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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday June 23, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 106) |

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About Bush's "Truth"; Gary Graham Crusade; ABC Picked Liberal Over Limbaugh; Byrd Attack Dismissed

1) Unlike previous revelations about requests for an Independent Counsel, the networks jumped on Thursday's news that a current Justice official wants Gore probed. Peter Jennings likened Bush and executions to Gore's honesty: "This is all about truth and character for both these men, right?"

2) ABC, CBS and NBC ran short items on how Independent Counsel Robert Ray decided to not indict Hillary Clinton, though he concluded that she did have a role in Travel Office firings.

3) Charles Gibson boasted of GMA's slant: "We've been bringing you reports raising questions about the soundness of the death penalty across the nation." The Gary Graham case led the Thursday morning and evening shows. On Today, Geraldo called it an "outrage."

4) On CNBC Geraldo Rivera castigated as "barbaric" giving Graham six last meals and argued that a civilized nation would not execute a man for a crime committed at age 17.

5) In estimating the cost per gallon EPA-mandated reformulated gas adds, EPA pegged it at three cents and a study for Congress put it at 25 cents. Guess which number ABC News believed.

6) ABC passed over conservative Rush Limbaugh for Monday Night Football and instead picked liberal Dennis Miller, who once belittled Limbaugh's show: "...barely educates [and] reinforces the narrow-minded prejudices of both the host and the listener."

7) The senior Democratic Senator, Robert Byrd, excoriated Bill Richardson, but CBS News ignored it and talked about a "new round in the blame game."

8) Letterman's "Top Ten Questions on the Los Alamos Security Application."

    >>> Now online, the June 20 edition of MagazineWatch about the June 26 issues of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News. The items in this edition compiled by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- 1. All three magazines minimized the sudden retirement of scandal-plagued Gore campaign boss Tony Coelho, praised Gore's selected replacement, Bill Daley as "a step up," and all but ignored his blatant snub of his top black aide, Donna Brazile. All three news magazines interviewed Gore, but none raised the "slumlord" gaffe or his embarrassing "I'm not an expert on computers" defense of his vanishing year of White House e-mails.
-- 2. All three magazines praised North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il, the dictator with the showstopping moves: "The world's scariest dictator made himself into a huggy bear."
-- 3. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the media's love of taxes at death. U.S. News reporter Jodie Allen found a "conservative" who not only supports estate taxes, but complete confiscation of estates.
-- 4. U.S. News reporter Kit R. Roane lumped the National Rifle Association's NRA Sports Blast café with recent shootings and the Central Park "wilding" incident.
    To read these items, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/magwatch/2000/mag20000620.asp <<<


After months of ignoring revelations about the requests by former fundraising task force chief Charles LaBella and FBI Director Louis Freeh for an independent counsel to investigate Al Gore's 1996 fundraising activities, Thursday night all the networks jumped on the disclosure that LaBella's successor at Justice, Robert Conrad, had earlier this year urged appointment of a special prosecutor.

    (When the March 10 Los Angeles Times revealed the contents of a memo in which LaBella urged appointment of an independent counsel, none of the broadcast networks uttered a word about it that morning or evening. Ditto for when at a May 24 House hearing the FBI's general counsel provided corroboration for FBI Director Louis Freeh's statement in a 1996 memo that he learned that Attorney General Janet Reno's continuation in her job was at risk from the White House if she pursued Clinton-Gore fundraising.)

    Justice Department officials' admission Thursday was prompted by a question from Senator Arlen Specter to Conrad at a hearing on Wednesday.

    ABC's Peter Jennings equated doubts about Gore's honesty in answering prober's questions with how George Bush is handling the death penalty. He asked Cokie Roberts: "This is all about truth and character for both these men, right?" Roberts agreed: "It is."

    For a flavor of how the broadcast networks handled the Gore story, below are transcripts, thanks to MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, of how each anchor introduced the story and the spin the reporter delivered in their wrap-up. In between, all three reporters explained how the recommendation stemmed from an April 18 interview with Gore by Justice investigators in which his answers about the Buddhist temple event troubled Conrad and how Janet Reno has already turned down two requests from her deputies (LaBella and Freeh) to name an independent counsel. Since that position no longer exists, Conrad asked Reno to name a special prosecutor under her direction.

