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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| August 29, 1996 (Vol. One; No. 69) |


***MRC CyberAlert: From Chicago***

Quote of the Day | Ignoring Al Gore's Inaccuracy, Nastiness | No Snarling Partisan Negativity in Chicago? | Where Are Welfare Questions from the Right | Labor's Political Intolerance, Mob Ties Surface on TV | Sidebites


"But with these guys coming [Jesse Jackson and Mario Cuomo], it was kind of like your young love coming back and oh, I remember when I was, you know, young and in love with this guy who was totally unacceptable, and I did the right thing by marrying the right guy -- but gee, he was kinda cute."

-- ABC's Cokie Roberts discussing Tuesday night speeches, August 28 Good Morning America.

Networks Forget 1988 Tobacco-Growing Boast Ignoring Al Gore's Inaccuracy, Nastiness

The networks delivered praise for Al Gore's speech last night, ignoring his factual inaccuracies and failing to note how he had boasted of growing tobacco as recently as 1988, four years after the death of his sister from lung cancer. After Gore's talk, in which he explained that his sister's death motivated his anti-tobacco views, the networks did talk to tobacco-state delegates. NBC's David Bloom spoke to a Tennessee delegate who "does not agree with this demonization of this industry."

"Well, Dan, in a word it was a barnburner," gushed Bob Schieffer on CBS last night. Though Gore said Republicans wish to allow "more poison in our air and drinking water," Schieffer didn't find him nasty: "This was an old-fashioned poli- tical speech, the kind of speech that politicians used to give before politics turned so nasty with all those commercials on television." Though Peter Jennings noted the "attack dog" role of a VP, no one mentioned how Gore falsely accused the GOP of "cutting" Medicare, of wanting it to "wither on the vine," or his claim of 100,000 new cops on the street. Last Sunday Scripps-Howard pegged the number at 12,000.

The New York Times reported July 3 that in 1988, Al Gore told an audience of tobacco farmers: "Throughout most of my life, I raised tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I've hoed it. I've dug in it. I've sprayed it, I've chopped it, I've shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it." No network mentioned this boast, but ABC, NBC and CNN did suggest hypocrisy. Jennings noted that "tobacco companies are here in Chicago wining and dining the hierarchy of the Democratic Party." NBC's Tom Brokaw recalled that "the Gore family were tobacco farmers." On CNN, Judy Woodruff suggested that Gore "was responding to what was said in San Diego," where his tobacco roots were highlighted.

-- Clinton's week of new spending promises hasn't generated a flurry of questions about how his plans will be paid for, but Dole's tax cut plan led to concern in San Diego about its impact on the deficit. One exception: Early in prime time last night CNN's Charles Bierbauer reviewed Clinton's spending plans and noted "Republicans say that is the road back to big government."

-- In stark contrast to San Diego, the networks failed to describe Tuesday speeches as harsh or mean attacks. The morning shows didn't raise the idea in interviews with Democratic guests.

-- The power of unions within the Democratic Party finally gets highlighted as ABC's World News Tonight and CNN in prime time examine their role. See page 3. But for CBS the problem isn't union influence moving the party left, but how President Clinton is too conservative for the rank and file.

More Raves for Jackson & Cuomo, Citations of GOP "Sniping" No Snarling Partisan Negativity in Chicago?

Wednesday marked Day Two of ignoring negativity from the podium in Chicago:

-- On ABC's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings argued: "There was a rather personal attack on President Clinton by Mr. Dole." In the ABC clip, Dole said: "Tonight they'll bash Republicans. Tomorrow night the President will sound to everybody 'If you're for it, I'm for it. If Bob Dole's for it, I'm for it. If Jesse Helms is for it, I'm for it. Whoever is for it, I'm for it, and that's why you should re-elect me, because I don't have any philosophy, I don't have any beliefs, I don't have any commitments." Sounds a lot like network complaints about welfare reform.

Jim Wooten raved over Jackson and Cuomo: "For a quick moment, deja vu...That old-fashioned voice, full-throated, fierce, raising the rafters worth of Chicago conventions...This was a glimpse of conventions past, when liberals were still the lions of the party and rhetoric roared....And the delegates, most of them much more liberal than their convention projects of their party, celebrated this little touch of yesterday." Wooten said Hillary "answered Republican sniping at her book on raising children."

