Bush beat John McCain soundly in the primaries, but Bush's failure to adopt
McCain's losing issues and show a media-like level of admiration for McCain
angered NBC News. "John McCain's friends and advisors were stunned this
morning when they read a lengthy interview in the New York Times with George
W. Bush," NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw intoned Thursday night.
Brokaw grouched: "The Texas Governor was not exactly conciliatory."
Reporter David Gregory asserted that "it's the tone of Bush's
interview, considered by some dismissive of McCain, even arrogant, that set
off a firestorm." Gregory also highlighted the charge that Bush rewarded
donors with overnights at the Governor's Mansion.
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows led Thursday night
with the surge in the Dow with ABC touching politics only in an "It's
Your Money" segment on how Speaker Hastert diverted more Medicare money
to a hospital in his district. The CBS Evening News also avoided the campaign
but did run a 20-second item on the independent counsel's report on Filegate
while NBC allocated 18 seconds to making what I believe was the first
broadcast evening show mention of an effort in Arkansas to disbar Bill
On Filegate, CBS Evening News anchor Ed Bradley relayed:
"One of the
investigations of the Clinton administration officially ended today with no
charges filed. Independent Counsel Robert Ray, who last year replaced Kenneth
Starr, reported finding quote, 'no credible evidence' that Hillary Clinton
or senior White House aides were involved in illegally seeking FBI background
files on Republicans."
Over on the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw announced:
is a lawyer and a member of the Bar and he's now the target of a move in his
home state to have him disbarred. Today he asked Arkansas officials to delay a
decision until after he leaves office. An Arkansas lawyer's group wants his
law license revoked for giving false testimony in the Monica Lewinsky
Next, Brokaw discovered controversy in Bush's
interview with the New York Times as he let "John McCain's
friends" set the news agenda for NBC: "On the presidential campaign
trail, John McCain's friends and advisors were stunned this morning when
they read a lengthy interview in the New York Times with George W. Bush, the
man who beat McCain for the nomination. The Texas Governor was not exactly
In a piece which also ran on MSNBC's The News with
Brian Williams, reporter David Gregory asserted: "Worried that his latest
comments about Senator McCain will set back any chance of the Arizona Senator
endorsing him, Governor Bush, on a fundraising trip in Illinois today, reaches
out to his former rival."
Bush: "I look
forward to working with Senator McCain, as I said in my speech, he, he ran a
good campaign. He brought to forth some issues that are important."
Gregory got to what
Bush said that was so wrong, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
Governor backing away from an interview published today in which he makes no
concessions to McCain on the Senator's central issue, campaign finance
reform, saying, quote, 'He didn't change my views.' But it's the tone
of Bush's interview, considered by some dismissive of McCain, even arrogant,
that set off a firestorm. McCain is on vacation, but his top advisors are so
angry they say privately Bush has for now spoiled any chance of an
endorsement. The relationship between the two has been severely strained for
weeks, and while Bush advisors point to another published interview today in
which the Governor says he wants to, quote, 'make amends with John,' and,
'work together for reforms,' privately Bush advisors say the voters have
spoken, and negotiation with McCain is unnecessary. But none of this has
stopped Bush from using campaign finance reform against Al Gore."
Bush: "He has no
credibility on the issue. He must think America has amnesia. This is a man who
went to a Buddhist temple to raise money."
Trying to equate Bush with
Clinton, Gregory argued: "But is Bush vulnerable on campaign finance? His
staff has released a list of guests who slept over at the Governor's Mansion
during the last five years. A government watchdog group now questions the more
than $2 million donated or raised by Bush's guests."
As names scrolled on
screen Gregory continued: "The campaign insists Bush's visitors were
friends or relatives, and the sleep overs were not linked to fundraising. With
or without the support of Senator McCain, Bush advisors say they're happy to
publicly debate campaign finance reform, believing it's the Vice President
who's most vulnerable on the issue come November."
The New York Times reporters who interviewed Bush were
just as baffled as Brokaw over how Bush failed to realize the compelling
nature of McCain's campaign. Check out the fourth and fifth paragraph's of
the March 16 story by Richard Berke and Frank Bruni:
"Reminded that Mr.
