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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday May 17, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 85) |

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"Mockery" of McCain's Reforms; Old Women Not Raped; President Helps Prostitute

1) The CNN and FNC political shows picked up on how last year Gore favored putting Social Security money into the stock market, but the broadcast networks skipped the contradiction. Dan Rather trumpeted how 87 percent give Clinton credit for the good economy.

2) Dan Rather lamented "a campaign finance law loophole that makes a mockery of reforms advocated by the McCain campaign." Eric Engberg complained the post-Watergate "regulatory structure is now near collapse, thanks to clever exploitation of loopholes."

3) Bush's lead over Gore in a poll prompted Dan Rather to caution that "polls this early in campaigns raise a lot of questions about reliability," but CBS offered no such admonition in 1996 about a poll showing Bill Clinton ahead of Bob Dole.

4) FNC's Brit Hume noticed the New York Times finally reported Million Mom March organizer Donna Dees-Thomases is a CBS flak and "sister-in-law of Hillary Clinton intimate...Susan Thomases," but didn't mention her "contributions to Hillary's Senate campaign."

5) Post-menopausal women don't get raped, insisted Bonnie Erbe on PBS's To the Contrary. She told National Review: "Women buying guns for their self protection have gone completely bonkers."

6) NBC's drama, The West Wing, took a bizarre twist into very tolerant social liberalism with "President Bartlet" promising to help a prostitute gain admittance to the bar. Yet in the same episode he fired an ambassador for having an affair.

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Ways NBC is Planning on Cutting Back."

     >>> Now online, the May 15 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. Among the quote headings: "Play Time or Re-education Time?"; "World Yearns for Rule of Reno"; "Future and Current Journalists Embrace Ignorance and Apathy"; "Another Gumbel Gorbasm"; "Reno Should Have Acted Sooner"; "Clift: Better Off in Havana, Really"; "Lashing Dr. Laura"; "Jesse Helms = Fidel Castro" and "Socialist-Capitalist Ideal in Cuba." Go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/news/nq/2000/nq20000515.html <<< <<<


The Bush campaign found video of Al Gore backing the idea of Social Security money going into the stock market, showing Gore had once trumpeted how "returns on equities" beat government financial instruments. CNN's Inside Politics and FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume both reported the contradiction with Gore's Monday denouncement of Bush's private investment proposal, as well as Al Gore's counter-point that a Bush adviser urged people to take their money out of the stock market, but the broadcast network evening shows skipped the disclosures as did CNN's prime time hour of news, The World Today.

    ABC, CBS and NBC all led Tuesday with the Federal Reserve's decision to raise its lending rate by half a point and only CBS featured a campaign story, one tied to Fed Chairman's Alan Greenspan's decision. CBS anchor Dan Rather introduced a story, on how the fortunes of the presidential candidates are tied to Greenspan, by announcing that a CBS poll found that 87 percent give credit the Clinton administration for the booming economy. John Roberts suggested that if he economy tanks, "Gore could use it as ammunition to paint George Bush's proposals to privatize Social Security and cut taxes as too risky."

    On the Gore contradiction front, CNN's Inside Politics and FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume played this soundbite from Gore at a January 27, 1999 White House conference on Social Security: "During this whole national discussion, one of the single most important salient facts that jumped out at everybody, is that over any ten year period in American history, returns on equities are just significantly higher than these other returns."

    FNC's Jim Angle relayed how Gore now says he learned from former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin that there have been "quite a number of periods" longer than ten years in which equities did not outperform government securities.

    FNC and CNN also noted how Gore played "gotcha" with a tape of Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey. But only CNN actually played a clip from CNN's Moneyline in December, during which Lindsey said he feared a downturn and urged people to pull their money out of the stock market.

    Dan Rather linked the Fed's interest rate hike to the campaign, announcing on the May 16 CBS Evening News:
    "The record U.S. economic expansion is now in its 110th month, and in a CBS News/New York Times poll, most Americans -- 87 percent -- say the Clinton administration deserves some of the credit. Of course, credit could quickly change to blame if the economy gives even a hint of beginning to go south."

    The on-screen graphic did not include the word "some." It read: "Credit Clinton administration for the economy? Yes: 87 percent; No: 9 percent." Given the numbers I'd assume the question did include the qualifier "some."

