Last November, when PBS aired a "Frontline" special by Bill Moyers on the Iran-contra affair, Moyers said the program carried important lessons for a nation preoccupied by the Persian Gulf. The reviews were so good, in fact, that PBS decided to rebroadcast it during next month's "pledge week."

But at the urging of top PBS officials, Moyers and "Frontline" executive producer David Fanning have agreed to yank the program, saying that any rebroadcast would be "journalistically inappropriate" during the war.

The reason? The show raises "serious questions about then-Vice President Bush's involvement and actions," Moyers and Fanning say in a memo. "Those questions remain, and should be aired again, but they do not necessarily connect to President Bush's decisions about the war.

"We believe the program could be viewed as overtly political by attempting to undermine the president's credibility ... "

In the widely praised program, "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," Moyers says the Reagan administration "created a private foreign policy operation outside the channels of government." Among other things, he recounts how Bush attended several meetings at which both arms for Iran and U.S. hostages were discussed.

John Grant, PBS's vice president for programming, says only 20 stations planned to use the program anyway, but that PBS wanted to avoid "any perception that we were attempting to raise money because of the {war}."

Moyers, a former press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson, could not be reached, but Fanning says the move was primarily "a scheduling decision. We felt this was not necessarily a time to go back to Iran-contra."

Asked if the withdrawal could be viewed as rallying behind the White House during wartime, Fanning says: "I can't say strongly enough that that's the last thing in our mind."

Caustic Calibration

The consummate newsmaker knows how to perfectly calibrate his comments to match the tenor of a news organization.

When Albert Scardino resigned this week after a stormy 14 months as New York Mayor David Dinkins's press secretary, reporters quickly sought reaction from former mayor Edward Koch, who has clashed with Scardino on countless occasions.

Speaking to a bow-tied reporter from the New York Times, Koch was the soul of restraint. "I never kick a man when he's down," he said.

When approached by the somewhat earthier New York Post, Koch shifted gears. Scardino, he said, "came in like a jerk and went out like a schmuck."

Scardino, a former Times reporter, says he was hardly surprised. "When Koch said he didn't kick people when they were down, my reaction was, since when?.

"I take great pride in the fact that my career in public service lasted longer than his career in journalism," Scardino says, referring to WCBS-TV's recent decision to drop Koch as a commentator. "Koch inherited a city that was demoralized and bankrupt and left it the same way."

War Watch

At first, Publisher David Lawrence says, affixing a 24-foot yellow ribbon to the front of the Miami Herald building seemed like a good idea. He posted an announcement saying that such a display would show support for American troops in the Persian Gulf.

That was before a minor uproar in the newsroom and a protest petition gave Lawrence second thoughts. Managing Editor Pete Weitzel says there was concern "that it would be perceived by some as support for the war and that as a newspaper we needed to maintain a neutral position."

Lawrence invited comment from all editorial employees. About two-thirds opposed the oversize ribbon, but others passionately disagreed. "If we can't show support for our armed forces when our country is at war, I fear we as a nation are in bad shape," one said.

Still, Lawrence has dropped the plan. "I didn't want any person going out and covering something feeling his or her credibility was in any way diminished," he says, adding that he will personally pay for yellow ribbons for employees who want them ...

The editor of the Round Rock Leader, a biweekly near Austin, Tex., was fired last week. Ordinarily, David Wolbrueck's dismissal might have drawn little notice. But it came shortly after the paper printed a front-page story in which a Palestinian American was quoted as criticizing U.S. involvement in the war and calling the president a liar.

Publisher Ken Long, who says he received several complaints from readers, quickly apologized in a Page 1 editorial.

Wolbrueck could not be reached for comment, but he told the Austin American-Statesman that people "like to read all sides of an issue, and {the Palestinian} obviously has another viewpoint. That's what's great about America. This man can express his views without fear for his life."

But the story's subject, Issa Mahmoud, an IBM engineer who has been an American for 27 years, told the paper his family had received several threatening phone calls since the Leader story appeared.

In the article, which focused on Mahmoud and explanations of Middle East culture, Mahmoud said Bush is "the biggest liar in the United States" for covering up what he termed the real reasons for U.S. involvement in the war: economics and a strong Jewish influence on the government.

Long says the editor "mishandled" the article and that "it appeared to have been an editorial disguised as a news story." He says the dismissal was based in part on previous problems with Wolbrueck.

"We are 100 percent in support of freedom of speech," Long says. " It's really a judgment call, and he made a bad call."