McCain helped propel record turnouts in the primaries, Mr. Bush responded
curtly, 'Well, then, how come he didn't win?' The governor noted that in
South Carolina his candidacy helped draw record numbers of Republicans to the
comments were notable because they suggested that despite the bruising, bitter
and sometimes humbling nature of his primary campaign against Mr. McCain, the
governor emerged without any regrets about his campaign's conduct, any second
thoughts about his strategy or any new resolves for the way he positions
himself for the general election. His confidence, if anything, seemed
So just how many McCain supporters is Bush really
alienating by not adopting McCain's liberal anti-free speech campaign
finance "reform" plan? Not many. Just one in six McCain voters
called campaign finance the most important issue, ABC News polling analyst
Gary Langer showed in a story posted on the ABC News Web page. He also
documented how far from media hype for the "millions" McCain drove
to the polls, he actually only generated fewer than one million new voters.
Here's an excerpt from Langer's March 14 piece
titled, "The Myth of Footprints. McCain's New 'Millions': Time for
It has become fashionable to report that Sen. John McCain bought
"millions of new voters" to the polls this primary season, that many
of his supporters just might jump to Al Gore this fall, and that McCain's
millions are on fire for campaign finance reform.
The numbers say: Whoa.
First, the new voters: In the Super Tuesday exit polls, 20 percent
said it was their first time voting in a Republican primary....Fifty-five
percent of those voters went for McCain. These
are the new voters McCain brought in: Fifty-five percent of 20 percent of all
ABCNEWS estimates that 12,453,466 warm bodies voted in Republican
nominating events -- primaries and caucuses alike -- through last
Friday....Twenty percent of all GOP voters as new voters -- that's 2.49
million souls. And new McCain voters were 55 percent of that -- 1.37 million.
At best then, we cannot say that McCain brought in "millions of new
voters," but fewer than 1.5 million. Looking to November, that is less
than seventh-tenths of one percent of the voting-age population....
Finally, campaign finance reform. Was it the burning issue behind
McCain's support? Apparently not. Among all McCain voters on Super Tuesday,
16 percent cited campaign finance reform as the most important issue in their
vote -- tying it for second place, behind "moral values" and even
with Social Security/Medicare.
Look at it this way: Just one in six of McCain's own voters said campaign
finance reform was their main motivating issue. Eighty-four percent picked
Langer is the Director of the ABC News polling unit, but
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson informed me this analysis hasn't made it yet
onto World News Tonight, GMA or Nightline.
To read Langer's entire analysis, go to:
night NBC became the first broadcast network, on a weekday edition of its
evening show, to quote the charges made by Charles LaBella which the Los
Angeles Times revealed last Friday in a front page story on his
long-suppressed memo about Clinton-Gore fundraising. The intrepid Lisa Myers
provided a nearly three-minute-long piece on Gore's fundraising history in
which she also noted Maria Hsia's conviction, a March 2 verdict NBC Nightly
News skipped at the time.
The story by Myers was also picked up Thursday by
MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, which had ignored the LaBella memo's
disclosure last week. (Monday night on the NBC Nightly News Claire Shipman
made a cryptic six-second reference to the memo and delivered a four-second
mention of Hsia's convictions.)
As noted in previous CyberAlerts, last Friday, March 10,
the memo's unveiling was highlighted by CNN and FNC but ignored by ABC, CBS
and NBC. ABC News has yet to acknowledge it, though its play on the front page
of the Saturday, March 11 New York Times generated a story on that night's
CBS Evening News, a broadcast bumped by basketball off most ET and CT
affiliates. The morning shows have yet to mention LaBella's name.
Lisa Myers opened her March 16 NBC Nightly News piece by
getting right to one of LaBella's contentions, an issue put in play by a
question put to Janet Reno earlier in the day but still ignored Thursday night
by ABC and CBS:
"Under fire from
Republicans, the Attorney General today denies she gave Al Gore special
treatment when she repeatedly refused to launch an independent investigation
into whether Gore lied about campaign fundraising abuses."
