"Patients' Bill of Rights" Cheered; Brazile's Dirty Campaigning Ignored
1) After promoting the
"patients' bill of rights," the networks celebrated as a
bipartisan triumph its "stunning upset" passage. Only NBC's
Lisa Myers highlighted how trial lawyers will benefit instead of just how
Republicans are pawns of the HMO industry.
2) Only FNC informed viewers
that Gore's new campaign manager, Donna Brazile, was forced to resign
from the Dukakis campaign after she demanded that then-VP Bush "fess
up" to an affair.
3) The networks highlighted
George W. Bush's attack on conserva-tives. CBS suggested "Bush
seems to view hard-right Republican leaders like political
kryptonite." Geraldo: "Helluva speech."
4) GMA allowed Republican
Haley Barbour to appear with Stephanop-oulos, but only to comment on GOP
issues while Stephanopoulos assessed strategies of candidates from both
The October 5 CyberAlert quoted CBS's Bob Schieffer as asking Al Gore on
Face the Nation about Carter Eskew: "I understand that he didn't
severe all connections until last week..." That should have read
"This will be remembered as the day that some Republicans and
Democrats finally banded together, took on one of the most powerful
lobbying groups in America, and beat 'em," reporter Bob Schieffer
proudly applauded on Thursday's CBS Evening News. ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC
led Thursday night with the House passage of the so-called
"patients' bill of rights," which pleased CBS anchor Dan
Rather dubbed a "stunning upset in Washington."
A delighted Tom
Brokaw opened the October 7 NBC Nightly News: "The big battle in
Congress and tonight a giant step toward changing how patients can deal
with their HMOs. A major defeat for the Republican leadership."
tone was no surprise given how the networks, especially CBS, crusaded the
previous two nights in favor of the bill expanding federal regulation of
health care. Other than one sentence each, ABC and CBS never mentioned the
interests of trial lawyers in opening a new area for lawsuits, an angle
only pursued on one of the broadcast networks by NBC's Lisa Myers.
Instead, bill opponents were painted as pawns of an evil HMO industry as
the networks either ignored free-market alternatives or denigrated them as
mischief blocking real reform. After the GOP pushed for an expansion of
medical savings accounts, Dan Rather opened Wednesday's Evening News by
complaining: "Shenanigans on Capitol Hill could doom health care
There's a lot to
review here, so I'll go in date order with the transcribing assistance
of MRC analysts Jessica Anderson, Geoffrey Dickens and Brian Boyd, from
Tuesday to Thursday night. First, Tuesday, October 5. That night all the
networks focused on the incredibly badly-timed Denny Hastert campaign
fundraiser featuring health care industry lobbyists.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the show by setting up the issue as
one to be decided by political donations:
"Good evening. We begin tonight with money
and politics, with politics and money. The debate over how money affects
legislation is being held all over the country today, and today there were
two very important examples in Washington of what people are talking
about. The Supreme Court heard what might be a landmark case about money
and free speech -- we'll get to that in just a moment. And across the
street in the Congress, on the eve of an important debate about managed
health care in the country, it was the perfect opportunity to see money at
explained how House Speaker Denny Hastert appeared at a Capitol Hill Club
fundraiser with health care lobbyists on the very morning of House debate.
She then elaborated, without mentioning trial lawyers:
"But the breakfast was a small part of what
has become a battle of lobbying giants. On one side, the insurance
industry, which spent $77 million on lobbyists and contributions last
year. The industry opposes legislation giving patients the right to sue
their HMOs....On the other side, doctors who spent $45.8 million on
lobbyists and donations last year. Doctors want the power to overrule
HMOs' medical decisions....Whatever happens to HMO reform in Congress
this week, lobbying will have played a pivotal role. There has been very
little pressure from the public, and when the public is silent, money
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned:
"Congress is also about to reopen debate on the President's
long-stalled, heavily-lobbied patients' bill of rights. That's a bill
to make it easier to appeal the decisions of, and in some cases even sue,
managed health care plans. To follow what's happening in the House, you
need to know what's going on behind the scenes and with the lobbyists.