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Immediately after the lead story about the impending Gary Graham execution, Peter Jennings announced: "In Washington today, a senior prosecutor at the Justice Department has recommended that a special counsel be appointed to investigate Vice President Gore's fundraising activities during the last presidential campaign. Did he lie about his famous visit to a Buddhist temple?"

    Jackie Judd concluded her subsequent piece: "Peter, we're told tonight that Reno does know about this recommendation, but it has not been sent to her officially and so is not yet under really active consideration."

    Later, Jennings talked with Cokie Roberts and George Stephanopoulos about the controversies facing the two candidates. The first question to Stephanopoulos about Bush: "Why need he be so worried about his issue of the death penalty?" And to Roberts about Gore: "Why should be unusually worried about one more investigation of the Clinton-Gore administration?"

    Jennings soon equated the relevance and import of the two topics: "This is all about truth and character for both these men, right?"
    Roberts agreed: "It is. In Gore's case about truth and in both of their cases about character. And in Bush's case it could come down to truth if he's challenged, as George said, about his statements over and over again that every single one of those executions the character was guilty and the trial was fair."
    Jennings: "Thank you Cokie. Truth and character?"
    Stephanopoulos: "Judgment on Bush's part."

    There you have it, Bush potentially being wrong in his judgment about the quality of the Texas judicial system would make him just as guilty for not telling the truth as Gore would be if proven what he himself said is untrue.

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned after two opening stories on Gary Graham: "Vice President Gore is also on the spot tonight over a new carefully orchestrated leak involving accusations about Gore's past campaign fundraising practices. A Justice Department official is calling for an independent investigator in the case."

    Bob Schieffer concluded: "The Justice Department would not comment for the record, but one official there said Conrad had made a quote, 'preliminary recommendation,' that has not yet been formally presented to the Attorney General. But even if she decides not to appoint an outside counsel, it leaves the Vice President in a political fix. Three senior law enforcement officials, including the FBI Director, had already urged Reno to name an outside counsel to investigate Gore. This will just make it harder for him to explain why they're wrong."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Also following multiple opening pieces on Graham, Tom Brokaw declared: "The other presidential candidate, Vice President Al Gore, is also in the news tonight, and it's not good news for him. After many months of speculation, controversy, and confusion, it appears that another senior Justice Department official has concluded Al Gore should be investigated by a special prosecutor for alleged campaign fundraising abuses."

    Claire Shipman, after running a soundbite from LaBella urging Reno to act this time, concluded: "Now Janet Reno, remember, may decide again not to follow this advice, and she can't appoint an independent counsel. That law expired last year. If she does bring somebody in, it would be a special counsel working within the Justice Department and reporting to Janet Reno."


Immediately after the Gore story all three network anchors read short items on an announcement from Independent Counsel Robert Ray about how he had decided to not go for an indictment of Hillary Clinton, though he concluded that, in contrast to her claims, she did have a role in the Travel Office firings. ABC and CBS went with that sequence while NBC's Tom Brokaw first relayed his conclusion about her role in the scandal.

    Here's what viewers of each show heard on Thursday night, June 22:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings: "One other issue about investigations today. The independent counsel, Robert Ray, said today he's not going to file charges against Hillary Clinton. He said there is not enough evidence to prove that she lied about the firing of White House Travel Office employees seven years ago. He did say there is substantial evidence that Mrs. Clinton had a role in the firings, which contradicts her denials."

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather: "Another blast from the political past tonight concerns First Lady Hillary Clinton. Robert Ray, who replaced special prosecutor Ken Starr, says no charges will be filed against Mrs. Clinton over the firings of White House Travel Office employees that happened just when the Clintons were coming into office. Mrs. Clinton has denied any role in those firings. Ray says there is quote, 'substantial evidence,' unquote, that she was involved but not enough evidence to prove her statements were knowingly false."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw: "Then there's also this tonight from Independent Counsel Robert Ray, who says there is substantial evidence that First Lady Hillary Clinton played a role in the firings at the White House Travel Office back in 1993. However, he says he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any of Mrs. Clinton's statements and testimony about Travelgate were knowingly false, so Ray says he will not prosecute the First Lady, now running for the U.S. Senate from New York."


Gary Graham mania. His impending execution dominated the three cable news networks all day -- with Geraldo Rivera live from Huntsville, Texas all day on MSNBC -- after the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows made it their top story. The omnipresent Geraldo popped up on Today to denounce the execution as an "outrage." Thursday night his cause topped the broadcast network evening shows a day after all three had run full pieces the night before.

