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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday October 29, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 175)

CBS & NBC Led with Clinton's Retort to "Ugly" GOP Ads; Bye-bye Keith?

1) CBS and NBC played Clinton's response to the new GOP ads before even showing an ad clip. NBC's Tom Brokaw called the ads "an October Surprise" as NBC argued they "could backfire."

2) Geraldo Rivera denounced the ads as "ugly" and insisted the probe of Clinton is "unprecedented in the annals of American jurisprudence."

3) MSNBC's Keith Olbermann complained the ads are part of the coarsening of politics and impugned Senator Faircloth as one of "the junior Grand Wizards of the vast right-wing conspiracy."

4) Tuesday night CBS and NBC ran with one-sided takes on Bill Clinton's event about women on Social Security; NBC looked at how a Christian Right candidate is losing; ABC delivered a one-sided report on how the Slepian murder is boosting pro-choicers.

5) USA Today revealed: "Big Show host headed for the door at MSNBC."

>>> "Antidotes to Climate Hype: Five Important Points for Global Warming Stories," a new special report is now up on the MRC Web site thanks to Webmaster Sean Henry. The report's overview: "As international negotiators meet in Buenos Aires for another round of discussions on climate change, reporters should keep in mind that critics of global-warming policies exist, and balance requires including their arguments. Timothy Lamer, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, assembled five important points that should be part of press reports on global warming:"
1) Many scientists are skeptical of climate change theories.
2) A warmer Earth may be a more prosperous Earth.
3) The Kyoto Protocol will not substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
4) Global warming policies would harm the U.S. economy and American consumers.
5) The Kyoto Protocol could undermine U.S. national security and global economic health.      <<<

Corrections: The October 27 CyberAlert misspelled two names. First, the last name of a CNBC reporter. It's Jane Wells, not Welles. Second, the first name of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. It's Yitzhak, not Yitzak.


clinton1029.jpg (26074 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Only ABC's World News Tonight led Wednesday night with the National Republican Congressional Committee's "$10 million campaign advertising attack," as Peter Jennings put it. But the three broadcast networks all ran full stories on it focused not on the ads but on Clinton's reaction and how he wants voters to look at the real issues. CBS and NBC were so anxious to get Clinton's response that they played it before showing a clip of a new ad. CBS didn't even include any soundbite from a Republican official as Scott Pelley began with Clinton's spin: "With six days to go before the election the President today declared he has rededicated to his presidency and atoned for the Lewinsky scandal. Mr. Clinton suggested that voters should go to the polls to vote on the issues, not his fitness to be President."

     NBC's Tom Brokaw called the ads "something of an October Surprise" before David Bloom highlighted how "a new NBC News poll suggests the abrupt change in tactics could backfire on Republicans." CNN and FNC ran more balanced stories featuring both reaction from Clinton and a DNC official as well as an explanation from a Republican official about the reasoning behind the ads, though FNC analyst Dick Morris dismissed them as "incredibly stupid."

     Hurricane Mitch topped FNC's Fox Report while CBS, CNN and NBC went first with John Glenn's impending space shuttle trip. FNC's Jon Scott as well as CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Tom Brokaw anchored from Titusville, Florida. Both ABC and NBC ran pieces on he Mercury women astronauts never allowed to fly. Over video of the shuttle, Rather glowed: "The towering Discovery launchpad the night before scheduled blastoff to history and publicity."

     Here are some highlights from the Wednesday, October 28 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, the $10 million campaign advertising attack. The Republicans go after the Democrats using the Lewinsky scandal."

     Introducing the lead story Jennings warned: "...After being quiet on the subject for most of the campaign the Republicans have unleashed $10 million of political ads designed to move the President's affair and his lies about it, right to the center of the final week's political debate."

     John Cochran began his story which is a model of balance compared to what CBS and NBC delivered: "After heated arguments among Republicans on whether to make Bill Clinton the issue, they decided to take a chance, to juice up a campaign that has left so many voters indifferent."
     After a quick ad clip Cochran observed that "the ads do not specifically mention the Lewinsky scandal. One of them uses a sly reminder: a picture only of the finger wagging moment when the President denied he had sexual relations with that woman."
     Following another brief ad clip Cochran went to Clinton's comments at a White House welcoming ceremony for a foreign leader:
     "The President said Republican have the right to run any ads they want, but"
     Clinton: "I believe that it's always best if the elections are about the American people, and their families and their future."
     Cochran: "As for himself and the scandal."
     Clinton: "The American people have had quite a decent amount of exposure to that. I hope very much they have seen I'm doing my best to atone for it. I think what they should tell their children is that when someone makes a mistake they should admit it and try to rectify it."
     Noting that Republicans know a backlash is possible, Cochran reported the toughest ad is running in just three southern districts. He allowed the NRCC's Bill McInturff to explain that the ads are designed to give swing voters a rationale for GOP Congress, before concluding:
     "What finally convinced Republican officials was the feeling that although using the Clinton scandal was risky if they didn't use it and then did badly in the election they would feel even worse."

