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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday December 30, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 193)

Kristol Canned by ABC; Second Runners-Up in the Best NQs of '99

1) After expanding the role of George Stephanopoulos, ABC News dropped conservative Bill Kristol. This Week's former Executive Producer charged: "They're tone-deaf when it comes to political evenhandedness....they're much more comfortable with people who share viewpoints closer to their own."

2) Filling in for Rush Limbaugh, Tony Snow recited three Best Notable Quotables of 1999. More videos of 1999 award winners and runners-up are now viewable on the MRC Web site.

3) The second runners-up quotes in 14 categories in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 1999: The Twelfth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

4) Number 10 in Letterman's "Top Ten Phrases That Were Not Spoken This Millennium."

    >>> See Geraldo Rivera, during his sail around the world shown on the Travel Channel, dance and get naked. As noted in the December 20 CyberAlert, on December 19 the Travel Channel ran the first part of "Sail to the Century with Geraldo Rivera," a one-hour videography of his trip around the world with a crew on a 70-foot sailboat. He plans to cross the dateline in the Pacific as the year changes, hence the name of the show. MRC Webmaster Andy Szul has now posted a RealPlayer video clip showing a shirt-less Geraldo dancing on deck and later disrobing completely as he jumps into the Atlantic for a swim. Consider this a video treat to mark one year to go to the end of the century. Go to the MRC home page at http://archive.mrc.org or go directly to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19991220.html#7 <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)ABC News, which has expanded the role of former Clinton enabler George Stephanopoulos, last week decided to drop from This Week, and ABC overall, conservative Bill Kristol, who once toiled for Vice President Dan Quayle. On Wednesday the MRC distributed a Media Reality Check fax report about the contrast.

     Supposedly prompted by a 25 percent drop in ratings for This Week since David Brinkley left the show, instead of looking at hosts Sam Donaldson or Cokie Roberts, ABC News President David Westin decided to dump Kristol. But, in a December 23 story Howard Kurtz suggested another explanation in citing the views of the show's former Executive Producer whom Westin forced out last fall:

The axing of Kristol comes three months after the departure of the show's executive producer, Dorrance Smith, who like Kristol worked in the Bush White House. Several sources confirmed that contrary to the public announcement at the time, Smith was forced out by ABC News President David Westin, who has had an increasingly strong hand in the program.

Smith said Kristol "added a much-needed different perspective from a conservative viewpoint, which I don't think they have any interest in trying to fill. They're tone-deaf when it comes to political evenhandedness....Rather than being journalistically honest, they're much more comfortable with people who share viewpoints closer to their own," he said of ABC management.

Westin said yesterday that "over time we have an obligation to our viewers to make sure we present both sides of any issue." While no one's previous employment should be held against him, he said, "we shouldn't have executive producers who have identifiable alliances either way."

    END Excerpt [ellipses as in Kurtz story]

    But it's okay to have someone reporting for ABC News shows and co-hosting Good Morning America who has an "identifiable alliance" -- if you are a liberal like George Stephanopoulos who has fulfilled both roles in recent months, opportunities ABC never offered to Kristol or George Will.

    (Smith's "alliances." Smith once worked for President Gerald Ford and, as noted in the March 1995 MediaWatch: "The first Sunday in February marked the start of Dorrance Smith's second run as Executive Producer of This Week with David Brinkley. The Executive Producer of This Week when it was launched in 1981, Smith ran the show through 1989, when he took the same title at Nightline, where he remained until jumping to the White House. From early 1991 through the end of Bush's term, Smith served as Assistant to the President for Media Affairs.")

    Kurtz added in his December 23 story: "The change in the gabfest segment is surprising because audience research consistently confirms its popularity. 'The round table is the money part of the show,' Smith said. 'People will fast-forward through their videotapes to watch the round table. It's what distinguishes This Week from its competition.' ABC insiders say Westin had no problem with Kristol but felt that the round table was too crowded with five people, making it hard for individual voices to be heard."

    But not too hard to hear liberal voices. ABC probably thinks it's being perfectly balanced, with Stephanopoulos on the left and Will on the right. But that forgets about the hardly conservative views of co-hosts Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts, who while not consistently liberal line up far more often with Stephanopoulos than Will, for a three-to-one liberal over conservative ratio on the show. And Kristol has been appearing on the show far less frequently than Stephanopolous.