CBS Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer is your guide to follow
zoomed in on Hastert: "It's 8am and this is Washington at work, top
insurance and health industry lobbyists hurrying to a $1,000 a plate
breakfast they're hosting to benefit Republican House Speaker Dennis
Hastert. Lobbying has become so brazen the money is being collected on the
very morning Congress begins debate on an HMO reform bill, the legislation
the lobbyists strongly oppose. Here comes Speaker Hastert's van, with all
those cameras out front he takes the back way. There he goes, en route to
picking up $15,000 for his campaign war chest. He told reporters later the
lobbyists got nothing for their money."
After a soundbite
from Hastert, Schieffer offered a glowing review of the bill's
attributes: "The bill that Hastert and the insurance industry are
trying to kill, and the industry is mounting a massive campaign against
it, would give patients the right to sue HMOs that wrong them. Georgia's
Republican Congressman Charles Norwood, who happens to be a dentist, is an
architect of the reform legislation. He's not surprised the insurance
industry is trying to kill it."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw teased at the top
of the show: "A critical vote coming on HMOs. So why is the Speaker
of the House having breakfast with HMO lobbyists at a $1,000 a
Brokaw then began the program:
"Good evening. Tonight in Washington the arm
twisting, vote trading and lobbying is reaching a fever pitch over one of
the most critical showdowns of the year. Health care. Specifically the
rights of patients in this increasingly impersonal world of managed health
care. The debate starts tomorrow but we begin tonight with breakfast this
morning. Breakfast with the Speaker of the House and some of the most
powerful health care lobbyists. They were paying for a lot more than bacon
and eggs at a $1,000 a plate."
Lisa Myers, in a
piece which also ran on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, noted who
attended the fundraiser: "Lobbyists for some of the biggest health
care interests in the country. AETNA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Occupational
Therapists, CIGNA Insurance...." Myers pointed out that some
"Republicans wince at the timing," specifically Congressman
Unlike ABC and CBS, however, Myers at least
realized lawyers, who give to liberals, stood to benefit:
"The bill to give patients more rights in
dealing with HMOs pits Goliath against Goliath. The American Medical
Association and the trial lawyers for the bill with HMOs, insurance
companies and most businesses against. The trial lawyers gave $1.7 million
in campaign money the first six months of the year, mostly to Democrats.
The insurance industry gave $3.3 million, two-thirds to Republicans."
6. ABC only ran a brief story, but CBS and NBC pounded away again:
-- CBS Evening
News. "Shenanigans on Capitol Hill could doom health care reform.
Again tonight, the Patients' Bill of Rights looks to be DOA," Dan
Rather lamented in teasing the show.
He then began the
newscast portraying the bill as a victim of politics and money:
"Health insurance reform legislation in Congress may be dead or dying
again. House Republicans late today passed one version that President
Clinton is almost sure to veto. The long-stalled, heavily lobbied
Patients' Bill of Rights is supposed to give people more say in the
decisions of managed health care plans. Instead, it is the latest example
of political gridlock turning into a chain reaction pileup of the nation's
zeroed in on the villains and the heroes: "For weeks now, support has
been growing in the House of Representatives for bipartisan legislation to
reform HMOs and allow people to sue them. But the House Republican leaders
and the insurance industry are dead set against the reforms. And today,
the House leaders took steps that will make it very difficult for even
supporters of the reforms to vote for them. Democrats from the President
on down are just furious."
Bill Clinton: "In the dead of the night last
night, the House leaders concocted a process filled with enough poison
pills and legislative slights of hand to practically guarantee the defeat
of this bill."
Schieffer asserted: "What Republican leaders
did, in effect, was set parliamentary rules that eliminate any way to pay
for the reforms. That left supporters of the legislation with an unsavory
choice: vote against the reforms or use surplus Social Security funds to
pay for them."
Making sure viewers realized who is on the take,
Schieffer stressed: "All this comes a day after insurance and health
care lobbyists contributed $15,000 to Republican House Speaker Hastert's
political war chest at a Capitol Hill breakfast. Hastert is supporting a
milder reform package, which also includes a limited right to sue and is
sponsored by this Oklahoma Congressman, Tom Coburn, a doctor who still
practices medicine on the weekends. Democrats say the debate has now been
rigged in such a way it could doom Coburn's plan as well. And that, of
course, would be the best of all worlds for the insurance companies who
oppose both plans."
