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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday July 6, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 112) |

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Disbarment Barred; Supreme Court: "Far-Right" to "Moderate"; ABC Hit Both Parties from Left

1) The Arkansas committee officially filed suit last Friday to have Bill Clinton disbarred. CBS gave it 14 seconds, ABC a piddling nine seconds.

2) NPR's Nina Totenberg defended the Supreme Court decision barring any prohibition of partial-birth abortions, though she denounced the term as inaccurate.

3) A Reuters story contended the Supreme Court is made up of three "far-right" justices, two "more moderate conservatives" and four "moderates." That left zero as liberals.

4) ABC News hit both the Democratic and Republican Medicare prescription entitlement programs from the left: "Neither plan will provide all the help many senior citizens need."

5) On NBC's Tonight Show Bill Maher, host of ABC's Politically Incorrect, praised Bill Clinton for "the way he stood up to that impeachment nonsense, I think he changed this country. And I think someday they will name high schools after him."

6) MediaNomics now online: "Networks Let Government Slide Off the Hook in Gas Price Run-Up"; "TV's Fed Coverage Omits Pro-Growth Views" and "Kudos to NBC's Tim Russert" for pressing Ralph Nader.

7) Video now up of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen scolding NBC reporter Jim Avila for his "incredibly nauseating" pro-Castro propaganda in the guise of news reporting.

8) Letterman's "Top Ten Punchlines to Founding Father Dirty Jokes."

    >>> "Bryant Gumbel and the Christian Bashing System," the latest column by MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell III, is now online. The column, prompted by Gumbel's June 29 accidentally caught on tape "What a f***ing idiot" reference to Robert Knight of the Family Research Council, recites some of Gumbel's past blasts at conservative religious figures. It also includes this denial from CBS News about the June 29 incident: "During a weather segment on Thursday morning's 'Early Show,' a brief camera shot with no audio of Bryant getting up from his chair accidentally appeared on air. He was making a casual remark of some sort, but it is unclear what the comment was and in any case, it bears no relevance to the content of The Early Show." To read the column, go to:
    For details about the June 29 insult as well as a video clip of it so you can judge for yourself, go to:


The official move to disbar Clinton didn't much interest the networks in their pre-holiday weekend Friday newscasts dominated by stories about holiday travel and gas prices. Of the broadcast network evening shows on June 30, only NBC Nightly News ran a full story on how the committee appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court had officially filed a lawsuit against Clinton, the first step in the disbarment process.

    CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts gave it 14 seconds while ABC's Kevin Newman consumed a mere nine seconds in cluing in World News Tonight viewers:
    "In Little Rock today, an Arkansas Supreme Court committee did what it voted to do in May. It filed suit to have President Clinton disbarred for what it called misconduct in the Paula Jones case."


NPR's Nina Totenberg defended the Supreme Court's decision to overturn, on a 5-4 vote, Nebraska's law banning something. Totenberg insisted "partial-birth abortion" is a deliberately misleading term and that the procedure does not occur late in pregnancy.

    MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught the debate between Totenberg and columnist Charles Krauthammer on the July 1 edition of Inside Washington shown by many PBS stations and produced by Washington, DC's Gannett-owned CBS affiliate, WUSA-TV.

    Nina Totenberg: "You know, there's a very interesting thing about so-called 'partial birth abortion,' and that's not a medical term, that's a political term, as all the courts have said, and that is that both the pro-life and pro-choice forces have conspired in an odd sort of way to make the public totally misunderstand what this is all about. These are not late-term abortions. Those are banned in every state. Third-trimester abortions are banned in every state except to save the life and the health of the mother. These are by and large second trimester abortions, and the important thing here that Justice O'Connor said is if a doctor thinks a procedure is necessary to, for the life of the mother, he or she can use that procedure, and any law that interferes with that is gonna be unconstitutional."

    Charles Krauthammer suggested: "I would guess that if this issue becomes important in the election, it will help the right more than the left. I think it will really energize the anti-abortion people because they are truly driven wild by this particular procedure, which is an awful and gruesome procedure, and I might add, I looked at the medical literature, totally unnecessary, there are other procedures-"
    Totenberg interrupted: "That's not what the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians says, unfortunately for you."
    Krauthammer: "There have been a lot of studies of this, and there is absolutely no need for this particular procedure-"
    Totenberg: "I have, I, I've-"
    Krauthammer: "Excuse me, Nina."
    Moderator Gordon Peterson: "Let him finish."
    Totenberg: "Okay."
    Krauthammer: "On the issue of the politics of it, abortion in general plays for the, for Democrats because if people have a sense it'll be banned, clearly it works against Republicans. But partial birth abortion, if that is the particular issue, it works the other way because you get people, even like Senator Moynihan, who talk about it as being almost akin to infanticide."

    But certainly not for Totenberg.


There are no liberals on the Supreme Court according to Reuters Washington DC-based reporter James Vicini in a June 30 dispatch featured on the Yahoo! news page and brought to my attention by a CyberAlert reader. Those relaying on Reuters learned from Vicini that the court is made up of three "far-right" justices, two "more moderate conservatives" and four "moderates."

