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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday March 22, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 49) |

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McCain's Gore Attack Ignored; 3rd Clinton Term; Clinton's "Hump and Bump"

1) John McCain attacked Al Gore on Tuesday over campaign finance reform, an event FNC's Brit Hume said "disappointed" reporters. Indeed, ABC, CBS and NBC ignored McCain's criticism of Gore.

2) ABC and NBC skipped McCain's attack on Gore, but Tuesday night the networks looked at India's software programmers and potholes back home. Dan Rather honored the Pope, proclaiming he "comes at a time of hope with a message of peace."

3) Bryant Gumbel mused about the appeal of a third term for Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, ratings for The Early Show hit a new low.

4) Left and Right West Wing. NBC's The West Wing delivered scenes linking census sampling opponents to the Constitution's definition of blacks as 3/5ths a person and aired a candid admission that liberals don't trust people to spend their money correctly.

5) The Third Watch cops spent a shift bashing Hillary. "If the prosecutors hadn't wimped out on that Whitewater thing, she'd be making license plates instead of speeches."


Returning to the Senate on Tuesday John McCain lashed out not at George W. Bush but at Al Gore for his hypocrisy on campaign finance reform, a development FNC's Brit Hume suggested possibly "disappointed many of the reporters" following his arrival on Capitol Hill. But, surprise, surprise, while CNN and FNC noted McCain's attack on Gore, ABC and NBC didn't even mention McCain Tuesday night while in a short item on the CBS Evening News Dan Rather avoided the Gore hit, instead stressing how McCain said "that meaningful campaign finance reform is still a must with the U.S. public."

    Introducing a piece on the March 21 Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's Hume announced:
    "Perhaps the largest turnout of journalists ever to cover a losing presidential candidate was present on Capitol Hill to witness John McCain's first full day back in the Senate. As many had anticipated, before the day was out, the Arizona Senator was on the attack again, and the subject was campaign finance reform. What may have surprised, and possibly even disappointed many of the reporters, was the target of the attack."

    FNC's Brian Wilson revealed McCain's target, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "On a day when all of Washington was waiting to see what was on his mind, John McCain focused his attacks not on Congress or his former opponent, but on Vice President Al Gore. McCain is angry that Gore has attempted to adopt the campaign finance reform issue as his own. Before he can claim to be a reformer, McCain says, the Vice President should submit to an independent investigation of 1996 Clinton-Gore fundraising activities."
    John McCain, to a group of reporters: "The Vice President of the United States has no credibility on his assertion that he is in favor of campaign finance reform until there is a full and complete investigation and he renounces unilaterally the use of soft money."
    Wilson proceeded to re-cap the rest of McCain's day: "Earlier it was the jocular John McCain who emerged from his office joshing with reporters, waving at well wishers, on the trip from his office to the Senate floor...."

    As noted above, neither ABC's World News Tonight or the NBC Nightly News uttered a word about McCain, but from Jerusalem, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather read this item which repeated McCain's usual call for campaign finance reform while missing the new anti-Gore angle:
    "John McCain made his return to the floor of the U.S. Senate today, to tell his colleagues the same thing he'd been telling voters during his presidential bid, that meaningful campaign finance reform is still a must with the U.S. public."
    McCain on the Senate floor: "I intend to do what I can, working with my congressional colleagues -- Republicans and Democrats -- to help bring about the changes to the practices and institutions of our democracy that they want and deserve."
    Rather added: "McCain had asked his Republican Senate colleagues not to give him any special welcome back and they didn't."


So, instead of picking up on John McCain's attack on Al Gore, what were the networks looking at Tuesday night?

    For the second night in a row ABC's Peter Jennings anchored from New Delhi while CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Tom Brokaw showed up from Jerusalem in time to cover the Pope's arrival. All ran full stories on Bill Clinton in India, the Pope in Israel, the Supreme Court ruling that the FDA does not have jurisdiction to regulate tobacco as well as a federal court ruling that the Attorney General does not have to allow an asylum hearing for Elian Gonzalez.

