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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday February 24, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 32) |

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Bush's "Black Eye"; Rather Admired McCain's Appeal; Puppet Sang to Sawyer

1) CBS's Bill Whitaker insisted Bush embraced "the far right" in SC, which "gave him a black eye in Michigan." Only NBC noted how McCain's camp admitted anti-Bush calls and how liberals are "euphoric" over McCain. ABC found Democratic "meddling."

2) In a CBS News Web site-posted analysis Dan Rather ignored Al Sharpton and asserted that Al Gore "has not moved as far to the left as Bush has to the right." Rather admired how John McCain appeals to the "vital center," a skill that's a "special thing."

3) CBS's The Early Show pressed George W. Bush to repudiate phone calls placed by Pat Robertson, but did not ask McCain about phones calls which denounced Bush. ABC asked Bush to react to a McCain backer's claim he went "a little too far to the right."

4) NBC's Tim Russert assessing Bush: "Antagonizing blacks over the Confederate flag issue. Antagonizing women over the issue of abortion..." ABC's Charles Gibson cited only anti-McCain calls in tagging the race "nasty."

5) Watch as Bryant Gumbel dropped his pen in disgust when his co-host guessed historians rated Ronald Reagan the best President.

6) ABC's priorities: Interviewing the woman married on the now infamous Fox TV show and the pets.com "Sock Puppet" considered "breaking news" which bumped David Letterman's mom.

     >>> February 21 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media, is now online thanks to Kristina Sewell and Andy Szul. Some of the quote topics included in this issue: "Hillary, Victim of Venomous Bias"; "Gore's a Boaster, Not A Liar"; "Ken Starr = POW Torturer"; "We're Pro-McCain: Deal With It"; "Pampered Under Communism?"; "Birthday Shot at Reagan"; "CBS: Clueless Bob Schieffer" and "Victims of Delayed Buffalo Wings." To read these quotes and others, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/news/nq/2000/welcome.html <<<

    >>> MRC job opening. Find the bias documented in CyberAlerts. The MRC, located in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, has an opening for a News Media Analyst. Those in this position must work at the MRC's headquarters and, therefore, should live in the Washington, DC area. News Media Analysts review network television news shows and major print publications to track coverage and identify biased stories for quoting in our publications which document liberal bias. Qualified applicants should have a good understanding of current events, be able to write clearly and be interested in politics and the news. The starting pay for the position is $22,000. Those interested should send a resume via fax to Brent Baker at (703) 683-9736. <<<


Wednesday night ABC and NBC stressed how John McCain was appealing to traditional Republicans, whom ABC called "insiders," while ABC and CBS highlighted how being too conservative supposedly hurt George Bush. "After veering to the right," ABC's John Yang asserted, Bush is returning to "compassionate conservatism." CBS's Bill Whitaker employed an extremist label, insisting: "The strategy that seemed so brilliant in South Carolina, embracing the far right, snapped back and gave him a black eye in Michigan."

    Tuesday night both CBS and NBC had reported on anti-Bush phone calls accusing him of being anti-Catholic. Wednesday night only NBC's David Bloom acknowledged that while McCain's top aides had denied any involvement, they later admitted directing the calls. Bloom also pointed out how top Democrats are "euphoric" over how McCain is weakening likely eventual nominee Bush and ABC's Jim Wooten uniquely looked at how Michigan Democrats conceded "meddling" in the Republican primary.

    Here are highlights of campaign coverage Wednesday night, February 23, on the three broadcast networks:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight opened with Mike Von Fremd with McCain in Washington State: "He is still appealing to outsiders ....but he has now added a direct appeal to insiders, the core of the Republican Party."
    McCain: "I am a Reagan Republican...."

    John Yang then checked in from the Bush campaign in California, noting how Bush is "smarting" over calls saying he's anti-Catholic. Yang added: "After veering to the right in South Carolina, Bush came to this inner-city community center to return to his theme of compassionate conservatism."

    ABC next showed tapes of quick interviews by anchor Peter Jennings with McCain and Bush before Jim Wooten explored the growing lack of party loyalty. Wooten began by recalling what occurred in Michigan:
    "It was the only game in town of course, and Democrats and independents by the thousands decided to play, including many clearly motivated by mischief. This Democrat said yes, her McCain vote was meddling, but."
    Woman: "I think that the system usually manipulates us."
    Wooten: "This independent also chose McCain, but she admits:"
    Second woman: "I voted against Engler."

