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MediaWatch: April 1988

Vol. Two No. 4

Honduran Diversion

On March 15 the Sandinistas invaded neighboring Hondurasin an attempt to destroy Contra base camps before any cease fire talks. But some network reporters excused the Sandinista action, preferring to portray the U.S. as the real villain.

The next night ABC's Peter Jennings told viewers: "When the Contras retreated over the border with Honduras, the Nicaraguans followed. The White House calls that 'an invasion.'" What else it could be considered, Jennings did not explain.

A day later Reagan dispatched troops to defend Honduras from the assault. Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News by presenting the case of liberal Democrats. Rather reported the action "raised protest and questions" such as whether Reagan "is trying to stampede Congress into spending more money for aid to the Contras, and whether he is perhaps trying to distract attention away from the criminal indictments against some of his former top aides." The same night, only ABC's Brit Hume realized "not all Democrats share that cynical view" as Senators Nunn and Boren expressed support for the deployment.

By March 21 some reporters began portraying Honduras as another ally abused by the U.S. Although "the so-called 'Sandinista invasion of Honduras'" might help the Contras get more aid, CNN's Lucia Newman complained that "as in the past, the Hondurans are unlikely to benefit." Newman failed to mention that since 1983 Honduras has received $550 million in economic and food aid.

Three days later, ABC's Beth Nissen told an even more one-sided story. "More and more Hondurans say there is a cost to having" U.S. forces, "a cost to Honduran sovereignty" and "self-esteem." Now, she cautioned, "a new generation of Hondurans is learning to be wary of the U.S." since a history book at one school has "a carefully updated chapter on Yankee imperialism." As troops departed on March 28 ABC's Gary Shepard found "several hundred Hondurans gathered in a demonstration of support for the GI's." They were probably among the 81 percent of Hondurans who backed the U.S. Contra policy in a 1987 Gallup Poll, all of whom Nissen somehow missed.