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
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.<<<
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
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.
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
"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?"
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
-- 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
"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
"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
-- Katie Couric to Gingrich on NBC's Today, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
"What in your view happened Mr.
"Well do you think Republicans in Washington
Mr. Speaker were simply to obsessed with the Clinton-Lewinsky
"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
"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
-- 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?"
-- 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.
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
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
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."
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.
||+5 or fewer
||0/no net change
Now for how they
did on individual races, keeping in mind that different shows looked at
different numbers of races. From best to worst:
||5 for 6
||5 for 6
||5 for 6
||6 for 8
||2 for 3
||5 for 8
||3 for 6
||4 for 8
||3 for 8
||2 for 4
||1 for 3
||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
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
-- 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
-- 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."
From the November 3 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten
Jesse The Body Ventura Campaign Slogans." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide
10. He's Already Used To Deceiving The
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"?
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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