Tears for McCain; CBS's Crusade for More Medicare; Bush Flopped on Letterman
1) Gary Bauer criticized John McCain's attacks, but ABC's
Linda Douglass gushed about how "some people fought back tears when they
saw" McCain. Only NBC's Lisa Myers portrayed McCain as retreating and
noted how Bill Bennett conceded McCain "went too far."
2) At CNN's Wednesday night Democratic debate Jeff
Greenfield pressed Gore and Bradley about condemning Al Sharpton.
3) Dan Rather gladly relayed how Clinton "said it's
high time for the Congress to do more to keep guns away from criminals and
children." A sarcastic Geraldo Rivera recommended a new NRA slogan:
"Guns don't kill people, first graders kill people."
4) "President Clinton may be helping more than just
senior citizens," gushed CBS's Diana Olick in relaying an anecdote
about an old woman Republicans wouldn't help, warning that if the GOP
doesn't cave in to Clinton Democrats will have a "potent weapon."
5) U.S. News picked up on Bryant Gumbel's dismay at his
co-host's guess that historians ranked Ronald Reagan the best President.
6) A testy exchange between radio talk show host Michael
Reagan and John McCain.
7) In the late night show appearance battle it's McCain 1,
Late in the
day Wednesday Gary Bauer released a letter asking John McCain to retract his
references to Christian Right leaders as "an evil influence." CNN
got it onto Inside Politics and FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume jumped
on the story. But ABC didn't mention it on World News Tonight. Instead,
Linda Douglass marveled at how "today, as always, some people fought back
tears when they saw" McCain.
CBS's Phil Jones alluded to the controversy, saying
"McCain is under heavy pressure to dial back on his attacks on Religious
Right leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell." But only NBC's Lisa
Myers explicitly noted how "McCain today appears to at least soften his
latest attacks on leaders of the Religious Right," though his
accompanying soundbite hardly sounded remorseful, and Myers uniquely pointed
out how McCain advocate Bill Bennett thought McCain "went to far" in
The CBS Evening News launched a series of candidate
profiles with McCain first up on Wednesday night. Susan Spencer admired how
"his style and a heroic bio" are "sure stirring up
Here's a rundown of Wednesday, March 1, campaign
coverage delivered by the three broadcast network evening news shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Linda Douglass handled
the show's one campaign story. She relayed an uplifting message about
McCain's campaign: "John McCain will
argue that he is the first Republican candidate in years who has stirred
voters' passions. Today, as always, some people fought back tears when they
saw him. For this Democrat, it is his tale of heroism as a prisoner of
Woman in the audience
at a town hall meeting in Riverside, California: "I have to feel good
about the man. Here stands a man that not only talks the talk, but did the
"McCain seems to be capturing the imagination of voters, but so far that
doesn't seem to be helping him win the nomination...."
After pointing out how
he's only won a third of Republican votes so far and how upcoming GOP
primaries won't allow Democrats to vote, Douglass noted another challenge:
"Democrats may want to vote for their own front-runner, Al Gore, instead
of McCain. Without huge numbers of crossover voters, McCain may fail, which is
fine with Republican leaders."
As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Douglass
asserted: "They want their party to coalesce around its front-runner,
George Bush. Yet early on, they had hoped he would be the candidate who would
bring in new voters. Instead he has done just the opposite, locking in the
party faithful, but not appealing much beyond party lines. Today Bush insisted
he will demonstrate he is a unifying figure who will begin by repairing splits
in his own party caused by McCain's attacks on the Christian Right."
Douglass concluded: "So far, Bush has not shown the
capacity to attract all the people who are voting for John McCain."
Of course you could also say McCain has not shown the
capacity to attract the people who are voting for Bush, such as conservative
-- CBS Evening News
featured three stories on the GOP race. Traveling with Bush, reporter Phil
Jones noted how he "began his day in Georgia, clearly invigorated."
Jones quickly moved to McCain, asserting that he's optimistic about his
chances in California.
Jones played a soundbite of McCain saying it's time to
talk about Social Security and the surplus and not respond "to continued
assaults on my character." Viewers also heard Bush complain about
McCain's attacks, insisting that calling him an anti-Catholic bigot is
"beyond the reach."
Taking advantage of his employment at CBS, Jones showed
a clip of Bush's upcoming appearance on Letterman taped an hour before.
Letterman: "I know
that campaigning is difficult work. How do you look so youthful and
(That was about the only coherent exchange. See item #7
Jones concluded: "The Bush campaign is convinced it
has re-captured the high road in this battle and tonight McCain is under heavy
pressure to dial back on his attacks on Religious Right leaders Pat Robertson
and Jerry Falwell."