    NBC Nightly News also found time for full reports on how rising interest rates benefit investors and a survey of which cities have roads with the most potholes. ABC kept its feature stories related to Jennings' location, offering a peek at India's "Silicon Plateau," where U.S. companies employ thousands of English-speaking and computer savvy Indians to write computer programs. Jennings ended with a look at a village Jimmy Carter visited in 1978, the last time a U.S. President traveled to India.

    Admirers of the Pope couldn't have asked for more reverential treatment from Dan Rather, who opened the CBS Evening News from Jerusalem:
    "Good evening. It's a long-awaited moment, the first official visit of Roman Catholic Pope to the Jewish state of Israel. Pope John Paul II is here in Jerusalem tonight, a holy city for three religions and the crux of war and political struggle for thousands of years. The Pope comes at a time of hope with a message of peace. Slowly, carefully, with the dignified grace he has shown so often as his health has declined, the Pope descended under heavy gray skies to stand in the nation of Israel, to kiss the soil of the Holy Land, to be greeted by Israeli leaders. John Paul had spoken of this moment more than twenty years ago, in his first Christmas homily as Pope, of his desire to make a pilgrimage of peace to this place where so much blood has been shed in the name of God."


Forget Bush and Gore, Bryant Gumbel thinks many want a third term for Bill Clinton. And he sounded Tuesday morning like he might be among them.

    During the 7:30am half hour on the March 21 Early Show Gumbel interviewed Hotline Editor-in-Chief Craig Crawford about the "Hotline Bull's Eye Poll." Crawford reported the results of a four-way match up: Bush 36 percent, Gore 31 percent, McCain 22 percent and Nader 3 percent. Why didn't you add Buchanan, Gumbel wondered. Crawford explained that was because they assumed in the poll scenario that McCain would be the Reform Party nominee, but in another question, Crawford recalled, Buchanan got about 4 percent.

    Crawford proceeded to suggest that McCain's 22 percent shows "there are a lot of voters out there looking for an alternative." That led to this exchange:
    Gumbel, cracking a smile at the end of his question: "Don't you wonder what would have happened, hypothetically, if you said Bush, Gore or four more years of Bill Clinton?"
    Crawford: "That will be interesting. I think, at some point we're going to test the Clinton third term scenario and see what people really feel about that. I think Gore may benefit from some sentiment for a Clinton third term."
    Gumbel: "Yeah, I think you're right."

    Probably a strong sentiment in the halls of CBS News.

    And a sentiment viewers continue to avoid. CBS's morning news show ratings are down from a year ago when This Morning filled the time slot. The March 13 "Inside TV" column by Peter Johnson in USA Today relayed: "From February ratings sweeps. No. 1 rated NBC's Today is up 4% in viewers from last year at this time. Meanwhile, ABC's rebounding Good Morning America is up 21%, but CBS's revamped Early Show is down 10%."

    On March 20 Johnson drove home how CBS's $5 million annual salary for Gumbel isn't doing them any good: "CBS's revamped The Early Show continues to struggle. For the week of March 6-10, Early posted its lowest ratings yet, deep in third place behind No. 2 ABC's Good Morning America and No. 1 NBC's Today."

    Time to bring back Thalia Assuras and Jane Robelot.


Now to the politics in prime time TV portion of today's CyberAlert. Actually, more like the politics in two NBC dramas portion of today's CyberAlert. This item looks at how opposition to census sampling was overcome on The West Wing once the show's stars pointed out to a black Congressman that the Constitution only counted him as 3/5ths of a person, and how the same show offered a candid conversation about Democratic opposition to a tax cut. The next item examines some surprisingly strong Bill and Hillary-bashing on this week's Third Watch.

    The March 27 Weekly Standard cover story takes a look at West Wing in a piece by John Podhoretz headlined, "Left Wing: TV's West Wing is the Ultimate Hollywood Fantasy -- the Clinton White House Without Clinton."

    Indeed, the Wednesday at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT drama about the staff for Democratic President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, regularly champions liberal causes. For a sampling, check out two previous CyberAlerts and the accompanying RealPlayer video clips from the shows:
    -- The September 29 CyberAlert described and showed how actor Martin Sheen, as the President, told leaders of the Religious Right, who are called anti-Semitic, to get their "fat asses out of my White House." Go to:

    -- The January 27 CyberAlert this year outlined how in crafting his State of the Union address the President abandoned "the era of big government is over" theme and agreed "government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind....an instrument of good." Go to:

    With the census now underway and in the news I thought I'd review a politically charged scene from an episode of The West Wing shown last fall but repeated on March 8, an episode which also offered an unusually candid assessment of how Democrats don't trust people to spend their own money correctly.