    John Roberts began the subsequent piece: "Gore's political future could well rest on whether Greenspan slows economic growth or stalls it." Roberts talked to Ross Baker of Rutgers, who argued Bush wants downturn, before Roberts reviewed Greenspan's history. In the New Yorker recently, Roberts pointed out, Gerald Ford blamed Greenspan, who was with the Council of Economic Advisers in the mid-70s, for hurting his campaign by refusing to support a tax cut. President Bush, Roberts recalled, blamed Greenspan for not lowering interest rates enough.

    Roberts concluded by helpfully suggesting: "If the economy does slow down Gore could use it as ammunition to paint George Bush's proposals to privatize Social Security and cut taxes as too risky. And because his proposals rely in part on a robust economy Bush must walk a fine line between planting seeds of doubt in the economy and prophecizing doom."


It's a "campaign finance law loophole that makes a mockery of reforms advocated by the McCain campaign," bemoaned CBS anchor Dan Rather. Apparently spurred by a Monday Washington Post story headlined, "Flood of Secret Money Erodes Election Limits," Tuesday's CBS Evening News looked at the same subject: The rise of section 527 political groups which can produce issue ads but don't have to disclose their donors.

    Instead of portraying them as the natural outgrowth of an outdated regulatory scheme that never indexed contribution limits for inflation, thus leaving campaigns short of adequate funding, CBS's Eric Engberg focused on a Republican-linked group as he complained about the return of "secret funds" to politics "thanks to clever exploitation of loopholes by political operators."

    Rather set up Engberg's piece: "Tonight CBS is reporting to you in depth on a campaign finance law loophole that makes a mockery of reforms advocated by the McCain campaign, let alone laws passed in the wake of the Nixon Watergate crimes. CBS's Eric Engberg reports tonight from the Watergate for this 'Follow The Dollar' investigation."

    Standing across the street from the Watergate complex on Virginia Ave. NW, Engberg began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
    "It was here at the Watergate building 28 years ago where the country learned just how dangerous secret money in politics had gotten. Much of the dirty business discovered in Watergate had been financed by secret funds, and the public demanded a cleanup. The key was creation of a Federal Election Commission, set up by Congress to prevent the kind of abuses uncovered by Watergate. The commission would enforce laws limiting the size of contributions and requiring the names of givers be made public. The rules also covered non-party groups working for or against a candidate. That regulatory structure is now near collapse, thanks to clever exploitation of loopholes by political operators. The Republican Majority Issues Committee has been in business a few months. It plans to pump $25 million into close House races to keep the GOP majority. In charge, Karl Gallant, longtime aide to Congressman Tom DeLay. DeLay will help raise that money."
    Karl Gallant: "We're going to identify, educate conservative voters and motivate them to turn out."
    Engberg: "Gallant is operating under section 527 of the tax code. The IRS has in recent years given such groups wide political leeway. They can organize, buy advertising, denounce or praise a candidate. They don't even have to register with the Federal Election Commission. Contributors can give without limit and in secret. It's all legal as long as the group doesn't coordinate its actions with candidates or parties.
    Engberg to Gallant: "Do you really expect people to believe that you're not gonna be coordinating any of this with Tom DeLay?"
    Gallant: "I will not be coordinating my activities with Tom DeLay."
    Engberg then gave a few seconds to a liberal group: "And it's not just the conservatives who are going secret. The Sierra Club is using a 527 group to slam Republicans."
    Carl Pope of the Sierra Club: "We've got some donors who want privacy, and as long as everybody else's donors have privacy, we're gonna give it to them. But we actually think it should all be disclosed."
    Engberg concluded, ruefully: "Tomorrow Senator Joseph Lieberman will begin a drive to get Congress to close the 527 loophole. Its chances are considered slim. The fact is that many politicians like doing campaign fundraising pre-Watergate style."

    How awful to desire freedom from archaic regulations that hinder campaigns and free speech.


Bush's lead over Gore in a poll prompted Dan Rather to caution that "polls this early in campaigns raise a lot of questions about reliability," but CBS offered no such admonition in 1996 about a poll showing Bill Clinton ahead of Bob Dole.

