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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday March 8, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 41) |

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McCain Lashed Out Live; Brokaw Named Hsia; Gore "Mainstream" & Bush "Extreme"

1) Live on MSNBC an angry John McCain, on the way to deliver his concession speech, lashed out at Maria Shriver, responding to a shouted question by demanding: "Please get out of here."

2) Interviewing Al Gore CBS's Dan Rather refused to say the name "Maria Hsia," but NBC's Tom Brokaw focused on her after hitting Laura Bush from the left on abortion, questioning if Bush "can continue to win the support of women." Brokaw contended that soft money TV ads for Bush negate attacks on Gore's temple fundraising.

3) The "right" controls the GOP but liberals don't control the Democratic Party; Bush must "repair" damage done in SC; obsessing over McCain calling Bush "Clintonesque"; and though seeing no need for Gore to moderate, insisting Bush must move "to the middle."

4) Gore's strategists plan on "spinning Gore as the mainstream candidate and George Bush as extreme." Just like the news media.

5) Focusing on liberal marchers against Jeb Bush's efforts to eliminate Florida's racial quota system, CBS's Byron Pitts imbued them with the same moral authority as "the demonstrators in Selma 35 years ago who were beat back with night sticks and tear gas."

6) A just-released study by the MRC's Free Market Project determined that network news evening show coverage favored McCain's tax cut plan over the one proposed by Bush.

     >>> Shhh on Hsia in the news magazines too. The latest MagazineWatch, about the March 13 editions, is now online thanks to MRC Webmaster Andy Szul. The first item in the issue compiled by the MRC's Paul Smith with a late update from Tim Graham: U.S. News & World Report and Time only briefly mentioned the conviction of Al Gore's Buddhist temple fundraiser Maria Hsia. Newsweek wrote nothing even though Howard Fineman focused on the GOP's plans to run ads about the temple event. Time mentioned Hsia only as a loser in its "Winners and Losers" feature with the message: "Gore ally found guilty. Get ready for an autumn of Buddhist temple ads."
    The other items in MagazineWatch:
2. Time and U.S. News found "it is Gore who now finds himself almost exactly where he wants to be, while Bush scrambles madly to assure people he barely knows Bob Jones."
3. Time was the only news magazine to note McCain's comparison of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to anti-Semites Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton. But Newsweek's Jonathan Alter called that speech "a milestone" for a new Republican Party.
4. In his "Washington Whispers" feature, U.S. News Senior Writer Paul Bedard featured generals complaining that young officers are leaving at record rates due to "Too much mandated diversity training, not enough war training, and micromanagement from bosses 'more concerned with making sure nothing goes wrong on their watch.'"
    To read these, complete with links to the articles, go to: http://archive.mrc.org/news/magwatch/mag20000308.html <<<

Correction: The March 7 CyberAlert relayed that when asked on Lifetime about going grocery shopping Hillary Clinton answered that "it's 'neat' to see the new stuff and meet her neighbors." In fact, Hillary did not use the word "neat." She actually replied in part: "It is so much fun for me to just go up and down those aisles and see what's out."


A display of John McCain's anger, live on MSNBC. As he walked through a crowd on his way to delivering his concession speech Tuesday night, NBC's Maria Shriver asked him "how do you feel?" McCain spun around and sternly commanded Shriver: "Please get out of here." The rebuke stunned MSNBC anchor Brian Williams.

    The incident occurred at about 8:20pm PT/11:20pm ET. While Lisa Myers was answering a question from Williams he cut her off to go to Los Angeles and Shriver just in time to catch McCain and his wife walking through a crowd. As they did a 180 in order to go down some stairs they passed Shriver, who asked: "Senator how do you feel?" McCain replied: "What?" Shriver raised her voice at McCain who had passed her and again asked: "How do you feel?" followed by what sounded like "How does it feel?" though her exact words were muffled. At that point, just before he hit the stairs, McCain spun around to look back at Shriver, brusquely ordering: "Please get out of here."

    McCain proceeded down the stairs and out of camera range as Shriver told Williams: "Well, there you heard it." A stunned Williams, clearly assuming McCain was seriously angry, observed: "Okay, a sharp rebuke there from Senator John McCain who I guess we can assume knew the circumstances and the correspondent there and nonetheless asked 'please get out of here' to our Maria Shriver posted in that hallway as John McCain goes into address the crowd there."