    First, the census scene for which you'll have to suspend your political knowledge: Three "swing votes" on the House Commerce Committee come to the White House to hear arguments about why they should drop an amendment prohibiting census sampling. Among the three, and this is where you must suspend your knowledge, is a black man -- his race is relevant as you'll soon learn -- who tells those assembled: "My wife was Janice Willis. She passed away last month so I've taken over her seat in Congress." In Hollywood, they don't think you need an election to be a Member of Congress, you just move in and take over. Indeed, "Joe Willis" later states:

    "Well this is my first and likely my only vote in the House of Representatives." Got to get out before the elected Congressman wants his voting card.

    As the three Congressman sit on one side of a table, viewers see two White House staffers use the race card to win their argument. MRC intern Ken Shepherd transcribed the scene.

    Actress Moira Kelly as "Mandy," a Mandy Grunwald-type, asserts: "In the last census, eight million people, mostly black, weren't counted. And in the same census, four million people, mostly white, were counted twice."
    Communications Director "Toby Ziegler," played by Richard Schiff, piles on: "Sampling will give a count that bears a much greater relationship to reality. And it will do it to the tune of four billion dollars less than a door-to-door head count."
    Mandy: "Sampling will cost 2.7 billion and an inaccurate head count will cost 6.9."
    Toby: "Every single expert including the Census Bureau itself, which is a bipartisan commission [again suspend knowledge], has said sampling is better."
    Bald white Congressman: "We've heard these arguments many times but in this country we have a Constitution."
    Toby: "We are aware of that."
    Red-headed Congressman: "The Constitution's very clear on this."
    Toby: "I don't think it is."
    Red-headed Congressman: "Until the Court rules that sampling is constitutional."
    Toby: "The article is arcane."
    Red-headed Congressman: "Oh, come on, Toby, the article is not arcane."
    Toby: "Let's take a look at it."
    Red-headed Congressman: "No, no, we we don't have time to-"
    Toby: "Let's take a look at it."
    Bald Congressman: "Toby! None of us is a constitutional scholar and we honestly don't-"
    Mandy: "It's not going to take long."
    Toby: "The staff managed to unearth a copy."
    Bald Congressman: "Toby come on we've been here for six-"
    Toby: "Mandy, would you read please from Article I, Section 2."
    Bald Congressman: "This is silly."
    Toby: "Still in all it is the owner's manual and we should read what it has to say."
    Mandy: "Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union according to their respective numbers which shall be determined by adding the whole number of persons including those bound to service for a term of years."
    Red-headed Congressman: "Well you said it right there. It says which shall be determined by the whole number of persons. The whole number of persons. The whole number of persons. Not, not the end of an equation that some statistician got of a computer. It says so right there."

    Now we get to the dramatic twist. Toby: "Actually that's not what it says."
    Red-headed Congressman: "What do you mean?"
    Toby: "Mandy left out a few words didn't she, Mr. Willis."
    Willis: "Yes."
    Toby: "Mr. Willis teaches 8th grade social studies and Mr. Willis knows very well what the Article says. It says 'which shall be determined by adding the whole number of free persons. And 3/5ths of all other persons.' 3/5ths of all other persons, they meant you, Mr. Willis, didn't they."
    Willis: "Yes."
    Toby: "Mr. Willis, you are asking to enact a law which will limit the ability of those people who need to be counted the most to be counted as people at all and their only refuge is the argument that Article I, Section 2, is not arcane."
    Bald Congressman: "Well I think we're through here. I can report back to the chairman of my committee but I really don't think that either he or the leadership is going to allow any one of us to change our votes."
    Toby: "Congressman, you are talking about tying up an appropriations bill."
    Red-headed Congressman: "You don't need to tell us what we're talking about Toby. And waiting til the 11th hour to call us."
    Mandy: "What is this, the fourth time that we've arranged this meeting and by the way."