    Opening the June 22 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather made sure viewers realized the link to Bush and the larger political cause:
    "The scheduled execution of convicted killer Gary Graham at this hour is on hold, pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected shortly. This is a case that puts Governor George Bush in the spotlight and in the spot in the latest death penalty debate in Campaign 2000. The context: Questions about whether Graham and other inmates around the nation are dying for crimes they didn't commit."

    Introducing the first interview segment on Thursday's Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, boasted of how his show had chosen sides: "We do turn first this morning to convicted killer Gary Graham, who as we said, is sentenced to die this evening on the strength of a single eyewitness. Over past 10 day, we've been bringing you reports raising questions about the soundness of the death penalty across the nation and in the state of Texas. As in so many death penalty cases, this one is reaching a fever pitch."

    Over on NBC's Today, co-host Katie Couric interviewed Bernadine Skillern, the eyewitness who identified Graham as well as Graham's lawyer, Jack Zimmerman. Live from Texas, Geraldo Rivera soon joined the conversation as well as Diane Clements of Justice for All. Abandoning any pretense of being a reporter, Rivera argued, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
    "You know Katie it seems an awfully thin read on which to base an execution of a man. There is no physical evidence tying Gary Graham to this homicide. The .22 caliber weapon he was caught with. It was not the .22 caliber weapon that caused the death of Bobby Lambert. That information was never....That information was never given to the jury. In state after state in case after case we are finding too many Americans being condemned to die because of inadequate representation of counsel. Because of shady testimony from jailhouse snitches because of tainted evidence. How can we send a man to his death? You hear these people debating over the facts and circumstances of this homicide. If there is this debate in the Today show studio by God how can we send the man to his death? This is not only reasonable doubt, this is real doubt. And if he is indeed innocent. And he has not been given a full hearing then shame on us. I'm not suggesting that it's George Bush. Even though this is the 135th person to be executed during his tenure in office as Governor of the state of Texas. Bill Clinton as Governor of Arkansas during the 1992 presidential race went back to his state to supervise the execution of a mentally retarded person there. This is death row politics. This is, this is unseemly haste."

    But Geraldo, nor anyone else, appeared live from Arkansas on Today back in 1992 when Bill Clinton left the campaign trail to handle that execution. In fact, that execution of Rick Ray Rector didn't generate any morning show segments and barely registered ion the evening news. (Details to follow later today in a Media Reality Check the MRC's Tim Graham is preparing for morning distribution and which I will send to the CyberAlert list.)

    Back to Thursday's Today, Geraldo made clear he doesn't think much of the legal reasoning Bush applied in maintaining he could not extend a second 30-day reprieve.

    Couric: "Geraldo, Governor George Bush says that he doesn't really have that many options under the Texas constitution because Ann Richards has already granted a gubernatorial reprieve. What is your interpretation of that? Because I know that, that has been interpreted in different ways and some people don't agree with the Governor."
    Rivera: "That's precisely the point, Katie. You're exactly right. There has never been an interpretation because one Governor granted a 30 day reprieve, a succeeding Governor cannot grant another 30 day reprieve. There is no law on the books in the state of Texas that bars George Bush from doing this upon the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. To suggest that because one governor did it back in 1993 he can't do it now in the year 2000 I think is disingenuous at best. And what it attempts to do is to place responsibility someplace else. To say hey I can't do anything about it. The fact of the matter is, more people have been sent to their deaths in this building behind me than any place else in the civilized world. To send a person to the ultimate punishment based on this kind of shaky testimony, this kind of evidence, I think is an outrage."


It takes three networks to handle all of Geraldo's bias. In addition to serving as an advocate/reporter on Thursday's Today on NBC and to providing live reports from Huntsville, Texas on MSNBC all day, Geraldo had his usual gigs Wednesday night on CNBC. He used them to castigate as "barbaric" giving Graham six last meals, to allow Graham to denounce the system as "barbaric" and to argue that a civilized nation would not execute a man for a crime committed at age 17. All these quotes were taken down by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:

    -- CNBC's Upfront Tonight, June 21: "Gary Graham told me that he has already had six last meals. Coming that close to death a half dozen times. And whatever your feelings about the death penalty, if that is not barbaric nothing is."

    Six times the "barbaric" system ruled in his favor and allowed another appeal to be heard.