    As recounted in the May 16 CyberAlert, on the May 15 CBS Evening News Dan Rather announced: "A CBS News/New York Times poll came out tonight suggesting Bush's lead over Al Gore may have grown since April. Polls this early in campaigns raise a lot of questions about reliability, but our poll does indicate a possible shift in Bush's favor among white male voters, a block that usually helps Republicans."

    Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, did a little investigation and found a contrast, in CBS's trust in polls, from almost exactly four years earlier. The May 16, 1996 CBS Evening News aired a piece by Phil Jones on Bob Dole's first day of campaigning after he resigned from the Senate. Jones concluded by relaying, without any admonitory notes, the downbeat poll news for Dole:
    "According to a new CBS News poll, 60 percent of those interviewed agreed with Dole's decision to resign from the Senate and spend full time campaigning for President. It's going to take full time. Among registered voters in the poll, Dole trails President Clinton by 15 points."


If Brit Hume ever loses his FNC job he can become a media analyst for the MRC -- for a lot less pay. On Monday's Special Report with Brit Hume he picked up on some media bias:

    "The New York Times has finally noted that Donna Dees-Thomases, the supposedly average mom who organized the Million Mom March, is a public relations specialist for CBS and sister-in-law of Hillary Clinton intimate and political adviser, Susan Thomases. No mention in the Times or the Washington Post though of Mrs. Thomases's contributions to Hillary's Senate campaign and her previous work on Capitol Hill for two Democratic Senators."

    Indeed, in the May 15 New York Times story on the march, reporter Robin Toner passed along:
    "The Million Mom March was the brainchild of Donna Rees-Thomases, a part-time publicist for CBS, the sister-in-law of Susan Thomases, a close friend of Hillary Clinton, and a New Jersey mother who said her maternal instincts kicked in after the shooting last August at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles."

    Last Thursday, May 11, Hume filled in Thomases's resume: "More information you haven't heard from the rest of the media on Donna Dees-Thomases, organizer of that women's march for gun control here this weekend. NBC News says she's quote, 'a mother who's never been politically active,' but, in fact, she once worked for retired Louisiana Democratic Senators Russell Long and Bennett Johnston. And the Media Research Center says she's been giving to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign since last year."

    For more about Dees-Thomases's background, as documented in the May 11 CyberAlert, go to:

    And, for Thomases's claims of political naivete, go to the May 12 Media Reality Check:


"On the PBS public-affairs show To the Contrary over the weekend, host Bonnie Erbe told panelist Linda Chavez that a woman of her age doesn't need to worry about being raped." So National Review's John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru revealed in their Washington Bulletin e-mail on Monday.

    To the Contrary bills itself as "a discussion of issues from a variety of women's perspectives," though Erbe's comment is one sure to have had generated condemnation on the show if uttered by a man. Her comment came at the very end of a discussion about gun control and the Million Mom March with the conservative Linda Chavez, a Virginia resident who disclosed that a month ago she bought a gun at a gun show.

    Here's the transcript of the relevant portion of the show as provided by National Review, with some slight corrections and added words I got off the MRC's taped copy of the program:

    Linda Chavez, Center for Equal Opportunity: "If you're someone like me, who lives out in a rural area -- if someone breaks into my house and wants to murder or rape me or steal all of my property, it'll take half an hour for a policeman to get to me."
    DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton jumped and a brief back and forth ensued about how Chavez has dogs who will alert her to an intruder.
    Chavez continued: "Thousands of lives are saved by people being able to protect themselves."
    Norton: "And there are more suicides and more accidents because there was a gun in the home than they'll ever be lives saved because somebody happened to get the jump on a burglar."
    Bonnie Erbe: "And if you look at the statistics, I would bet that you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, Linda, than living where you live, and at your age, being raped. Sorry."

    Before anyone could react, Erbe moved the discussion to a new topic: The New York Senate race.

    NR's Miller and Ponnuru learned that Erbe stands by her assessment of rape risk and thinks women who buy guns are "bonkers." They reported in their May 15 e-mail:
    "Contacted on Monday, Erbe refused to back down. 'A woman living in a rural area and at a post-menopausal age statistically is not likely to be a rape target,' she said. 'Women buying guns for their self protection have gone completely bonkers.' Asked if she knew Chavez's age, Erbe replied, 'Somewhere over 55 and somewhere under 60.' Chavez is 52. Cari W. Stein, the executive producer of To the Contrary, said, 'Bonnie certainly is not insensitive to sexual assault. Her commitment to women's issues should be apparent from the program.'"

