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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday January 27, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 16) |

Printer Friendly Version

More Abortion Troubles; NBC's Dream Theme; Stahl's Anti-CBS Conspiracy

1) Bernard Shaw demanded during Wednesday night's Republican debate that George Bush write a proposed abortion amendment and that Alan Keyes answer for U.S. policy toward Pinochet. At the Democratic debate Bill Bradley was asked by the local anchor: "In basketball, have you ever cried in victory or in defeat?"

2) Prompted by John McCain's comment that he'd allow his daughter to decide whether or not to have an abortion, ABC and CBS painted pro-life advocates as a hindrance who burden GOP candidates.

3) NBC's Andrea Mitchell warned that "Steve Forbes pushed George Bush to the right on the abortion issue" and now "he's going to push George Bush to the right on the tax issue."

4) NBC's liberal dream State of the Union. On The West Wing the President abandons "the era of big government is over" theme and agrees "government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind....an instrument of good."

5) CBS's Lesley Stahl told FNC's Bill O'Reilly she's not biased: "I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent." Stahl ascribed conservative claims of bias to how CBS is the only target remaining now that communism is no more.

>>> The January 26 MagazineWatch about the January 31 issues of the news weeklies, is now online. This edition, compiled by MRC analyst Mark Drake, is the first enhanced with links to the major articles quoted. The topics examined:
1. In "Bush's Forbes Obsession," Newsweek's Howard Fineman predicted that George W. Bush's conservatism would hurt him the general election.
2. Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy lamented Bush's conservatism in Time (which once "spanked the House Republicans for their cold hearts and small minds,") in the latest example of a personal attack by the media.
3. U.S. News columnist Gloria Borger broke from the pack in suggesting moderate Democrats fear Al Gore has traveled too far to the left, and worry he is "pandering to the left so blatantly that he may never be able to get anything done."
4. Time reporter Karen Tumulty marveled at the Gore campaign's "Zen like focus," and praised top Gore message-meister Carter Eskew. In the midst of all the praise, you might miss the magazine's first casual mention of Eskew's tobacco ties.
    To read these items, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/news/magwatch/mag20000126.html <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)Near the top of Wednesday night's Republican debate CNN's Bernard Shaw asked George W. Bush: "So will the Republican Party platform plank on abortion be your Bible?" Despite that loaded question, there was no significant ideological disparity between the questioning of the candidates from the two parties during the back-to-back debates of Republicans from 7 to 8:30pm and Democrats from 9 to 10pm ET co-sponsored by CNN and WMUR-TV of Manchester, NH. CNN showed both debates live from WMUR-TV's Queen City studios with CNN's Bernard Shaw and WMUR's Karen Brown moderating the GOP confab while CNN's Judy Woodruff and WMUR's Tom Griffith handled the Democrats.

    The two oddest questions of the night. Bernard Shaw to Alan Keyes, raising a topic not quite on the cutting edge of Republican policy arguments: "Could the United States be culpable in the disappearance of thousands of Chileans under the Pinochet regime?" And Tom Griffith to Bill Bradley: "In basketball, have you ever cried in victory or in defeat?"

    In a close runner-up Judy Woodruff portrayed the Republicans as an awesome force to be feared, telling Bradley that she's heard Democrats worry that in the fall they "are going to need a fighter to go up against what will surely be a relentlessly rough campaign put on by the Republicans and they say they don't see that fight in you."

    Other noteworthy questions posed during the two evening events. First, during the Republican debate:

    -- Bernard Shaw to Bush: "If you could write a two sentence amendment to the United States Constitution on abortion, what would it be?"
    Follow-up: "So will the Republican Party platform plank on abortion be your Bible?"

-- Shaw to all five remaining GOP contenders: "According to population experts, within years whites will no longer be the racial majority in the United States of America. Should our national dialogue drop the words 'minority, majority'?"

-- Shaw, coming at John McCain from the right: "You and President Clinton propose setting aside about two-thirds of the federal budget surplus and making it off limits for tax cuts. What do you say to critics who say your tax plan looks too much like President Clinton's?"

-- Shaw to all: "Should it be a felony for the President to lie to the American people?"

-- Shaw to Alan Keyes: "In the interest of human rights, should the United States government fully open to the world its files on General Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile?"
    Follow-up: "Could the United States be culpable in the disappearance of thousands of Chileans under the Pinochet regime?"

    Karen Brown returning to the media's main interest, to Gary Bauer: "You have said that you would require a litmus test for your Supreme Court nominees on the issue of abortion. How far would you take that litmus test? Would you also require it for your Secretary of Education, your Secretary of State, your Secretary of Defense and others?"