    -- CBS Evening News. Phil Jones summarized McCain's day but did not mention his new appeal to Republicans. Jones showed a clip of him interviewing McCain on a plane flight. His first question: "You're riding pretty high today. Are you dreaming about this being Air Force One or worried about being shot down?"

    While CBS failed to note how the McCain camp admitted involvement in anti-Bush phone calls accusing him of being anti-Catholic, Jones portrayed McCain as the victim: "McCain continues to struggle over campaign strategy. He holds to his promise of no negative advertising, but he told me today he will continue to make an issue out of the negative attacks on him by Governor Bush and the so-called religious right."

    Next, Bill Whitaker looked at Bush. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, he began: "He called Michigan a glancing blow, but the truth is George Bush is stepping into the biggest primary ring of all, California, battered and bruised and on the ropes."

    Whitaker applied some loaded labeling: "The strategy that seemed so brilliant in South Carolina, embracing the far right, snapped back and gave him a black eye in Michigan, allowing John McCain to paint him as anti-Catholic and in the pocket of the Christian Right. So today the original compassionate conservative was back on display, visiting disadvantaged children at the L.A. Dream Center. But is his plan to reposition himself back in the middle just California dreaming?"
    Following a soundbite from Bush, Whitaker took a shot at the entire California GOP: "And California is so much bigger and more diverse than even Michigan. He must appeal beyond his conservative base to win here and attract Latinos who fled the GOP because of the anti-immigration policies of former Governor Pete Wilson..."

    -- NBC Nightly News went right to Anne Thompson on McCain's plan to show Republicans they should support him because of his popularity among independents. She added: "Today John McCain trying to convince Republicans he is one of them."
    McCain: "I am a proud, conservative Republican. I am a Reagan Republican. Have no doubt about that. And I have to convince and tell our Republican establishment it's great over here, come on in."

    Thompson explained how he is now stressing cutting taxes and spending in order to expand his GOP support beyond just the 29 percent who voted for him in Michigan.

    Thompson concluded: "Tonight the battle of attack faxes continues. Late this evening McCain charging the Bush campaign of launching a new round of negative phone calls, this time in Virginia where primary will be held there next Tuesday, using the same phone calls taped by televangelist Pat Robertson that accused McCain campaign chairman Warren Rudman of being a vicious bigot."

    From the Bush camp reporter David Bloom summarized Bush's case that McCain cannot win since true GOP voters rejected him and Bush "portrays himself as the real Republican."

    Bloom then uniquely pointed out: "And many Democrats are euphoric, believing a weakened Bush forced to the right by McCain, will still prevail, but as a less formidable threat to Gore. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle today."
    Tom Daschle: "I'll just say that John McCain is doing the country a real service."
    Bloom: "But Bush is furious with McCain. Didn't even call to concede last night."
    Bush: "He can hear. I congratulate him."
    Bloom highlighted what CBS ignored: "The Texas Governor livid that in Michigan McCain's campaign made tens of thousands of phone calls to Catholic voters, suggesting Bush is anti-Catholic because he gave a speech at South Carolina's fundamentalist, some say anti-Catholic, Bob Jones University. McCain's top aides spent much of yesterday denying to reporters that they'd made any such calls, only to admit last night that they had and continue to do so even while they were denying it."
    Bush: "After the polls had closed, after you all had to put up your notebooks, after the cameras were off, they admitted that they were making those calls into that state. I don't accept any of that kind of campaigning. And I don't appreciate it one bit."
    Bloom concluded: "But if Bush is angry, so too are many of his own supporters. They are critical of the Texas Governor's campaign, for his stop at Bob Jones University, for wasting millions of dollars in McCain's home state of Arizona, and for not recognizing, perhaps until too late, just how serious a threat John McCain poses."


Matching CBS's on-air reporting quoted in item #1 above, in his weekly "Rather's Notebook" report on the CBS News Web site, Dan Rather complained that in South Carolina Bush "rode the Republican hard-right's organization" to a big win which "moved the image of himself pretty far to the right."

