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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday November 4, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 179)

500th Edition: 
Tracking media bias since April 1996

Networks Hit GOP from Left: End Impeachment, Emulate Moderates

1) The network anchors and analysts scrutinized the GOP setback from the left, seeking a mandate to end impeachment but ignoring how Republican leaders failed to pursue a conservative agenda. Reality Check: Exit polls show Lewinsky not a major factor.

2) "Moderate" Governors were the media heroes contrasted with the conservative ideology of those who lost, ignoring the conservative policies of those Governors and how conservatives also won. The new model Republican for NBC's Brian Williams: Christine Whitman.

3) The first bi-annual CyberAlert Election Prognosticator Accuracy Scorecard: Not good. Liberal media stars shine as only Mark Shields got one net change number correct.

4) Another election night, another fresh dose of Ratherisms: "Democrats and Republicans are nervous as pigs in a packing plant."

5) Letterman's "Top Ten Jesse 'The Body' Ventura Campaign Slogans."

>>> Problem with MRC Web page. Unbeknownst to us, the MRC's www.mediaresearch.org address has not worked for a couple of weeks for those who did not already have it in their browser's cache, which is why we didn't notice it. It worked for us. Several readers complained Tuesday that the link listed in a late morning CyberAlert extra edition, to the Web version of the list of election predictions, did not work. I trust those readers managed to find it by following the other option of going to www.mrc.org and clicking on "Today's CyberAlert." Indeed, www.mrc.org has consistently worked and still does. I have now been assured that the problem with www.mediaresearch.org has been corrected.<<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) There's no way for Republican leaders to spin their way out of the fiasco Tuesday's election results represent to the party. If most people really wanted Clinton impeached they would have voted more for Republicans and the lack of an outpouring for the GOP could be interpreted as a sign of a lack of interest. But the network anchors and analysts Tuesday night and Wednesday morning scrutinized the GOP setback only from the left, not by raising points made by conservatives. So viewers heard a lot about how the public was tired of the Lewinsky investigation and opposed impeachment, though exit polling cast doubt about how much those views impacted voting.

     Notably absent from network coverage, with rare exception: the analysis from conservatives that Republicans discouraged their base and did not excite the wider voter population because they failed to develop a conservative issue agenda while caving into Clinton's liberal spending plans in the budget deal. Meanwhile, Democrats excited their base and attracted moderates by pounding away on an issue agenda, no matter how much it was just words and not policy, on health care, education and Social Security.

     The questions posed to GOP leaders display the media's slant. They pressed Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich about how the Republicans ads supposedly backfired, but never once asked a question from the right about how the party had failed to really push for conservative policies as promised in 1996 or ever laid out the moral case for impeachment instead of treating it as an onerous duty and insisting it would be wrong to say they favored it.

     Here are some examples followed by some exit poll data on how Lewinsky did not drive voters to Democrats:

     -- Tom Brokaw's question to Speaker Newt Gingrich during NBC's 10pm ET special also carried on MSNBC, as transcribed by MRC analyst Mark Drake.
     "Mr. Speaker, on average the party of the President does lose about twenty seven seats. The fact of the matter is, it looks tonight like you could be in about a wash with the House Democrats. Do you think that it's possible that the Republicans overplayed the presidential scandal here in this off-year election?"
     "Well, no one doubts that you are still a formidable force but when you meet with the Republicans on November 16 in the caucus, do you think that there will be any retrospective done among the Republicans about their tactics and what about your own future as the Speaker of the House? Do you think that will come in under discussion?"
     "Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, a number of those Republican candidates for governor told me that they were running away from the strong ideological message of the congressional Republicans. My final question, I guess, tonight is, do you think it will be necessary to put some kind of limits on the impeachment proceedings which are also on your agenda?"

-- Questions on CNN in prime time to Gingrich, questions picked up by MRC analyst Paul Smith:
     Judy Woodruff: "Is there a sense then from these results, if they remain as they are, that the Republicans overreached in their investigating and targeting the President?"

     Bernard Shaw, after Gingrich said the media led the fixation on Lewinsky: "If the news media were so fixated, why did your party spend millions of dollars in the eleventh hour of this campaign on ads which you were aware of?"

     -- Lisa McRee on Good Morning America, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
     "You had predicted at one point that as many as 40 seats in the House would go to the GOP. What do you think happened?"
     "You mentioned message. The message late in the campaign was very negative, and it's been reported that you had a lot to do with those negative campaign ads run by the party. Is part of this your fault? Do you think there was backlash?"
     "Yet the ads were very clear. The ads late in the game, and again, it's been reported that you had a lot to do with the construction of those ads, or at least with the message....But they were also about how to talk to your kids about a sex scandal in Washington."
     "In the few seconds we have left, if this was a referendum on the Clinton presidency, will you concede that President Clinton's popularity is still strong?"