-- NBC Nightly
News. Lisa Myers bemoaned that "with hundreds of millions of dollars
and the health of American families at stake, tonight's partisan
bickering appears to threaten House approval of new rights for 161 million
Americans in HMOs."
soundbite from Clinton and Republican Congressman David Dreier, Myers made
the case for the bill by relaying an anecdote:
"The hard truth, as Jerry Cannon sees it, is
that an HMO denied his wife, Phyllis, a bone marrow transplant. He
appealed, and by the time the HMO said yes, it was too late, and she died
of leukemia. Yet, when he tried to sue, the courts said he had no
But again uniquely, Myers raised the issue of the
cost of lawsuits: "In a multimillion dollar ad campaign, HMOs warned
that lawsuits will only drive up costs with dire consequences." But
she then focused on how "Republican Greg Ganske, a doctor who is
bucking his party to support strong reforms, accuses his leaders of not
listening to the voters."
Thursday, October 7, Victory Day:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight led with the victory for the anti-HMO bill. Linda Douglass
finally got around to the trial lawyers, sort of, as she mentioned how
Republicans said lawsuits "will drive up costs" but their
arguments were "drowned out" by nine doctors in the House who
wanted lawsuits to be allowed.
-- CBS Evening
News. Dan Rather opened the show by rejoicing: "Good evening. A
stunning upset in Washington. The U.S. House late today approved the
patients' bill of rights. If ever finally passed by both the House and
Senate, it would give citizens more say over decisions by managed health
care plans. It would also give them the right to sue HMOs. The vote margin
was 275 to 151. 68 Republicans broke ranks and voted yes. Insurance
company lobbyists, who contribute much money, especially to Republican
congressional and presidential campaigns, but also to some Democrats,
thought they had this one won."
reveled in the triumph: "For all the arm twisting and all the
legislative roadblocks thrown up by Republican leaders who sided with the
insurance companies, a bipartisan group of legislators banded together and
against great odds passed the reform bill. For all its power the lobby
just couldn't match the HMO horror stories from constituents that
members brought to the floor."
After showing a
pleased Clinton and then letting Democrat John Dingell warn there's a
Senate battle ahead, Schieffer concluded: "But whatever happens
there, this will be remembered as the day that some Republicans and
Democrats finally banded together, took on one of the most powerful
lobbying groups in America, and beat 'em. Dan."
Not quite the
attitude CBS displayed when Republicans and Democrats came together to
defeat gun control.
afterthought, Rather finally uttered CBS's first mention of how lawyers
would benefit, but sans any notion that they too were big donors to one
side: "There was this reaction tonight from one health insurance
industry group, quote 'the fight is not over.' The industry also
claims that the patients' bill of rights would mean more bills to pay
lawyers and that will drive up health care costs to patients."
-- NBC Nightly
News. Tom Brokaw extolled: "The big battle in Congress and tonight a
giant step toward changing how patients can deal with their HMOs. A major
defeat for the Republican leadership. As NBC's Lisa Myers reports, it
still has a way to go but tonight the Clinton administration is in the
Donna Brazile's 1988 demand that then-Vice President George Bush
"fess up" to having an affair went unreported by every network
but FNC after Al Gore on Wednesday named her his campaign manager. When
she made the allegation in October 1988 she was forced to resign from her
position as deputy manager of the Dukakis-Bentsen effort, the same title
she held with Gore until her elevation.
As pointed out by
the Washington Times, but not picked up elsewhere, she also accused Bush
of racism for raising the Willie Horton issue, though his case was first
publicized by her current employer, Al Gore.
On the affair
front, as recalled by New Hampshire's Chip Griffin in his daily Primary
Scoop e-mail report (http://www.primaryscoop.com),
the Associated Press reported on October 20, 1988:
"'I think George Bush owes it to the
American people to fess up' about whether he has committed adultery, she
told reporters. 'The American people have every right to know if Barbara
Bush will share that bed with him in the White House.' Brazile
continued: 'It's important. We're not just voting for a man. We're
voting for a family. The First Family is very important."