    Rather maintained that "Gore has not moved as far to the left as Bush has to the right." Citing Bush's speech at Bob Jones University as an example of going to the far right, Rather ignored Gore's pursuit of Al Sharpton's endorsement, insisting Gore "hasn't had to do make any comparable move in the other direction."

    Rather's dream candidate: John McCain, who appeals to the "vital center." If McCain does not win, Rather warned, "the Republican Party may have ample opportunity in the months ahead to wonder if they should have better recognized this talent for the truly special thing it is." He impugned the motives of conservatives, suggesting they oppose McCain just because they wish "to preserve a campaign finance system that helps to keep them in powerful positions."

    Here are some excerpts from the February 22 edition of "Rather's Notebook":

Whether or not the underdog Straight Talk Express runs out of gas on its way to the Republican nomination, all the other candidates -- Republicans and Democrats -- would do well to take a page from the McCain campaign playbook.

John McCain has accomplished something we haven't seen in some time -- appeal to the vital center while running in his party's

primary elections. This is the sort of feat for which Ronald Reagan is remembered.

And if McCain does not emerge as the GOP nominee, the Republican Party may have ample opportunity in the months ahead to wonder if they should have better recognized this talent for the truly special thing it is....

Folks who are willing to overlook the label of Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, for a candidate they like on the basis of character, personality, style or even on the issues -- or just plain old "gut feeling."

Again, for emphasis, it must be underscored that this generality applies more to general elections than to primaries. The party and ideological faithful, usually the people furthest from the center, can be and often are decisive at the polls in the nominating process.

It wasn't true in New Hampshire, where John McCain fashioned his blowout triumph over George Bush. It was true in South Carolina, where Bush rode the Republican hard-right's organization, money and messages to a big win.

The self-described "Religious Right" -- including conservative preachers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson -- are part of the deep core of the Republican Party, one that runs deeper in South Carolina than perhaps anywhere else in the country. And they delivered big-time for Bush in the Palmetto State.

Yes, it's true they acted partly out of self-interest, to preserve a campaign finance system that helps to keep them in powerful positions and allows them to spend freely and make their influence felt. But it's also true that Bush worked especially hard and effectively to get out their vote after New Hampshire. He went to the right places, said the right things the right way. He got the Religious Right's all-out support the old-fashioned way: He earned it. But now he owes them.

Which is part of the point of this writing. Bush has moved the image of himself pretty far to the right, giving up, at least temporarily, some of the middle ground he will need to win in November, if he's the nominee.

No doubt Gore liked what he saw out of South Carolina. In the general election, Bush won't be running right the way he did in South Carolina. But Gore -- or Bradley, if by some miracle he becomes the nominee -- would turn that George W. Bush into a target in front of the voting public....

And Bradley has succeeded in pushing Gore further to the left than he would ideally like to be. Such is the price of winning the core Democratic Party voters in the nominating contests.

But, by any reasonable analysis, Gore has not moved as far to the left as Bush has to the right. He hasn't had to. Bradley's threat to Gore's nomination has not been nearly as substantial as the challenge McCain has posed to the Bush campaign.

An example is Bush's appearance at South Carolina's Bob Jones University. Rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly, that school is widely viewed as having not only anti-black, but also anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic roots.

By going there and not clearly disassociating himself from the worst of the school's image and reputation, Bush helped himself with the hard-right necessary to win the South Carolina primary. But he also handed the Democrats a club with which they will pound him.

Gore, as yet, hasn't had to do make any comparable move in the other direction....

In 1988, George Bush the elder claimed the center by making "liberal" a dirty word. We remember it as one of the nastier elections in recent years, but not a close one....

    END Excerpt

    Naturally, whenever the more conservative candidate wins it must be a tainted victory.

    To read the entirety of Rather's analysis, go to:


In post-Michigan primary interviews run on the Wednesday morning shows, George W. Bush was pressed by CBS to repudiate phone calls placed by Pat Robertson which called McCain campaign chairman Warren Rudman an anti-Christian bigot, but the network did not press McCain about phones calls which denounced Bush as anti-Catholic. ABC's John Yang asked Bush to react to a McCain backer's claim that Bush went "a little too far to the right in South Carolina."

