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
1. In "Bush's Forbes Obsession," Newsweek's Howard Fineman
predicted that George W. Bush's conservatism would hurt him the general
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
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:
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
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
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
-- 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
-- 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
-- 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?"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
+++ 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
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
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
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
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
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: "I'm, I had my opinions surgically removed
when I became a network correspondent."
We wish. --
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