    Erbe, now a columnist for Scripps-Howard, is the former legal affairs correspondent for the Mutual/NBC Radio Network. While still in that job, she took this stab at conservatives on the August 16, 1996 To the Contrary, just after the Republican convention:
    "TV viewers saw a well-orchestrated image of a moderated Republican Party, portraying itself as pro-woman, pro-minorities, and pro-tolerance. This is in sharp contrast to the delegates on the floor, sixty percent of whom self-identified as conservative Christians."

    In a June 1997 column, she complained: "What liberals can't understand is why can't Republicans be honest about their discomfort with the advancement of women and minorities...The ideological pulse of the party, the Conservative Action Team, is backing its own candidate for the Republican Conference's vice chair. And nary a woman was ever in the running. The message from the crowd is clear: only anti-abortion, right-wing males need apply."

    And remember, it was on Erbe's To the Contrary that a panelist wished Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would die. On the November 4, 1994 edition, then-USA Today columnist and Pacifica Radio talk show host Julianne Malveaux, spewed: "The man is on the Court. You know, I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease. Well, that's how I feel. He is an absolutely reprehensible person."

    To see a clip of Malveaux's wish, via RealPlayer, go to:

    For more about To the Contrary, which is produced by Maryland Public Television, go to:

    Washington area viewers with a lot of free time can watch the show four times each weekend: Saturdays at 12pm on WETA-TV; Sundays at 10:30am on WMPT-TV; and Fridays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 5:30pm on WHUT-TV.

    +++ Watch Erbe make her comment on To the Contrary about how older women have more to fear from lightning than rape. Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip in the posted version of this CyberAlert item. After 11am ET, go to:


The journey left of NBC's drama, The West Wing, took a bizarre twist into very tolerant social liberalism last Wednesday night with "President Bartlet," played by Martin Sheen, offering to order the Attorney General to help a prostitute, who just earned a law degree, gain admittance to the bar.

    After she's photographed by a newspaper with one of his aides, instead of angrily rebuking the aide, Bartlet stands by him and tells him to apologize to her for the White House for the intrusion on her life and suggests she sue the newspaper for invading her privacy. The scene ends with this serious comment from Bartlet: "It's nice when we can do something for prostitutes once in a while, isn't it?"

    Here's the background: At the beginning of the season "Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn," the George Stephanopoulos character played by Rob Lowe, "inadvertently" goes on a date with a woman, "Laurie," he learns is a prostitute. He continued to date her, providing subplots all season long about him trying to keep her profession secret.

    Fast forward to the May 10 episode of the 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT series: An evil staffer for a Republican Senator opposed to campaign finance reform has learned of the relationship. Fearful of blackmail, "Communications Director Toby Ziegler" bars Seaborn from attending Laurie's graduation from The George Washington University Law School. (As a GWU undergrad alum myself this was a proud moment.)

    Instead, Laurie's waitress friend arranges for Sam and Laurie to meet afterward at her home. Talking to Laurie on the sidewalk outside the waitress's very swank Georgetown-like home, Sam gives Laurie his gift, a briefcase. As they embrace, photos are taken and a car speeds off.

     The White House Press Secretary learns the waitress friend set up Laurie for $50,000 and the "London Daily Mirror" is about the publish the photo. This leads Toby and Sam to come clean with the President in this scene, transcribed by MRC intern Michael Ferguson, which starts as all three walk into the Oval Office from outside:

