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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday July 6, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 118)

Pouncing on Bush's Guard Preference; CAFé More Deadly Than SUVs

1) ABC and NBC hopped on a Los Angeles Times story about how George W. Bush got preferential treatment to join the National Guard, but the same networks ignored the Times piece on Chung.

2) ABC conceded "most people don't seem to care that much about campaign finance reform," but that didn't stop the network from promoting "Granny D's" gimmick to push liberal "reform."

3) ABC claimed "SUVs are dangerous to smaller passenger cars" and CBS tagged them "killers of the road," but USA Today documented how CAFé rules have killed 46,000 while "just one percent of small car deaths...involved collisions with midsize and large SUVs."

4) The T&A Network (MSNBC) adds more T&A to prime time. Despite poor ratings for Equal Time and Hockenberry, MSNBC beats FNC.

5) Letterman's "Top Ten Skeletons in George W. Bush's Closet."

6) Clueless in America. NBC News highlighted a poll which found that more know who Bill Gates and Martha Stewart are than Alexander Hamilton and Martha Washington.

     >>> Dan Rather singing and tooting. See and hear a goofy Dan Rather sing a train song, The Wreck of the Old Ninety-Seven, on the Late Show with David Letterman back on June 22, 1994. He really did try to sing and even imitated the sound of a train whistle. Rather has not been nearly so wacky in his appearances since this one five years ago. The RealPlayer video clip was posted last Thursday and will remain up on our home page through Wednesday morning, so you have one more day to see it before it moves to our Media Bias Videos archives page. Go to: http://www.mrc.org <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Not all Sunday Los Angeles Times exclusives are equally network newsworthy, or how the media have an evolving standard on Vietnam service and the National Guard.

     ABC and NBC hopped on a Sunday Los Angeles Times story about how George W. Bush supposedly got preferential treatment to join the Air National Guard, with NBC's Meet the Press bringing on the LA Times reporter and Today running a full story, but the same networks ignored for over a month a Sunday, April 4 front page story in the same paper about how "The chief of China's military intelligence secretly directed funds from Beijing to help reelect President Clinton in 1996, former Democratic fundraiser Johnny Chung has told federal investigators."

     And while the networks were unforgiving with Dan Quayle in 1988, on Sunday Washington media veteran Steve Roberts decided it's not an important issue anymore.

     -- How the networks reacted to the two LA Times stories. The April piece did generate a brief mention on Fox News Sunday and NBC's Meet the Press that morning: NPR's Mara Liasson asked guest Pat Buchanan about it on Fox and NBC's Tim Russert raised the story in his last question to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. On Sunday night as well as Monday morning and evening, however, the three broadcast networks skipped it, though CNN gave it a few seconds on The World Today.

     On Sunday, July 4, Times reporter Richard Serrano wrote:

On a Texas spring day during the height of the Vietnam War, a fresh-faced young man about to graduate from Yale University walked into the office of the commander of the Texas Air National Guard.

Col. Walter B. "Buck" Staudt listened to the 21-year-old, who had no military or aviation experience but seemed polite and presentable.

"He said he wanted to fly just like his daddy," Staudt recalled. The young man's "daddy," Staudt knew, was George Bush, then a Republican Congressman from Houston and a former World War II bomber pilot.

Although getting into the state units was difficult for most others, Bush was soon in the Guard. He was sent to basic training and awarded a special commission making him an instant second lieutenant.

An examination of nearly 200 pages of his service record obtained by The Times, plus interviews with Guard officials, veterans and military experts, show that Bush, now 52 and Governor of Texas, received favorable treatment and uncommon attention in his time in the Guard.

While there is no evidence of illegality or regulations broken to accommodate Bush's entry and rise in the service, the documents do show that doors were opened and good fortune flowed to him at opportune times.

Officials in Bush's presidential campaign denied last week that he was treated differently from other recruits. When Bush was admitted into the Guard in 1968, 100,000 other men were on waiting lists around the country, hoping to win admission to similar units. The Guard was popular because those units were rarely sent to Vietnam.....

     END Excerpt

     To read the whole story, go to:


     Network reaction: More than a couple of questions. While the CBS and NBC evening shows skipped it on Sunday night, ABC's World News Tonight gave it 35 seconds and Candy Crowley included Bush's reaction in a World Today story. The next morning ABC's Good Morning America gave it a few seconds in the 7:30am news update and NBC Today featured a story at 7am from David Bloom who began: "For Governor Bush the Fourth of July parade through Amherst New Hampshire began with reporters questioning whether he received preferential treatment after joining the Texas Air National Guard at the height of the Vietnam War...."

