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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| August 12, 1996 (Vol. One; No. 61) |


***MRC CyberAlert: From San Diego***

Below is the full text of today's four-page Media Reality Check '96 newsletter on network coverage of the Republican convention. It's being distributed today in San Diego.

This is a very long document, but I thought it would be a lot easier to put it all in one place than send several e-mails. So, below:

  1. Quote of the Day
  2. Page One story summarizing the day's themes.
  3. Page Two story on TV analysts calling conservatives "mean-spirited" and hateful.
  4. Two stories from Page Three on coverage of abortion.
  5. Page Four story on CBS worrying about an ominous party takeover by the Christian right.

Quote of the Day:

"Governor, looking at this platform writing the last week, what in the world is good in there for a moderate Republican or an independent voter in this country?" -- CBS correspondent Phil Jones to Texas Governor George W. Bush, August 11 Face the Nation.


Front Page story, Monday, August 12, 1996:

Call GOPers Mean, Intolerant & Hard Line Media's Unwelcome Greeting

Republicans and conservatives came under media assault in the days and hours before they assembled at the San Diego Convention Center. The intolerance of conservatives, their hard line stance on abortion and mean-spirited nature were the dominant themes of weekend coverage on the networks. Though VP nominee Jack Kemp largely escaped condemnation, network analysts used praise of him as an opportunity to impugn conservatives overall.

Inside today's edition:

Mean-spirited and hateful Republicans. CBS, CNN and ABC all refer to "mean-spirited" conservatives. The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt tagged the platform as "mean-spirited." CNN's Bill Schneider charged that "they're supposed to be haters" as "most conservatives these days," such as House Speaker Newt Gingrich, "come across as mean." CNN's Judy Woodruff said that at least Kemp does not like the idea of "yanking money away from welfare mothers with small children." See page 2.

Intolerant Republicans Bar Wilson from Speaking. On four Sunday network mornings shows Republicans were pounded with 22 questions about why pro-choice Governors Pete Wilson and Bill Weld were not going to be allowed to speak. That's a dramatic contrast to what happened in 1992 when the networks virtually ignored the Democratic Party decision to bar pro-life Governor Bill Casey from speaking to their convention. Wilson apeared on ABC, but the network didn't interview Casey in 1992. See page 3.

"Rogue Elephants" Take Over GOP and Spell Sure Defeat. Using labels to paint delegates as extremists, CBS aired several stories about the ominous takeover of the Republican Party by, in Dan Rather's words, "the hard right." CBS reporter Linda Douglass worried that if Bob Dole appears to be "under the thumb of religious conservatives" he'll go down to defeat. See page 4.


Page Two story, Monday, August 12:

GOP Called "Mean" & Conservatives Dubbed "Haters" TV Analysts Turn Nasty

A "mean-spirited" and "divisive" convention attended by "haters" is how some network reporters and analysts, especially CNN s Bill Schneider, have described the Republican convention and conservatives over the past few days. Often, the comment came in backhanded insults in stories praising Jack Kemp s tolerance. Here, in date order, are some specific examples:

CBS s Russ Mitchell. On Friday s CBS This Morning, co-host Russ Mitchell asked RNC Chairman Haley Barbour: "Now the 1992 convention was called, even by some Republicans, divisive and mean-spirited. How will this convention be different?"

CNN's Bill Schneider. Hours later on Inside Politics Bill Schneider, CNN s polling analyst, praised Jack Kemp by impugning conservatives: "He is a rare combination a nice conservative. These days conservatives are supposed to be mean. They re supposed to be haters. Bob Novak talked a minute ago about the frowning face of the Republican Party. Jack Kemp is buoyant, he s effusive, he s inclusive of everybody in the country, not just in the Republican Party. He puts a different face on that ticket."

ABC s Cokie Roberts. Then on Friday night's World News Tonight Cokie Roberts also insulted Republicans while calling Kemp a good choice: "He s very optimistic, but he's also very inclusive, reaching out to minorities, to women, being for immigration, for affirmative action. And I think that s very important for this particular convention, Peter, and this party, which is seen somewhat dour, and somewhat mean in its ways to have someone with a big smile on his face saying you all come, and I m going to cut your taxes while I m at it is not a bad thing for the Republicans."