    Then another dramatic moment. Willis, jumping in: "I will."
    Toby: "What sir?"
    Willis: "I think we should drop it."
    Bald Congressman: "Joe!"
    Willis: "That's my choice, right?"
    Red-headed Congressman: "Joe, Joe, the chairman of our committee recommends that we-"
    Willis: "No, I saw what he recommended and I appreciate his help but it's still my choice right?"
     Toby: "Absolutely, sir, it is your choice."
    Willis: "Well then I change my mind, I think we should drop the census amendment and let the appropriations bill go through as is."
    Bald Congressman: "Joe."
    Willis: "Until the Court rules on whether the sampling amendment is constitutional."
    Mandy: "Well, then, excellent."
    Red-headed Congressman: "Well, looks like you snuck one in the back door, ay, Toby."
    Toby: "I go through whatever door is open to me."

    After the two white Congressmen leave Toby concedes to Willis: "There were some things I did not mention. First of all, it is partisan. Second of all, I'm not wild about the precedent."
    Willis: "You mean?"
    Toby: "What's to stop us from saying we don't need elections, we'll just use polling data. 1150 people with a sampling error of plus or minus three will decide who runs the country."
    Willis: "I thought about that."
    Toby: "And?"
    Willis, laughing: "It's okay by me as long as it's not the same people who decide what's on television."

    ++ See a hunk of this scene via RealPlayer. Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post it on the MRC home page. Go to: http://archive.mrc.org

    But the show, for which Carter guru Patrick Caddell and Clinton's first Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers, serve as consultants, is not 100 percent liberal. Just check out these scenes on the same March 8 repeat in which Deputy Chief-of-Staff "Josh Lyman," played by Bradley Whitford, walks down a hallway with his female assistant:

    Assistant: "We have a $32 billion budget surplus for the first time in three decades. The Republicans in Congress want to use this money for tax relief, right?"
    Josh: "Yes"
    Assistant: "Essentially what they're saying is we want to give back the money. Why don't we want to give back the money?"
    Josh: "Because we're Democrats."
    Assistant: "But it's not the government's money."
    Josh: "Sure it is. It's right there in our bank accounts."
    Assistant: "That's only because we collected more money than we ended up needing."
     Josh: "Isn't it great?"
    Assistant: "I want my money back."
    Josh: "Sorry."

    Later, they pick up the argument:
    Assistant: "What's wrong with me getting my money back?"
    Josh: "You won't spend it right."
    Assistant: "What do you mean?"
    Josh: "Let's say your cut of the surplus is $700. I want to take your money, combine it with everyone else's money, and use it to pay down the debt and further endow Social Security. What do you want to do with it?"
    Assistant: "Buy a DVD player."
    Josh: "See."
    Assistant: "But my $700 is helping employ the people who manufacture and sell DVD players, not to mention the people who manufacture and sell DVDs. It's the natural evolution of the market economy."
    Josh: "The problem is the DVD player you buy might be manufactured in Japan."
    Assistant: "I'll buy an American one."
    Josh: "We don't trust you."
    Assistant: "Why not?"
    Josh: "We're Democrats."
    Assistant, exasperated: "I want my money back."
    Josh, snickering: "You shouldn't have voted for us."

    That's a better explanation of the market economy and the true motivation of liberals than I've seen yet on NBC News.

    An "all new" episode of The West Wing airs tonight, Wednesday March 22, at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT.


Another NBC drama, Third Watch, on Monday night delivered a show featuring four cops debating the merits of Rudy Giuliani versus Hillary Clinton, but viewers heard a lot more cutting hits at Bill and Hillary than at Hillary.

    Third Watch, Mondays at 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT, revolves around some New York City police officers and paramedics who work the 3 to 11 shift. In the March 20 episode they are assigned to an imaginary Hillary-Rudy dinner and debate at a big hotel. The paramedics spend the show in the parking garage talking about their divorces and past calls while the four starring officers pull kitchen duty.

    Bored as they guard the kitchen their talk soon turns to the Senate race. The two white male officers, named "Bosco" and "Sully," along with a black male officer, "Davis," take up Rudy's cause while white female officer "Faith Yokas" is left to defend Hillary alone.