(This is probably
no longer a concern for Brazile since Bill and Hillary never shared a
White House bedroom. As Christopher Andersen noted in Bill & Hillary,
the Marriage, his book released this past summer: "It was not unusual
for the First Lady to be unaware of her husband's nocturnal activities;
like their idols Jack and Jackie Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton slept
in separate bedrooms. In fact, the Clintons had not shared the same
bedroom -- much less the same bed -- for at least seven years.") ABC
and CBS held their Gore stories Wednesday night to short items that did
not mention Brazile, but in longer stories noting her promotion both CNN
and NBC skipped over her unpleasant background. MRC analyst Paul Smith
noticed that on CNN's October 6 Inside Politics reporter Candy Crowley
included Brazile in a list of Gore actions in moving his campaign
headquarters to Nashville: "Found himself a new campaign
manager." CNN then showed Gore asserting: "Donna,
congratulations. Looking forward to it. For 20 years, Donna Brazile has
been a fighter for working families."
Over on the NBC
Nightly News Claire Shipman snidely remarked:
"His third fresh start in five months. At
new headquarters in Nashville today, Al Gore, remaking his image once
again, and this time targeting a crucial audience."
Shipman got right to Brazile, but skipped any
controversy: "Women. First, he appoints a woman, political veteran
Donna Brazile, as campaign manager, then brings his 87-year-old mother
center stage and applauds her influence on his life. Why the emphasis on
women? Polls show female voters are abandoning Gore..."
In contrast, FNC
informed viewers of Brazile's record of dirty politics. On FNC's
Special Report with Brit Hume at 6pm ET/9pm PT reporter Carl Cameron
"Gore's new headquarters will have fewer
staff. Some are being let go. Others have decided not to move to
Nashville. Gore introduced Donna Brazile as his new campaign manager,
hoping to diversify an inner circle that critics say is bloated with white
men. But Brazile may stir new controversy. She was fired from Michael
Dukakis's 1988 campaign after spreading rumors that then-Vice President
Bush had had an affair. Gore is promoting her from deputy campaign
Gore: "Donna, a lot of people are going to
find out what I've known for a long while now, that nobody's better at
this than you are."
Cameron added: "But some insiders in the
Gore campaign say that her promotion -- Ms. Brazile's -- is more about
putting a black woman in a prominent position than it is about putting her
in any sort of position of influence. From the Bush campaign, absolutely
no comment, though some insiders there did say the one thing that makes
George W. Bush angrier than just about anything on the campaign trail is
attacks on his family, particularly those on his father's reputation as
An edited version
of Cameron's piece appeared on the 7pm ET Fox Report, MRC analyst Brad
Wilmouth observed, with Brazile's 1988 remarks noted but without
Cameron's reference to her promotion as image making.
Washington Post story on Brazile didn't mention why she left the Dukakis
campaign, but Washington Times reporters Donald Lambro and Ronald Hansen
not only detailed her claim Bush was having an affair, but also that he
was a racist for raising the Willie Horton issue -- a subject actually
first publicized by her current employer, Al Gore. Here's an excerpt of
the October 7 story:
....She accused Mr. Bush of using
"every little code word and symbol" after he attacked Mr.
Dukakis for supporting a Massachusetts prison furlough program that
allowed a black convicted killer, Willie Horton, to escape to Maryland,
where he raped a woman and stabbed a man, dumping his body in a trash can.
Mr. Dukakis immediately dismissed her from
his staff and later met with Mr. Bush to personally apologize for her
"Donna Brazile was kicked out of the
Dukakis campaign but now, 11 years later, she is the person who is Al
Gore's campaign manager," said Michael Collins, chief spokesman for
the Republican National Committee. "She's gone from charging that use
of the Willie Horton issue was racist to working for the guy who made
Willie Horton a household name," Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Gore was the first political candidate
to raise the Willie Horton issue when he questioned the Massachusetts
Governor about it in a debate in the New York Democratic primary campaign
George W. Bush again demonstrated this week that trashing conservatives
always generates positive press coverage. ABC highlighted his attack,
Geraldo Rivera praised it as "a helluva speech," CBS's Dan
Rather noted how "Bush is beginning to criticize Republican
congressional leaders for pushing an agenda that he says is outside
mainstream America" as reporter Bill Whitaker claimed
"front-runner Bush seems to view hard-right Republican leaders like
-- ABC's World
News Tonight, October 5. Peter Jennings introduced Bush's blast:
"In New York today, education was the center point when the
Republican presidential frontrunner was critical of his own party, for the
second time in a week."
Gov. George W. Bush: "Too often on social
issues, my party has painted an image of America slouching toward
Gomorrah. Too often my party has confused the need of limited government
with a disdain for government itself."
