Mar
01
2009

I'm Not Rappaport.... I'm Valdez

Extra! usually complains about media outlets relying on the same sources again and again, but KTTV-TV in Los Angeles may have gone too far in the opposite direction. Seeking a source to comment on the failed October 1989 coup against Manuel Noriega, the station called what they thought was the Panamanian consulate. In fact, it was the home of Kurt Rappaport, a 22-year old prankster. Rappaport, pretending to be an anti-Noriega Panamanian diplomat, "Arturo Valdez," was invited to be interviewed, and showed up at the studio sporting a false moustache. A sound bite from the 10-15 minute "Valdez" interview was […]

Mar
01
2009

Due Process Mugged

You've seen it everywhere. It made the cover of Newsweek, the front page of the New York Times' "Week in Review", and the CBS, NBC and ABC news: Manual Noriega's mug shot, looking just like the criminals at the end of each "Dragnet" episode after Sgt. Joe Friday had brought them to justice. But what you didn't often see is an acknowledgment that the release of such mug shots is highly unusual, and may threaten Noriega's already slim chances of getting a fair trial. The Miami U.S. Attorney's office claims to have released it "under pressure from the press," according […]

Jan
01
1990

Worse Than Ed Meese?

That's what reporters covering the Justice Department think of Attorney General Richard Thornburgh's control over public information, according to a survey published in the January 15 issue of Corporate Crime Reporter. Thirteen of 14 journalists who responded to the survey agreed that "the Justice Department under Attorney General Thornburgh actively discourages the free flow of information," while 12 affirmed that "less public information is being made available" now than during the Reagan administration. Among the reporters' comments on Thornburgh: "He's shut the place down by wrapping himself in self-righteousness and threatening to fire lawyers who talk to reporters." "Any news […]

Jan
01
1990

History That's Fit to Print

The New York Times is fond of running chronologies to explicate history for its readers. Often these chronologies provide a very selective version of events. Take a Jan. 8, 1990 example headlined "Two Decades of Suffering in Cambodia". It begins on March 18, 1970 ("Prince Norodom Sihanouk is ousted by Lon Nol...") and then skips to April 17, 1975 ("The Khmer Rouge rebels seize Phnom Penh..."). No mention is made of the 1969-1973 U.S. bombing campaign that dropped more than 500,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia, leaving, according to a Washington Post estimate (4/24/75), 450,000 dead and wounded. The only […]

Jan
01
1990

Censored News

Drug Links of Panama's New Rulers

The Bush White House justified the invasion by claiming that overthrowing Noriega was a major victory in the war on drugs. If journalists had reported the backgrounds of the new Panamanian leaders installed by the U.S. invasion, and their connections to drug-laundering banks and drug traffickers, a primary rationale for the invasion would have been shredded. But few journalists scrutinized Panama's "new democrats" from the country's banking and corporate elite. One who did was Jonathan Marshall, editorial page editor of the Oakland Tribune. In a series of editorials, "Panama's Drug, Inc." (1/5 & 1/22/90), Marshall reported the following: PRESIDENT GUILLERMO […]

Jan
01
1990

Reporters Rallying Round the Flag

Journalists justified their role as distributors of government handouts in different ways. Asked on Day 1 why U.S. opponents of the invasion were virtually invisible on-the-air, a CBS producer (who declined to give her name) told Extra!: "When American troops are involved and taking losses, this is not the time to be running critical commentary. The American public will be rallying around the flag." Some TV reporters claimed they were forced to rely on official U.S. versions because they had nothing else. As Newsday reported January 14, "Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning combat journalist, was reduced to reporting on Noriega's […]

Jan
01
1990

The Washington Post: The Establishment's Paper

Katharine Graham, Washington Post

Don't get too far from the establishment. --Walter Lippmann to Katharine Graham File Lippmann's remark under the category of superfluous advice. Graham and the company of which she is "chairman"--she lists herself in the D.C. phone book as "Graham, Philip L. Mrs."--have never entertained a thought of straying from the establishment. In 1933, when Graham's father, Eugene Meyer took control of the bankrupt Washington Post, it enjoyed only physical closeness to power. The paper badly needed the wealth and connections that Meyer had in spades: Over the years, he'd been a Wall Street banker, director of President Wilson's War Finance […]

Jan
01
1990

'Noriega Offered His Usual Damp, Limp Handshake to Bush's Firm Grip'

For sheer propaganda, high marks go to Newsweek's Noriega cover story (1/15/90), featuring excerpts from a book about Noriega by Wall Street Journal reporter Frederick Kempe. The book and its author were much touted by the media during the invasion. Some highlights: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ELLIOTT ABRAMS. "By the summer of 1985, the State Department's new assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs, Elliott Abrams, began to believe that Noriega's help for the Contras was overestimated and his general harm to democracy and human rights was underestimated. Abrams had come out of State's human rights office...." Abrams hardly "came […]