    Now to the MRC's Media Reality Check fax report on all this put together Wednesday by the MRC's Tim Graham. You can also read this on the MRC home page, or go direct to:

Kristol: ABC's Latest Conservative Casualty
ABC News President David Westin Pays for Gore Dinner, Promotes Stephanopoulos, and Fires Kristol

ABC News President David Westin is once again showing TV news junkies that he has no interest in keeping up appearances of objectivity. This summer, he fiercely objected to ABC hiring "unreliable" Matt Drudge as a radio host (this, from a man who defended the accuracy of ABC's Food Lion faking fiasco).

Now, just weeks after paying for a "working dinner" with Al Gore at White House reporter John Cochran's house that never produced a news story, Westin has dumped the contract of conservative This Week pundit William Kristol.

-- No Boy George. Just as Westin's decision to fire long-time ABC reporter Bob Zelnick over his Gore biography contrasted with ABC's Gore dinner party at Casa Cochran, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz noted in 1997, "Kristol was added at the same time as George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton White House aide whose contract was recently renewed."

Not only has Boy George been renewed, he has been promoted by Westin to a substitute host on Good Morning America and the network's most regular political analyst. In August, Westin hailed the ex-Clinton aide's "increasing strength and maturity."

-- Dumping Dorrance. Kurtz reported former This Week Executive Producer Dorrance Smith was also dumped by Westin: "Several sources confirmed that contrary to the public announcement at the time, Smith was forced out by ABC News President David Westin, who has had an increasingly strong hand in the program...Smith, a friend of Linda Tripp from their days in the Bush White House, has told friends that he believes ABC management was displeased with some of the reporting he helped provide during the Monica Lewinsky scandal."

He added: "Westin said yesterday that 'over time we have an obligation to our viewers to make sure we present both sides of any issue.' While no one's previous employment should be held against him, he said, 'we shouldn't have executive producers who have identifiable alliances either way.'"

-- Identifiable Alliances. This quote is incredibly strange, given the history of ABC News, with executives like Vice President David Burke (former Ted Kennedy chief of staff), Executive Producers like Jeff Gralnick (McGovern aide) and Rick Kaplan (Clinton golfing buddy and media fixer), and veteran reporters Pierre Salinger (JFK press secretary) and Jeff Greenfield (RFK speechwriter).

Westin recently replaced Smith at This Week with senior producer Virginia Moseley, who has a few identifiable alliances of her own. Her husband, Thomas Nides, worked for Speaker Tom Foley and then as Chief of Staff to Trade Representative Mickey Kantor. That could be why spin-controller Stephanopoulos called her to try and get conservative author Gary Aldrich removed from the show in 1996.

When he was promoting Stephanopoulos, Westin gave Associated Press a different theory about identifiable alliances: "Are his past and his connections likely to affect his reporting, or likely to be perceived as affecting his reporting? You have to take it case by case."

In the case of liberal connections, you get promoted. In the case of conservative connections, you get purged.

    END Reprint of fax report

    Footnote: A crystal-clear error at USA Today which the paper has yet to correct. A December 23 "Inside TV" item by Peter Johnson relayed: "A shakeup at ABC's This Week, which last week slipped to No. 3 behind CBS's Face the Nation and NBC's No. 1 Meet the Press. Out after Sunday as a conservative roundtable member is Bill Crystal, who declined to take a reduced role..."

    Memo to USA Today: Bill Kristol is not related to Billy Crystal.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Tony Snow talked about them Wednesday as he filled in for Rush Limbaugh, now you can re-live them by watching them on our Web site. In the second half hour of the second hour of Wednesday's Rush Limbaugh radio show, substitute host Tony Snow, moderator of Fox News Sunday, read three of the winning quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 1999: The Twelfth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

    MRC Webmaster Andy Szul has been working this week to upload many more of the winning and runners-up television quotes listed in the awards issue as cued up by MRC research associate Kristina Sewell. There are now 46 quotes viewable via RealPlayer. Go to:


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Tuesday's CyberAlert relayed the winning quotes. Wednesday you got the first runner-up. Today, all 14 of the second runners-up in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 1999: The Twelfth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

    A panel of 44 talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and media observers generously gave of their time to select their choices for the first, second and third best quote from six to eight quotes in each category. First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. (See item #2 in the December 28 CyberAlert or the online version for the list of judges.)

