Sham: Shame!

President Reagan sometimes forgets that he is not in the movies anymore and that there is supposed to be a difference between show business and public affairs. An employee of the U.S. Information Agency disclosed to a congressional committee last week that a supposed "interview"with the President broadcast over Radio Marti last June was actually a scripted performance--a bit of make-believe masquerading as journalism.

The "questions" that were put to Reagan were written out in advance and changed by the National Security Council staff. Reagan's "answers" were also written beforehand, and Reagan spoke only one or two sentences of each one before yielding to the voice of a Spanish translator, who delivered the complete reply as if the President had answered in full.

Radio Marti is part of the Voice of America, whose credibility depends on maintaining high journalistic standards despite being a propaganda arm of the U.S. government. Listeners have a right to expect that what they hear on the radio is true, and when they get the idea that someone is pulling the wool over their eyes they may begin to wonder about the substance of the broadcasts as well.

If something is presented as an interview, it should be a real interview. A small point, perhaps, but the sham interview last June demonstrates the Administration's cynical attitude toward manipulation of the news.

And a tip of the hat to Norman Painter, president of the American Federation of Government Employees local at the agency, who brought this incident to light. Mr. President, please remember that Hollywood is here and Washington is there.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World