CNN s Al Hunt. On the August 10 Capital Gang Saturday night Al Hunt, Executive Washington Editor of The Wall Street Journal, disparaged the platform while praising the Kemp pick: "But, you know, privately the Democrats know that this is an enlightened choice, whatever Chris Dodd may say publicly. Jack Kemp is gonna not only excite this convention, but he cuts across regional, racial and generational lines, across all of America, and I think that he and his incredibly attractive family are going to add lustre and intellectual firepower. Now there are some risks. He has a few flaky views, the gold standard for one, and more important, Jack Kemp is a can-do optimist who cares about all people and that s going to put him at odds with a platform that is protectionist, mean-spirited, anti-immigration, insensitive to racial minorities."

CNN s Judy Woodruff: During live coverage Saturday of the VP announcement in Russell, Kansas, Judy Woodruff declared: "On welfare, up through the last few years, he s advocated more moderate policies than those that were passed this month by the Republican-controlled Congress. Jack Kemp does not like the idea of taking money yanking money way from welfare mothers with small children."

CNNs Schneider. On Saturday s Inside Politics Schneider again impugned conservatives as he praised Jack Kemp s tolerance: "Kemp also has a rare combination of qualities. He s a nice conservative. There haven t been too many of those since Ronald Reagan. Most conservatives these days come across as mean [video of Newt Gingrich] or intolerant [video of Pat Buchanan]. Kemp is tolerant and inclusive. He has an excellent relationship with minorities. He showed real courage two years ago when he came out against Proposition 187, the punitive anti-illegal immigration measure in California. Kemp is not a hater."

So most conservatives are? Sounds like a bit of mean-spirited name calling on behalf of the media.


Page 3 story, Monday, August 12, 1996

Networks That Ignored Casey Dive Into GOP Controversy The Fascinating Wilson Flap

ABC's Cokie Roberts asked Dole adviser Donald Rumsfeld on This Week with David Brinkley yesterday: "We just heard Jim Wooten talking about [California Gov.] Pete Wilson not talking at this convention. Governor Weld is also not talking at this convention. Republicans for years have been talking about the Democrats not allowing [then-Pennsylvania Gov.] Bob Casey to talk at their last convention. What s different here?" What s different is that the lack of speaking assignments for Weld and Wilson are spurring major media interest.

Just during the Sunday morning interview shows, the networks asked 22 questions about exclusion of pro-abortion Republicans. During the entire Democratic convention week in 1992, Casey s predicament drew absolutely no mention from Cokie s network, nor any attention from CBS; NBC aired just one interview with Gov. Casey, as did CNN, which added four other mentions of the underplayed controversy in prime time. Yesterday, 11 questions about the GOP s exclusion of moderates were posed on CNN s Late Edition, compared to five on NBC s Meet the Press, four on ABC s This Week, and two on CBS's Face the Nation.

If pro-choice forces cannot prevail, then why even hold a convention asked one morning show host last week. Today co-host Matt Lauer asked Gov. Wilson on August 8: "You said a second ago that the majority of Republicans across the country are on your side on this issue, but the majority of people who ll attend this convention are not. Why then even hold the convention if it doesn't express or represent the views of the majority of people in the party?"


Page Three, Monday, August 12, 1996

Sixty TV Stories on the GOP to One for the Democrats Abortion Plank Imbalance

As the surf arrives on San Diego s beaches, once again the national media are hanging ten on their favorite convention story: Republican fratricide over the platform s abortion plank. Since April 30, when Governors Weld, Wilson, Whitman, and Pataki declared their intention to challenge the platform s traditional pro-life plank, the networks have focused like a laser beam on the story, while ignoring any debate within the Democratic party:

>From April 30 to August 9, the Big Three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) have favored the Republican side of the story by 60 to 1. They aired 30 full stories on the evening newscasts, to only one ABC World News Tonight story on the Democratic abortion debate on June 12. The network morning shows have aired another 30 full stories or interview segments on the GOP abortion debate, to nothing on the Democrats. (That doesn t include five anchor briefs on the evening shows and 34 anchor briefs on the morning shows.)