    -- On Rivera Live Geraldo played clips of his interview with Graham and put the same complaint to him:
    "It sounds barbaric. Six last meals, it sounds barbaric coming within an hour and a half of the state killing you when it happened that close."
    Gary Graham: "Well it is. You know it's, it is a very inhumane system. And very barbaric system. I think the civil rights world is certainly outraged by what's happening."

    This from a guy who admits shooting two people, one in the neck. Just good luck prevented them from being murder victims.

    At another point in the interview, Geraldo empathized with him: "You were 17, even if you did it. Most civilized nations, and most states wouldn't let them kill you."

    Fortunately he committed his crime in Texas.


ABC assumed the EPA is more accurate than congressional researchers or the oil industry in figuring the cost of reformulated fuel.

    On Wednesday's World News Tonight ABC reporter Bob Jamieson explored why, after factoring out the difference in state taxes, Seattle's pump price is "30 cents more than the basic costs, while Chicago's is nearly 80?" After acknowledging that a pipeline disruption "may have added 25 cents to the price of a gallon in Chicago," Jamieson raised EPA regulations:
    "Another reason may be new federal regulations. Since June 1st, Chicago has been required to use a reformulated gasoline to cut air pollution. There's no agreement on how much that costs Chicago motorists. The Congressional Research Service today said that adds 25 cents, but the oil industry says it adds only a dime, and the Environmental Protection Agency says just pennies. If the EPA is right, that still leaves 22 cents of the difference between Chicago and Seattle unaccounted for. Many are charging that is the result of price gouging. But who are the gougers? Gasoline station operators say they are not. The oil companies say they are not. It is now up to the Federal Trade Commission to decide who's telling the truth."

    How about we assume the Congressional Research Service is right. That would explain it all, leaving a price difference of zero.


A conservative is too controversial for ABC Sports but a conservative-bashing liberal is not? How else do you explain ABC passing over Rush Limbaugh for a spot in the Monday Night Football booth and instead picking Dennis Miller?

    Late Thursday ABC announced that joining play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in the booth for ABC's Monday night NFL games this year will be Miller, a veteran of Saturday Night Live, and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts.

    Anyone who watches Miller's Friday night HBO show, Dennis Miller Live, knows that while he is great with quick quips, he's also a regular basher of conservatives, though he does occasionally stray from the liberal line. As noted in the June 8 CyberAlert, he denounced Hillary Clinton as a "craven careerist" in a June 2 interview of Christine Lahti.

    The MRC has not systematically documented Miller's liberal antics on his HBO show, but MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson has tracked Miller and taken down many of his more strident jokes, put-downs and quips. Here's a small sampling the quotes, starting with ones Tom provided to MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell for a column.

    From Bozell's July 21, 1998 Creator's syndicate column:

Comedian Dennis Miller, who called himself a "conservative libertarian" in a 1996 interview, has demonstrated again that he hasn't a clue about the meaning of either term.

However Miller identifies himself, his strongest invective is always aimed at the right. After the Republicans took Congress in 1994, his attacks on Newt Gingrich were breathtakingly vicious. Even though Gingrich isn't the inviting target he was a couple of years ago, Miller isn't short of conservative whipping boys.

Discussing Trent Lott's remarks on homosexuality on the June 19 edition of his weekly HBO half-hour, "Dennis Miller Live," he snarled, "Maybe we shouldn't come down on Trent just because he believes the only thing a man should have up his [rear end] is his own head," and labeled him a "stiff-haired, pinhead scumbag."

OK, maybe Miller's not a social conservative. Maybe he's a true-blue, albeit nasty and foul-mouthed, libertarian. But listen to something else he said on the very same episode: "When it comes to paranoia, most folks [are more concerned with] the federal government... but I'm made more paranoid by corporations. Car companies that lie about their safety records; chemical firms selling toxic weed killers that wind up in our food... Let's face it, the idiots in Washington, D.C. can't even investigate a conspiracy, much less create one."....

On July 10th, Miller went after Rush Limbaugh, whose show, he claims, "barely educates [and] reinforces the narrow-minded prejudices of both the host and the listener." Unlike, we are meant to gather, "Dennis Miller Live."

    END Excerpt

    From the July 1995 edition of TV, etc., the MRC's now defunct entertainment media newsletter, some quotes from Miller's HBO show:
    -- June 2: "Well, Newt, as an American, and especially as a comedian, Christ, do I want you to run [for President]. I'll blow you, 'cause I know it's about time you had one of those."