    Second, during the Democratic debate:

    -- Judy Woodruff to Bill Bradley about how Democrats think he is too laid back, "worry that in the fall the Democrats are going to need a fighter to go up against what will surely be a relentlessly rough campaign put on by the Republicans and they say they don't see that fight in you. Is it there?"

    -- Woodruff noted that Bradley is the only candidate not advocating more defense spending, and queried: "How do you know that this is not going to leave the United States national security position in a vulnerable state?"

    -- Tom Griffith to Bradley: "Please outline for me your worst behavior on the basketball court?"
    Follow-up: "Maybe trying to get to emotion here. In basketball, have you ever cried in victory or in defeat?"


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)John McCain's comment on the "Straight Talk Express," bus that he'd allow his 15-year-old daughter to decide whether or not to have an abortion, generated full stories Wednesday night on the three broadcast network evening news shows. But ABC and CBS seemed less concerned with how McCain may have strayed left from a principled position than in portraying pro-life advocates as a hindrance who burden Republican candidates. Only NBC's David Bloom aired a soundbite from a pro-life representative criticizing the reasoning expressed by McCain.

    On ABC's World News Tonight Linda Douglass worried about how "Republican candidates often struggle with abortion as they try to satisfy religious conservatives in the primaries without alienating abortion rights supporters in the general election."
    CBS's Bill Whitaker charged "it was Arizona Senator John McCain's turn to be dogged on abortion."

    Here's how the three broadcast evening shows handled the story on Wednesday night, January 26:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings conveyed just how much a disconnect on the issue the media perceive:
    "On the presidential campaign trail today, Senator John McCain has been struggling. It is a reality of Republican campaigns that many Republicans who vote in the primaries feel much more strongly opposed to abortion than the general population. ABC's Linda Douglass reports from New Hampshire tonight that this is a real issue for Mr. McCain today."

    As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Linda Douglass began: "Talking with reporters on the bus he calls the 'Straight Talk Express,' John McCain stumbled on the issue that so often troubles Republican candidates: abortion. He has taken the position that abortion should be outlawed, but he was asked what would happen if his 15-year-old daughter got pregnant."
    John McCain: "Obviously I would encourage her to bring, to know that that baby would be brought up in a warm and loving family, but the final decision would be made by Megan, with our advice and counsel."
    Douglass: "At the next stop, reporters pounced, pointing out that he seemed to be contradicting his anti-abortion stance by suggesting that his daughter has the right to make her own decision. McCain backtracked as he struggled to clarify his answer."
    Douglass concluded: "Republican candidates often struggle with abortion as they try to satisfy religious conservatives in the primaries without alienating abortion rights supporters in the general election. McCain's comments were not likely to please either side."

    -- CBS Evening News. Bill Whitaker opened his report from New Hampshire over video of Steve Forbes supporters shouting at McCain: "Hounded by Steve Forbes fans, it was Arizona Senator John McCain's turn to be dogged on abortion, the issue Forbes used to sting George W. Bush in Iowa."

    After showing the comments from McCain in question, Whitaker relayed that Alan Keyes said he sounded pro-choice and in a soundbite Forbes hit him for dancing around issues. But the issue may fade away, Whitaker suggested: "By all appearances and polls, the issue that so gripped Iowa has not taken root in New Hampshire so far and it's unclear whether Forbes will get much traction out of it. Folks here say they're much more concerned about economic issues."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, introduced David Bloom's most even-handed and thorough story of the night: "It was at best an awkward day for John McCain, who has been trying to run as an unconventional candidate for the Republican nomination. But today abortion as an issue tripped him up."

    Bloom explained: "John McCain hurt himself today with voters on both sides of the abortion issue. He made a series of contradictory statements after being asked about what he would do if his fifteen-year-old daughter became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. John McCain, testy and irritated with reporters today who kept pressing on the abortion question."
    John McCain: "What's the matter with you, sir?"
    Bloom scolded: "But the Arizona Senator has only himself to blame. Aboard his campaign bus this morning, McCain told reporters it would be a quote, 'personal, painful decision,' but that he would allow his fifteen-year-old daughter Meghan to have an abortion."
    Afer a clip of McCain, Bloom observed: "But that is essentially a pro-choice position, and within an hour, McCain, who wants to make abortion illegal, was calling reporters to say he misspoke."