Jennings: "In his speech, which was on
education, Mr. Bush proposed that states give annual tests to students and
that federal aid should be tied to the results. Republicans have been
critical of an expanded federal role in education and, particularly,
-- Wednesday night, October 6. MRC analyst
Geoffrey Dickens caught this approval from Rivera spouted on CNBC's
"I'll tell ya, George W. gave a helluva
speech. I haven't heard a Republican, you know, raise the hair on the
back of my neck that way in admiration in a long time and he really put
some, some beef to the whole compassionate issue on the conservative
-- CBS Evening
News, October 6. Dan Rather intoned:
"The emerging presidential strategy of
Republican George W. Bush now includes taking a big page from the
Democrats. Bush is beginning to criticize Republican congressional leaders
for pushing an agenda that he says is outside mainstream America. And as
CBS's Bill Whitaker reports, Bush did it again today."
Bill Whitaker began: "On his first big swing
through New York state, the Republican presidential front-runner isn't
just distancing himself from his party's cantankerous congressional
conservatives, he's defining himself as the other guy, not one of
George W. Bush: "Too often my party has
focused on the national economy to the exclusion of all else."
Whitaker claimed: "For the second time in a
week, Bush has criticized Republican leaders for budget cuts that hurt the
poor, for slashing the federal role in education."
Bush: "Too often my party has confused the
need of limited government with a disdain for government itself."
Whitaker went on
to allow House Republicans "to put the best face on the Bush
blast" and note how Democrats "crowed."
suggested: "It's as if Bush were taking tips from Republican nemesis,
President Bill Clinton, who ran for re-election by distancing himself from
troublesome congressional Democrats. But bedrock conservatives warn, if
Bush doesn't straighten up and fly right, the right wing will fly
warning from an Eagle Forum representative in Texas, Whitaker concluded by
applying an extremist label:
"But right now, front-runner Bush seems to
view hard-right Republican leaders like political kryptonite. Get too
close, it'll sap your strength."
-- On CNN's
Inside Politics on October 6 Jonathan Karl picked up on Rush Limbaugh's
criticism of Bush, as observed by MRC analyst Paul Smith:
"And in a sign that Bush may be beginning to
alienate some of those core conservatives, conservative talk show host
Rush Limbaugh issued what may be the harshest attack on Bush's statements
today on his show. He said, quote: 'No conservative running for
president would leave his philosophical brothers and sisters dying on the
congressional battlefield.' Limbaugh said that the more Bush talks, the
more troubled he becomes about his candidacy."
Bipartisan Stephanopoulos and partisan Barbour? As noted in several recent
CyberAlerts, ABC's Good Morning America now regularly features former
Clinton-Gore enabler George Stephanopoulos as its sole analyst on
political events, sometimes even having him alone conduct an interview
with a politician, such as Bill Bradley.
however, in an unusual move the show balanced him with former RNC Chairman
Haley Barbour. But, as MRC analyst Jessica Anderson explains in the two
paragraphs she submitted below, Barbour was not allowed to comment on
Democrats though Stephanopoulos was asked about Republican candidates:
intentional or not, George Stephanopoulos's October 6 Good Morning America
appearance was balanced out by coupling him with former Republican
National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour. The two joined co-host Diane
Sawyer to discuss the latest developments in the 2000 presidential race.
This opportunity to finally balance out Stephanopoulos's past political
affiliations with someone from the right was squandered since
Stephanopoulos was still presented as an impartial political
analyst/journalist for ABC News.
Sawyer opened by
asking Barbour to comment on George W. Bush's latest criticisms of
Republicans this week, as well as Steve Forbes' plans to begin airing ads
against Bush later this month and rumors about the possibility of
Elizabeth Dole leaving the presidential race. Then Stephanopoulos was
allowed to add his two cents on Forbes' ads, and later, what Dole dropping
out would mean for Bush. Stephanopoulos also discussed with Sawyer the
latest on Al Gore versus Bill Bradley, but Barbour was never asked to
comment on Gore's new strategy in dealing with Bradley. What could have
been a chance to provide some balance to Stephanopoulos, as much a
partisan as Barbour, never materialized.
Thursday morning all was back to the normal
imbalance on GMA: Stephanopoulos alone handled a pre-taped interview with
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