After a clip of Reno claiming that a thorough probe
found no instance of a false statement by Gore, Myers quoted from the LaBella
memo though she did not say his name:
former top prosecutor charges that a memo recently leaked to reporters that
Gore 'may have made false statements,' and that Justice officials did
legal 'contortions' to avoid a full investigation. Issue #1: Did Gore tell
the truth about some 70 phone calls he made from his office to generate
millions for TV ads."
Following a soundbite of Gore's infamous "no
controlling legal authority" remark, Myers recounted his changing story,
as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
insists he wasn't raising so-called hard money regulated by election laws.
Later he says he didn't know he was raising that kind of money. Then
documents surface showing Gore attended a meeting that should have alerted him
hard money was involved. One participant claims Gore was, quote,
'attentively listening.' Yet in an interview with the FBI, Gore still
insists he doesn't remember, saying he doesn't recall more than twenty
times. Gore does remember, quote, 'he drank a lot of tea during meetings,
which could have necessitated a restroom break.'"
Charles Lewis, Center
for Public Integrity: "The Vice President seems to have a problem telling
the truth. I mean, you can't listen to some of the stuff and not chuckle to
yourself, 'I can't believe he's just said that.'"
Myers moved on: "Issue #2: Gore's notorious visit
to that Buddhist temple in April 1996. Gore insists he didn't know it was a
fundraiser. First he says he thought it was community outreach, later that it
was finance-related, then this:"
Gore, from January 25,
1997: "Well, it was a mistake. I did not know that it was a fundraiser,
but I knew it was a political event, and I knew that there were finance people
who were going to be present."
"Yet documents from the Secret Service, Gore's staff, even one of the
Vice President's own e-mails, all refer to the temple stop as, quote, a
'fundraiser.' Recently, long-time Gore fundraiser Maria Hsia was found
guilty of illegally laundering at least $55,000 in campaign money through
those monks and nuns."
Lewis got another soundbite as did Gore before Myers
concluded her piece. The LaBella memo revealed there are photos of Gore
reviewing documents about how he was being asked to make hard-money calls from
a federal building. Myers made reference to that in wrapping up her story:
"Even as Gore
admits mistakes and tries to turn a liability into a virtue, he refuses to
urge the Justice Department to release documents and photos that might shed
light on what he knew and when. Veteran Democrats worry this will dog Gore
-- The power duo of me and
the Wall Street Journal? The March 15 Journal carried an op-ed piece by me
documenting how the broadcast networks skipped the LaBella memo last week. The
day after the column appeared NBC produced a story pegged to LaBella's memo.
To read "The
LaBella Memo: Not Ready For Prime Time?", go to:
are condemning the NRA's Wayne LaPierre and Charlton Heston for the tone and
substance of their attacks on Bill Clinton, but many reporters haven't
hesitated in the past to hold conservatives accountable for bloodshed. Last
year after the Columbine tragedy Time's Margaret Carlson asserted that those
who oppose gun control consider "schoolyard massacres an acceptable cost
for its right to be armed to the teeth." Following the Oklahoma City
bombing another Time reporter held culpable conservatives who advocated
government budget cuts: "The inflamed rhetoric of the '90s is suddenly
an unindicted co-conspirator in the blast."
These and other quotes were gathered by the MRC's Tim
Graham for a March 16 Media Reality Check fax report titled, "Media to
LaPierre: Only Conservatism Kills. Same Outlets Shocked by NRA Leader's
Clinton Quotes Routinely Let Liberals Find Malice on the Right." Here's
the text, in full:
Charles Gibson warned on Wednesday's World News Tonight: "The
national debate over gun control became even more vicious today.
The head of the National Rifle Association accused President Clinton of having
quote, 'blood on his hands.'" Gibson referred
to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who declared on ABC on Sunday
that President Clinton is "willing to accept
a certain level of killing to further his political agenda."