    McCain could not have picked a much better media target to upbraid as far as conservatives are concerned. During 1992 Democratic convention coverage Shriver suggested President Reagan should be blamed for AIDS deaths. She asked AIDS sufferer Elizabeth Glaser: "You place the responsibility for the death of your daughter squarely at the feet of the Reagan Administration. Do you believe they're responsible for that?"

    You can watch a video clip of that Shriver question on the MRC's Dishonor Awards Web page. Go to:

    If only McCain had re-directed his anger away from the Religious Right and toward the liberal media he might have won a few more primaries Tuesday night.

    ++ See how McCain lashed out at Shriver. Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a video clip, in RealPlayer format, of the McCain-Shriver confrontation as seen live on MSNBC. Go to: http://archive.mrc.org


In prime time interviews Tuesday night with George and Laura Bush followed by Al Gore, CBS's Dan Rather went gentler on Gore than Bush as he refused to say the name "Maria Hsia" even as he raised 1996 fundraising abuses. NBC's Tom Brokaw uttered the first mention of Hsia's name on the network, outside of Meet the Press, since her conviction last week, pressing Gore about it. But he hit Laura Bush from the left on abortion: "Your husband is strongly anti-abortion. Do you think he can continue to win the support of women in the fall despite that?"

    Brokaw contended that TV ads paid for by Bush donors negated his ability to criticize Gore over the temple fundraising. Carl Bernstein agreed: "He's lost the ability to really hammer away at the Buddhist temple because his sheets are not quite so clean."

    CBS dedicated the last few minutes of the 9pm ET/8pm CT 60 Minutes II to back-to-back interviews with the winners of the night. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, Dan Rather posed these questions to Mr. or Mrs. Bush:
    -- "Governor, polls show that John McCain beats Al Gore in the general election. They show that you aren't. Is the party nominating the wrong guy?"
    -- "Governor, would you offer the Vice Presidential slot to John McCain?"
    -- "Several people in Texas told me, Governor, that they expect you to ask General Colin Powell to run with you. Any truth to that?"
    -- "Governor, speaking of issues, Al Gore has said that in Texas, where you're Governor, that among women with health care, Texas ranks number 49. Children with health insurance, ranks number 50. Is that true and what does that tell us about you governorship?"
    -- "Mrs. Bush, have you talked to Cindy McCain any time for any length of time?....What did you talk about?"
    -- "Governor, in the short time we have left, the mainland Chinese have again threatened the Taiwanese. You favor letting the mainland Chinese into the World Trade Organization. What does that tell us about how you would handle the situation as President and what you would do about human rights in China?"
    -- "After the shooting of the first grader by another first grader in Michigan, President Clinton called for some new ideas on gun control. Now I know that in the main that you are opposed to gun control. Do you have any new ideas to help solve this problem?"

    Next, Rather interviewed Gore, but note the somewhat gentler tone as he didn't suggest to Gore that the party nominated the "wrong guy." One foreign policy question just like he approached Bush, but no explicit question demanding he reply to Bush criticism of his policy record and the fundraising question was vague:

    -- "Mr. Vice President, thank you for doing this tonight. Is there too much bad blood between you and Bill Bradley to consider him now for the Vice Presidential nomination?"
    -- "Mr. Vice President, there seems to be some distance between you and President Clinton. Do you plan to ask the President to join you on the campaign trail?"
    -- "Mr. Vice President, you've been point man in many ways for the United States relations of, with what used to be the Soviet Union, now Russia. Your Republican opponents criticize you constantly about that. For what that has gone wrong do you take responsibility?"
    -- "Mr. Vice President, both of your main Republican opponents and Bill Bradley say that you are vulnerable to the accusations about improprieties in the 1996 fundraising for Gore-Clinton. One, do you agree? Two, how are you gonna fight that?"