    Though McCain soon backtracked, Bloom noted how "abortion opponents pounced" and allowed one some air time as he showed Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee saying: "Senator McCain's positions have been conflicting, and we do not think he warrants the support of pro-life voters."
    Bloom balanced him: "But McCain's problem is twofold. He makes both pro-life and pro-choice voters nervous."
    Unnamed woman in audience: "I'm an independent. My Democratic friends say, 'Oh, you can't vote for that guy. He's gonna to bring in all these Supreme Court judges that are gonna make it impossible for a woman to have the right the right to choose.'"
    Bloom concluded: "McCain usually doesn't duck the issue. But voters, even if they disagree, admire his candor. But McCain's contradictory answers today won him few friends on either side of the abortion divide."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Another example of the new media mantra, illustrated in the January 25 and 26 CyberAlerts, that poor George Bush is being pushed right out of the mainstream by Steve Forbes. MRC analyst Mark Drake caught this latest instance of this reasoning from NBC's Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's 6pm ET Decision 2000 show.

    On the January 25 show she told David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register: "Steve Forbes pushed George Bush to the right on the abortion issue all during the Iowa campaigning because of the importance of the religious right and social conservatives there and now when he gets to New Hampshire he's going to push George Bush to the right on the tax issue. So George Bush is really losing the middle ground that he wants to be in for a general election."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)wwing0127.jpg (10979 bytes)Just two weeks before the real State of the Union address by the real President, NBC's fictional West Wing delivered the State of the Union message every liberal dreams the real President would provide: The "era of big government is over" is itself over. And Clinton, if preliminary reports about all the new spending proposals he has prove true, just might.

    On the January 12 edition of the 9pm ET, 8pm CT Wednesday night drama about the White House staff around Democratic "President Josiah Bartlet" played by Martin Sheen, after becoming angered by error-laden arguments against the National Endowment for the Arts, "Communications Director Toby Ziegler" marches in to see the President and within seconds convinces him to use his State of the Union address to show how "government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind....An instrument of good." (Now that's one long sentence, all 87 words of it, but I think it flows nicely.)

    The President's proposals are supposed to fit into the framework of the theme that "the era of big government is over."
In the first of two crucial scenes, Toby Ziegler sits down with two men who are supposed to be playing Democratic congressional staffers who are vetting the Presidents speech. As transcribed by MRC intern Ken Shepherd, they take on the NEA but are quickly shot down as buffoons.

     "Raymond": "Now, the President is proposing in his speech that the budget for the NEA be increased by 50 percent?"
    Toby: "The National Endowment amounts to less than one one-hundredth of one percent of the total budget for the federal government. It costs the taxpayers 39 cents a year. The arts budget for the United States is equivalent to the arts budget of Sweden."
    Raymond: "With such a big deal being made out the performance art of the Mapplethorpe photographs-"
    Man "You gay bashing, Raymond?"
    Raymond: "Once again all we'd like is for you to not mention the NEA."
    Second man: "Personally, I don't know what to say to people who argue that the NEA is there to support art that nobody wanted to pay for in the first place. I don't know what to tell people when they Rodgers and Hart didn't need the NEA to write Oklahoma and Arthur Murray didn't need the NEA to write Death of a Salesman."
    Toby: "I'd start by telling them that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote Oklahoma and Arthur Murray taught ballroom dance. Arthur Miller, on the other hand, did need the NEA to write Death of a Salesman, only it wasn't called the NEA back then it was called the WPA and it was Roosevelt's. It was Roosevelt's..."

    At this point Toby wanders off in profound thought, though my only thought in watching this was how many top congressional staffers would really oppose a NEA hike and doesn't such a hike already contradict the idea that "the era of big government is over"?

    Jump ahead in the show a few minutes and Toby goes to see the President in the living quarters where he is recovering from the flu. He's joined there by "Deputy Chief-of-Staff Josh Lyman." Toby utters the line to the President: "The era of big government is over."
    President Bartlet: "You want to cut the line?"
    Toby reaches into his liberal gut to deliver an emotional appeal for hardcore liberalism: "I want to change the sentiment. We're running away from ourselves. And I know we can score points that way. I was a principle architect of that campaign strategy right along with you Josh. But we're here now. Tomorrow night we do an immense thing. We have to say what we feel, that government no matter what it's failures in the past and in times to come for that matter, government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one gets left behind. An instrument of good. I have no trouble understanding why the line tested well, Josh, but I don't think that means we should say it. I think that means we should change it."

    (In other words, we lied so that we'd win the election. Just like real life.)

