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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday January 21, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 12) 
Canonize the Popular Clinton; "Held Hostage" by the Trial; GOP Stuck in the '80s

1) ABC and NBC showcased Cheryl Mills for her personal civil rights defense of Clinton; CBS, CNN and NBC highlighted Clinton's popularity. NBC's David Bloom relayed how Clinton "is now the most popular second term President in more than 50 years."

2) NBC Nightly News hyped Clinton's claim about unequal pay, Andrea Mitchell: "For every dollar earned by men, women earn only 78 cents." Not true for those of equal education and tenure.

3) Geraldo Rivera on Bill Clinton: "If they indicted him now, he'd be canonized." On Cheryl Mills: "Forget about home run, that was a grand slam."

4) Sam Donaldson compared Clinton to a soaring Internet stock. Two GMA guests were pressed about prolonging the trial as Charlie Gibson demanded of Dennis Hastert: "Why drag this out? Why are your managers over there...pressing for witnesses?"

5) Tim Russert decided that Clinton's State of the Union performance insures he will not be removed. Katie Couric imagined: "If you closed your eyes and listened you might swear it was a Republican who was delivering that speech."

6) "The Republicans are forced back on the issues they were touting in the '80s...It wasn't really a forward looking proposal," complained Newsweek's Howard Fineman.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)Alan Greenspan's criticism of Clinton's proposal to have the government put some Social Security money into the stock market, led the January 20 ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows. CNN's The World Today and FNC Fox Report went first with the Senate presentations by Greg Craig and Cheryl Mills.

     Below, highlights of how the shows hyped Clinton's popularity, showcased Cheryl Mills for her civil rights defense and examined Clinton's Social Security investment proposal from the left but not the right:

     -- CBS, CNN and NBC highlighted Clinton's popularity. From the road with Clinton in Buffalo and Norristown, Pennsylvania, NBC's David Bloom relayed how Clinton "is now the most popular second term President in more than 50 years." Also traveling with Clinton, on the CBS Evening News Scott Pelley announced: "It seemed though that most Americans liked what they heard last night. There were new programs for nearly everyone, and no tax increase except for cigarettes. According to senior aides Mr. Clinton believed it was his best policy address ever. A new CBS News poll shows a 72 percent job approval rating."

     -- ABC and NBC highlighted the personal case made by Mills about how Clinton is great on civil rights and how he treats blacks, but neither noted the irrelevance of her arguments to the case or suggested she played the race card.

     On ABC's World News Tonight Jackie Judd noted: "She ended on a personal note, challenging Republicans who have equated Paula Jones' lawsuit against Mr. Clinton with the civil rights struggle."
     Cheryl Mills: "I stand here before you today because President Bill Clinton believed I could stand here for him."

     NBC Nightly News didn't actually show any of her civil rights comments, but after Gwen Ifill's report summarizing and showing soundbites of the more substantive case made by Craig and Mills, anchor Tom Brokaw told viewers what he saw when he was in the Senate gallery earlier:
     "When Cheryl Mills, an African American lawyer, speaking to a mostly male, mostly white audience concluded her arguments with a forceful defense of the President's record on civil rights, the note taking stopped and she had their complete attention, many of the Senators rush up afterwards to congratulate her. Among the first to reach her side: Senator Phil Gramm, Republican from Texas."

     -- ABC led with Greenspan's criticism and though the story by John Cochran included a soundbite from a Cato Institute expert, Cochran failed to inform viewers why conservatives think it would be better to allow individuals to decide where their Social Security money goes in the stock market.

     After explaining how Greenspan thinks investments would be influenced by politics as state and local pension funds do worse than private retirement plans, Cochran asked:
     "Should the government care only about making big profits? How about politically incorrect industries or companies under investigation by the government. Should it invest in tobacco, or companies that use child labor?"
     Michael Tanner, Cato Institute: "Or how about companies that have just busted their union or give money to Planned Parenthood or make R-rated movies? You can pick any social issue and it will immediately become an investment issue."
     Cochran: "The President's aides admit they don't have all the solutions, but they hope that with so many Americans bullish about the stock market and worried about Social Security Republicans will have to join the search for some answers."

     -- Finally, a rhyme from Dan Rather that can't be skipped:
"CBS business correspondent Anthony Mason has more about the head of the Fed and what he said."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) NBC Nightly News picked up on Clinton's State of the Union pledge to better enforce equal pay laws for women, but like Clinton put liberal rhetoric ahead of the facts. Andrea Mitchell used the January 20 "In Depth" segment to illustrate the problem and explain how it's one way politicians are going after the female vote.

