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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday March 9, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 42) |

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Gore A Bush Victim; Exploiting Tragedy for Gun Control; Sarandon's Pick

1) Dan Rather warned that Gore will soon be the victim of Bush's "negative attack ads and phone banks," but setting up a piece on Gore's day, Rather stressed how Gore was "reaching out" and saying that the Bush agenda "is outside the American mainstream."

2) The three morning shows on Wednesday all raised Gore's 1996 fundraising practices but none mentioned Maria Hsia's conviction.

3) Today demanded that Gore and Bush react to the claim that Bush is a "Pat Robertson Republican." NBC's David Bloom castigated Bush for his campaign's tone. Katie Couric admired how Gore managed to "craftily associate" Bush "with the extreme right-wing," but ABC's Charles Gibson amazingly noted that Gore "was pushed to the left."

4) The MRC's posting of video from MSNBC of John McCain telling NBC's Maria Shriver on Tuesday night, "please get out of here," was plugged by the Drudge Report and Shriver conceded she parachuted in for the event and had never previously seen McCain.

5) Dan Rather exploited tragedy in order to push a liberal goal: "There was a deadly ambush in Memphis today and fresh fuel for the hot campaign issue of gun control."

6) Tom Brokaw denied there is any liberal media bias, but conceded that John McCain's conservative views don't "square with a lot of the reporters who have become very infatuated with him."

7) Actress Susan Sarandon has picked Ralph Nader as her presidential candidate because he's identified "what's happening to our food and water" and "he can speak the truth."


Day One of the fall presidential campaign, which got under way Wednesday, presented CBS Evening News viewers with a case study in the biased framework through which network reporting will describe the Bush versus Gore battle. Introducing a story on the Bush campaign anchor Dan Rather focused on how Gore will soon be the victim of his "negative attack ads and phone banks." But setting up a piece on Gore's day, Rather stressed how Gore was "reaching out" to Bradley supporters and saying that the Bush agenda "is outside the American mainstream."

    ABC's Dean Reynolds insisted that "his primary race transformed Bush into a darling of arch-conservatives." ABC, CBS and NBC picked up on Gore's admission that fundraising "mistakes" were made in 1996, but allowed his attempt to blunt the issue succeed as neither network mentioned how it went beyond mistakes as a Gore fundraiser was convicted last week.

    Here are some notes and quotes from the broadcast network evening shows on Wednesday night, March 8, the day after Super Tuesday:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Linda Douglass summarized speculation about what McCain will do next and then Dean Reynolds looked at the Bush campaign. Reynolds asserted:
    "His primary race transformed Bush into a darling of arch-conservatives when he really needs the backing of moderates who supported John McCain....He'll try by emphasizing compassion over conservatism, overtures to African Americans and Hispanics, calls for improved public schools, tax relief for the working poor."

    Next, Terry Moran checked in from the Gore camp, beginning his upbeat piece: "With a victor's bounce in his step Vice President Gore boarded Air Force Two carrying a new message: He's the reform candidate. He is calling on the Republican to renounce television and radio ads and ban so-called soft money. That might be a tough sell given Gore's notorious 1996 appearance at a Buddhist temple where campaign funds were illegally raised. But the Vice President is trying to blunt that criticism by saying he's a changed man."
    Gore: "I've learned from my mistakes..."

    No mention of Maria Hsia's conviction which World News Tonight gave 19 seconds last week.

    -- CBS Evening News. Phil Jones handled the top story on McCain speculation, concluding that the burden is on Bush: "At the very least, all this independent talk is a signal to Governor Bush, if he wants McCain's support he going to have to deal with a maverick on reform issues."

    Now compare and contrast how Dan Rather introduced the next two stories. First, a piece on Bush:
    "As for George Bush the younger, there's every reason to expect tat the millions spent on negative attack ads and phone banks used against McCain will soon be dialing up and against Al Gore."

    Second, a story on Gore: "For his part Al Gore wasted no time reaching out to Bradley's backers, bidding for voters cut for McCain and the view that the Bush agenda, is in Gore's view, outside the American mainstream."