    ABC's Elizabeth Vargas expressed concern to McCain about whether his independent and Democratic supporters "know about" his conservative stands on issues like abortion.

    On the February 23 Good Morning America, ABC's Elizabeth Vargas posed these questions to McCain, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
    -- "Congratulations, Senator, on your victories tonight in Michigan and Arizona. As they say, what a difference 72 hours makes. Do you feel back on top?"
    -- "Voter turnout today and in the previous primaries was exceptionally high. To what do you attribute this? I mean, we're talking record turnouts in some cases. Why are people coming to polls in droves as they are?"
    -- "They're not just voters who have not voted before. You're attracting record numbers of Democrats and independents. You have been on the record as being anti-abortion, except in cases of rape and incest. You're in favor of repealing Roe v. Wade. You were against the assault weapons ban and you are for voluntary prayer in schools. Do you think all the independents and Democrats who are voting for you in these primaries know about your stands on those issues?"
    -- "You have very, some significant victories chalked up now under your belt, however many say you still have yet to really win the heart of the Republican Party....How are you going to get more Republicans to join the McCain movement?"
    -- "Your opponent continues to say, yeah, he might be winning a lot of Democrats and liberals, but I'm winning with the Republicans, and in fact, some of his supporters tonight were call your appeal and your victory with the help of Democrats and liberals a, quote, 'hostile takeover.'"
    -- "After a very dirty campaign in South Carolina, according to everybody involved in it, you had taken a vow never to go negative again in this campaign. Is it a fine line sometimes between defining your opponent versus yourself, and what is perceived as going negative?"
    -- "Is it unusual, you started out calling yourself, you're for reform, and then after New Hampshire, we had Bush saying 'a reformer with results,' and now it's 'a real reformer.'"

    But Bush only got two questions from ABC's John Yang in an interview taped aboard a plane:
    -- "Is this sort of a testing period? Do you think it's good for you?"
    -- "Former Senator Dan Evans in Washington, the Secretary of State in California, expressed concern about maybe, they thought, you might be going a little too far to the right in South Carolina."

    Over on CBS's The Early Show, during an interview taped on a plane, Phil Jones asked: "I get the sense that a lot of bitterness has built up because of campaign tactics. Tell me about this." Amongst his other questions: "What's your message to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and the so-called Christian right?" McCain replied, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "I guess my message to them is that I've never known them very well, but the display that I saw in South Carolina and then the phone calls that Pat Robertson made in Michigan, I just think they should be ashamed of themselves."

    While Jones never asked McCain about the anti-Bush calls, in a taped interview shown a few minutes later Bill Plante demanded that Bush repudiate Pat Robertson's tactics:
    "You may not want the kind of help that you got from Pat Robertson and John McCain may say he doesn't want the kind of help that he got from whoever called you anti-Catholic, but that stuff is there."
    Bush: "Yea, and I understand why people don't like that, and I don't particularly care for it either. But it is America."
    Plante: "How do you respond when that kind of stuff hits?"
    Bush: "Well of course that hurts, and you wouldn't like it. People who know me, know my heart. And when I heard they were running these ads saying I was an anti-Catholic bigot, it hurt."
    Plante: "Don't you have to repudiate what Pat Robertson did for you too, then?"
    Bush: "Well, I don't know what he did, I didn't ask him to do it."

    On NBC's Today David Bloom raised the anti-Bush calls with Bush, but quickly moved on to pressing Bush about how he should have denounced Bob Jones University's racist policies. Bloom told Bush: "The phone calls in Michigan touched a raw nerve with you. The ones accusing you of being anti-Catholic. Why?"

    Bloom next asked: "Those allegations stem from the speech you gave at Bob Jones University in South Carolina. You said that you don't regret having spoken there. But do you regret not having at the time during the speech spoken out against their supposedly segregationist and anti-Catholic policies?"

    Talking with John McCain, in a taped interview played earlier in the show, David Gregory cited how McCain had allies criticizing Bush, but did not outline the specifics or demand that McCain retract the claims.


Discussing the campaign with Katie Couric on Wednesday's Today, NBC's Tim Russert claimed Bush is "antagonizing" women and blacks. On ABC's Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson argued that McCain is conservative because he "succeeded" Barry Goldwater and in arguing how "nasty" the campaign has become Gibson cited only anti-McCain phone calls.