    Less than an hour later Tom Brokaw interviewed both men, plus Mrs. Bush, in a portion of the 10pm ET Dateline NBC simulcast on MSNBC. Brokaw's questions to the Bush couple, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
    -- "Having said all that one of the men who was the Republican presidential candidate in the past, Bob Dole, said tonight your party is fairly badly divided in his judgement. Is that your first priority to heal the wounds in the party?"
    -- "Governor we have done some analysis of the voting so far. And we've discovered that among independents who voted for John McCain 40 percent of them said that they would vote for Al Gore in the fall. In California among all the voters you were the only candidate to get less than 50 percent when it comes to a favorable rating. The Republicans have not done well with independents in the last two election cycles. That must be your first priority."
    -- "Mrs. Bush, as you know women are critical in these presidential elections so far. Republicans have not been doing well among women in the last few cycles in large part because the whole question of choice. Your husband is strongly anti-abortion. Do you think he can continue to win the support of women in the fall, despite that?"

    Next, Brokaw took on Al Gore:
    -- "Mr. Vice President let me begin by saying congratulations to you but also pointing out that Governor Bush said earlier today that when he was looking forward to the fall that in the Clinton administration you would rather fight than debate. Are you willing to renew your debate proposal to Governor Bush in the fall to debate, say every week?"
    -- After Gore called on Republicans to end "soft money," Brokaw queried: "Now that you've raised the money issue Mr. Vice President aren't you very vulnerable on that very issue as well. Because just last week in a federal court Maria Hsia, who was one of your principal fundraisers four years ago was found guilty on five felony counts?"
    -- "But Mr. Vice President you only got religion after Maria Hsia and after Mr. Chung, Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie. I mean four years ago the Democrats were every bit as guilty in the soft money area as you're claiming the Republicans are this time."

    As noted in the last three CyberAlerts, NBC Nightly News and Today have yet to mention Hsia's conviction last Thursday on five counts related to funneling donations through straw donors.

    Dateline switched back to its regular tabloid fare and Brokaw soon turned up on MSNBC to discuss his interviews with Chris Matthews, who reminded Brokaw that Gore "seemed to be a bit caught in the headlights when you asked the question about that infamous Buddhist temple visit from '96."
    Brokaw then equated fundraising which resulted in a criminal conviction with Bush friends legally funding ads: "Yeah everybody gets religion after they get their hands out of the cookie jar. And in his case you've got Connie, I mean Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie and Maria Hsia who was convicted last week of five counts of felony violations of the federal campaign laws. So that could be an issue that will come up in the presidential campaigns when they begin to debate next fall if Al Gore raises his finger and begins to wag it at George Bush for the soft money. And especially the Bush friends that he has in Texas going around financing all those attack ads. So I think that, that may be a neutral issue if you will between George Bush and Al Gore."

    Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame reinforced Brokaw's analysis:
    "Cleaning up the sleaze in politics generally. And that goes to the question of campaign finance money. Dirty money. George Bush has taken an awful lot of that kind of money. And I think one of the things that's happened to Bush in this run-up to the general election is he's lost the ability to really hammer away at the Buddhist temple because his sheets are not quite so clean. I think that Bush's winning this nomination had great cost. He's gonna have to move back to the center and that's going to be seen as being expedient as opposed to principled by a lot of people who are independents, who are Democrats. He really is gonna need a lot from John McCain in the upcoming election."

    (ABC landed the two winners for Nightline. Ted Koppel spent most of the Bush interview pressing him about Gore's gimmick idea of stopping all TV ads and debating twice a week. Interviewing Gore, Koppel asked if he would unilaterally disarm by not using soft money and then devoted most of the rest of the chat to questioning Gore about whether he really thinks Bush will accept the no TV ad offer.)


The "right" controls the GOP while liberals don't control the Democratic Party; Bush must "repair" damage done in South Carolina; CNN's Judy Woodruff obsessed over McCain's shot at Bush for being "Clintonesque"; and Tom Brokaw saw no need for Gore to moderate his views but insisted Bush must move "to the middle."

    Here are some of the bits of bias picked up Super Tuesday night, March 7, by the MRC's super team of analysts on the nightbeat: Geoffrey Dickens, Jessica Anderson, Paul Smith and Brad Wilmouth:

    -- Al Gore is no liberal. Bill Schneider on CNN at about 7:10pm ET: "McCain has been challenging conservative domination of the GOP and conservatives are not going to give up without a fight. On the other hand, Bradley tried to rally liberal opposition to Clintonism in the Democratic Party and he got nowhere. The right holds sway over the Republican party while in the other party New Democrats reign supreme."

