The name of Columbia Journalism Review editor Spencer Klaw was misspelled in an article yesterday about Attorney General Edwin Meese III's address to the Washington Press Club.
Saying there are no neutrals in the war on crime, Attorney General Edwin Meese III appealed to reporters yesterday to cooperate in the "mobilization of public opinion" against drug use.
In an address to the Washington Press Club, Meese, in effect, suggested that in covering such news the press drop its traditional detachment and join the Justice Department in an antidrug campaign. His comments immediately drew criticism.
"We have a mutual interest, really, and a need for each other," Meese said, adding later: "A major part of our work in the federal government must necessarily be in the area of drugs and narcotics enforcement . . . . You can be of great help in getting out the message. I would like to suggest that there are no neutrals in the war on crime."
"The message must get through and that's where you and I can work together," he added, asking reporters "to press hard on this story and connect the occasional cocaine user . . . with the governments that support this trade."
Meese said reporters should help drug users understand that they are not "just buying pleasure for themselves but . . . are supporting those who are dealing in terror, torture and death." Meese said reporters have proved they can be effective, "turning the tide on drunk driving and missing children . . . through ink and pictures," for example.
Spencer Claw, editor of Columbia Journalism Review, criticized Meese, saying, "It's not up to him to tell reporters to help the government push a particular point of view . . . . That's exactly the role that's allotted to the press in socialist countries. The function of the press in socialist countries is to educate people and persuade them about the truth as the government sees it . . . . Your job is to find out what's interesting, important, significant and write about it."
Claw said suggesting story ideas is "legitimate" but "collaborating on getting a message across" is not.
In response to a question about whether he would try to prosecute journalists who publish classified information, Meese said, "It would depend on the circumstances of the case . . . . I would hope journalistic ethics would prevent journalists from using what is in effect stolen information that would hurt the national interest . . . . I would hope that the news media and government officials would work together to see that it is not disclosed."
In response to another question, Meese said that, as White House counselor in 1983, he told Anne M. Burford that she was would retain her right to be reimbursed for the $211,000 in legal fees spent defending herself in federal investigations and against a contempt of Congress citation as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Before resigning, Meese said, Burford was concerned that the fees would not be reimbursed because the Justice Department stopped representing her. Meese said that his conversation about reimbursement was not a "quid pro quo for her resignation," but that Burford did not give up her legal right to reimbursement by being represented by private counsel.
Burford said last week that Meese had agreed at the time that the fees would be covered.