    Toby's sermon convinces the President: "I think so, too. What do you think Josh?"
    Josh: "I make it a point never to disagree with Toby when he's right, Mr. President."

    Time to re-write the State of the Union, we're going left.

+++ Watch this scene of how Hollywood liberals dream a President's team would think. On Thursday, go to the MRC home page where Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of the above scene from West Wing. After 12 noon ET, go to: http://www.mrc.org


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)FNC's Bill O'Reilly didn't see any liberal bias at CBS News in the 1980s and when asked if she displays any liberal bias, CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl insisted: "I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent." Stahl appeared Tuesday night on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor to promote the paperback version of her book, Reporting Live.

    When pressed by O'Reilly about why conservatives complain so much about CBS's liberal bias, Stahl relayed a bizarre conspiracy theory about how a "senior Reagan official" once told her "off the record" that "it was part of the conservative triad, was the anti-communism, there was the abortion wing, and there was CBS" and so after the Berlin Wall came down conservatives lost communism as a target and so "they couldn't lose CBS too. They had to keep using us as a target."

    Whoever told her this is probably still laughing about how gullible she was for a tale that filled her paranoia about conservatives always plotting to destroy the do-gooders of the world.

    MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught this rather humorous interplay that aired on the January 25 show:

    Bill O'Reilly: "Is CBS News fair and balanced? Some conservative Americans believe CBS tilts to the left in its news coverage. I worked at CBS News in the early '80s when Dan Rather had just taken over from Walter Cronkite, and I didn't see that, but the perception is out there. With us now is a co-editor of 60 Minutes, CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl, whose new book is now out in paperback. It is called Reporting Live. So how did this, do you think there's any validity to the conservative opinion that CBS News tilts a little to the left?"
    Lesley Stahl: "I'll answer your question, but when you were there, did you tilt to the left?"
    O'Reilly: "No, I was a straight news reporter..."
    Stahl: "Yeah, it goes back to Nixon. It goes back to the days when Dan Rather stood up to Richard Nixon in a news conference-"
    O'Reilly: "Are you running for something?"
    Stahl: "Exactly. And from that moment on, Rather, most particularly, and CBS, in general, became a target. I went to a lunch one day. This was when Reagan was President, and a senior Reagan official told me that, I asked this group, I was having breakfast with them. It was kind of off the record, and I asked them, my remarks were off the record, I asked them why they keyed on CBS so much. And they said it was part of the conservative triad, was the anti-communism, there was the abortion wing, and there was CBS, and they couldn't afford, oh I remember that the Communists, the Berlin Wall was coming down, so they were losing the Communists. They couldn't lose CBS, too. They had to keep using us as a target."

    And a rich target full of bias that Stahl is too paranoid about her enemies to see within.

    O'Reilly continued: "Yeah, you know, there is, but they point to Bryant Gumbel, and they're all over him when he was at NBC, the conservatives, as being a very liberal guy, and Dan Rather. Now I know both of those guys-"
    Stahl: "That Dan Rather business, that's not-"
    O'Reilly: "Go ahead."
    Stahl: "I'm telling you where the Rather thing came from. And he has been a target as long as I was covering in Washington, I knew about this. And as a White House correspondent, I actually had to deal with it."
    O'Reilly: "And you never saw him tilt to the left or that, anything like that."
    Stahl: "You know, it's not like that. You were there yourself. You know. You were an insider."
    O'Reilly: "But it's editing and it's phraseology. For example, here's a good example. The Iowa primary. MSNBC reported that Forbes was the big winner, not Bush. Now people are gonna say, whoa, you know, that's not the way it was. I mean you can interpret it that way, but that's dangerous, and I think that people see that-"
    Stahl: "But that's not tilting. That's not tilting. That's the expectation game..."
    O'Reilly: "But I wanna, I know what you're saying, but I think that CBS should take it seriously that that's the image they have."
    Stahl: "We have."

    If she did she'd be acknowledging their bias and not impugning those pointing it out.

    O'Reilly kept going: "They are number three in the ratings and have been now for three years."
    Stahl: "But come on, we were tarred with that when we were number one...but the point is that I'm telling you this is something the conservatives hold on to. They like it. They want it."
    O'Reilly: "It's comforting."
    Stahl: "They use it. They use it."
    O'Reilly: "And I'm not gonna deny that."
    Stahl: "And, of course, we're all people. It's not, there's no great Wizard of Oz-"
    O'Reilly: "So you're not a liberal then, Miss Stahl."
    Stahl: "I'm, I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent."

    We wish. -- Brent Baker


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