‘Article ignores the great strides we’ve made’
Washington Rep. Pedro A. Tenorio cried foul yesterday over the negative portrayal that the Northern Marianas received from a national feminist magazine, saying that Ms. Magazine’s cover story was unfair and inaccurate. Former garment association executive Richard Pierce claims that the original story was actually extensively re-written by its editors to make it sensational.
Tenorio said the article should prompt the Commonwealth to prove the magazine wrong and to correct the allegations should they be found true.
For the most part, however, Tenorio expressed concern about the damaging effect that the story, as well as the ongoing Abramoff scandal, could have on the CNMI’s credibility in Washington, D.C.
“It does not matter that there are misrepresentations, misquotes, and untruths in the article; it is in writing and is on newsstands all across America and probably elsewhere. The black eye that we receive from such press coverage is devastating, to say the least,” Tenorio said in his speech before the Legislature yesterday.
“It negates almost all of the honest efforts that we have tried to do to ensure that our guest workers are treated fairly and humanely. It neutralizes the fact that CNMI and U.S. labor laws are being enforced properly, and ignores the fact that we have come a long way from the time when there were widespread labor problems in our garment industry,” he added.
Nevertheless, Tenorio urged elected officials, employers and local residents to read the article.
“In the end, we must collectively do something positive to demonstrate our utmost concerns about all these damaging allegations and correct them if they are indeed true,” he said.
The CNMI government, he said, should continue to maintain and improve on labor and immigration reforms, enact fair and compassionate labor laws, and ensure that worker abuses are reported and punished.
Jeff Schorr, the Office of Insular Affairs’ field representative to Saipan, agreed with Tenorio’s sentiments regarding the article.
He said that he did not find the article’s tone surprising, especially after seeing the big, bold, red cover that read “Sex, Greed and Forced Abortions in ‘Paradise.’”
“Ms. Magazine wants to sell its product and, as everyone knows, ‘sex sells’,” Schorr said.
He noted that the article failed to give credit to the progress made by the local government in contract worker conditions, or the efforts made by the federal government for almost 10 years now.
Schorr also came to the defense of Federal Ombudsman Jim Benedetto, who was quoted as saying that it is common knowledge that worker abuses continue to this day.
“I also know Federal Ombudsman Jim Benedetto is aware of such progress, and pointed that out to the reporters. To be quoted out of context is unfair, inaccurate and an example of why there is increasing lack of respect for journalism today by the public, as studies and polls have shown,” he said.
Pierce, the governor’s special assistant for economic affairs, did not also mince words when asked to comment on the article, saying that Ms. Magazine has done “a fine job illustrating why it’s been demoted from a magazine to a quarterly.”
“With [Benedetto’s] comment presented as a quote, that was supposed to morph into readers believing Saipan is a virtual den of iniquity laden with prostitution,” he added.
“The writers of the story were ashamed to admit that their editors chastised them when the original piece was submitted as not sensational enough for publishing. I learned this after they left and submitted their story. It was rewritten to the point of being laughably ludicrous. I mean, seriously, a Filipina sewing machine operator? Give me a break.
“This piece reminds me of a few years ago, when a guy named Peter Landesman wrote about sexual slavery in America. He spoke with exactly two sex slaves, one of whom was schizophrenic, and churned the story into a tidal wave of sexual slavery with the headline “Tens of Thousands of Sex Slaves on Main Street, USA.” It was complete with a photo of a teenager in a catholic schoolgirl uniform. Journalists, including the New York Times, led an outcry, the periodical was discredited and the writer got a half a million dollars for the story from Hollywood.
“Anyway, what a classy headline, and a story with absolutely no perspective. If you ask me, the real prostitutes are the ‘journalists’ that turn out garbage like this for a living,” Pierce said.