    In the first piece Bill Whitaker portrayed Bush as tough:
    "The man called the father of compassionate conservatism, Bush's self-proclaimed guiding philosophy, says don't confuse the Governor or the concept with being soft."
    Marvin Olasky, University of Texas: "Compassionate conservatism is tough love. It gets rough at times, you have to fight at times and I think this is part of the same process in political campaigns if someone's shooting at you you have to shoot back."

    But Whitaker then moved from painting Bush as tough to portraying him as mean and unfair: "Head of the Texas Democratic Party, Molly Beth Malcolm, has seen two gubernatorial candidates fall to Bush."
    Malcolm: "He will be anything he needs to be, wherever he needs to be to win."
    Whitaker: "She says he's a street fighter who with the help of wealthy backers will pull out all stops to succeed."
    Pouring on the hyperbole, Malcolm argued: "We're gonna see it all over again and I predict this will be the meanest, dirtiest, ugliest race there has ever been."
    Whitaker concluded: "Now exit polls yesterday show voters saw John McCain as running the meaner GOP race. The test for Bush now, to maintain his positive image while going up against perhaps an even tougher opponent."

    In the piece on Gore John Roberts stressed: "With a clear path to the nomination, Gore is now actively laying out plans for an eight month turf war over independent voters and moderate Republicans." The closest Roberts came to blaming Gore for negative campaigning was allowing political scientist John Geer to predict that it will be a "nasty campaign." Roberts actually spent more time on how Bush is the aggressor, concluding:
    "Watch for Bush in the coming months to hit hard on Gore's soft spot -- the campaign finance scandals of 1996. Gore has admitted he made mistakes in 1996, but hasn't been completely forthcoming about what all of those mistakes were."

    -- NBC Nightly News. After an opening story on what McCain may do next, Tom Brokaw intoned: "Whatever McCain decides, the Republican Party is like a family feud that suddenly deteriorated into an unexpectedly bloody brawl. Now how to patch it all up again."

    Lisa Myers began by noting how the current party split is not nearly as bad as the 1976 Ford-Reagan fight. Late in the piece Myers played this soundbite from former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan: "And he's got to convince people that he is not soft. He is gentle, but he's not soft, he's smart, he can do this, he has internal strength. He's got six months to do that."
    Myers concluded: "For all the worries, and there are many, one important note of optimism among Republicans. They think George W. Bush is more likable than Al Gore, and in picking a President, experts say most voters vote for the man, not based on issues."

    Finally, Claire Shipman looked at Gore. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, Shipman noted how Gore is making a play for McCain voters who want campaign finance reform. She cautioned: "It may be a hard sell after serving as Vice President for seven years and still answering questions about that Buddhist temple fundraiser, but Gore is carefully trying to take the steam out of that incident, admitting a mistake and at the same time likening himself to John McCain."

    Al Gore: "I've learned from my mistakes. Like John McCain, I bring personal experience to the cause and commitment of campaign finance reform."


All three morning shows on Wednesday raised the issue of Al Gore's 1996 fundraising practices, but none alerted viewers to the fact that the organizer of the Buddhist temple event, Maria Hsia, was convicted on five counts last Thursday for funneling money from straw donors, a development the shows all skipped last Friday morning.

    Interviewing Gore, Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson asked: "Senator, Governor Bush last night said that he's going to remind Americans that they don't want a White House where there is 'no controlling legal authority.' Those last four words, a quote of yours that go back to the fundraising troubles that your campaign had in '96. One of your aides convicted this week of campaign financing abuses and Senator Bradley said during the campaign that, that it's going to haunt you, campaign fundraising in '96, until you make a full explanation of the campaign's activities in that year. Are you going to have to do that, Mr. Vice President?"