     Not exactly inspiring rationale.

     Next, Rebecca Chase checked in on how the incumbent Republican Governors of Alabama and South Carolina are in trouble: "In the deep South Republicans and religious conservatives regularly preach against the evils of gambling, but Democrats have discovered that gambling, if it is a state lottery, can be a winning issue." Chase gave time to both sides, explaining that Democrats have figured out that a lottery is "a popular way to put more money into schools without raising taxes."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather decided the biggest news was not what the ads said but what Clinton said about them, announcing:
     "The Republicans have just launched a new advertising blitz attempting to make the elections a referendum on President Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky affair. CBS News White House correspondent Scott Pelley has the President's response to that."

     Pelley began: "With six days to go before the election the President today declared he has rededicated to his presidency and atoned for the Lewinsky scandal. Mr. Clinton suggested that voters should go to the polls to vote on the issues, not his fitness to be President."
     Clinton: "I hope very much that they have seen that I'm doing my best to atone for it. I hope they can sense the rededication and the intensified efforts I'm making for the cause of peace around the world, for the cause of prosperity at home."
     Pelley noted the ads will only run in some areas and then ran brief clips of all three ads, starting with one asking "Should we reward Bill Clinton?" Second, in the longest excerpt viewers saw the one with two women:

Women A: "What'd you tell your kids?
Woman B: "I didn't know what to say."
Woman A: "It's wrong. For seven months he lied to us."
Woman B: "But aren't there other things to do?"
Woman A: "And say it's okay to lie?"

     And third, a few words from an ad ending with "For balance, vote Republican."
     CBS went right to Clinton's retort: "It wouldn't be very persuasive argument to me if I were a citizen out there because I would always be trying to think as a citizen what is best for my family, for my children, for my community and for my country."
     Pelley concluded: "Both parties are desperate to motivate their core voters. There are 51 close congressional elections next week and the turnout is expected to be low, but the White House will keep Mr. Clinton from campaigning for the most part because there's a fear his presence on the campaign trail would do many candidates more harm than good."

     -- CNN's The World Today. About 36 minutes into the show, after lengthy segments on Glenn and Hurricane Mitch, CNN got to Brooks Jackson on the ads. He ran clips and allowed the NRCC's John Linder to explain why they decided to run them. Only then did CNN get Clinton's response, running a full report from Wolf Blitzer who featured soundbites from Clinton, Gore, and Roy Romer.

     -- FNC's Fox Report. Carl Cameron handled the ad story, allowing viewers to see clips followed by reaction from Clinton, Gore, the DNC's Steve Grossman and NRCC's John Linder as well as RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson.

     Next, Dick Morris told co-anchor Jane Skinner that the ads "are incredibly stupid" since they will motivate Democrats and remind voters why they like Clinton.

     FNC then ran a full report from Julie Kirtz on how Clinton lawyer David Kendall has asked a court to delay a lawsuit filed by Dolly Kyle Browning, who says she had a 30 year affair with Clinton and was defamed by his denial. Rita Cosby checked in with a piece on odd initiatives on the ballot, like one in Missouri to ban cock-fighting.

     -- NBC Nightly News. On the ads, Tom Brokaw intoned: "Well it's less than a week to go now before the mid-term congressional elections and the Republican Party has unveiled something of an October Surprise: hard-hitting new television ads that raise the issue of Monica Lewinsky."
     David Bloom began by arguing they won't work: "Tom, the White House tonight confronts a surprise, a final week $10 million Republican advertising blitz aimed at making Mr. Clinton's trustworthiness the number one issue in many tight congressional races, but a new NBC News poll suggests the abrupt change in tactics could backfire on Republicans."
     Bloom played an ad clip: "Should we reward not telling the truth? That is the question of this election. Reward Bill Clinton or vote Republican."
     Bloom then jumped to Clinton's retort: "At the White House President Clinton argued he should be judged quote 'on his whole record' and accused Republicans of trying to distract attention away from real issues, such as Social Security."
     Clinton: "I'm not trying to sugar-coat the fact that I made a mistake and that I didn't want anyone to know about it."
     Bloom: "Vice President Gore called the Republican ad blitz an act of desperation."
     Gore: "Attacking the President and investigating the President has apparently become an obsession with the Republicans."
     Bloom got to his poll numbers, which did not deal with the ad content: "Nervous Republicans do admit privately there's a danger the new ads could drive scandal-weary voters to the polls to vote Democrat. For example, in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out tonight, 68 percent disapprove of the way congressional Republicans have handled the Lewinsky matter and 71 percent now believe Mr. Clinton should not be impeached."