    -- February 23 Today. As noted by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, Russert contended:
    "George W. Bush wanted to be the compassionate conservative. Run this nomination from the right of center. But be a broad tent representative of his party. He now has been positioned as the conservative candidate. Embraced by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell. Antagonizing blacks over the Confederate flag issue. Antagonizing women over the issue of abortion. Antagonizing Catholics over Bob Jones. If he wins the nomination Katie he has a lot of work to do to get back to the center to try to broaden his appeal across the whole political spectrum."
    Couric: "What might have helped him in South Carolina might have hurt him in Michigan in other words."
    Russert: "Absolutely right."

    Do you think we'll ever hear a network analyst suggest a liberal is "antagonizing Catholics over support of partial-birth abortion"?

    -- Good Morning America, February 23. Gibson told George Stephanopoulos: "George, this is the Senator who succeeded Barry Goldwater in the United States Senate. His record on traditional Republican issues, very solid. He does want to shake up things on campaign finance reform, which may scare a lot of lobbyists in Washington, but why are so many Republicans running away from him?"

    Later Gibson asserted: "It was nasty. There were calls being made on behalf of both candidates. They say they don't know where they came from, but calls being made on behalf of both candidates charging religious bigotry on the other side. A call by Pat Robertson calling one of McCain's main supporters a vicious bigot, former Senator Warren Rudman. This is really nasty and tough."


Video now online: Gumbel flinging his pen down on the desk in disgust at the idea that Reagan was the best President. In Wednesday's Washington Times "Inside Politics" columnist Greg Pierce picked up on the February 22 CyberAlert item about an interchange Monday between Early Show co-hosts Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson.

    As detailed in Tuesday's CyberAlert, plugging an upcoming interview about C-SPAN's survey of historians to rank Presidents, Gumbel asked Clayson: "Who would you think finished first?"
    Co-host Jane Clayson deferred: "Hmmm. Good question."
    Gumbel: "Of all the Presidents when they did first to worst. Oh c'mon, you would know."
    Clayson: "Ronald Reagan."
    Gumbel, appalled, exclaimed: "First?!?!"
    Clayson: "Who was it?"
    Gumbel chastised her: "No! Reagan wasn't even in the top ten. Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you've heard of him."

    Watching this again on Wednesday I noticed that Gumbel dropped his pen the second Clayson said "Reagan." I thought many might like to see the video, so Wednesday afternoon Webmaster Andy Szul posted it in RealPlayer format. It's now up on the MRC home page, or go directly to:


Wednesday's Good Morning America devoted an amazing 16 minutes of air time to Diane Sawyer interviewing Darva Conger, the woman married on the Fox show, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? She got the entire 7:30 half hour, plus the first interview segment in the 8am half hour. Conger uttered the understatement of century: "I committed an error in judgment." She didn't think getting married meant anything: "Maybe we'll like each other and get along, maybe even date. I never in a million years ever thought it was an actual marriage in my heart and before God."

    Well she may be onto something there as I doubt Fox is God's favorite network.

    In the second half of the 8am half hour Sawyer interviewed Elizabeth Taylor. GMA started the 8:30am half hour with Sawyer and Charles Gibson spending over five minutes with the "Sock Puppet" from Pets.com TV ads, a guy behind the sofa with a sock on his hand. The puppet sang "once, twice, three times a lady" to Sawyer.

    After all of this, as the show ended, Sawyer told viewers: "I want to tell everybody because of our breaking news this morning, David Letterman's mom, who was going to be on the broadcast, is going to be on tomorrow."

    What "breaking news"?

    This morning, Thursday, in the 8:30am half hour Letterman's mom got as much time as the Sock Puppet and she revealed that weather grounded her flight from Indianapolis so she was unable to make it to last Friday's taping of her son's first post-heart surgery show which aired Monday night.

    That made me feel a little better as I suffered her same plight. My brother arranged a ticket for me to see that Late Show taping but I spent over three hours in the air Friday flying to New York, circling LaGuardia and then returning to Dulles Airport because LaGuardia was closed. -- Brent Baker


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