    Later, Gibson raised the issue with George Stephanopoulos:
    "As I mentioned, talking to the Vice President -- the speeches from Gore and from Bush were almost road maps of what their fall campaign is going to be, and it was interesting that Al Gore made a sort of mea culpa for the fundraising abuses in '96. Let's take look at that clip."
    Vice President Gore: "Like John McCain, I bring a commitment born of personal experience to the battle for campaign finance reform. I've learned from my mistakes. I know it's time to change a broken system."
    Gibson: "He's got to explain the Buddhist Temple, and he's starting to do it right away?"
    Stephanopoulos: "And he knows he's going to see it all the time, and it's pretty smart. When you have the biggest audience, make that big apology, show people that you can grow and change over the course of the campaign. It's not going to stop Bush from attacking it...."

    Over on CBS's The Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd caught this question from co-host Bryant Gumbel to Gore: "As we look ahead, along with many others, Senator Bradley as you know has said that you will lose the general election unless you offer the voters a better explanation for the '96 fundraiser at the Buddhist temple. I know you have pleaded naivete, I know you've said it was a mistake, but will you yet give voters a more thorough answer?"

     Maybe The Early Show could offer "more thorough" reporting and actually mention Maria Hsia's conviction.

    On NBC's Today Katie Couric asked Tim Russert about Gore's fundraising, but I didn't get that transcribed.


NBC's Today on Wednesday morning demanded that both Al Gore and George Bush react to John McCain's claim that Bush is a "Pat Robertson Republican" and NBC's David Bloom castigated Bush for complaining about White House demagoguery on Social Security and Gore's fundraising, asking: "Is that the sort of campaign this is going to be?" While Katie Couric admired how Gore managed to "craftily associate George W. Bush with the extreme right-wing of the GOP," ABC's Charles Gibson, in what is probably a network first, noted that during the primaries Al Gore "was pushed to the left."

    -- Pat Robertson Republican. Today co-host Matt Lauer to Al Gore: "During the primary campaign John McCain repeatedly called George W. Bush a Pat Robertson Republican, is he?"

    David Bloom in a taped interview with Bush: "Let me ask you about Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition, John McCain says that you're a 'Pat Robertson Republican.' Is that a badge of honor you will wear with pride into the general election?"

    -- Castigating Bush's tone and issue agenda. Bloom lectured Bush: "One of the things you said in your speech last night, was you accused the Clinton-Gore administration of demagoguery when it comes to Social Security and of giving Americans a White House where there is 'no controlling legal authority.' Is that the sort of campaign this is going to be?"

    -- "Extreme right-wing" Bush versus Al Gore "pushed to the left." Picking up on Gore's comment earlier in the show that the "extreme right" had a "big influence" on Bush's positions, on Today co-host Katie Couric asked Tim Russert:
    "Just a few minutes ago we heard the Vice President sort of craftily associate George W. Bush with the extreme right-wing of the GOP. As George W. Bush tries to slide to the middle, will we repeatedly hear Al Gore say not so fast?"
    Russert: "Absolutely...."

    To whatever extent Bush has moved right, Al Gore has moved left or already was on the extreme left, but that's never been mentioned this year by any network reporter as far as I can recall. At least not until Wednesday's Good Morning America. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this question from Charles Gibson to George Stephanopoulos:
    "And what happens to the McCain voters? Now, interesting exit polls yesterday. Thirty-seven percent of McCain voters saying they would probably vote for Al Gore when it comes to the fall. You have two candidates now, Al Gore who was pushed to the left by Bill Bradley, and George Bush who was pushed to the right by John McCain. Who gets into the center and where does the McCain vote go?"


The MRC's posting of video from MSNBC of John McCain telling NBC's Maria Shriver on Tuesday night, "please get out of here," was plugged by the Drudge Report and Shriver conceded she parachuted in for the event and had never previously seen McCain.

    A headline on the Drudge Report page on Wednesday announced: "VIDEO: McCain was passing NBC NEWS reporter Maria Shriver on the way to his Super Tuesday speech, when Shriver asked him: "Senator McCain, how are you feeling tonight?" McCain shot back "Please, get out of here!"... MSNBC host Brian Williams was left speechless."
    The item linked to the video featured in Wednesday's CyberAlert, thus driving up MRC Web page activity to a point where some were denied access. The video clip remains up and you can see it by going to:

    The Drudge address: http://www.drudgereport.com

    A story by Richard Huff in Thursday's New York Daily News reported: "The incident caused a minor rumble. WFAN radio host Don Imus, a McCain supporter, made the Shriver incident - and criticizing Shriver and Williams -- a major point of humor during yesterday's program, which is simulcast on MSNBC.
    "'I think it's always a surprise when a candidate tells off a reporter, and frankly, regular viewers of our Web site would truly enjoy seeing a reporter told off, especially a Kennedy,' said Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, which posted the incident on its Web site yesterday."

