism school at the University of King’s College in Halifax and an award winning writer, editor and broadcaster.

Some the facts in the book contradict the Cuban version of the story (that nobody was spying against the US), and some of the facts contradict what the Cuban exiles believe (that all these guys per pure spies and should be locked up forever).

In an interview earlier this week, Kimber maintained that  he is a mainstream author and has done exhaustive research. He also went on to say “That email tells you everything you need to know – and more -about why it was impossible to find an unbiased jury in Miami to hear the case… and why it is even more important today – 15 years later, with four of the five still in American prisons – for Americans to learn the facts of the case.


Copy of Emails: Tuesday’s Interview is Cancelled

— ——– Forwarded message ———-
From: Kristi Hughes <>
Date: Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 9:28 PM
Subject: Tuesday’s Interview is Cancelled</>

Hi Stephen – I wanted to give you a heads up that the interview scheduled for Tuesday, the 17th, is canceled. Please see below. It is best explained right from them. We’ll keep forging ahead to get media enthusiastic about this topic, not consider it volatile. I welcome your thoughts and apologize on their behalf for any inconvience. Best, Kristi

From: Ives, Richard M. []
Sent: Friday, September 13, 2013 7:46 PM
To: Kristi Hughes (
Subject: RE: What Lies Across the Water/Topical Currents 9/17

Hello Kristi,

I’m sorry to say that Topical Currents host/exec prod, Joseph Cooper, has told me to cancel the interview with Stephen Kimber. After looking over the book and accompanying material that I provided he feels that the topic is too “incendiary” and fears a negative reaction from certain segments of the community. I made the case for why I thought that such fears were overblown but to no avail.

My sincerest apologies to Stephen. I wish him much success with the book. >R

Richard Ives


Topical Currents

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Miami, FL 33132-1348


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About Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood Blake Fleetwood was formerly on the staff of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, The New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Village Voice, Atlantic and the Washington Monthly on a number of issues. He was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to New York City at the age of three. He graduated from Bard College and did graduate work in political science and comparative politics at Columbia University. He has also taught politics at New York University. He can be reached at
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