     That may not be a tremendous amount of coverage, but it's more than the LA Times story on Chung generated.

     On Sunday morning This Week co-host Sam Donaldson asked John Kasich to react to the story and on Fox News Sunday Brit Hume raised the report with guest Steve Forbes and the panel discussed the subject at the end of the show.

     Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert invited LA Times reporter Richard Serrano aboard to discuss his exclusive along with Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot.

     Russert dug up old video from the 1988 Republican convention when the networks were hounding Republicans about the Quayle record: "Irony of all ironies, in 1988 George Bush selected Dan Quayle to be his Vice President. Allegations were raised about Dan Quayle and his National Guard service in Indiana. In August of '88, George W. Bush was on the floor of the Republican Convention and was asked about Dan Quayle. Let's roll that tape:"

     Viewers then saw this exchange from NBC's live convention coverage on August 17, 1988:
     Connie Chung: "The problem, though, would be is if, indeed, he made several phone calls or some people made phone calls on his behalf to get him into the National Guard. I mean, did that happen to you? Were you..."
     George W. Bush cut her off: "No. I don't think so. But in those days, people were going into the service all different branches. And if you want to go into the National Guard, I guess sometimes people make calls. I don't see anything wrong with, a matter of fact I'm glad he served his country. And serving in the National Guard is serving in the military. They probably should have called the National Guard up in those days. Maybe we'd have done better in Vietnam."

     -- 1988 vs 1992 and 1999. On CNN's Late Edition Wolf Blitzer asked former New York Times reporter Steve Roberts about Bush's military record. Roberts revealed a bit about himself in replying:
     "Of course he got favorable treatment, his father was a Congressman, I don't think there's any doubt about that. On the other hand a lot of other people got favorable treatment too, a lot of other people did not do nearly as much as he did. I got favorable treatment. I had a friend who ran my draft board, who told me exactly what I needed to do to stay out. A lot of people of my generation did exactly that. And I think that he did something honorable, at least he actually joined the military, and I don't think this is a problem for him."

     Blitzer suggested: "You know, and you can't compare, the so-called controversy if there is any controversy, from the L.A. Times story to what happened eight years ago when the President before New Hampshire, the current President, the then Governor of Arkansas, who disclosed that he evaded the draft and then lied about it. And that still didn't stop him from getting the nomination and becoming President."

     Roberts pointed out: "You've got to remember something else which is that a couple of generations or two ago, military service was almost an absolute requirement for a national politician. And, but that is different now, well less than half of the members of Congress are veterans themselves. You have a whole generation, not only who didn't serve but whose children are not serving, re-enlistment rates in the military are way down. I think it is far less important and I think a lot of Americans, as I say, like me, got out of the draft and are not going to hold it against George Bush."

     I bet Dan Quayle wishes he could have benefitted from such media understanding, or shall we say compassion.

     But contrary to Blitzer's suggestion that the media pounced on Clinton in 1992, they went quite easy on him compared to how they treated Quayle. As outlined in the March 1992 MediaWatch Study:

MediaWatch analysts compared the coverage of four evening news shows (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News, as well as CNN's Prime News from 1988 and World News from 1992,) during times when Clinton and Quayle were under scrutiny over possible draft evasion and other personal issues.

In the ten days following revelations about the two candidates, 1988 Quayle stories outnumbered 1992 Clinton stories by a margin of almost four to one. In the first ten days of Quayle's National Guard controversy (August 18-27, 1988), the four networks did 51 news stories solely on Quayle's National Guard service. (This counts only evening news, not any of the 158 times the networks raised questions about Quayle's controversies during the prime time coverage of the Republican Convention.) By contrast, in the first ten days of Clinton's draft flap (February 6-15), the four networks aired only 13 stories.

When the February 6 Wall Street Journal broke a story questioning Bill Clinton's draft record, how did the networks react? ABC made it story number five. CBS and NBC completely ignored the story. Two days later on the CBS Evening News, reporter Bruce Morton declared: "When attacks are made on character, the press ought to report them and then let the voters decide who's right and who's wrong." (Memo to Morton: watch your own newscast.) By contrast, on August 18, 1988, the four networks aired 15 stories on Quayle. ABC did three stories, and CBS and NBC each broadcast five. The Quayle news led all four evening newscasts....

     END Excerpt

     To read the entire study, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1992/mw19920301stud.html


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) ABC's campaign for campaign finance "reform." Sunday night and Monday morning ABC News promoted the cause of Doris Haddock, aka "Granny D," the "walking granny" walking across the country as a gimmick to promote more regulation of campaigns and restrictions on free speech.