As ABC's John Cochran explained, yesterday LaPierre used a specific
example: in the death of former college basketball coach Ricky Birdsong, the
killer illegally tried to obtain a gun at a gun store, but was not prosecuted,
part of a pattern of lax gun law prosecution.
Is it fair to blame Clinton? Should political players be blamed for crimes
they did not commit? Probably not, but the same outlets insisting
LaPierre has crossed a line of incivility have regularly crossed the line or
held the door for line-crossers indicting conservatives.
Vicious Margaret. In the May 10, 1999 Time, columnist Margaret Carlson gave
the mirror image of LaPierre's Sunday statement: "Republicans are
betting that this too [Columbine] will pass, that as with Jonesboro and
Paducah, Pearl and Springfield, once the white coffins are in the ground and
the cameras gone, the outrage will subside. But maybe not this time. In town
meetings and talk radio, the public has had its fill of politicians talking
resignedly about our gun culture, as if there's nothing to be done
about a subgroup that finds schoolyard massacres an acceptable cost for its
right to be armed to the teeth."
Vicious Katie. On October 13, 1998, NBC's Katie Couric asked Elizabeth
Birch of the gay-left Human Rights Campaign: "Do you
believe this [Truth in Love] ad campaign launch by some conservative groups
really contributed somehow to Matthew Shepard's
death?" Birch quickly replied "I do, Katie...this ad campaign has
been pumped out all summer presenting gay and lesbian people
as defective, as less than, as not fully human."
Vicious Richard. When abortionist Barnett Slepian was killed on October 26,
1998, CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger pushed blame
on the whole pro-life movement: "Abortion rights activists now believe
some leaders of the mainstream anti-abortion movement
are inciting supporters on the fringe to violence."
Vicious Jane. On the January 3, 1995 Dateline NBC, host Jane Pauley broke
for a commercial: "Still ahead, the latest round of violence
and bloodshed at abortion clinics. The anti-abortion movement has been
creeping to the edge of bloody fanaticism for a decade."
Vicious Richard II. In the May 8, 1995 Time, Richard Lacayo found bombers
on the radio: "In a nation that has entertained and appalled
itself for years with hot talk on the radio and the campaign trail, the
inflamed rhetoric of the '90s is suddenly an unindicted co-conspirator in
Vicious Michael. In the May 1, 1995 Time, then-Senior Political
Correspondent Michael Kramer blamed the right: "If the perpetrators
of the Oklahoma City bombing really view government as the people's enemy,
the burden of fostering that delusion is borne
not just by the nut cases who preach conspiracy but also to some extent by
those who erode faith in our governance in the pursuit
of their own ambitions."
Before national media stars huff and puff over the pitch of LaPierre's
rhetoric, they ought to look in the mirror.
For more examples of
the media's hate, check out the MRC's post-Oklahoma bombing edition of
Notable Quotables, our "Special Purveyors of Hate & Division
Issue." Go to:
All the media attention to the NRA-Clinton battle, as
detailed in the previous two CyberAlerts, reminded me to give a plug for the
MRC's big gun coverage study by Geoffrey Dickens which we released in
January: "Outgunned: How The Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun
Control Debate." Key points in the study of ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC from
July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1999: Evening News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun
Position by 8 to 1; Morning News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 13 to
1; News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Use Anti-Gun Soundbites; News Programs
Are Twice as Likely to Feature Anti-Gun Guests; Pro-Gun Themes Were Barely
Covered. To read the executive summary and the full report, go to:
up on an illustrative item from back on Super Tuesday, less than thirty
minutes after John McCain told Maria Shriver live on MSNBC to "please get
out of here," Newsweek's Jonathan Alter provided a liberal's forecast
for the Bush-Gore race. His analysis is worth reviewing since it graphically
laid out how members of the media perceive the two candidate's and the power
of their issues.