Up next, Dan Rather got rhythm: "With McCain
looking for Super Tuesday to help him make lost ground, Ohio is one of the
places he hopes to shake, rattle and roll up a victory."
From Cleveland, Bob Schiefer claimed that though Bush
has all the elected Republican leaders behind him, this past weekend McCain
drew "enormous crowds everywhere he went from Columbus on down to
Cincinnati. It made the Bush people nervous enough that they asked Bush to
make another swing through the state. He did that yesterday. It went very
well. Today I talked to people all over the state and they still believe now
Bush will take Ohio. But they also say if McCain should falter here they think
it would be the end of the McCain campaign. I would add just one thing, if
you're going to pick one place where there could be an upset, I think it
might be right here in Ohio."
The show ended with the first of what Rather promised
will be a series of "candidate close-ups" focused on character and
personality. First up, a glowing profile of McCain by Susan Spencer who even
managed to put a positive spin on the dislike of McCain by his Senate
colleagues, the only negative she even hinted about, allowing a former aide to
assert: "Senators are used to having their butts kissed."
She ended her piece: "Whether or not his maverick
style would work in the White House, it's sure stirring up voters. His style
and a heroic bio, with only a few remaining secrets."
Spencer to McCain:
"You won $2,000 on Jeopardy?"
indeed. Won the first time and lost the second time. I was crushed and
naturally I bet it all given my nature you know."
Spencer: "And on
Super Tuesday he'll be betting it all again."
Nothing wrong with such a positive profile, so long as
the other candidates receive equal treatment. We'll be monitoring.
-- NBC Nightly News.
Anchor Brian Williams asserted that Bush and Gore now have "the big
mo." Taking the opposite tack of ABC's Linda Douglass, NBC's Lisa
Myers emphasized Bush's upswing and how McCain is in trouble.
As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, she began:
"Emboldened by his clean sweep, a greatly relieved and confident George
W. Bush campaigns with new energy....In Georgia and later in Missouri, Bush
hammers away on education reform, which he hopes will peel independents and
moderates away from John McCain."
After a clip of Bush she shifted to McCain:
"Shrugging off his latest setback, McCain spends a second day
barnstorming California." Viewers heard McCain claim he's optimistic
about California before Myers cautioned:
"But amid signs of
a backlash, McCain today appears to at least soften his latest attacks on
leaders of the Religious Right. Yesterday he called them, quote, 'an evil
influence.' Today he says this:"
part of the light-hearted and, frankly, optimistic way we try to conduct this
campaign, and if it was taken in any other way, then I'd like to correct
that right now."
Myers: "But a
leading Republican who recently pronounced McCain the most electable says he
no longer thinks that because McCain went too far."
Bill Bennett, Empower
America: "To call them evil is quite something else. This is way over the
line. I think it's pretty extreme, quite extreme, reckless and
Myers: "And the
holy war has another casualty. Bush used to call McCain his buddy.
Myers to Bush: "Do
you still consider him a friend?"
Bush: "I try not
to take things personally in politics, and I'll of course assess things once
the campaign's ended, but calling somebody an anti-Catholic bigot is uh, is
beyond the reach."
When Myers finished NBC ran a piece by Claire Shipman on
questions being raised about when Bill Bradley will drop out and the brewing
arguments among his advisors about "key campaign mistakes."
Jeff Greenfield. During Wednesday night's CNN/Los Angeles Times debate
between Al Gore and Bill Bradley, CNN's Greenfield, as he did a week ago at
the Apollo Theater debate (see the February 23 CyberAlert), actually posed a
question from the right to the two liberals. He pressed them about condemning
Republicans for condoning bigotry while cozying up to Al Sharpton, asking:
"Don't you have an obligation to be equally forthright in condemning such
language by people who tend to be more on the Democratic side of things?"
Al Gore replied by saying, "I would not be so quick
as to completely dismiss what he has to say about some of these issues"
since he represents many people. "I think that he has grown,"
declared Bill Bradley in defending his contact.
The March 1 debate, held inside the Los Angeles Times
building, aired live on CNN from 6 to 7:30pm PT. Moderator Bernard Shaw took
questions from the audience and via e-mail and two reporters got to pose two
questions each. Los Angeles Times reporter Ron Brownstein went first, pushing
the candidates to advocate more federal intervention:
"Mr. Vice President, in your answers, both of you,
on the question about the Supreme Court, you each expressed a desire to see
that the laws remain adjusted to the times. In light of that, I want to ask
you about a subject that's on the minds of a lot of people here in California
and elsewhere around the country. A generation ago, to safeguard the civil
rights of black Americans, the federal government moved in and overrode a
traditional state function in terms of registering voters and running the
rules of local elections.