    You can read all the quotes published in the print edition of this special year-end issue, plus view video clips, in RealPlayer format, of many of the television quotes, by going to:
    Click on: "1999 Winners -- Official Version Enhanced for the Web with Video Clips."

    Now, the second runners-up with the points each earned, in the formula described above, listed in brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote:

Quote of the Year, second runner-up

"We were talking about -- speaking for all women, if I may, Toni Morrison wrote in The New Yorker that Clinton was our first 'black President,' and I think, in a way, Clinton may be our first 'woman President.' And I think that may be one of the reasons why women identify, because he does have a lot of feminine qualities about him: The softness, the sensitivity, the vulnerability, that kind of thing."
-- The Washington Post's Sally Quinn on CNN's Larry King Live, March 10. [70 points]

The Alec Baldwin Award (for Hate Speech Against the Presidential Impeachers), second runner-up:

"Her [White House lawyer Cheryl Mills] rhetoric wasn't fancy, but it was on target. The G.O.P. is a party, after all, that owes its post-Barry Goldwater resurgence to opposition to civil rights. And while its leaders from time to time proclaim their belief in racial justice, their pledges have been mostly lip service. They're too genteel for a sheet-wearing bigot like David Duke but all too willing to embrace bigotry if it's dressed in a suit and tie. Mills, 33, is just the sort of hard-nosed advocate to drag such hypocrisy to the surface."
-- Time national correspondent Jack E. White, February 1 "Dividing Line" column. [54 points]

Soft on Crime Award (for Promoting Those Opposed to Holding Clinton Accountable), second runner-up

"Didn't I say to you that we are marching off the cliff? Reason tells you we should stop this and get on with the business of governance. But there is precious little. I mean, I spent most of today and yesterday half on the phone while I was covering this thing, with Senators Republican and Democratic, and at the moment everybody's fondest hope is that the two-week hiatus, between now and the new year, in that period impeachment will sink in and sanity will prevail and we'll avoid a trial. But there are a lot of people that don't want that to happen."
-- National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg, December 19, 1998 Inside Washington, the day of the House vote. [52 points]

China Syndrome Award (for Dismissing Nuclear Espionage), second runner-up

"The rollout to this rivaled The Phantom Menace, with Chris Cox in the role of Luke Skywalker. But the facts don't bear up. First of all, this notion of Richard Shelby yelling for Janet Reno's head -- you know, Sandy Berger was briefed. So was Richard Shelby....There is no evidence they are building anything; they are deploying anything. It will take them at least ten years to do anything. This is hysteria to try to create a new Red Menace."
-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the release of the Cox Report, May 29 McLaughlin Group. [41 points]

I Am Woman Award (for Hillary Rodham Worshipping), second runner-up

"Once a political lightning rod, today she is political lightning. A crowd-pleaser and first-class fundraiser, a person under enormous pressure to step into the arena. This time on her own....Polls show she is one of the most admired women in America. But even after seven years in the spotlight, she remains a riddle for many people. It's hard to know what keeps her going through marital problems made public, political fights turned ugly, through triumphs, disasters and always the demands of her work. Tonight we get some answers about how she does it from the only person in the world who really knows."
-- Dan Rather on Hillary Clinton in his May 26 60 Minutes II interview. [42 points]

Media Hero Award, second runner-up

"Now Janet Reno's thing is that she doesn't know many people in this town. I don't think she's done much to socialize, to befriend people, to build a constituency, even with the Clintons. You know, I heard Donna Shalala say the other day she [Reno] now has Abe Lincoln status. People just assume she's honest, honest Janet Reno."
-- Washington Post writer Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday, September 5. [50 points]