-- CBS Evening News correspondent Bob Schieffer echoed Wooten: "During the Republican convention, the Doles disparaged Mrs. Clinton's book It Takes A Village, saying instead it takes a family to properly raise a child."

-- NBC's Tom Brokaw called Jesse Jackson "The father who began on the outside looking in, the fiery liberal voice of protest and change...The old lion still has his roar." The Wednesday morning shows took the same approach to negativity:

-- CBS This Morning co-host Jose Diaz-Balart suggested: "Mrs. Clinton, you know, has been the target of a lot of attacks by the Republican Party. She decided not to answer them, although she did say it takes a village."

-- On NBC's Today, Jim Miklaszewski proclaimed: "This was the night for the liberals. Jesse Jackson electrified the delegates, exhorting them not to abandon Democratic liberal traditions." Bryant Gumbel asked: "Would it be fair to say she wasn't as strident, as hard-edged last night as usual?" Miklaszewski dissented from the media's party line: "If you listen closely, I thought she was just as hard-edged as ever."

-- ABC's Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson explained: "Mrs. Clinton expressed the core idea of the evening, that government ought to be a proactive positive force, that idea given forceful voice by two liberal icons who opposed President Clinton's signing of welfare reform...the First Lady relied not on her legal experience -- there would be no harsh edges on this night -- but on her experience as a mother to push for new legislation."

ABC interviewed Leon Panetta, and NBC interviewed the First Lady, but asked no questions about negativity. Two weeks ago, the morning shows all decried "bashing":

-- CBS This Morning co-host Jane Robelot reported August 14: "It was unofficially Bash Bill Night last night in San Diego...Speaker after Republican speaker went after the man with a vengeance, including the keynoter, Susan Molinari."

-- "Congresswoman Susan Molinari took on the role of attack dog last night, using her keynote address to attack the President," Bryant Gumbel led off NBC's Today.

-- Good Morning America anchor Elizabeth Vargas asserted: "Some of the harshest words were from Kay Bailey Hutchison, who tried to paint the President as a tax-and-spend liberal." Charles Gibson added: "Polls will tell you these days that people do not want much partisanship in their politics, but they got it at the Republican convention last night. There were attacks on President Clinton's credibility, integrity, even his eating habits."

Broder Sounds A Rare Skeptical Note on Clinton, Welfare Fixer Where Are Welfare Questions from the Right?

Clinton officials assured conventioneers that he will "fix" welfare reform after the election. That prompted The Washington Post's David Broder, on CNN Tuesday night, to explain that Democrats will be "the slickest sales people in the country" if they cast Clinton as welfare's savior: "That's as logical as saying that the guy who fumbled the ball on the two-yard line ought to be put back in because he's the one who might carry it through the next time." The networks have yet to suggest that his welfare fix assurance might mean he really hasn't moved right on the issue. Instead, liberal questions on welfare reform continued on Wednesday night:

-- CBS reporter Ed Bradley asked Rep. John Lewis: "It's going to be difficult, given the positions he's taken, particularly on welfare, to get some people out?"

-- CNN's Gene Randall inquired of NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume: "Do you think the President's signature on the welfare rights bill will do him any harm politically in the African-American community?"

-- On CNN Bob Franken asked Sen. Daniel Moynihan: "You of course are very angry about the President signing the welfare legislation. But you haven't talked about it here. Why?" She followed up: "Can the President, as many people suggest, fix the welfare legislation in a second term?"

-- At the top of Tuesday's Nightline on the plight of Chicago's poor, Ted Koppel warned: "They live literally in the shadow of the convention in Chicago, but with their benefits now in doubt, many feel betrayed by the President and the Democrats, and look forward only to uncertainty."

Labor's Political Intolerance, Mob Ties Surface on TV ABC, CNN Touch on Unions' Peculiar Politics

While the labor unions have yet to receive the sort of Darth Vader treatment reserved for Republican interest groups like the Christian Coalition or the NRA, some reporters have presented critical looks at the exercise of union power.