     "And finally on this 4th of July," World News Tonight anchor Carole Simpson observed in introducing a Point of View piece, "a woman putting one foot in front of the other for a cause polls show most people don't seem to care that much about: campaign finance reform."

     The public does not care, but the media definitely do as Haddock herself boasted the next morning on Good Morning America. She appeared from Ft. Worth Texas. Gibson asked: "How have people been responding to you?" She noted how she's been treated well by media: "I would say very well, including the media."
     Gibson then tied in Bush's fundraising and by showing such concern for the amount raised he revealed that it is the spending not the source of the money which so concerns liberal activists:
     "I can't help but note you're smack in the middle of Texas Granny D and that's George Bush country and he's raised $36 million already in running for President and Al Gore's raised $18 and Bill Bradley's raised millions and millions and millions. I don't know if much is happening in campaign finance reform."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The broadcast networks have called sport utility vehicles (SUVs) a "threat" to safety as "SUVs are dangerous to smaller passenger cars" and "can be killers of the road." But a USA Today special report published on Friday by reporter James Healey acknowledged how that's really a myth as government mandates which have reduced car size have killed many more than any SUVs. Under the headline of "Death by the Gallon," the July 2 USA Today subhead announced: "A USA Today analysis of previously unpublished fatality statistics discovers that 46,000 people have died because of a 1970s-era push for greater fuel efficiency that has led to smaller cars."

     A sidebar demolished a liberal mantra that the media have been eager to promote, listing this as one of the "myths about small cars": "Small cars have a high death rate because they get hit by those big sport-utility vehicles all over the roads."
     "Fact: In 1997, latest-available government data, 56% of small-car fatalities involved only small cars: 46% from single-car crashes, 10% from small cars running into each other. Just 1% of small-car deaths in 1997 involved collisions with midsize and large SUVs -- 136 out of 12,144 total small-car deaths that year."

     That's what conservatives have been saying for years, so it's nice a major media outlet has caught on, but will the networks ever correct their misleading reports?

     The April 22, 1998 CyberAlert detailed how ABC and CBS portrayed SUVs as dangerous killing machines. Peter Jennings opened the April 21, 1998 World News Tonight (key phrases in ALL CAPS):
     "Good evening. Tonight we begin at the crossroads of physics and safety and government responsibility. In Washington today government is grappling with what to do about the THREAT that sport utility vehicles represent to lesser vehicles in accidents. It's an obvious concern now. Sport utility vehicles have become the latest driver's passion and because they are bigger and heavier they have the potential to do UNUSUAL DAMAGE."
     John Cochran began: "The government is having difficulty coming to grips with the DANGER from sport utility vehicles, partly because they make the people in them feel safer....So what to do about evidence that SUVs are DANGEROUS to smaller passenger cars? One suggestion is that the government require SUVs be made lighter and less DESTRUCTIVE, but that would also mean less protection for those inside and a lot of Americans like their SUVs just as they are: big...."

     Over on the CBS Evening News in 1998 Dan Rather intoned:
     "There were high-level talks today about knocking a very different giant down to size: the sport utility vehicle. SUVs. Extremely popular with some but considered a KILLER on the road to others..."
     Reporter Sharyl Attkisson distressingly noted: "Buyers are attracted by all the recent research showing sport utility vehicles can be KILLERS ON THE ROAD."

     But as USA Today detailed, the real killers are government bureaucrats and Congress. Here's an excerpt of the opening of the July 2 Money section story:

....Hundreds of people are killed in small-car wrecks each year who would survive in just slightly bigger, heavier vehicles, government and insurance industry research shows.

More broadly, in the 24 years since a landmark law to conserve fuel, big cars have shrunk to less-safe sizes and small cars have poured onto roads. As a result, 46,000 people have died in crashes they would have survived in bigger, heavier cars, according to USA TODAY's analysis of crash data since 1975, when the Energy Policy and Conservation Act was passed.

The law and the corporate average fuel economy (CAFé) standards it imposed have improved fuel efficiency. The average of passenger vehicles on U.S. roads is 20 miles per gallon vs. 14 mpg in 1975.

But the cost has been roughly 7,700 deaths for every mile per gallon gained, the analysis shows.

Small cars -- those no bigger or heavier than Chevrolet Cavalier or Dodge Neon -- comprise 18% of all vehicles on the road, according to an analysis of R.L. Polk registration data. Yet they accounted for 37% of vehicle deaths in 1997 -- 12,144 people -- according to latest available government figures. That's about twice the death rate in big cars, such as Dodge Intrepid, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Crown Victoria....