     -- Mark McEwen on CBS This Morning to Gingrich, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
     "A few days ago you were predicting that the Republicans could pick up as many as 30 seats in the House. Instead the Democrats picked up seats. Why didn't the predictions match up, sir?"
     "Mr. Gingrich, leading up to this election Republicans were trying to make the Clinton Lewinsky affair an issue, in retrospect was that strategy wrong?"
     "Mr. Speaker, some conservative Republicans said that if your party didn't do as well as expected that they maybe looking for new leadership come January. Are you concerned about your job?"

     -- Katie Couric to Gingrich on NBC's Today, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
     "What in your view happened Mr. Speaker?"
     "Well do you think Republicans in Washington Mr. Speaker were simply to obsessed with the Clinton-Lewinsky matter?"
     "Well impeachment hearings are pretty newsworthy wouldn't you agree?"
     "Do you regret putting on those ads then last week talking about the Clinton-Lewinsky matter?"
     "Mr. Speaker do you see any kind of compromise to be worked out with the White House?"
     "Quickly in closing as to your job. Do you feel as if you are on shaky ground at all?"

REALITY CHECK: While the majority's wish to "move on" can't be ignored as a factor in the voting, the evidence is not as clear as presented by the networks. Two items from the Voter News Service exit polls:

     First, as noted by the Washington Post, asked "Was one reason for your vote for Congress today" either "to express support for Bill Clinton" or "to express opposition to Bill Clinton," 59 percent said "Clinton was not a factor" while 19 percent said they voted to express support, matched by a nearly identical 20 percent who said they wanted to show opposition.

     Second, only five percent said the Clinton/Lewinsky matter "mattered most" in deciding how to vote for U.S. House. And of those people 55 percent voted for a Republican and just 44 percent for a Democrat.

     This last set of numbers is on the Fox News Web page, the only place I found with a long list of the exit poll questions. Go to: http://www.foxnews.com/national/features/election98/xp/na_h00_xp.htm


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) "Moderate" Governors were the media heroes contrasted with the conservative ideology of those who lost, though as noted above the Washington-based GOP has hardly been pushing a conservative issue agenda while many of the Governor's who won championed tax cuts and welfare reform.

     -- During the 10pm ET NBC special, for instance, Tom Brokaw asserted to Trent Lott:
     "As you know, the Republican candidates for Governor who were successful tonight ran away from the presidential scandal and concentrated on more pragmatic and practical solutions to everyday problems out there. Do you think congressional Republicans need to learn something from their brethren in the state houses?"

     -- Christine Todd Whitman, media hero. MRC analyst Mark Drake caught this leading question, from MSNBC anchor Brian Williams to the liberal Republican Governor of New Jersey, posed at 9:35pm ET:
     "Now Governor, no gentle way to ask this. As you know, your view on certain issues hasn't been in vogue in your own party. You are slightly to the left of a lot of the more nationally prominent Republicans. However, tonight what we're seeing in at least some of the East Coast numbers coming in is a lot of those conservatives, a lot of those to the right of you are being turned away. Long way of asking do you think the views of the Governor of New Jersey suddenly will come around and be viewed more as the central theme of the party?"

bmort1104.jpg (26597 bytes)     -- Hours later on CNN, at about 12:40am ET Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, network veteran Bruce Morton insisted:
     "If you are going to look for a trend I think maybe it would be that this was a fairly tough season for very ideological Republicans, not the moderates but the social conservatives. You had Bob Inglis, the challenger, going down to Fritz Hollings in South Carolina. You had Lauch Faircloth, an incumbent, very conservative Senator, going down in North Carolina. Mark Neumann, the very conservative challenger to Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, also lost. So if there is a trend maybe that's it."

     Of course, the thesis of Williams and Morton with is "very conservative" mantra is contradicted by a the social conservative Peter Fitzgerald winning in Illinois, the defeat of gay marriage initiatives in Hawaii and Alaska and the overwhelming vote in Washington State to end affirmative action.

     Minutes later Jeanne Meserve chimed in: "It seems to be the year of the moderate. The two most ideological candidates, Fob James in Alabama and David Beasley in South Carolina, went down to defeat....You saw moderates in places like Connecticut and New York winning. Also in California, you have to look at Gray Davis, a Democrat, and say he ran a very centrist campaign stressing issues like education and crime."

     -- In the morning on Today Tim Russert blamed conservative ideology not strategy for the GOP setback, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed.
     Matt Lauer: "Did the voters say no to the Republican political ideology Tim or the Republican political strategy?"
     Tim Russert: "Matt it's quite striking. Republican governors who won by margins of 2 to 1 from the northeast to the midwest those who emphasize pragmatism and performance. When the perception of the Republicans in Congress was different than that, that they were ideological or philosophical the tone and the result was different. It appears that the people chose to emphasize Social Security, education, those kinds of issues and try to downplay the whole notion of scandal."