    Here's an excerpt of the story, headlined: "High Court Ends Watershed, Election-Year Term," in which Vicini issued his labeling after allowing an ACLU lawyer to denounce the court's session for being too conservative:

....Vice President Al Gore, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said earlier this week the next President's selection of justices could determine whether women keep the legal right to an abortion.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the expected Republican presidential nominee, has criticized the court's abortion rulings. Bush has cited Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the court's two staunchest conservatives, as models for his appointees....

On its last day, the court by a 5-4 vote struck down a Nebraska law that banned the surgical procedure called "partial birth" abortion, ruling it placed an undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion.

Other rulings during the term upheld federal aid to parochial schools, supported the rights of the Boy Scouts to exclude gays, struck down student-led prayers at football games and reaffirmed the famous Miranda ruling that the police must tell suspects of their right to remain silent.

"In pursuit of what remains a largely conservative agenda, this has become one of the most activist courts in American history," said Steven Shapiro, the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

He said the court's constitutional decision making has been motivated not by a concern for individual rights, but to preserve the proper balance of power between Congress and the judiciary, and between states and the federal government.

"A majority of the court was appointed by Presidents who claimed to be looking for judges who would enforce law, not make law," Shapiro said.

"Yet this court has shown a greater willingness to strike down acts of Congress than any court since the early days of the New Deal," he said, referring to programs from the 1930s.

The far-right wing of the court includes Scalia, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and Thomas, who was named by President George Bush in 1991.

They often are joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was named to the court by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and who was elevated to his current post by Reagan in 1986.

The more moderate conservatives are Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, both appointed by Reagan.

The moderates consist of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, both appointees of President Clinton; Justice David Souter, a Bush nominee; and Justice John Paul Stevens, named by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975....

    END Excerpt

    By comparison, the placement of the justices on an ideological scale by Washington Post reporter Edward Walsh on MSNBC last week seems quite reasonable, despite how he only found the conservatives to be "hard core." MRC analyst Paul Smith picked up on Walsh's assessment as uttered on the June 28 News with Brian Williams:
    "You have a pretty hard core group of conservatives, chiefly Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia but also Chief Justice Rehnquist. On the other side you have the liberal bloc, Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy. Any you have O'Connor and Kennedy in the middle. And Justice Souter is in the liberal bloc with O'Connor and Kennedy in the middle and that's the way it's been for some time."

    At least Walsh acknowledged how there really are liberals sitting on the Supreme Court.


You can never have the government spend or regulate enough to satisfy the network news divisions. The latest example: Last Thursday ABC hit both the Republican and Democratic Medicare prescription plans from the left for not spending enough money in the latest creation of an entitlement program.

    World News Tonight anchor Kevin Newman plugged the upcoming story: "Also ahead, 'A Closer Look' at the two big plans in Washington to pay for prescription drugs: Will either one be enough?"

    Introducing the subsequent June 29 story Newman complained: "Neither plan will provide all the help many senior citizens need."

    Reporter Linda Douglass, naturally, had no time for the burden put on taxpayers and instead used an anecdotal victim of a lack of giveaways to make her case: "It is time for Frieda Hurlong's shot of insulin, one of five drugs she takes everyday. Her HMO picks up a little of her drug bill. She has to figure out how to pay for the rest."
    Hurlong: "It's taken most of my money, most of it."
    Douglass: "On top of medicine for diabetes and eye trouble, she takes Zocor for high cholesterol, which costs $171 a month. She can't afford that, so for the moment her doctor gives her free pills."
    Hurlong: "I went to my physician and I was given samples to last me at least say several months."
    Douglass: "Mrs. Hurlong needs help, but she and others may find that neither of the prescription drug plans being considered in Washington goes far enough."

    Douglass proceeded to list the basic features of each and then pronounced them both inadequate: "Under either plan roughly a quarter of seniors could still face high drug bills. So if Washington does anything this year, it probably will not be enough."

    Hitting both parties from the left is probably considered by ABC News to be a demonstration of balance.


Just five days after bashing George Bush and praising Bill Clinton for fending off conservatives, in a performance at a Democratic fundraiser reported in the June 28 CyberAlert, Bill Maher took his act to a wider audience on NBC's Tonight Show. Asked by Jay Leno about why he performed at the fundraiser, the host of ABC's Politically Incorrect replied: "I did it because it was the last time I was going to be able to pay tribute to Clinton."

    Maher added a bit of info not included in the Reuters story about the fundraiser which the June 28 CyberAlert quoted: It took place at a place called The Garden of Eden, which Maher described as "a sleazy disco."

    How appropriate for Clinton.

    Here are some of Maher's other comments on the June 28 Tonight Show, as taken down by MRC intern Michael Ferguson:

    -- "I gave him a very glowing introduction because I think this guy, when history looks back, will -- and I don't agree with him always politically, but the way he stood up to that impeachment nonsense, I think he changed this country. And I think someday they will name high schools after him and kids will proudly play for the Bill Clinton Fighting Cocks, Jay, and I mean that."