    The incident occurred as McCain was on his way to deliver his concession speech. Just after he finished it Shriver and MSNBC anchor Brian Williams discussed his outburst. Asked by Williams if she'd been hounding him, Shriver replied: "Actually, that's the first time I've ever seen him....never have spoken to him and doubt I'll be speaking to him again in the future."
    Williams: "I'm getting that impression as we talk."
    Shriver, laughing like a teenager: "I don't think he liked me!"
    Williams: "For the record, you're well like among employees and you homework's always in on time."

    Note how she boasted about having never even seen McCain before. That says a lot about network news priorities. Instead of assigning experienced reporters to campaign events on big days who might be able to pick up on subtle changes in a candidate's words or tone, they sign contracts with stars like Shriver guaranteeing they can parachute in on big events. So much for any interest in quality reporting.


For the past two nights the CBS Evening News has exploited gun violence in order to chide Congress for not enacting more gun control regulations.

    Introducing a March 8 story on a man in Memphis who shot firefighters trying to put out a fire in his house, Rather intoned: "There was a deadly ambush in Memphis today and fresh fuel for the hot campaign issue of gun control."

    Bob McNamara concluded the subsequent story: "Across the country, the new year has had a bloody beginning. From Pittsburgh to Michigan to Memphis, the combination of guns and life gone wrong has triggered a national debate. But while Washington wonders what to do, almost every day there is fresh evidence that Americans are dying for something to change."

    On March 7 Dan Rather complained: "President Clinton met today with congressional leaders, pushing them for new gun control laws in response to more shocking gun violence. It's been a week since a six-year-old Michigan girl was shot dead by another six-year-old. As CBS's Diana Olick reports, the little girl's death has many wondering what, if anything, more can be done and asking why Congress hasn't done anything for months."

    Reporter Diana Olick ran soundbites from Clinton and Democratic Congressman John Conyers before giving Senator Orrin Hatch a few seconds to point out that current proposals wouldn't have prevented recent incidents. Olick concluded: "And in an election year some charge the politicians would rather have a divisive issue than pass a gun bill. Congressional leaders refuse even to call a meeting of negotiators. Instead, they're caught in an epidemic of finger-pointing."


Tom Brokaw denied there is any liberal media bias, but conceded that John McCain's conservative views on such things as the environment, abortion or military policy, don't "square with a lot of the reporters who have become very infatuated with him."

    MRC analyst Paul Smith caught this exchange from Brokaw's appearance on Monday's Larry King Live on CNN.

    Caller: "I remember reading the poll numbers in the last election, and I was very curious to hear your take on this, because I have a lot of respect for your take. Eighty percent of the mainstream media ended up favoring Bill Clinton in the election. And you hear a lot about the media bias on radio and on television. Do you believe this media bias exists?"

    King piped up: "The poll said they may have voted for Bill Clinton. That doesn't mean they're biased toward him. Have you ever seen it, Tom, bias?"

    Brokaw explained: "No. I think what's happened this time is that John McCain is getting very good press treatment, but then he's found a way into the hearts and minds of these reporters by inviting them on the bus and talking to them straight from the shoulder, admitting when he makes a big faux pas of some kind. And I think it has helped his candidacy. There's no question about that. I think the, after New Hampshire and then especially Michigan, the Bush campaign learned that it would have to make their candidate more accessible to reporters on a daily basis. So reporters are like everyone else: They, you know, they kind of go with the ebb and flow of the personality of a candidate. But if you take John McCain's policies on the environment or on abortion or on military policy, it probably doesn't square with a lot of the reporters who have become very infatuated with him, just because he seems to be, again, one of these authentic people."