"Today, in light
of the Diallo case in New York, the Rampart scandal here, do you see a need
for the federal government to take an active, assertive role in systematically
involving itself and intervening in cases of local police malfeasance?"
Greenfield then posed a more challenging question:
President, this whole question of racial justice brings us back to answers
that you and the Senator gave a few moments ago and it raises the question of
how consistent outrage has to be. You have both condemned the flying of the
Confederate flag, you've spoken out about anti-gay bigotry, you've spoken out
about Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, neither of whom I think it fair to say
are likely to support either of you anyway.
"But both of you
have met with Reverend Al Sharpton, a person who was found by a jury to have
libeled a New York State prosecutor with highly inflammatory remarks falsely
alleging an attack on a young black woman, which could have led to a genuine
racial dilemma, and he is also been someone who has repeatedly used very
inflammatory language about whites and other ethnic groups.
"Now I'm asking,
if the Republican candidates have an obligation to forcefully, unambiguously
condemn extremists on their side, don't you have an obligation to be equally
forthright in condemning such language by people who tend to be more on the
Democratic side of things?"
Neither candidate would disassociate themselves from
Sharpton. Gore began his answer: "I do condemn the language that he used.
I think that in America we believe in redemption and the capacity of all of
our people to transcend limitations that they have made evident in their lives
in the past..."
Bradley replied: "I don't agree with everything
Reverend Sharpton has said or done, but I think that he has grown. We have to
allow people the right to grow. We have to allow people the right to evolve.
And in the process, he has, in many cases, kept the lid on otherwise dangerous
situations that were beginning to develop." Bradley added: "It
sometimes takes someone that rubs a part of the population the wrong way in
order to get the attention focused on the issue at hand. I view his activities
in that light. As I said, there are things that he's done, things that
Imagine the media reaction if a Republican applied such
rationalizations to defending alliances with David Duke who, after all,
represents the views of a segment of the white Southern population.
While on a Bob
Jones-related topic, Bob Jones the something, whichever one is President of
BJU, will be the guest on Friday night's Larry King Live.
bothering with balance, Wednesday night the CBS Evening News uncritically
relayed President Clinton's exploitation of the shootings in Michigan and
Pennsylvania in order to once again criticize Congress and campaign for gun
control. The night before, Geraldo Rivera maintained that Second Amendment
defenders should be "ashamed" and sarcastically suggested a new NRA
slogan: "Guns don't kill people, first graders kill people."
-- On the March 1 CBS Evening News, after stories on the
two shootings, Dan Rather intoned: "Appearing today before a group of
high-tech industry workers, President Clinton urged Congress to pass at least
modest measures to try to reduce gun crimes before a scheduled break for
Congress next week. Chances of that happening are slim to none, but the
President said it's high time for the Congress to do more to keep guns away
from criminals and children."
Clinton: "You have
had legislation now that would require child safety locks, would close the gun
show loophole, would take other steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands for
well over six months."
That was it. No balancing counter-point. In the case of
the Michigan shooting of a six-year-old by another six-year-old, the
murderer's father was already in prison and the kid was living in a
"flop house" full of drugs and guns. NBC's Jim Avila, in fact,
reported that the gun the kid found in his house was itself stolen a few
months before from a neighbor's house. The futility in such a circumstance
of a law requiring trigger locks didn't deter Rivera:
-- MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this indignant
outburst from Rivera as uttered on the February 29 Rivera Live on CNBC:
suggesting today that maybe the NRA, the National Rifle Association should
modify its well known slogan to read, 'Guns don't kill people, first
graders kill people.' Now I'm the father of a first grader so this story
really shocked me to my very core. The news this morning from a school near
Flint, Michigan that a little girl was fatally shot by her classmate in the
"Anyone who hides
behind the 2nd Amendment, you know the right to keep and bear arms should be
ashamed of themselves tonight. 250 million guns in this country. This is
sickening. When does it stop? When do they let laws get passed like safe
storage of your own damn guns?....It just makes me sick."
showcased an anecdotal claim of an inability to afford a prescription, made by
a political crusader labeled simply as a "Medicare recipient," to
portray those against Bill Clinton's universal prescription coverage plan as
In a Tuesday night story Diana Olick deplored how the
woman in question cannot afford her medicine, although somehow she's
currently managing, and then concluded by claiming that Clinton has the proper
position, insisting he "may be helping more than just senior
citizens" as Al Gore will benefit "if Republicans refuse to
budge" since then, she stated as fact, "they'll be handing
Democrats a potent weapon."