Just like the football commentators, Alter drew lines of
motion on a football field graphic, a tele-strator, to illustrate his points,
including how Bush "had to run way to the right, almost out of bounds in
Below is what MSNBC viewers heard from Alter at about
11:45pm ET on March 7, but they had the benefit of seeing what Alter was
referring to as he drew his lines. So, Friday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul
will post a RealPlayer clip of Alter with his tele-strator. In the meantime,
here's the text:
"I'm gonna play
a little John Madden here tonight, maybe not up to the caliber that you see on
sports, but we're gonna try to give you a little bit of a sense of how this
thing might play out. Now let's just say, you know, you've got the D's
over here, with Gore, he didn't have to run that far left because Bradley
was over here, so he doesn't have to turn that far toward the center to come
up to midfield where these are played out. Bush has a bigger problem. He had
to run way to the right, almost out of bounds in South Carolina, and now he
has to come back, and you could see him sort of start to do it tonight when
he's talking about compassionate conservatism. He's even reaching out to
the gay community here. A long journey back to the center there. The first
thing he'll battle out on is campaign finance reform, on John McCain's
terrain, with Gore's challenge tonight to George W. Bush to reject all of
those negative and those independent expenditures."
Alter then assessed Gore's issues as more compelling
and convincing than those he predicted Bush would push:
"But if you look
at the issues, the game here, the whole game in presidential politics is to
play on the other guy's side of the field. So if you say that education and
health, maybe, are the Democrats' issues, and over here you've got
something like guns and taxes, what you wanna do is play on the other guy's
side. So you're gonna have Gore over here trying to engage on guns in
pointing out that George W. Bush was in support of a bill that even allows you
to take a gun into church. Traditional Republican issue, Gore will try to
score on Bush's side of the field. Same thing on taxes. He'll say Bush has
offered you a big tax cut. This is what Gore will call a 'risky scheme,'
and he'll hope that he can score over here on Bush's side of the field.
"Bush, in turn,
will go after Gore on education, which has supposedly been a strong Democratic
issue, and say that he's the one who's got the record of accomplishment on
education, and he'll even try to say that he's had some success on HMO
reform in Texas, although that's going to be a tougher sell. But the real
battle in the middle of the field is about Bill Clinton. The status quo has
some status. You heard George W. Bush talk a lot tonight about whether we want
to stick with this status quo that is actually Al Gore's best argument, is
the strength of the economy. Bush will try to come in and make the argument
that actually we're tired of the Clinton/Gore way of doing things and that
even if you like the Clinton era, resistance to him personally is such that we
need a change."
Life is fun
again for Geraldo Rivera. The release of a new book by left-wing journalists
Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, The Hunting of the President: The 10 Year Campaign
to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, has given Rivera an opening to rant some
more about the right-wing conspiracy to destroy the Clintons. MRC analyst
Geoffrey Dickens noticed that Wednesday night Rivera asserted: "The
book...convincingly proves that there was a right-wing conspiracy."
Rivera gloated about how the book proved him correct
about the evils of Clinton's enemies and trumpeted how the book features the
"stunning story of how much of the mainstream media actually colluded
knowingly or through laziness with these fringe wackos."
Setting up the March 15 Rivera Live segment on CNBC,
Rivera reminded viewers:
"Remember that day
on the Today show. Her allegation largely laughed off two years ago. But two
veteran reporters, these guys sitting alongside me here took up Hillary
Clinton's challenge to investigate the vast right wing conspiracy. The
result of their work this incendiary work of investigative journalism is
called, The Hunting of the President. The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and
Hillary Clinton. The book, in my view anyway, convincingly proves that there
was a right-wing conspiracy. One of amazing perseverance and cost up to $100
million in public and private funds. A lot of private funds.
"From the offers
of money to Gennifer Flowers to the false claim that Clinton had fathered a
child with a prostitute. From the sleazy Arkansas project funded by the
billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife to the secret payments to the President's
former bodyguards. It's all in this book. Thickly documented along with the
stunning story of how much of the mainstream media actually colluded knowingly
or through laziness with these fringe wackos in a desire for scoops. None of
which, or not many of which were based on reality. Many based however on false
and misleading information. Now I'll be honest as one who investigated part
of this material over the last few years it's an 'I told you so,' time
What will Geraldo do when Clinton leaves office and he
can't spend his life bashing those who dare pursue his heroic President and
First Lady? --