Little cars have big disadvantages in crashes. They have less space to absorb crash forces. The less the car absorbs, the more the people inside have to.

And small cars don't have the weight to protect themselves in crashes with other vehicles. When a small car and a larger one collide, the bigger car stops abruptly; that's bad enough. But the little one slams to a stop, then instantly and violently accelerates backward as the heavier car's momentum powers into it. People inside the lighter car experience body-smashing levels of force in two directions, first as their car stops moving forward, then as it reverses. In the heavier car, bodies are subjected to less-destructive deceleration and no "bounce-back."

The regulations don't mandate small cars. But small, lightweight vehicles that can perform satisfactorily using low-power, fuel-efficient engines are the only affordable way automakers have found to meet the CAFé (pronounced ka-FE) standards....

Tellingly, most small-car crash deaths involve only small cars -- 56% in 1997, from the latest government data. They run into something else, such as a tree, or into one another.

In contrast, just 1% of small-car deaths -- 136 people -- occurred in crashes with midsize or big sport-utility vehicles in '97, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that enforces safety and fuel-efficiency rules. NHTSA does not routinely publish that information. It performed special data calculations at USA TODAY's request....

     END Excerpt

     To read the entire Cover Story and a package of other sidebar pieces spread over pages 2 and 3 of the Money section, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/money/bcovfri.htm


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) The T&A Network, aka MSNBC, is bumping Equal Time out of prime time in order to accommodate another hour of Time & Again. Starting Tuesday, July 6 Equal Time with Oliver North and Paul Begala shifts from 8pm to 6:30pm ET. In its place MSNBC is expanding the 8:30pm ET Time & Again to run for an hour at 8pm.

     Equal Time is MSNBC's second least watched prime time show, the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes noted on Friday. It captures 154,000 viewers. De Moraes added: "Only Hockenberry scores a smaller prime time audience for MSNBC with an average of 149,000 viewers." That explains why MSNBC dropped the 10pm PT repeat of Hockenberry's 10pm ET show a few weeks ago and replaced it with....Time & Again. Time & Again will now air daily at 2pm ET, 8pm ET, 11pm ET and 1am ET, plus at least one additional overnight appearance and maybe a half hour at 6pm ET.

     Despite its problems, MSNBC still attracts more prime time viewers than the Fox News Channel. In the July 2 Washington Post de Moraes provided a run down of cable news numbers for prime time in the second quarter (April to June):
CNN: 812,000 viewers, up 16 percent from the same quarter in 1998
CNBC: 403,000, down 11 percent
MSNBC: 285,000, up 102 percent
FNC: 254,000, up 206 percent
Headline News: 245,000, up 37 percent

     Time & Again and the News with Brian Williams must do really well to bump up MSNBC's average. It would be interesting to know what part of FNC's 200 percent plus growth is attributable to cable systems picking up the channel and how much is from people who have had CNN, MSNBC and FNC choosing FNC over the others. And, since more cable homes have MSNBC than FNC does MSNBC beat FNC in homes with both or does FNC actually attract more people in homes with a choice of either?

     My prediction: So CNBC can accommodate business news through the evening hours when NASDAQ extends its trading hours, CNBC's Hardball and Rivera Live will soon first air in prime time on MSNBC and then be repeated later on CNBC.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) From the July 5 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Skeletons in George W. Bush's Closet." Copyright 1999 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Fathered half the players at this year's Wimbledon.
9. Once killed a LensCrafter's clerk when his glasses weren't ready in about an hour.
8. The W stands for "Winky."
7. In 1988 told dad "I think Quayle would make a great Vice President."
6. He's also married to Barbara Bush.
5. On April 9, 1968 actually had an opinion.
4. Calls brother Jeb "the one with the hick name"
3. Recovering Opraholic.
2. From 1986 to 1991 nothing but Nintendo and hookers.
1. Borrowed a skeleton from a local museum, put it in his closet, never returned it.


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Fewer Americans can identify Alexander Hamilton than Bill Gates and many more recognize the Nike slogan than the most famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence.

     For the last story on Monday's NBC Nightly News reporter Bob Faw relayed how a survey commissioned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation discovered Americans are not up on basic facts about U.S. history:

     -- Bill Gates is twice as well known as Alexander Hamilton whose face appear on the $10.
     -- Eight of ten could identify Martha Stewart but only two in three could pick out Martha Washington.
     -- 79 percent recognize "Just do it" as the Nike slogan, but only 47 percent know "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" appears in the Declaration of Independence.

     Sometimes it is impossible to underestimate the ignorance of much of the American public. -- Brent Baker


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