    President Josiah Bartlet: "You never paid this girl to have sex?"
    Sam: "No sir."
    Toby: "They didn't have that kind of a relationship, sir. Except once, and that time he didn't know what was happening."
    Bartlet: "Well, that makes two of us."
    Toby: "Mr. President, Sam has always been completely above board about his relationship with Laurie, he-"
    Bartlet: "Laurie's the girl?"
    Sam: "Yes sir."
    Toby: "He told us about it right after his first contact with her nine months ago. The fact that she was putting herself through law school under circumstances that were less than good has to mean something, as does the fact that Sam's word is unimpeachable."
    Bartlet: "Toby, are you in here sticking up for Sam?"
    Toby: "I know, it's strange, sir. But I'm feeling a certain big brotherly connection right now. You know, obviously I'd like that feeling to go away as soon as possible. But for the moment I think there's no danger in the White House standing by Sam and aggressively going after the people who set him up."
    Bartlet: "Sam, you're going to spend the morning in the White House counsel's office finding out if you broke any laws."
    Sam: "Yes sir."
    Bartlet: "You should also call the girl. What's her name?"
    Sam and Toby simultaneously: "Laurie."
    Bartlet: "You should call her and tell her the White House deeply regrets the phenomenal inconvenience she's about to experience."
    Sam: "Yes sir."
    Bartlet: "You might also want to point out to her that she probably has a cause of action against the paper."
    Sam: "Yes sir."
    Bartlet: "You should tell her that if she passes her bar exam, the U.S. Attorney General will personally see to it that she's admitted to the bar."
    Sam: "Yes sir."
    Bartlet: "Tell her the President of the United States says congratulations on getting her degree."
    Sam: "Yes sir."
    Bartlet: "That's all."
    Sam: "Thank you, Mr. President."
    Bartlet to Toby: "It's nice when we can do something for prostitutes once in a while, isn't it?"
    Toby: "Yes sir."

    +++ View this scene via RealPlayer. Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post it on the MRC home page. After 11am ET go to http://www.mrc.org or directly to:

    The May 10 episode also continued President Bartlet's quest for a ban on soft money, a pursuit which led him, in the same episode in which he excused prostitution, to fire an ambassador for having an affair. In order to get enough votes on the FEC for a ban on soft money, Bartlet names an uncooperative current commissioner as the new ambassador to Micronesia. To make that an open spot he bumps the current ambassador to the island nation up to ambassador to Paraguay. And the present envoy to Paraguay gets bumped up to Bulgaria, a slot Bartlet opens by firing the current ambassador because he's having an affair with the daughter of the Prime Minister.

    So, having an affair is condemned. But carrying on a relationship with a prostitute is not and the prostitute is treated as a struggling victim who must be helped.

    I guess The West Wing really is inspired by the Clinton White House -- half the time.

    Tonight's (May 17) episode is the season finale. For those in the Washington area who read about the cast filming in Rosslyn a few weeks ago some sort of an attack on a motorcade, this is the episode which will use that footage. I'm betting on an attack on Bartlet's college-age daughter by white supremacists upset by her dating a black guy.

    For a rundown on the May 3 episode and links to previous CyberAlert items on The West Wing, go to:


Prompted, I would guess, by NBC's decision to cough up $750,000 per episode for the six stars of Friends, from the May 15 Late Show with David Letterman: The "Top Ten Ways NBC is Planning on Cutting Back." Copyright 2000 by World Wide Pants, Inc.

10. Stop paying for entire news division -- let Tom Brokaw make stuff up
9. "Law and Order" -- same amount of Law, 30% less Order
8. Instead of videotape, Olympic coverage all Polaroids
7. Al Roker must downgrade from Doppler 4000 to Doppler 3950
6. Only sending Jerry Seinfeld 5 BMWs a day begging him to come back
5. Instead of real bodies, "E.R." doctors huddle over board game "Operation"
4. Goodbye NBA -- hello live coverage of old chicks playing Canasta
3. New game show: "Who Wants To Watch ABC's 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?'"
2. "Dateline" now only on 43 times a week
1. From now on, NBC equals Nothing But Commercials

    And from the Late Show Web page, some of the "also rans" that didn't make the final cut because Letterman's writers produce "more brilliant jokes than can fit in a Top Ten List."

-- All "Where In the World Is Matt Lauer?" destinations must be within reach of the studio camera cable
-- In "The West Wing," highly-paid actor portraying the President will be replaced by Gerald Ford
-- Tom Brokaw's back-breaking hour-a-day work schedule reduced dramatically
-- In addition to the "Nightly News," Tom Brokaw must now play "Phoebe" on "Friends"
-- Once a week, "NBC Nightly News" will be a rerun

    From comedy to a related reality: NBC actually plans to re-run NBC Nightly News later each weeknight on Pax-TV. -- Brent Baker


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