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Reverend Joan Brown Campbell Discusses Viewpoint of Elian Gonzalez's Father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez

Aired April 16, 2000 - 4:15 p.m. ET


ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now to breaking news. Joan Brown Campbell, who is very close to Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is speaking now in Bethesda, Maryland. Let's take a listen.


REV. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: ... for any of us, they would lift our spirits. He waits for the court, which probably will not come until tomorrow morning unless it would be kind of a surprise if it were tonight, but will come tomorrow morning. So -- but he remains strongly determined and believing strongly that he will have his son and that they will be together and he will get to hold him in his arms. He talks a lot more now. He says after he sees or after he talks to him he wants so badly to hold him and to have him to himself for a while.

QUESTION: How and why did the interview with Mr. Rather come about?

CAMPBELL: I don't know. You have to ask Gregory Craig that. I don't know the details of that, so...

QUESTION: Did Craig broker that interview as far as you know?

CAMPBELL: He brokered that interview and so I really have to ask him that question, because I don't know.

QUESTION: Do you think there is any chance that we might have an opportunity to talk with Juan Miguel and get a few questions with him?

CAMPBELL: I think there probably is. I think, you know, that really the media -- the whole media relationship is very much being brokered by Greg at this point, so -- and he's being careful, which I think I respect. He knows very well that if there's a misstep that any -- he just said he couldn't stand right now to have Juan Miguel say anything that might hurt his chances to have his son returned to him even if it were -- I mean, he's not speaking his own language, so it's very difficult for him.

QUESTION: You said he feels good about the interview with Rather. What makes him feel good about this happening?

CAMPBELL: I think he thought that he was able to get his points across, that he was able to tell his own story. He's been told that "60 Minutes" has a huge audience and that it will be a chance for the American people to hear his viewpoint, and I think he looks forward to that.

QUESTION: This whole case took a different turn last week. Up until now -- up until this past week that the Miami family has basically said, we are opposed to this boy going back to Castro's Cuba.


QUESTION: Then, as you're well aware, this past week they started to -- unleash bees on me -- to say that Juan Miguel himself is an unfit father.


QUESTION: OK, that's a new element in it. And today, an attorney representing the family has added new details to that charge suggesting that he's such a violent man that he wound up placing in the hospital both his first wife and Elian as a result of beatings and they said that they have evidence of this that they plan to put forward. Now, obviously, he's denied the abuse charges. Has he any reaction to this further elements of the story that they're adding now?

CAMPBELL: Well, I think he feels that it's a desperate attempt on their part to try to retain custody even though they have officially lost custody. I want to speak to that one myself and then I'll go.

I had spent a considerable amount of time with the grandmothers, including Raquel (ph) -- who is Elizabeth, Juan's first wife, Juan Miguel's first wife -- that's her mother -- and she spoke rather forcefully about the way the boyfriend treated Elizabeth, that is the boyfriend that built the boat that brought them here to the United States, and she talked about the abuse of that boyfriend of Elizabeth so much so that she put them out of her house because he was so abusive. She also said that she wants very much for Juan Miguel to raise Elian, her only grandson, and to raise him with Nursey (ph) and with Yani (ph) in that family setting.

She is very, very strong, very supportive of Juan Miguel, and I cannot think that as the mother-in-law, as having lost her only daughter, that I think if there was abuse, as they are describing, she would know that. They lived in her house, for heavens sakes. And she wasn't hesitant to talk about the abuse of the boyfriend. So she's very, very strong in her support of Juan Miguel, and when I went in December she said that long before these charges ever came up.

And at the time I said to the press, the most persuasive thing for me was to have his mother-in-law saying, where I want my only grandchild raised is with Juan Miguel and his wife and his baby. And her support of the new wife is also quite remarkable. She feels that family setting is important for Elian for his growing up. So I have to say I think if there were some kind of abuse she would have some reaction to that.

QUESTION: Before you go, has he ruled out a trip to Miami or some portion of Miami, or is he still willing to go to any part of Miami?

CAMPBELL: I really feel like he should answer that. I think that what has he said is, when I am assured that I will be reunited with my boy, then after that, after the transfer takes place and however it takes place, then he would talk to the family wherever. But it is really a matter of not negotiating. He is not willing to negotiate with the Miami family about the transfer, but to talk to them after the transfer has taken place.

QUESTION: But if they wanted the transfer to take place in a location in Miami would he go?

CAMPBELL: I don't know and I don't want to speak for him on that. I can't tell you that. Thanks.

HALL: Joan Brown Campbell, close associate to Juan Miguel Gonzalez, coming outside the home in Bethesda, Maryland, to tell us what Juan Miguel is thinking. Most recently, she said he's strongly determined -- believes strongly that he will get his son back and that he is looking forward to holding Elian in his arms once more.

And relative to the new charges by the Miami family of Juan Miguel perhaps being an unfit father, she said that she's spoken to Juan Miguel's mother-in-law, the Cuban grandmother, several time -- of course, this when she was on American soil -- and said that even the mother-in-law of Juan Miguel Gonzalez believes strongly that little Elian should be raised with his Cuban family, his father, his stepmother and his stepbrother.

We will keep you posted on this story.



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