CNN's evening newscast The World Today aired seven full stories and ten anchor briefs on the GOP pro-life plank, to only one anchor brief on the Democrats. CNN s Inside Politics was intensely interested in the story, with 38 full stories or interview segments on the GOP to two segments on the Democrats.

Perhaps the dramatic imbalance of stories will change when the Democrats hold their platform hearings? Wrong. The Democrats already held their platform hearings (on July 10 and 11, then concluding on August 5) with absolutely no notice from ABC, CBS, or NBC. You also couldn't read about them in Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News & World Report. Even daily newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, with hundreds of pages of newsprint to fill every week, spiked the story.

Judd, June 12: "An ABC News survey shows that a third of Democrats oppose all or most abortions, but centrists and liberals have no intention of surrendering any ground." Judd dismissed the threat of pro-lifers actually leaving the party: "The issue of abortion has not splintered the Democratic party because those who couldn t live with the party's position bolted years ago." She concluded: "So given their reluctance to publicly fight with the party mainstream, abortion opponents will probably be seen, but not heard at their party's convention this summer."


Page Four, Monday August 12, 1996, page 4

Networks Worry About Ominous Party Takeover by Christians "Rogue Elephants" No More

Colin Powell and Susan Molinari are set to deliver major speeches to the Republican convention, but network news reporters over the weekend portrayed the Republican Party as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Christian Right, painting that as an ominous development.

On Friday, August 9, Dan Rather introduced a CBS Evening News piece by asserting: "For many self-described Christian conservatives and other members of what is generally known as the hard right of the Republican Party, they ve been pretty much having their way at the San Diego convention, and the Jack Kemp news late today was one more cause for celebration. But there could be pitfalls ahead for the party, as we hear now from Linda Douglass."

Douglass began: "It already has been a triumphant week for religious conservatives, led by the Christian Coalition. Then came word of another victory, the prospect of Jack Kemp as Bob Dole's running mate." Following a soundbite from Ralph Reed, she continued: "The Christian Coalition has gotten what it wanted here, even forcing Dole to back down from his offer of tolerance to supporters of abortion rights. Religious conservatives say they now hold the key to a Dole victory in November."

After a soundbite from the Christian Coalition s Ralph Reed, Douglass continued: "But veterans of past Republican presidential campaigns warn Dole runs the risk of appearing to be under the thumb of religious conservatives. Some analysts believe Gerald Ford was hurt in 1976 by giving in to a conservative faction. Doug Bailey, who advised Ford then, said Dole must be careful." The same night on PBS s Washington Week in Review host Ken Bode claimed that "it turns out that this platform committee that met is a far more conservative group of delegates, than we've seen even in Republican conventions of the past."

On Sunday s Face the Nation, CBS correspondent Phil Jones seemed obsessed with the topic. Jones asked Governor George Bush, "There are a number of Republicans who are very uncomfortable with what they feel is the power, the control that the conservative Religious Right has. Are you concerned about that?" Jones also accused Pat Robertson of swallowing the Republican Party: "A lot of moderate Republicans have watched what s going on here in the last week in the writing of the platform, and they say you people, you, Pat Robertson and your wing of the Republican party, Christian conservatives, have taken over."

"Delegates are pursuing their own agendas and forcing party leaders, including Dole, to fall into line behind them," warned Dan Rather on last night s CBS Evening News. Taking a look at the Texas delegation, reporter John Roberts found that "so far the rogue elephants seem to be calling the shots: winning the platform battle over abortion and heavily influencing Bob Dole s choice for Vice President."

Employing some extremist labeling, Roberts said that "hardline anti-abortionists" tried to keep Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from becoming a delegate. But in the end, Roberts assured viewers, the conservatives really won't win: "This exercise in gaining political influence may turn out to be just that: an exercise. Bob Dole says he has not yet read the party platform and even if he does he says he will not feel bound by it. And it could be a case for the Texas delegation of winning the battle but losing the war. Their views against abortion are in contrast with the majority of Americans who support a woman s right to choose. That could turn out to be a contentious issue come November."

   -- Brent Baker



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