     Mitchell asserted: "Across this country the wage gap between for men and women remains huge. For every dollar earned by men, women earn only 78 cents, a persistent gap for men and women with the exact same skills."
     Mitchell then played this soundbite from Karen Nussbaum of the AFL-CIO, who claimed: "The average 29 year-old with a college education will stand to lose nearly a million dollars over her lifetime because she doesn't have equal pay."

     Reality Check: As the April 14, 1997 CyberAlert reported in response to similar liberal fantasizing at the time by NBC's Katie Couric and ABC's Peter Jennings, "among men and women with equal education and experience pay is nearly identical."

     A 1996 analysis of male versus female pay scales by the Independent Women's Forum discovered:
     -- "Occupation, seniority, absenteeism, and intermittent work-force participation are all critical variables in accounting for pay disparities. In other words, those who assume that  discrimination is solely to blame for wage differences are drawing unsubstantiated conclusions."

     -- "Over time, women's wages have been steadily rising relative to men's wages. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data show that, among people ages twenty-seven to thirty-three who have never had a child, women's earnings  are close to 98 percent of men's. Economist June O'Neill notes, 'When earnings comparisons are restricted to men and women more similar in their experience and life situations, the measured earnings differentials are typically quite small.'"


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Two Geraldoisms from Wednesday's Upfront Tonight on CNBC:

     -- Geraldo Rivera to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, marveling at Clinton's high approval ratings: "One thing I can't figure is how did this guy thrive so much in adversity. I mean, if they indicted him now, he'd be canonized for God's sake."

     -- On the presentation by Deputy White House counsel Cheryl Mills: "I think that that woman, Cheryl Mills, I mean forget about home run, that was a grand slam."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)CHARLESGIBSON1-21.jpg (9620 bytes)One track Charlie. ABC could save money by just having Charlie Gibson come in one day a week to tape his questions and then play them back to guests each morning.

     On Monday, he asked Bob Dole why Republicans insist on dragging out the trial process. On Tuesday, he asked George Mitchell why the Republicans are dragging out the trial. (See January 19 and 20 CyberAlerts.) And on Wednesday morning's Good Morning America, surprise, surprise, he inquired of House Speaker Dennis Hastert: "Why drag this out? Why are your managers over there, your House managers over there, pressing for witnesses?" At another point he wondered if we'll see Clinton's proposals approved, "or are we just held hostage until impeachment is done?"

     Here's some of what greeted viewers of the all-new, semi re-tread, Good Morning America on January 20, the morning after the State of the Union, as observed and transcribed by MRC analyst Mark Drake:

     -- Glowing reviews for Clinton by Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson.
     Roberts told Gibson: "Well, the question of whether he was successful or not will be decided by the Senate in the long run, and my guess, is yes, he will be successful. But it was a remarkable performance last night. He's always remarkable in these performance but this one was stranger than usual, and I think that he certainly put Republicans in a position where he hit every popular theme there was to hit and what are they not going to do now?"
    Sam Donaldson at another point in the show: "The White House is tickled pink down here. The polls show the President went up in every respect after the speech last night. You know, I've talked to one staff member who said 'We worry. He never worries. He just pulls always it through' and I noticed in the paper there was a cartoon this morning comparing President Clinton to one of these great Internet stocks, one of these dot.com's that just go way up despite the fact that there may be no value there. That's what his critics say about him, and He just says 'yeah, yeah' and goes it goes up. The public loves it. They loved him last night and down here they're ecstatic."

     -- Why drag out or prolong, and are we being held hostage by Republicans?
     Gibson to Cokie Roberts in the 7am half hour: "Cokie, are we going to get at these issues [mentioned in the State of the Union] or are we just held hostage until impeachment is done?"

     News reader Antonio Mora to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch during the 8am news update: "But if you don't have a chance of getting the 67 votes, is there a need to go to witnesses and prolong this trial?"

     And here are some of Gibson's inquiries to Speaker Dennis Hastert during he 8am half hour:
     "One of the critical things that a Speaker has to do is work with the President of the United States and yet, you voted to remove him from office. You voted to impeach Bill Clinton."
     "Why drag this out? Why are your managers over there, your House managers over there, pressing for witnesses?"
     "The President made suggestions last year on Social Security and right away Republicans were screaming 'No. No. No. We need to use the surpluses in the budget not for Social Security or not completely for Social Security but for tax cuts.'"