-- Last night, CNN became the first network to address the issue of the unions' political intolerance, taking dues money from Republican union members to elect Democrats. Reporter Wolf Blitzer asked AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney: "Many of your members are Republicans. How do you explain to them that you're using, in effect, their dues to help elect Democrats?"

-- CNN campaign finance reporter Brooks Jackson delivered a story last night on the unions' political campaign in which he observed: "So Bill Clinton says the era of big government is over? Not at the Democratic convention, where unionized government workers are suiting up for battle against Republicans."

-- On Tuesday's World News Tonight, ABC's Brian Ross reported: "In the world of big money and Democratic politics on public display this week in Chicago, this man holds a special place. His name is Arthur Coia, who despite being president of a labor union the FBI says has long been controlled by the Mafia, the Laborers International has become one of the Democrats' top money people, raising millions and gaining him special access to the Clinton White House....In the last two years, the Clinton administration has gone all out to court Coia and his union money with invitations to the White House and an appearance by the First Lady at a big union conference."

Ross added detail: "In an abrupt change of plans that raised questions about whether the union's money to the Democrats had bought it some kind of sweetheart deal, prosecutors dropped the allegations and instead quietly negotiated a deal with Coia that let him keep his job and put him in charge of cleaning up the union."


Base Bias

CBS Evening News is taking two different approaches to the passionate poles that create each party's base. The day before the Republican convention, CBS reporter John Roberts suggested "hard-line anti-abortionists" controlled the Republican Party: "Delegates are pursuing their own agendas and forcing party leaders, including Dole, to fall into line behind them...so far he rogue elephants seem to be calling the shots."

But on last night's broadcast, reporter Harry Smith's piece on unions didn't talk about ideologically extreme unions pushing around the party, but how Bill Clinton has failed to be liberal enough for them:

"It still takes steel to make America's cars. It still takes labor to get a Democrat elected President. But talk to the union rank and file, and you'll find that their enthusiasm is less than red hot.... We talked with United Auto Workers in Dearborn, Michigan this week. Their biggest gripe: Bill Clinton's support of the North American Free Trade Agreement...Organized labor will invest millions of dollars to get Bill Clinton elected this fall. These dues-paying members wonder if they are still getting their money's worth."

Poor Ann

Tom Brokaw didn't ask about harsh negativity during a Tuesday night interview with former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who "delivered that rollicking keynote speech against George Bush not so long ago." Brokaw asked about strong women: "You paid the price to some degree. You lost the governorship of Texas because this country still is a little bit schizoid, isn't it, about the role of women in American politics?"

Brokaw: Right is Wrong

Tom Brokaw was hit Tuesday with an anti-GOP comment he made in San Diego. Freelance newsman Marc Morano showed him a quote, cited in Media Reality Check '96, in which Brokaw asked rape victim Jan Licence after her speech: "Do you think this is a party that is dominated by men and this convention is dominated by men as well...Do you think before tonight they thought very much about what happens in America with rape?"

Brokaw read the quote, admitted "I did ask her that, which I think is a fair question," then walked away. Earlier, Morano asked why GOP delegates distrusted the media but Democrats don't. Brokaw asserted that it's just because conservatives don't like change: "I think a lot of reporters in fact, come from working class, activist backgrounds. But I don't think that it really colors the way that they report things and the conservatives generally stand for the status quo and news is about change."

Here's My Room Key!

Great publicity isn't the only thing Bill Clinton picked up on his train trip. Reporting on crowd reaction to Clinton's stop at Michigan State University, NBC Nightly News on Wednesday found one very giving student. Answering what she could give the President, she yelled, "I'll give him my room key!"

Used to Double Standard

Reporters complained about the lack of hard news in San Diego, but aren't doing so in Chicago. Radio host Don Imus asked CBS's Bob Schieffer Wednesday morning why. Talk Daily reported his response: "I guess we kind of got used to it."

-- Brent Baker with Tim Graham, Steve Kaminski, Gene Eliasen, Clay Waters, Geoffrey Dickens, Jim Forbes and Matt Turosz.



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