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TV Used As Ammo in Elian Case

April 13, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Television became ammunition in the Elian Gonzalez custody battle Thursday, with the boy speaking in a frequently repeated videotaped message and his Miami relatives inviting a camera into their home.

Elian, in a home video where he sat on a bed and spoke in Spanish, addressed his father, saying: ``I don’t want to go to Cuba. ... I want to stay here.″

The video was obtained by the Spanish-language Univision network. It was shown on ABC’s ``Good Morning America,″ which had been alerted by Univision shortly before it went on the air that the tape was available.

It was quickly rebroadcast on cable news networks, and prompted a protest by the lawyer for Elian’s father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Gregory Craig called on the news media to stay away from the boy because he ``has been exploited enough.″

``Mr. Gonzalez and only Mr. Gonzalez has the legal and moral right to speak for Elian Gonzalez,″ Craig said. ``The news media should know that Mr. Gonzalez has not given his permission or approval for any journalist to interview, photograph, film or broadcast his son.″

The video was used in the context of explaining how the propaganda war was escalating, said Paul Friedman, ABC’s executive vice president and managing editor of news coverage.

ABC was criticized recently for airing portions of a Diane Sawyer interview with Elian Gonzalez, the first time he had been made available to speak to TV journalists.

Gonzalez’s Miami relatives invited networks to place a camera and microphone in their house Thursday to record any possible attempt by the government to take the boy. ABC, which is providing pool coverage for other networks, prepared the home for a camera in the event of goverment activity, spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.

ABC, CBS and NBC all said they would play it by ear in determining what it would air from any footage obtained in the family’s house. Murphy said, for example, that ABC would probably not air footage live from the house in order to review it first.

Attorney General Janet Reno strongly denied reports that the government sought to have news media kept away from the streets surrounding the Gonzalez home. ``Those rumors are wrong,″ she said, ``flat-out wrong.″

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