    -- June 16: "Then, while up in New Hampshire, Gingrich went looking for moose. He said he wanted to see a moose before his Party's environmental policy made them extinct..."

    -- June 23: "As for our esteemed leadership in Washington, sometimes it would appear that these demagogues furtively crave teen pregnancies because they need the scapegoats. Well, we need to get the religious right to take off their official Ralph Reed blinders and wake up...
    "America, let's grow up about sex. Let's realize that a Surgeon General who speaks her mind about sex education, teen pregnancy, and preventive health care doesn't deserve to be Surgeon General. She deserves to be the f[---]in' President of the United States.
    "[To guest Joycelyn Elders] As a citizen, I'm proud that you were once my Surgeon General, and as a person, I'm glad you're out of there. You're too bright."

    And from the May 1994 TV, etc., Miller on CNBC's old Dick Cavett show on April 15: "When you [hear Clinton] speak, you think 'My God, he actually knows the issues,' whereas the entire Reagan library is nothing but...3 X 5 cards."


A cabinet member is excoriated by the senior Senator of his own party and what does CBS News do? Ignore it and talk about a "new round in the blame game" and insist a hearing "shed more heat than light." That's just what happened in CBS's reporting, or really lack of reporting, on Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's appearance Wednesday before a Senate committee to answer questions about a lost and found hard drive at Los Alamos which contained top secret nuclear data.

    On ABC's World News Tonight on June 21 Barry Serafin led with the condemnation: "Richardson was the target of blistering attacks, mostly from Senate Republicans....But even the Senate's senior Democrat went on the attack, accusing Richardson, who declined to testify at an earlier hearing, of contempt of Congress and supreme arrogance."
    Senator Robert Byrd, D-WVa: "You will never again receive the support of the Senate of the United States for any office to which you might be appointed."

    Andrea Mitchell stressed in her NBC Nightly News piece how Richardson delivered good news about how there is no evidence of espionage, but she also acknowledged his chilly reception: "For Richardson, a trip to the woodshed with big consequences. Only three months ago, around the time the hard drives were apparently taken, he was on the short list to become Al Gore's running mate. Today, a very different outlook."
    Byrd: "You will never again receive the support of the Senate of the United States for any office to which you might be appointed."

    Now compare that to what CBS Evening News viewers heard Wednesday night from Dan Rather. No full story, just this loaded item which treated the matter as a political game:
    "There is a new round in the blame game over those lost and found nuclear weapons secrets at the Los Alamos laboratory. A congressional hearing shed more heat than light with renewed attacks on Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Behind the scenes, sources tell CBS's Sharyl Attkisson, investigators believe, but cannot prove, that one of three scientists may have hid and then put back the computer hard drives with the nuclear data. They still think it's sloppiness, not espionage."


From the June 21 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions on the Los Alamos Security Application." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "Do you have any previous experience sitting around doing nothing?"
9. "How many hard drives per minute can you lose?"
8. "Could you personally make our security program suck even more?"
7. "Do you believe in the 'Computer Disk Fairy'? That's our excuse when things disappear"
6. "If something is stolen, do you promise to file report within 38 months?"
5. "Tell us about your work with the group 'Overthrow America'!"
4. "Which word better describes you: 'bumbling' or 'incompetent'?"
3. "Will you keep all secrets to yourself that is unless someone offers you a boatload of cash?"
2. "Can you tell me the difference between your ass and a hole in the ground?"
1. "You haven't seen an encrypted MIRV warhead schematic lying around, have you?"

    And, from the Late Show Web page, (http://www.cbs.com/lateshow/), some of the "also ran" jokes that didn't make it into the list because "those overachieving writers keep producing more brilliant jokes than can fit in a Top Ten List."

-- "Would you agree that in terms of security, nothing beats the honor system?"
-- "Where do you see yourself in five years? That is, if some terrorist organization doesn't kill us all with the secrets they've stolen"
-- "When we're all called to testify before a Senate committee, do you have moral objection to lying your particular ass off?"

    Final Note: Tonight's 20/20 features Barbara Walters with Al and Tipper Gore. To see and hear Walters earlier this week singing the closing song at her late father's nightclub, The Latin Quarter, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000621.asp#5 -- Brent Baker


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