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)Katie Couric and Tim Russert also marveled at Clinton's State of the Union performance, focusing on his high approval numbers and how they will control the Senate vote, as Couric imagined: "If you closed your eyes and listened you might swear it was a Republican who was delivering that speech."

     MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this exchange from the January 20 Today:

     Katie Couric: "So how did he do?"
     Tim Russert: "Well Katie this is what Bill Clinton does best. The Democrats were giddy, the Republicans were grudging in their awe of the President's ability to stand before the country and give this kind of speech and emerge with a 76 percent approval rating."
     Couric: "In fact the President normally does get a bump in the polls following speeches like this Tim. But people are particularly, well watching these numbers particularly closely because of the impeachment drama. Let's go through the results of an overnight poll that we conducted. As you mention 76 percent approved of the job the President is doing. 73 percent of those polled said the President has the ability to lead the country and 70 percent of those surveyed said the President offered proposals that addressed the most urgent needs of the country. So realistically can Congress remove such a popular president from office?"
     Russert: "No. Katie a President who has a 76 percent approval rating prevents 67 votes for impeachment. It just doesn't add up and you can't find a Republican who will acknowledge that. Last night Katie it was as if a defendant at a trial said, 'Let's take a break. I want to have a party for the jury. And I want to give your parents Social Security and your children education and clean air for you. Now can we all go back to the trial?' It had that surreal atmosphere that this is incredible. We have these two scenes playing out and one is going to be preventive of the other. There is no way the Senate is going to remove a President with this level of popularity and Democrats and Republicans know it."       Couric: "And Tim in terms of the content of this address if you closed your eyes and listened you might swear it was a Republican who was delivering that speech."
     Russert: "A President standing up saying, 'We have not had an increase in defense spending since 1985, we must do more. We have to have savings accounts. We have to have tax cuts. We have to privatize part of Social Security.' All Republican themes the President co-opted which only increases their frustration. In the end Katie less than a third of what the President proposed will actually become law but last night was his opportunity to paint the grand vision and the country responded."
     Couric: "But as you know Tim already some Republicans are balking over his proposals. They don't want money or Social Security funds to be in the stock market and they do want a tax cut. They want the budget surplus to be used so a tax cut can be enacted. So will the President's proposals fly?"
     Russert: "I have a hunch that after this impeachment trial and assuming the President remains in office both sides are gonna look for a way to demonstrate to the public that Washington works. To try to restore public confidence in both institutions. Much like they did in 1996 with the budget deal and you will see some tax cuts with Republicans pushing them. And you will see some changes in social security. And you may emerge in 1999 with a bipartisan deal on Social Security, Medicare and tax cuts."

     Later, Couric again stressed how Clinton had delivered Republican themes, telling Chris Matthews: "Let's talk about the content of the State of the Union. I mean he's quite talented at co-opting traditional Republican issues, for example his tough on crime portions of the speech and talking about boosting defense spending." She heaped on the praise: "He was also quite effective at the theatrics and sort of apple pie aspect of this address. Bringing Sammy Sosa in. Rosa Parks. Things that really couldn't help but warm your heart to watch."

     But, Couric did finally acknowledge: "And he also was able to successfully weave in some traditional liberal ideas as well wasn't he?"


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) The Republican agenda is retro '80s, Newsweek's Howard Fineman charged is criticizing the ideas for not being "forward looking."

     Right after U.S. Representatives Jennifer Dunn and Steve Largent finished the Republican response Tuesday night, Fineman told MSNBC viewers:
     "The Republicans are forced back on the issues they were touting in the '80s: tax cuts, Star Wars, opposition to abortion. It wasn't really a forward looking proposal....Well, they were speaking to their base in that case but mostly, you know, the Republicans' strategists are deathly concerned that the Republican Party seems like a party of angry, white men. And here was an attempt to say 'We're not angry. Here's a human face. Here's a gardener. Here's a man from a broken home.'"
     Host John Hockenberry: "Happy, smiling people holding hands."
     Fineman: "Happy, smiling. Ozzie and Harriet right there."
     Hockenberry: "The REM demographic to use quite another generational icon there."

     Issues from the '80s, like trying at some level to bring private investment into Social Security, allowing some limited school choice and re-building defense? Three policy ideas from the 1980s pushed by conservatives then and opposed by liberals and Clinton, only to be presented in "light" or government-oriented form Tuesday night.  -- Brent Baker


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