Olick began her February 29 CBS Evening News report by
highlighting how Bill Clinton released a study on the costs of drugs to
elderly, a "calculated attempt" to spur Congress to pass his plan to
have Medicare cover prescription costs for all recipients. After a soundbite
from Clinton, she noted that Republicans want the benefit targeted to the
poor. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott argued that Democrats want the
government to pay for everyone, whether poor or Bill Gates.
After explaining how "the Republican plan draws the
eligibility line at $12,750, making the majority of seniors ineligible,"
Olick related her sob story.
Viewers saw a woman on
screen, obviously next to a Capitol Hill gathering, wearing a shirt
proclaiming: "Affordable Rx Now." But on-screen CBS identified her
just as Ula Johnson, "Medicare recipient." She complained:
"When I pay that in my rent, all my money's gone."
Johnson, whose income is just over the Republican limit, is struggling under
her prescription bills."
Johnson: "I talked
with my doctor and tried to get him to cut it and he said he could not take
the medicine from me, I need my medicine."
Olick: "So you
need these drugs but you really can't afford them?"
Johnson: "No I
Olick then concluded
her story by endorsing Clinton's take on the policy: "President Clinton
may be helping more than just senior citizens. Al Gore is pushing this same
Medicare plan and if Republicans refuse to budge they'll be handing
Democrats a potent weapon for the battle this fall."
How lazy can you get, grabbing a woman at a protest to
use as your example of a typical senior in need. And, as usual, no mention of
taxpayers who are burdened by the cost of these nice-sounding giveaways.
& World Report this week picked up on a media quote showcased in a
CyberAlert last week. The "In Quotes" column, on the second page of
the "Washington Whispers" section in the March 6 issue, lists this
wasn't even in the top 10. Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you've heard of him.' --
Bryant Gumbel, when his CBS Early Show co-host guessed Reagan was the best
The exchange took place on the February 21 The Early
Show, as described in a February 22 CyberAlert item about Gumbel and co-host
Jane Clayson discussing an upcoming interview about a C-SPAN survey of
historians to rank Presidents:
Gumbel: "Well later on this morning we're going
to be talking on this President's Day about this presidential survey. 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."
dropped his pen on the desk and exclaimed: "First?!?!"
Clayson: "Who was
Gumbel chastised her:
"No! Reagan wasn't even in the top ten. Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you've
heard of him."
To view video of this in RealPlayer format, go to:
show host Michael Reagan had a brief and testy exchange Tuesday night on
Reagan's nationally syndicated talk show, culminating with Reagan saying
good-bye in mid-interview when McCain wouldn't move on and relent in his
attacks on Pat Robertson. Wednesday night FNC's Hannity & Colmes opened
by playing an audio tape of the four-minute interview. But if you missed that,
you can get a sense of what took place from a news story about the incident
and transcript of the interview posted on the MRC's CNSNews.com site.
For the news story by Susan Jones relating what took
place, "Testy McCain Bickers with Conservative Talk Show Host," go
For the transcript, go to:
to describe George W. Bush's appearance, via satellite from St. Louis, on
Wednesday night's Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. I think the word
"painful" conveys the experience of watching what happened, but that
would understate had badly Bush performed. He delivered a series of bad jokes
about Letterman's heart surgery which generated groans and boos from the
audience, didn't seem to understand how he was supposed to have lighthearted
retorts, not the same old serious read off cue-card responses, to
Letterman's questions, and he kept laughing at the most inopportune times.
As later guest Candice Bergen told Letterman in
suggesting Bush's team would not be pleased by how he came off: "I
think you can kiss Secretary of State goodbye."
I'm sure not being at the Ed Sullivan Theater
contributed to the problems, as it's hard to judge an atmosphere when you
are not in the room and by satellite you only hear a disconnected voice. Plus,
there's the two second sound delay which leads to people talking over each
Tonight Show viewers enjoyed a far better performance
from John McCain, who bantered comfortably with Jay Leno as he told the same
old one-liners and jokes he's been using for months, but they were fresh to
the studio audience.
We'll soon know if Bush can do better in person. Late
Show Executive Producer Rob Burnett told Letterman that Bush can't appear in
person on the Late Show on Monday before the New York primary because he will
be in Burbank that day to appear on the Tonight Show. --
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