    Maybe that's because Gore is already over on the left on most issues.

    -- During a ten minute long Super Tuesday update aired by ABC at 9pm ET, viewers heard this exchange about how Bush must "repair" supposed damage from South Carolina and appeal to McCain's liberal voters.
    Peter Jennings: "ABC's Dean Reynolds covers the Bush campaign. He's had a very good day today, Dean, and he has survived the primary season. Where does he think his repair jobs need to begin?"
    Dean Reynolds: "Well, I think he has to do some repairs of his image that came out of South Carolina, Peter, that of a very, very conservative candidate, and he allowed Senator McCain to, sort of, get the liberal to moderate vote; he needs to go back and get some of that. Tonight when he was looking at the returns coming in, he, his aides and the Governor were sort of strategizing about how they could do that, and of course, there will be a greater emphasis on issue like education, tax cuts and bringing the prosperity to all of the Americans, including those who have been left out of the Clinton-Gore prosperity."

    -- In the 10pm ET hour George Bush was pressed twice by CNN's Judy Woodruff about how McCain denigrated him as "Clintonesque." Woodruff inquired:
    "There's still some pretty tough words hanging out there if you will. John McCain saying over the weekend he is not sure if you are ready for prime time because of those breast cancer ads running in New York state. We also have Senator McCain saying your campaign is so Clintonesque it's scary. Again, a comment just a few days ago. Can you heal the rift in the party with language like this still coming from your opponent?"

    Woodruff kept up the drumbeat: "But when Senator McCain says your campaign is so Clintonesque it's scary, that it sounds more and more like the Clinton campaign. There was a point not so long ago when you said that was just unacceptable coming from him."

    -- Bush must move "to the middle." Tom Brokaw never suggested that Al Gore may have to moderate his liberal views, but at about 10:45pm ET he argued that Bush must. Referring to exit polls in California, Brokaw maintained:
    "I think in fact if you put the collective pool together he gets a 44 percent approval rating. So that's more than half of the people say they do have an unfavorable impression of him. Now in fairness he has a lot of time to make up for that and he doesn't have to pile back through Bob Jones University, South Carolina and some of the other places that gave him so much difficulties as he was trying to secure this nomination. But he has no greater challenge tonight than to try to move back to the middle and get some of those independents to vote for him. We'll be hearing a lot more about the compassionate conservative and the Texas governor whose been able to bring together all the elements of that state during his term in office down there."


Gore strategy matches the media spin against Bush. On Tuesday night's evening shows two reporters outlined how the Gore team plans to beat George Bush.

    On the NBC Nightly News David Bloom explained: "Even if he wins the Republican nomination the brutal primary fight has taken a heavy toll, bleeding Bush of his huge cash advantage over Gore. And McCain's charges that Bush is a captive of the religious right and ill prepared to be commander in chief are sure to be exploited by Gore this fall."

    Over on the CBS Evening News John Roberts relayed: "But with the campaign machine on autopilot his closest advisers are already posturing for the general election, spinning Gore as the mainstream candidate and George Bush as extreme."
    Bob Shrum, Gore campaign advisor, spewed: "With a budget-busting tax cut that favors the wealthy, with an extreme position against gun control and an extreme position against a woman's right to choose, I think we'll do very well against that kind of candidate."
    Roberts concluded his story: "Watch for Gore to play a little three-on-one with Bush, adopting the best ideas from both the Bradley and McCain campaigns and wrapping them up into one big ball of issues he hopes will slam dunk the Texas Governor."

    Funny, the Gore plans seem to overlap quite well with the anti-Bush spin which has dominated reporting over the last few weeks.


CBS News imbued a pro-quota rally against Florida Governor Jeb Bush with the moral righteousness of those in the 1960s who marched for voting rights. Anchor Dan Rather introduced a March 7 CBS Evening News piece:
    "In Florida this is not exactly a Super Tuesday for the other Governor Bush, George W's younger brother Jeb. His decision to scrap affirmative action programs in Florida, sparked a massive protest today in the state capital. The Governor calls his plan quote, 'racial progress,' but as CBS's Byron Pitts reports others call it rolling back the clock."