    -- "I truly believe he changed the country with that, just the way, you know, Betty Ford put a face on breast cancer or Kitty Dukakis on, I don't know, alcoholism or whatever, and I think Dan Quayle on mental retardation, also. I think he made it that this country will look at adultery differently."
    Leno: "And oral sex."
    Maher: "He put a face on that frequently, Jay."

    -- Leno, referring to Bill Clinton: "Do you think he could get reelected?"
    Maher: "I think people would definitely reelect him, but they won't admit it because, you know, that thing he did with his [points to his crotch]. You know. How awful. The moral monster, you know. I love that -- 'what do we tell the children?' That kind of nonsense. I would have told them the truth. Some very bad men made the President feel guilty about." [raises arms]
    Leno: "Let's ask the audience. Let's see. How many think Clinton would get reelected today. Applause. [Audience applause.] How many say no, would not get reelected. [Slightly more audience applause.]"
    Maher: "I'm telling you, a lot of that is hypocritical I think. I do."
    Leno: "You can't go, 'A lot of that is hypocritical.' You just took a vote."
    Maher: Yeah, but people say one thing and feel another. People say one thing and do something else in the voting booth. Do you believe sex surveys? You believe people tell the truth when they're on the phone being asked, 'How many times do you masturbate.' Oh yeah, let me tell you."
    Leno: "You know, I don't think I've ever gotten that call. Do you get that call a lot?"

    -- "You never know who's going to come out a good kid. Kids grow up in rotten homes and come out good, and they come up in good homes and come out bad. Families are like that. You could take two people, I mean George W. Bush and Drew Barrymore were both happy kids. They grew up happy kids. No, they did. Their lives came out okay. They're from legendary American families. They couldn't be more dissimilar, except for the booze and the coke. I'm not saying they have nothing in common."

    For more on his comments at the June 23 Democratic fundraiser where, Reuters reported, he issued "below the belt attacks" on George W. Bush and claimed Clinton's opponents are "jealous" of him and he "'had the strength to fight the battles that this country needed to have fought' with one hand while he 'beat off the harpies who hated him succeeding with the other,'" go to:


The June 30 edition of MediaNomics, from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP), is now online. The articles written by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

    -- Networks Let Government Slide Off the Hook in Gas Price Run-Up.
    The government's fingerprints were all over the recent astronomical price increases in gasoline in Milwaukee and Chicago, but you wouldn't necessarily know that from watching national TV news coverage of the issue. In recent days, the networks have contentedly repeated assertions from the Environmental Protection Agency that its new clean air regulations -- the ones which took effect immediately before the surge in prices -- had little to do with the price increases.

    -- TV's Fed Coverage Omits Pro-Growth Views.
    Economists and investors have widely debated the Federal Reserve's assumption that low unemployment or excessive growth can trigger out-of-control inflation. It's perhaps the most important economic policy debate going on right now, but a review of network news coverage found only one story in the past year that showed economists who second-guessed the Fed's policies.

    -- Kudos... to NBC's Tim Russert.
    On the June 25 Meet the Press, NBC's Tim Russert confronted Ralph Nader -- self-designated "consumer advocate" and newly-minted Green Party presidential nominee -- with the hypocrisy of his own record.

    To read these pieces, go to:


As reported in the June 30 CyberAlert, last week Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen took advantage of her guest spot on CNBC's Rivera Live to scold NBC's Jim Avila for his "incredibly nauseating" pro-Castro propaganda in the guise of news reporting. In the Gumbel rush on Friday video of this exchange did not make it up onto the MRC Web site, but Webmaster Andy Szul now has it posted in RealPlayer format. To see the June 28 exchange, go to:


From the July 4 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Punchlines to Founding Father Dirty Jokes." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "Give me liberty, or give me Beth"
9. "Damn, I guess all men aren't created equal"
8. "I thought he said, 'Don't fire until you see the whites of her thighs'"
7. "That ain't no musket, but keep looking for the trigger"
6. "If I dress like an Indian, can I dump my tea in your harbor?"
5. "Boston Tea Party? More like Boston T-and-A Party"
4. "One if by land, two if by sea, three if her friend's open-minded"
3. "I thought it was your dentures that were made out of wood, Mr. Washington"
2. "The British are coming! The British are coming!"
1. "I just colonized Virginia"

    And, from the Late Show Web page, because "those over-achieving writers keep producing more brilliant jokes than can fit in a Top Ten List," here are some of the "also-rans."

-- "It may have been 1776, but it felt more like 1769"
-- "That's not a quill pen, but keep dipping it in your inkwell"
-- "So that's why Jefferson's smiling on the nickel"
-- "What do you mean the musket misfired again?"
-- "Wow, that's an inch for every colony"
-- "Really, I was just trying to pursue happiness"

    That last one's not a bad line to try. This is actually a fresh list as Letterman is doing new shows during this holiday week.

    Back to my vacation now that I've caught up with most of the leftovers from last week, plus a few new things, so don't expect another CyberAlert until next week. -- Brent Baker, in New Hampshire


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