    Brokaw later returned to the caller's original inquiry: "Now to your larger question about are reporters biased, now I really don't think that they are. I think that most of us are registered, as I am, which is decline to or as independents. I never have revealed who I've ever voted for. But I can tell, it crosses back and forth between party lines. And I think most people feel that way who are reporters. You know, if one of us begins to really tilt the coverage toward one candidate, there are a hundred others behind us who will be pointing that out to you or you'll be able to go to another channel or another newspaper or another radio station, and find out the other side of the story."

    A May 1996 MediaWatch article, "Media Clique Clap for Clinton," summarized the poll to which the caller was referring:

When Americans went to the polls in 1992, 43 percent voted for Bill Clinton and 38 percent for George Bush. But the results were very different in another America, the news media's Washington bureaus. A poll of 139 bureau chiefs and congressional reporters discovered 89 percent pulled the lever for Clinton and seven percent picked Bush.

In mid-April the Freedom Forum released a report examining media-congressional relations. Buried in the appendix were "a few final questions for classification purposes only." These were part of a 58 question Roper Center survey completed by mail in November and December 1995.

Asked "How would you characterize your political orientation?" 61 percent said "liberal" or "liberal to moderate." Only nine percent labeled themselves "conservative" or "moderate to conservative."...

    END Excerpt

    To read the entire article, go to:


On Monday's Lifetime Live, the new noontime ET talk show co-produced by ABC News, the Lifetime cable channel gave a platform to Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday they showcased liberal pontificating from actress Susan Sarandon who praised Ralph Nader, advocated "campaign finance reform" and regretted how male politicians don't care as much as women do about education and child care.

    MRC analyst Jessica Anderson transcribed the political portion of Sarandon's March 7 interview by Lifetime Live co-host Dana Reeve:

    Reeve: "I want to know your response because I saw you watching the political roundtable, which I thought was really, really interesting. So what issues are important to you in this election?"

    Sarandon: "Well, I have to say, you know, just blah, blah, blah. These guys talking about nothing, really, nothing of substance. Maybe it's too early, I don't know, but I don't see anybody sounding any different than anybody else, except on choice, really. I think that it's just the same old -- I mean, no wonder nobody's particularly excited. I mean, maybe Ralph Nader's saying something that's -- he's at least identified corporate problems, you know, in terms of, kind of, the issues that were brought up in Seattle, and what's happening to our food and our water and our kids' education and, you know, poverty. I mean, something of some substance, I don't hear anything that's making me want to run out."
    Reeve: "But he's not even on the radar screen today."
    Sarandon: "Well, of course not, because that's why he can speak the truth. I suppose you have to be just constantly -- how cynical I am, but everyone's just trying to get the money to keep these long campaign going, so I suppose we have to go after campaign, you know, finance reform, first of all. I mean, who can afford to run this long if it's so much TV and everything that you need unless you've completely sold out by the time you get in, and it's great to be in a place with all women talking about things, you know, and you start to say, 'Oh, yeah, that's, I'm in the real world now, here I am, and I'm hearing things that mean something to me,' but you won't find it, so I guess it's all grassroots."

    Reeve agreed: "Yeah, I think, and the idea of women's issues versus issues that are more widespread, I think, it was touched upon in the conversation, that really issues like education and issues like childcare, you know, wake up, folks, they're actually not just women's issues."
    Sarandon: "Well, they shouldn't be just women's issues. I mean, I remember doing a documentary and it was in Norway where they did a study of, you know, there are a lot of women and men in government, and they found the top ten words that were used by both over a period of a year and they were drastically different. These were the lawmakers. And the women tended to use 'we,' 'education,' 'children,' and the men tended to say 'minister of finan' -- whatever, 'money,' that they weren't focused on the same things. So of course we should all be interested in our future and our kids in the same ways, but that's not the way the world is working at the moment."
    Reeve: "Well, now you've long, you've been an advocate for women's rights, you've been an advocate for children, you've been an advocate for human rights ever since I think you could speak."
    Sarandon: "I just can't shut up, I know!"

    Well, we'll at least cut her off at this point. -- Brent Baker


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