They Otto Be Ashamed
A year later, CNSNews.com still shades the truth about Otto Reich.
By Terry Krepel
CNSNews.com just loves Otto Reich. According to its archives, he has been mentioned in 41 articles since the beginning of 2001.
And most of them decline to tell the full truth about him.
Reich was appointed by President Bush as assistant secretary of state for western hemispheric affairs. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not give him a hearing, Bush used a "recess appointment" to put Reich in the job. CNS writer Jim Burns, who has written the vast majority of the Reich-related stories, uses the following paragraph or something similar, as in this Dec. 2 story, to summarize Reich and why some people have a problem with him:
Reich, a Cuban-American and a strident anti-Communist, has irritated Democrats including former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), because of Reich's support for the Cuban economic embargo and the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s, who fought against the Sandinista government which was later deposed.
That is a highly simplistic and distorted view of Reich's opposition. As ConWebWatch reported a year ago, it ignores two serious accusations against him: He ran a pro-contra propaganda operation during the 1980s with the American public being the target of said propaganda -- an operation one government investigation termed "prohibited," and while he was ambassador to Venezuela, Reich reportedly supported (or at least didn't strongly oppose) the entry of a man named Orlando Bosch into the United States. Bosch, described by some as a terrorist, had been serving time in a Venezuelan prison for blowing up a Cuban airliner. (And saying the Sandinistas were "deposed" is slightly misleading, putting an overly harsh spin on the fact that the Sandinistas merely lost an election.)
In the 29 CNSNews.com news stories that mention Reich (the other 12 are columns by Robert Novak, who is also a big fan of Reich) the propaganda operation is mentioned only once, in a Feb. 4, 2002, article by Burns (which appeared shortly after the ConWebWatch article) the apparent aim of which is to discount the accusation. The Bosch connection is not addressed at all.
Burns gives a forum to Reich to dismiss claims he was a propagandist, saying he was neither lying nor trying to manipulate anyone, but "merely doing his job and being truthful about it," Burns writes.
"False accusations about my office are legion and amazing, frankly. Very few people are going back and checking these charges against me because they are completely false," Burns quotes Reich as saying. "But their desire to keep me out of the job far outweighed their journalistic responsibility." Reich adds that the establishment media doesn't like him because they "are not used to being confronted with contrary facts. Unfortunately, a lot of the media, sometimes [think] that they should have the last word and didn't particularly appreciate being corrected." The government investigation is mentioned but dismissed as a sort of payback.
The article cites only one accusation made by FAIR's Jeff Cohen in an article on Reich, on one anti-Sandinista story allegedly planted in the media, but is silent on other accusations by Cohen, including other stories planted in the news media and alleged intimidation of journalists, including suggesting that U.S. reporters received sexual favors from Sandinista-provided prostitutes in return for favorable coverage.
Burns depicts Reich as merely a a sort of publicist for the contras, going so far as to quote a college professor on the struggle between journalists and public relations people.
Reich is quoted as saying that the Sandinistas' links to communists and leftist guerillas and its election loss are a defense of his actions: "Some of them (establishment media) may have been embarrassed by the information that we put out which proved what they were saying at the time was incorrect. Perhaps some of the people have a very long memory and this is their way of settling accounts."
Having written this article, even as slanted as it is, it would have been nice -- and accurate -- if Burns had included some of this debate in his later articles on Reich. But, alas, he sticks to the old script, continuing to imply that opposing Reich is equivalent to supporting communism. Reich's honorary awards from the State Department get more mention than the controversy over his work. (Strangely, the official word Jan. 9 that Reich was being named a special presidential envoy for Latin American policy made only an unarchived "News This Hour" brief. You'd think that CNS wouldn't pass up the opportunity to rehash its cherished slant one more time.)
Burns wrote in his defense of Reich: "While the term propagandist is sometimes bandied about, others believe journalists should more closely check out leads on stories before writing or broadcasting them." That should apply to Burns as well. Ignoring part of the story is bad journalism, but sadly what we've come to expect when it comes to Burns, CNS and Otto Reich.