Damn Those Conservatives Award, second runner-up

"The term wacko right-winger is redundant. For example, they're the only people who don't like being called compassionate. Someone remarked that many now defend the tobacco industry because its products kill people early, saving us dollars in having to care for aged people."
-- "Larry King's People" item in USA Today, March 8. [43 points]

Good Morning Morons Award, second runner-up

"But are you comfortable with our national obligations, our national prestige, being held hostage by the most conservative wing of your party?"
-- Early Show co-host Bryant Gumbel on holdup of UN dues by conservatives who did not want U.S. money to fund abortions, to House Republican Chairman J.C. Watts, November 10. [31 points]

Littleton Shop of Horrors Award (for Exploiting a Tragedy to Push Gun Control), second runner-up

"Is there any reason, Howard, to believe that this tragic attack on children, for goodness sakes, will trigger any movement by this Congress to enact tougher, meaningful new gun laws?"
"You know, Howard, I asked Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Denver, who certainly has had to wrestle with this, about why her colleagues consistently reject tougher gun control measures. She said two things, they're too afraid of the NRA and they're too beholden to the NRA. Does it really come down to that? Do Congress people care more about perpetuating personal power than they do about saving the lives of children?"
-- MSNBC's News with Brian Williams fill-in anchor Gregg Jarrett to Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Aug. 12. [38 points]

Shooting the Constitution Award (for Advocating the Banning of Guns), second runner-up

"Whatever is being proposed is way too namby-pamby. I mean, for example, we're talking about limiting people to one gun purchase, or handgun purchase a month. Why not just ban the ownership of handguns when nobody needs one? Why not just ban semi-automatic rifles? Nobody needs one."
-- Time national correspondent Jack E. White, May 1 Inside Washington. [53 points]

Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis, second runner-up

"What-if department...What if President Clinton announced a cure for cancer developed by the National Institutes of Health? What would critics say? Would Bob Barr want him impeached for failing to tell us the study was going on? Would Rush Limbaugh decry the President taking credit while admitting getting rid of cancer wasn't a bad thing? Would Pat Buchanan insist that no nation other than America be given it? Would The Wall Street Journal worry about its effect on pharmaceutical stock prices? And so it goes...."
-- CNN's Larry King in his USA Today column, February 15. [37 points]

See No Evil Award (for Burying the Juanita Broaddrick Rape Charge), second runner-up

"These allegations go back more than 20 years. This woman made no charges at the time. It's my understanding that she couldn't even recall initially the year. Investigative reporters for major publications have looked at it since 1991. Ken Starr passed on it. You know, where is this going to go except among all the Clinton haters and the right-wing conspiratorialists? It's great fodder, but you know, you proved the guy's a cad, you're not going to prove he's a violent criminal."
-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, February 20 McLaughlin Group. [43 points]

Politics of Personal Destruction Award (for Geraldo Rivera's Hatemongering), second runner-up

"Do you believe that they had, at least indirectly, something to do with your ex-husband, Jim McDougal's, ultimate demise?...Did they help speed your husband's sickness and his ultimate death?"
-- Rivera referring to Ken Starr's prosecutors in a question to Susan McDougal, April 14 Upfront Tonight. [31 points]

Doris Kearns Goodwin Award (for Campaigning to Revive the Camelot Myth), second runner-up

"We Americans, even those among us who have never liked the Kennedys' politics, have long been fascinated by the Kennedy mystique. Or as some call it, the Kennedy myth. The dictionary defines mystique as 'an aura of heightened meaning surrounding something to which special power or mystery is given.' A myth is 'a traditional story dealing with ancestors or heroes,' a story that 'shapes the world view of a people or delineates the customs or ideals of a society.' By those definitions, like it or not, there is a Kennedy mystique and their history is mythic....
"What we do know is that some of the aching grief the family feels tonight we feel because the mystique and the myth are deep within us. That's 48 Hours for tonight, an American Tragedy."
-- Dan Rather concluding 48 Hours, July 19. [38 points]


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)From the December 29 Late Show with David Letterman, number 10 in the "Top Ten Phrases That Were Not Spoken This Millennium."

10. "We can't have sex here -- this is the Oval Office."

    Well, maybe next year, the actual last year of the millennium, something will happen more memorable.  -- Brent Baker

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