     Bloom concluded by acknowledging the ads could work in some close races, citing positive reaction from Republican candidate Michael Burkhold in South Carolina.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) The new Republican ads have angered Geraldo Rivera as he continues this week to portray Clinton as persecuted by unforgiving enemies who conspired to appoint Ken Starr. Though Ted Koppel Wednesday night described the ads as "tame," on CNBC's Upfront Tonight for October 28 Rivera declared:

     "Also tonight, the election campaign has just taken a turn to the ugly. We'll tell you about the new attack ads that make the President the issue and you'll hear Clinton's quick response."

     MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught a couple of other Riveraisms this week worth noting. On the October 27 Rivera Live on CNBC he whined:
     "I think the better analogy is how many times do you offer the guy a situation where he can commit a crime and finally you get him on one and what is it? It is perjury in a dismissed civil case for which you bring federal prosecution. Unprecedented in the annals of American jurisprudence."

     Tuesday night, October 26 on CNBC's Rivera Live he argued to Bill Bennett:
     "I think that when you examine Whitewater, as I have in depth, you see that so many of his purported lies were not lies at all but rather were wishful thinking on the part of his pursuers. I also think, you know you make a great analogy in your book to one of the rivers in Hades where the souls of the dead....Right. That's the, and the Greek mythology and if you spin forward into the middle ages to Dante and the Inferno you see that the second level of Hell is for the adulterers and the seventh level is for those who would betray their friends, or you know those who would pursue in a way that is hypocritical. And it seems to me that this man has really been hounded for years by his partisan enemies and I don't believe that you believe that Ken Starr was appointed independent counsel by coincidence."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Jumping amongst the NBC networks as hours passed Wednesday night a viewer heard the new GOP ads portrayed as ineffective on NBC Nightly News at 6:30/7pm ET, then denounced as "ugly" at 7:30pm ET on CNBC. Making it a trifecta of rebukes, on the 8pm ET Big Show MSNBC's Keith Olbermann played the entire ad which ended with the line: "Should we reward Bill Clinton?" He then demanded of RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson:
     "Mr. Nicholson, it's been said that the political climate and discourse in this country has been coarsened to a great degree by what Bill Clinton has done this year. Is there not a sense that this kind of advertising continues the process rather than puts Republicans on a higher road than Mr. Clinton himself?"

     While on Olbermann's pontificating, another sign that all great NBC cable minds think alike. On the October 26 Big Show, MRC analyst Mark Drake noticed, Olbermann raised the liberal conspiracy of Senators Faircloth and Helms having lunch with a judge on the panel which later picked Starr. In a question to Democratic consultant Pat Caddell about the South Carolina Senate race he used terminology to mark Faircloth with racism:

     "I know you want to talk about New York but I've got to know, Pat, why is this John Edwards/Lauch Faircloth race so important to the Republicans, other than the obvious that Senator Faircloth is considered to be one of the junior Grand Wizards of the vast right-wing conspiracy?"


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Every network led Tuesday night, October 26 with Hurricane Mitch's approach to Central America. ABC featured a story on how the Barnett Slepian murder is being used by abortion advocates to mobilize support. The piece featured two abortion-rights promoters, but no one on the other side. (Wednesday's Today featured a similar story, but at least included a soundbite from the RNC's Jim Nicholson.)

     CBS highlighted how George W. Bush is courting Hispanic voters while both CBS and NBC picked up and ran with Bill Clinton's photo-op event about his plans to help women who depend on Social Security. NBC added a look at how voters are rejecting the Christian Right-backed Governor of Alabama. FNC uniquely examined how the White House is using delaying tactics to impede the House inquiry.

