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Stop the Spin

Al Gore Gaffes


Campaign 2000

CNN News Labeling and Questions At Republican and Democratic National Conventions, 1988-1996

Use of Labeling

George Washington University Professor William C. Adams conducted the first exhaustive examination of the networks’ prime time convention coverage in 1984. The findings? Unequal treatment of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions by network anchors and correspondents.

In his landmark study, Prof. Adams found that correspondents cast Republicans as ideologues by frequently labeling them "conservative" or "right-wing" while almost never labeling Democrats as "liberal" or "left-wing." Since 1988, analysts at the Media Research Center have applied Prof. Adams’s methodology to broadcast and cable convention coverage, including CNN coverage.

The numbers below demonstrate that in convention coverage, since 1988 CNN has failed to apply ideological labels in a fair and balanced manner. Overall (1988-1996), CNN was three times as likely to apply ideological labels to conservatives as liberals, with the total being CNN's use of 129 "conservative" labels compared to only forty "liberal" labels. (Read the quotes.)


Agenda of Questions

Balanced reporting requires that correspondents periodically don Devil’s advocate hats. One of the most efficient ways of doing this is to pose challenging questions to interviewees — conservative/Republican-agenda questions to Democrats, and liberal/Democratic-agenda questions to Republicans.

The numbers below show that CNN’s performance in this area is shockingly poor. In fact, over the past three conventions, combined data show CNN anchors and correspondents posed almost three times as many of these challenging questions to Republicans as they did to Democrats. The totals: CNN asked seventy liberal/Democratic-agenda questions of Republicans, compared to only twenty-four conservative/Republican-agenda questions of Democrats. (Read the quotes.)

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CNN's Use of Labels: The Numbers

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CNN's Use of Labels: The Quotes

Labeling Delegates

Catherine Crier claims delegates are "a conservative group." (Broadcasting from Republican National Convention, 8/17/92)

David Broder confides "[w]ell, they've [Democrats] let the country in on a big secret, there are still liberals in the Democratic party. In fact this convention hall, delegates, are filled with liberals." (Broadcasting from Democratic National Convention, 8/27/96)

Labeling Platforms

Charles Bierbauer describes the Democratic platform as "very moderate" while William Schneider describes it as "moderate." (Broadcasting from Democratic National Convention, 7/14/92)

Catherine Crier actually claims the Democratic platform is "certainly moderate, if not Republican." (Broadcasting from Democratic National Convention, 7/15/92)

William Schneider decrees the Republican platform "far to the right" while Catherine Crier warns it is a "continued march to the right." (Broadcasting from Republican National Convention, 8/17/92)

Labeling Parties

Frank Sesno describes William Bennett as among "very hard, far-right conservatives." (Broadcasting from Republican National Convention, 8/19/92)

Bob Franken expresses concern for Gerald Ford: "President Ford, do you worry the Republican Party in the last couple of years became a more conservative, or at least was pictured as a more conservative sometimes…?" (Broadcasting from Republican National Convention, 8/12/96)

William Schneider claims Clinton is moving the Democratic party "not towards the left, but towards the center." (Broadcasting from Democratic National Convention, 7/15/92)

William Schneider analyzes Mario Cuomo’s speech: "[a]nd he had a unique twist on Clinton's move to the center. Very controversial among liberal Democrats when he said, the President actually lifted the albatross from the party so that we could better sell our core Democratic principles." (Broadcasting from Democratic National Convention, 8/27/96)

Labeling Candidates

Candy Crowley claims Bill Clinton is "a conservative Democrat." (Broadcasting from Democratic National Convention, 7/16/92)

William Schneider asserts Gore is "fiscally moderate." (Broadcasting from Democratic National Convention, 7/16/92)

Bernard Shaw claims those who like Dan Quayle’s speech are "the far right." (Broadcasting from Republican National Convention, 8/18/92)

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CNN's Questions: The Numbers

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CNN's Questions: The Quotes

Liberal/Democratic-Agenda Questions to Republicans

Bernard Shaw takes a page from the Democratic playbook in this question to President George Bush: "On the economy. President Bush, how would a tax cut help a person without a job?" (8/17/92)

Candy Crowley, in a question to Senator Nancy Kassebaum, presumes a judgment the Senator didn’t make: "This is the first time at least in some time where it is perceived that the Democrats are actually fighting for middle America, the family. I'm wondering if you think, that with the various permutations that families have nowadays, if the Republicans are actually shoving away those who don't have mother, father, kids and don't do it 'the right way’?" (8/19/92)

Bob Franken demands Jerry Falwell’s explain his "attitude": "Let me ask the candid question. Many of the AIDS activists would claim that part of the problem they have is the attitude towards AIDS victims among fundamentalists, among conservatives like yourself. How do you respond to that?" (8/12/96)

Liberal/Democratic-Agenda Questions to Democrats, Too

Bernard Shaw’s version of the Clinton-is-not-a-liberal theme, here in a question to Jesse Jackson: "Do you feel Bill Clinton is jerking you around?" (7/14/92)

Wolf Blitzer demands Mario Cuomo justify supporting Clinton following passage of welfare reform: "But on this issue of welfare reform which may be, even if Bill Clinton is reelected over eight years, the most significant decision he makes. He signs this welfare reform legislation into law. Could have this enormous, from your perspective, negative impact on a million children could go into poverty. How do you rationalize that kind of decision and now come forward and give this rousing endorsement for Bill Clinton to be reelected?" (8/27/96)


Convention Coverage (by Network):

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