    While she gets in a few good shots, such as complaining about how "he's got us working extra shifts arresting the homeless for sleeping on the sidewalks," the three guys get in a lot more Clinton bashing. Bosco asks: "Tell me what she's done that's so great -- besides letting her husband use the White House for a little hump and bump while she bakes cookies." And he contends: "If the prosecutors hadn't wimped out on that Whitewater thing, she'd be making license plates instead of speeches." Sully suggests: "Low is her husband scoring oral cop in the broom closet while we're paying his salary."

    Here are some excerpts from the surprisingly anti-Hillary tilted exchanges which animated the NBC show, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:

    -- Bosco: "Thousand a plate to get chicken."
    Yokas: "They get chicken, but they also get their picture taken with Hillary Clinton."
    Bosco: "And Giuliani?"
    Yokas: "Who'd want their picture taken with Giuliani?"
    Bosco: "Me, definitely."
    Yokas: "Okay."
    Bosco: "Man put the city back on its feet. I'd be proud to have my picture taken with Rudolph Giuliani."
    Yokas: "Okay, we agreed not to argue about this. I'm sorry I said anything."
    Bosco: "Tell me what she's done that's so great -- besides letting her husband use the White House for a little hump and bump while she bakes cookies."
    Yokas: "All right, you know what, Boz, low one, even for you."
    Bosco: "See, you can't do it. You can't even name one thing."
    Yokas: "You know what, you like Rudy, and I like Hillary. It's a gender thing."
    Bosco: "How can it be a gender thing. She ain't a woman."

    -- Yokas: "Just admit that you cannot handle a strong woman."
    Bosco: "A strong woman? She's just riding her husband's coattails."
    Yokas: "Oh, I know. She's only the brains behind the whole administration. She deserves credit."

    -- Bosco: "How can Hillary Clinton be the Senator from New York? She's not even a New Yorker."
    Yokas: "All right, save it Boz."
    Bosco: "She couldn't even find her way to LaGuardia with one of those tourist maps because that's what she is -- a tourist. One thing you gotta admit. Rudy, Rudy is a New Yorker."
    Yokas: "Fine. Vote for him."
    Bosco: "I will. I can't wait. Best man the city ever had. Taxes are down. Streets are cleaner. Crime? Crime is way the hell down."
    Sully, reading a New York Post-looking newspaper: "Seventy percent since he came in. Says right here."
    Yokas: "What, that's because of him? That's because of us out there bustin' our humps. And what about these pay raises that we were promised? Took'em three years to raise us a nickel, and he's got us working extra shifts arresting the homeless for sleeping on the sidewalks. Somebody please tell me what kind of sense does that make?"
    Bosco: "How about the fact that decent people can walk through the park without stepping over bodies."
    Yokas: "All right, you know what. Right here. Excuse me...[taking newspaper to read from it] 'Raking up families that are homeless is wrong. Locking people up for a day will not take a single homeless person off the streets.' Hillary Rodham Clinton."
    Sully: "'We're the capital of the world again'. Rudolph Giuliani. Can I have my paper, please?"
    Bosco: "The woman's lucky she's even running. If the prosecutors hadn't wimped out on that Whitewater thing, she'd be making license plates instead of speeches."
    Sully: "Sort of a good point, Faith."
    Yokas: "No, it isn't. It's just another low blow."
    Sully: "Low? I'll tell you what low is. Low is her husband scoring oral cop in the broom closet while we're paying his salary."
    Bosco: "Got that right."
    Yokas: "Oh, so that's a switch. So you two are coming out against oral sex?"
    Bosco: "There's a time and a place for everything. My dad used to say that."
    Yokas: "Oh, his dad used to say that. His dad, the sensitive student of human nature. The dad I had a girl and she was mine dad?"
    Bosco: "Yokas, the guy's the President of the United States. He has a responsibility to-"
    Yokas: "Oh, a guy is a guy. Just like you're a guy. And I wanna know when any of you guys know when to keep your pants zipped up?"

    Third Watch certainly isn't written by any ex-network news producers or former reporters for major media outlets. In Hollywood they realize it wouldn't be plausible to have a bunch of NYC cops praising Hillary. -- Brent Baker


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