     Here are some highlights from the Tuesday, October 27, evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. John Cochran, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, began: "Abortion rights activists believe the doctor's murder can mobilize opposition to anti-abortion candidates, such as New York Senator Al D'Amato. D'Amato voted against a 1994 law making it a federal crime to use force to interfere with abortions. It gave federal agents the authority to investigate in such cases."
     Following a soundbite from Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights Action League, Cochran marveled: "In a bizarre coincidence, two days before the murder, the abortion rights group NARAL produced a commercial about a woman who was badly injured in a bombing at a Birmingham abortion clinic. Now NARAL plans to buy more air time to give it greater prominence....D'Amato has deplored anti-abortion violence, but advisors to his opponent, Chuck Schumer, believe the ads and news coverage of the murder help emphasize their differences on abortion. Many Democrats hope the abortion issue will also become pivotal in other close races around the country, including California."
     After a clip of California Senator Barbara Boxer, Cochran continued: "Consultants and pollsters say the abortion issue may help Democratic candidates ignite enthusiasm among supporters, who until now, have been apathetic," but he cautioned in conclusion:
     "Democrats know this is a card they must play carefully. If voters think they are using a murder for political gain, it could backfire on them."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced: "President Clinton today courted a key constituency" with "proposals for improving retirement security for women." Bill Plante enthusiastically relayed the latest White House gimmick:
     "Dan, with just a week to go now before the election, Mr. Clinton today challenged the Republican congressional leadership to fix Social Security next year before cutting taxes and he proposed more generous benefits for women, who tend mostly to vote more for Democrats than Republicans." Plante ran soundbites from participants in the event as well as Clinton, but no contrary views.

     Later, Rather did give a Republican some positive press:
     "Tonight a look at one of the more intriguing election contests coming up next week. It is in fact no contest. Republican Governor George W. Bush of Texas is widely expected to win by a substantial margin over Democrat Gary Morrow (sp?). But, simply put, Governor Bush has gone where few Republicans have gone before, he has seen the future. By presidential election year 2000 Americans of Hispanic heritage, traditional Democrats, could be this country's largest minority group."

     -- FNC's Fox Report. Before a story on how some Democrats are using the Lewinsky scandal to motivate their voters, David Shuster highlighted how White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart refused to promise testimony to the House Judiciary Committee from any staffer. Shuster added that the White House will also claim executive privilege for Bruce Lindsey, observing: "The White House strategy is simple: Despite asking Congress to move the investigation along, the administration will not commit to taking steps that would help, such as dropping claims of executive privilege."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Like CBS, NBC ran with the Social Security event, making it the In Depth segment. Anne Thompson began: "Thirty-two million baby boomer women in their thirties, forties and fifties went to work this morning but less than 1 in 5 came home tonight with their retirement financially secure."

     After a soundbite from Clinton, Thompson continued: "At today's White House tele-conference President Clinton pledged to protect Social Security and told women at a dozen sites around the country he wants to make taking time off from a job to care for children or elderly parents count towards your retirement plan...."

     MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens counted four soundbites from Clinton, but not one from anyone else in this story on how Clinton will save soccer moms.

     Next, Brokaw turned to how the Christian Right may be losing influence: "Election day is just one week away and one of the most powerful forces in American politics these day is the Christian conservative movement. Motivated, organized and well financed. The Christian Right should expect to do very well in a state like Alabama where the incumbent Governor is one of their own -- but surprise!"

     Fred Francis reported that incumbent Republican Fob James is behind because "local experts say the bottom line here is not conservative Christian values but economics." Francis concluded: "That's no secret to James' opponent, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Don Seigleman who proposed a state lottery to fund education. And in a state where one out of every three adults is functionally illiterate that's a political idea which if successful could spell the last stop for Governor Fob James and the first meaningful loss for the Christian Right."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on the way out? Yes, according to USA Today's Peter Johnson who reported on October 27:
     "Olbermann has made no secret that he wants out. He's griped on the Big Show that executives make him focus on the Clinton sex scandal, which gave his show a big ratings bump....Neither Olbermann nor MSNBC will comment. MSNBC, not looking to prolong a public fight, and Olbermann are both looking for a way to extricate him from the cable channel, probably by year's end but perhaps sooner. That said, this is a touchy internal issue: Olbermann still has two years left on his three-year deal, and NBC hasn't been so accommodating when others have tried to get out of deals."

     We'll miss his comparisons of Ken Starr to Nazis, but maybe we'll get a Geraldo repeat hour on MSNBC. -- Brent Baker

     >>> Support the MRC, an educational foundation dependent upon contributions which make CyberAlert possible, by providing a tax-deductible donation. Use the secure donations page set up for CyberAlert readers and subscribers:

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