REALITY CHECK. One network analyst did suggest that the congressional Republicans's problem was that they wavered from ideological toughness. On Wednesday's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed, ABC News political director Mark Halperin told co-host Lisa McRee:
     "More moderates turned than in the last midterm election, but the Republican Party, which obviously is the more conservative party, has sort of made a hash of everything. They so mishandled the year, focusing too much on Lewinsky, focusing too much on their agenda, and then only to give up and give the President everything he wanted on the budget deal, that it's hard to know why their base would have turned out at all, and that obviously allowed Democrats to do better, and makes it unclear how Republicans proceed now."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The first bi-annual CyberAlert Election Prognosticator Accuracy Scorecard: 1 for 12! The prognosticators have a worse record than the 1-8 Redskins as only one of the panelists on Capital Gang, McLaughlin Group or Fox News Sunday accurately called a net change. None were correct in their net change predictions for Governorships and House seats. Mark Shields does get a star on the forehead: He correctly forecast no net change in the Senate and was the only one to pick Russ Feingold to win re-election.

     Here's a re-cap of the Republican-gain predictions. In reality, there's no net change in the Senate, Republicans have lost one Governorship and are down at least four House seats.

Novak: +8
Carlson: +8
O'Beirne: +7
Hunt:  +7
Shields: +5 or fewer
McLaughlin: +13
Clift: +6
Blankley: +7
Barone: +8
Buchanan: +12


Novak: +5
Carlson: +2
O'Beirne: +3
Hunt: +2
Shields: 0/no net change
McLaughlin: +5
Clift: +2
Blankley: +4
Barone: +3
Buchanan: +7


Shields: +3
Novak: +4
Carlson: +2
O'Beirne: +4
Hunt: +2 or fewer
McLaughlin: +3
Clift: +2
Blankley: +2
Barone: +3
Buchanan: +4

     Now for how they did on individual races, keeping in mind that different shows looked at different numbers of races. From best to worst:

Shields: 5 for 6
Hunt: 5 for 6
Carlson: 5 for 6
Clift: 6 for 8
Barnes: 2 for 3
Barone: 5 for 8
Novak: 3 for 6
Blankley: 4 for 8
McLaughlin: 3 for 8
O'Beirne: 2 for 4
Williams: 1 for 3
Buchanan: 2 for 8

     A good day for the liberal media figures. To read all the predictions in a neat, graphically clean, form, go to:

     They appeared in the November 3 CyberAlert, but remember that the section on North Carolina was messed up in the e-mail spacing wise, so see the subsequently e-mailed correction.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) No election night would be complete without a dose of Ratherisms from CBS News anchor Dan Rather. Here are a few taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:

     -- Near the end on Tuesday's 7pm ET Evening News feed: "Let me point out to you that there are some tight Senate races. Georgia Senate race, Kentucky Senate race, South Carolina Senate race. Polls have closed in these states. South Carolina's Governor's race -- Democrats and Republicans are nervous as pigs in a packing plant over these returns because the polls have closed and we don't know the results."

     -- Seconds later: "Now, if you're in those states where the polls are open, let me encourage you to vote. And of course, if you're in a state where the polls are closed, let me encourage you not to vote. It's illegal."

     -- During the CBS News special at 10pm ET: "Charles Schumer is one of the stunners of the night. This race was as hot and squalid as a New York elevator in August."

     -- Later in the special: "How sweet is must be for President Clinton. Lauch Faircloth, the man who actually was responsible along with Jesse Helms for making Ken Starr the special prosecutor who has dogged President Clinton for so long. Lauch is locked out in North Carolina."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) From the November 3 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Jesse The Body Ventura Campaign Slogans." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. He's Already Used To Deceiving The Public.
9. Let's Get Ready To Legislate!
8. Building A Steroid-Enhanced Bridge To The 21st Century.
7. A Man In Tights Has Nothing To Hide.
6. C'mon, Don't You Want To See Newt Gingrich In A Choke Hold?
5. I'm The Only Candidate Endorsed By Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.
4. Finally, A Governor Whose Shorts Glitter.
3. Combining The Wise Economic Stewardship of Hulk Hogan And The Progressive Policies of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka.
2. Vote For Me Or So Help Me God I'll Piledrive You.
1. It's The Stupidity, Stupid.

     And, from the Late Show Web page, some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten."

-- We Need A Governor Who Can Crush The Skull of Other Governors.
-- Let's Get Back To Basic Values, Like Sham Athletic Events.
-- He's For Half-Nelsons...And Full Social Security Benefits!
-- I'll Replace The Capitol Building With A Giant Steel Cage.
-- How Much Worse Could I Be Than Gopher From "Love Boat"?

     Letterman read this Top Ten on his show taped at 5:30pm ET Tuesday. Little did he know how prescient was the topic. By the time Late Show aired on WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and nationwide Jesse "The Body" Ventura had been transformed into Governor-elect Jesse "The Mind" Ventura.   -- Brent Baker

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