ABC News Pro-Marxist?!?

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Fri May 2 18:49:44 MDT 2003


Pro-Marxist Slant Pushed at ABC, Retired Correspondent Claims
By Marc Morano
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
May 01, 2003

(CNSNews.com) - Having kept quiet for 14 years, a former ABC News
correspondent has gone public for the first time with allegations that
network anchorman Peter Jennings manipulated news scripts during the 1980s
in order to praise the Marxist-backed Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Peter Collins, a newsman with over 30 years experience, including stints
with Voice of America, the BBC, CBS News and CNN, recently walked away from
the news industry and has "no compunction about telling [my story] now."

In an exclusive interview with CNSNews.com, Collins alleged that Jennings
personally dictated changes in a Collins television script in order to
praise the Sandinista government for its "new, unselfish society," for
successfully reducing illiteracy and "launch[ing] the biggest land reform
in Central America."

Collins covered Central America for ABC's "World News Tonight" and
"Nightline" from 1982 until 1991 and having recently retired from
journalism, Collins said he now feels "liberated."

Repeated attempts to obtain a reaction on Collins' allegations from ABC
News were not successful. ABC News publicist Cathie Levine told CNSNews.com
that neither Jennings nor the network had any comment.

The pro-Marxist spin at ABC News

According to Collins, Jennings "took a piece that I had written about the
10th anniversary of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua [in 1989] and first asked
his producer to correct it for me and then he himself called me up in
Managua and essentially dictated to me what I should say."

"Basically what Mr. Jennings wanted was for me to make a favorable
pronouncement about the 10 years of the Sandinista revolution and he called
me up, massaged my script in a way that I no longer recognized it," Collins
said.

A partial transcript of Collins' July 19th, 1989, segment on "World News
Tonight" includes the following:

"The Sandinistas brought with them Marxist ideas about spreading wealth and
creating a new, unselfish society. And in the first few years, they did
manage to reduce illiteracy, the infant death rate and launched the biggest
land reform in Central America. But the Reagan administration saw the
Sandinistas as a threat and forced them into a war with the U.S.-backed
Contras."

The Reagan administration had battled Democrats in Congress throughout the
1980s in attempting to help the rebel Contras, with varying degrees of
success. The Sandinistas, led by Daniel Ortega, ruled Nicaragua from 1979
until 1990, when they were voted out of office.

Asked why he believed Jennings wanted his script changed to reflect a more
positive spin about the Sandinista government, Collins was unequivocal.

"Because I presume that Peter Jennings felt that the Sandinista regime,
which was a communist regime - no questions about it - were mere benign
agrarian reformers ... [Jennings] was a believer, was and is," Collins
explained.

Not just ABC News

Collins, who served as a CNN correspondent in Baghdad in 1993, also
criticized CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan following Jordan's
confession that he had withheld from viewers numerous details of Saddam
Hussein's atrocities over the last ten years in order to protect news
sources and maintain access in Iraq.

Collins resigned from CNN after growing uncomfortable with the way CNN was
reporting from Baghdad and Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Collins wrote an op/ed in
the Washington Times in April detailing how he was pressured to read what
he calls "Saddam Hussein's propaganda" on the air as part of CNN's effort
to obtain an exclusive interview with the Iraqi dictator.

Other news organizations are guilty of similar tactics, according to
Collins. "CNN is only the most egregious violator of this principle that
you ought not to get too close to the regimes you're covering," Collins said.

"I think a number of reporters and organizations went soft on the
Sandinista regime in order to facilitate their access or out of
conviction," Collins said.

CNN spokesman Matt Furman would not address specific questions relating to
Collins' allegations, but told CNSNews.com that CNN "disputes both the
facts and the implications of [Collins'] op/ed."

'Against the wishes of Peter Jennings'

During his days at ABC News, Collins claimed he and Jennings had recurring
conflicts.

"I had dozens of run-ins with [Jennings] directly -- several with him being
the 800-pound gorilla on the ABC News editorial staff," Collins said. "My
resistance to him personally cost me my job at ABC eventually."

Collins also revealed that fresh off signing a new multi-year contract in
the mid 1980s, a confident Jennings warned him that there were going to be
changes in the newsroom.

"Jennings remarked that he [had] just won a new contract and as a
consequence of that, he said, nodding at [ABC News executive producer] Bill
Lord, there is going to be a few changes around here. Within two or three
months Bill Lord was out as executive producer, and Paul Friedman was in,"
Collins said.

Prior to working with Jennings, Lord had served as the executive producer
of ABC's "Nightline." Friedman, who also served as Jennings' London
producer prior to Jennings' ascension to the position of lead anchor of
World News Tonight, currently is an ABC News consultant.

Collins believes one of the factors that led Jennings to want to change
executive producers was the network's coverage of the Sandinista/Contra
conflict.

"Bill Lord had supported me in my coverage of Central America, against the
wishes of Peter Jennings," Collins said. "[Jennings] was unhappy with my
coverage because I tried to tell both sides of the story," he added.

A question of 'competence,' praise for new media

Collins is speaking publicly about his years at ABC and CNN for the first
time because he has walked away from the news business and no longer
desires to work in the industry.

"I feel liberated," said Collins. "I don't have a job in the industry. I am
not looking for a job in the industry. I am starting a little computer
consulting company. That is what I am working on right now. I have no
compunction about telling it now."

Collins believes the basic tenets of journalism have eroded over the years.
"The first obligation of a reporter and a news organization is to get the
facts straight and report both sides of the story," Collins said.

But he didn't see the issue as one that was charged politically. "I would
not frame this whole question as just a left - right issue, but rather as a
question of competence," Collins said.

Collins believes CNN's recent admission and his own experiences in Central
America are merely "scratching at the surface" of what Collins regards as a
long standing failure of the media to report accurately about despotic
governments, particularly left-of-center authoritarian regimes.

"We can go as far back as Walter Duranty in (1930s) Moscow for the New York
Times, Herbert Matthews in (1950s) Cuba for the New York Times - [how]
those two writers tilted their coverage in ways when compared with the
historical record was outrageous," Collins said.

But he credits a few key individuals and organizations with breaking the
monopoly of the establishment news media.

"If it were not for for Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Times,and Fox News --
those organizations, entities, have finally managed to break the dam,"
Collins said. "Ph.D. pieces could be written about this subject, dozens of
them."

<mailto:mmorano at cnsnews.com>E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.

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