A Cable News Network foreign correspondent who covered the gulf war said Wednesday that Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, was wrong when he said the media should get the "Tokyo Rose" award for reports coming out of Bagh-dad.
During World War II, Tokyo Rose was the woman who broad-cast Japanese propaganda aimed at demoralizing American troops. Garn's remarks tying her to the Western reporters in Baghdad came on Feb. 14, when he addressed the Utah Legislature."The senator is wrong," said Greg Lefevre, the CNN bureau chief in San Francisco, who covered the crisis from Jordan after the invasion of Kuwait, then from Israel after the war began. He reported live during a Scud missile attack wearing a gas mask.
"The reporters in Baghdad were operating under governmental censorship, just as reporters in Saudi Arabia - and, in my case, Israel - were operating under government censorship. As were reporters with the American forces in Saudi Arabia, and later in Iraq."
According to Lefevre, the CNN audience was kept informed of the rules under which Peter Arnett and other reporters operated. "I think the senator doesn't give the audience quite enough credit for understanding these rules," he said.
As far as reporting from Baghdad was concerned, the only choices were to either use reporters subject to Iraqi censorship or to simply air propaganda supplied by Iraq. "I think the American public understands that," he said.
He added that a memorandum from his boss says that European criticism of CNN's role, as far as there is criticism, "has tended to assert that CNN showed a pro-Pentagon bias."
Lefevre said the cable network must have done something right - "If the two sides are angry at you, the truth lies in the middle," he told the Deseret News.
About 130 attended the Utah Advertising Federation luncheon where Lefevre spoke, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Red Lion Hotel.
During his speech, Lefevre said he was in San Francisco when the American bombing started. A CNN executive telephoned him from the network's Atlanta nerve center and asked how soon he could get to the Middle East. Lefevre went almost immediately.
In Israel, staying in a luxury hotel, the feeling was almost like that in the old Humphrey Bogart movie, "Casablanca," he said. When a person checks in at a hotel, the clerk politely asks if he has brought his gas mask; if not, he's issued one, which the clerk collects at checkout.
Describing going on the air live during a gas attack alert, he said, "The alarm goes off - the radio puts out this sound like a wounded car alarm . . . and Atlanta's in your ear saying, `Are you ready to go? Are you ready to go?' "
Inside the gas mask, trying to speak, the reporter has to take long, slow breaths, because that's the only way he can get air through the mask.
He said CNN was able to report from Baghdad on Jan. 16, the first night of the American air attack, while the other networks were not, because it had recently installed a "four-wire" telephone connection. This is a hard-wired phone line that does not go through a switchboard.
The other networks were cut off when the switchboard operator in the hotel where they were staying dived for cover.