    Pitts began: "Men, women and children by the thousands took a page out of history when they took to the streets of Tallahassee this morning." Pitts reminded viewers that the march in Selma for the right to vote took place 35 years ago. After showing a guy at a podium shouting "no more Bush, no more Bush, no more Bush," Pitts claimed that with 10,000 marchers it was the "largest demonstration in state history."

    Viewers then saw a soundbite of Jesse Jackson denouncing Jeb Bush for issuing an executive order ending racial preferences in state college admissions and in the awarding state contracts. Pitts did acknowledge that polls show most Floridians support Jeb Bush's decision and Pitts played a clip of Bush in his state of the state address asserting that the number of minorities in colleges and receiving state contracts last year was higher than the year before.

    But Pitts concluded by equating the Florida protesters with those in Selma: "Backed by a Republican-led legislature, few believe Bush will be swayed by the protests and passions of people who didn't put him in office in the first place. But like the demonstrators in Selma 35 years ago who were beat back with night sticks and tear gas, those who gathered today said they'll be back here or in court."

    Pitts failed to point out any of the major differences in the two causes. Thirty-five years ago people marched against the policies of a Democratic Party-controlled state government in a quest to gain a basic civil right. Those protesting Tuesday were marching against a Republican Governor's efforts to reduce state-sanctioned racial discrimination.


Did network news coverage of the McCain and Bush tax cut plans favor McCain's agenda. Yes, determined a just-released study from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP). It found that in the six months leading up to the New Hampshire primary the "evening news broadcast quotes from 58 talking heads, but only one expert -- the director of a liberal public policy group" while no conservative was given a soundbite and "network reporters frequently labeled Bush's plan as 'big' and 'huge,' language that bolstered McCain's charge that a large tax cut was fiscally irresponsible."

    Here's the executive summary of the study conducted by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

When Bigger Isn't Better
ABC, CBS and NBC's Coverage of the GOP Tax-Cut Debate

It's puzzled pundits and confounded commentators: Why have many Republicans been eager to embrace the candidacy of Sen. John McCain, who makes a great show of the fact that he's proposed the smallest tax cut of any major Republican presidential candidate in a generation? Could it be because the national media have portrayed tax cuts as all risk and no reward?

To shed some light on the issue, the Media Research Center's Free Market Project reviewed every story on the ABC, CBS or NBC evening news that either featured or referenced the GOP tax-cut debate during the six months leading up to the New Hampshire primary (August 1 to January 31). The total sample consisted of 36 stories -- 31 field reports and five anchor-read briefs -- most of which aired during the final four weeks of the GOP primary campaign.

The key findings:

-- One Liberal Expert: The evening news broadcast quotes from 58 talking heads, but only one expert -- the director of a liberal public policy group who bashed George Bush's tax-cut plan;

-- Zero Conservative Experts: No conservative experts were quoted or cited in any GOP tax-cut story;

-- The Forbes Shut Out: Steve Forbes's flat-tax proposal, which was mentioned in 96 evening news stories four years ago, got just two passing references this year;

-- Bigger Is Badder: Network reporters frequently labeled Bush's plan as "big" and "huge," language that bolstered McCain's charge that a large tax cut was fiscally irresponsible;

-- No Room for Optimism: No network correspondent questioned whether McCain's budget projections were too low, even after the notoriously pessimistic CBO upped its surplus estimates by $1 trillion in late January.

"As it was shown on the evening news, the debate seemed to be about whether Bush's plan cut federal revenues too much, creating the possibility of future deficits. According to this framework, McCain's approach seemed prudent, and Bush's seemed risky. The fact that reporters themselves often echoed the same concern's about Bush's plan gave McCain an advantage in that debate," writes Richard Noyes, Director of MRC's Free Market Project.

    END reprint of executive summary

    For the full study, complete with quotes and graphs, go to:

    Look in the March 20 Fortune magazine for an article about this analysis. -- Brent Baker


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