On Monday, September 16th, convicted felon, Oliver North, was in Grand Rapids to sign books and speak at a Right to Life fundraising dinner. The Grand Rapids Press ran a story on his visit, as did channel’s 8 & 13.
The Grand Rapids Press article was fairly even, giving space for both North and a demonstrator who was there with about 30 people calling attention to the crimes committed by North in the 1980’s. The article (front page Region section A11) focused on the book signing that took place earlier in the day, with accolades from North supporters. Dissenting opinions only appeared on the next page A12, but North is given an opportunity to respond. The Press did contextualize North’s role in the Iran-Contra scandal by saying that “the Reagan administration defied a Congressional ban against aid to the Contras,” and “the administration funded the insurgency by illegally selling weapons to the Islamic regime in Iran.” However, no mention was made of the court rulings on North’s role nor his knowledge and participation in cocaine trafficking at the time. (See http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/nsaebb2.htm on the Contra/Cocaine connection and http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/publications/DOC_readers/icread/icread.html – declassified US government documents on Iran-Contra from the National Security Archives)
Channel 8 ran a short response from North (11pm newscast) on his support of a US invasion of Iraq. This seems ironic since North participated in violating a Congressional ban on selling weapons to the Contras known as the Boland Amendment, demonstrating his contempt for the rule of law.
Channel 13 provided the coverage that was actually inaccurate. After giving North’s opinion on Iraq, news-reader Juliet Dragos said “Outside the Grand Center tonight just over a dozen Pro-Choice protestors showed up. They picketed the Right to Life event and North’s Pro-Life stance on abortion.” The numbers present was wrong, there was an estimated 30-40 people. More importantly the protestors were not there representing a Pro-Choice organization. The focus of the signs and the discussions with those attending the dinner focused on North’s conviction, his illegal trafficking in weapons, and assistance with cocaine smuggling into the US in the 1980’s. The group who organized the demonstration was the People’s Alliance for Justice & Change. WZZM 13 reporter Chris Tye never bothered to ask demonstrators who they were or what their message was.
GR Press writer Barton Deiters at 222-5504 (evenings) e-mail at email@example.com
WOODTV8 News Director Patti McGettigan 456-8888 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WZZM 13 News Director Cheryl Grant 559-1315 or email@example.com