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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday July 26, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 122) |

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Cheney Tagged "Hard Right"; Democratic Attacks Amplified; "Held Hostage" Over Abortion

1) ABC, CBS and NBC descriptions of Dick Cheney: One of the "most conservative members" of Congress, "very hardline conservative,"
"a bedrock conservative," a "rock-solid conservative" with a "very conservative record."

2) Tuesday night the networks passed along Democratic attacks on Cheney and listed conservative votes to back up the attacks. Dan Rather relayed how Democrats put Cheney "outside the American mainstream." ABC's only Cheney expert put him "on the far right" while Linda Douglass reported how Cheney grew rich at an oil company while "consumers were paying a premium at the pump."

3) "Cheney's politics are of the hard-right variety," Bryant Gumbel asserted in a pejorative tag for Cheney. On GMA George Stephanopoulos and Dean Reynolds saw a contradiction between opposing the Department of Education and caring about education.

4) MSNBC's Brian Williams suggested the GOP pro-life stance is "damaging" to party prospects while Tom Brokaw worried the party is "held hostage" to those with "strong anti-abortion views."

5) Clueless Brokaw. FNC's Brit Hume picked up on how Brokaw claimed Tom Ridge was vetoed because "the Catholic Church and Jesse Helms said no way." With a frown, a perplexed Hume repeated: "Jesse Helms?"

6) In a transcript read aloud by FNC, an indignant Bill Clinton scolded a campaign finance investigator: "Is this guilt by association, sir? What do you want to say?"

7) A liberal's dream tonight on NBC's Law & Order as the show's star DA holds the President of a gun manufacturer criminally liable for some murders committed with one of his company's guns.

Correction: The July 25 CyberAlert misdated Letterman's "Top Ten Shocking Facts About Dick Cheney." Given it's timeliness, it obviously aired not on the January 24 show but on the July 24 broadcast of the CBS program. 


ABC, CBS and NBC reporters are not hesitating to apply an ideological tag to Dick Cheney as they developed quite a list of modifying terms to put before the word "conservative" in describing him. On Tuesday alone viewers heard these descriptions for Cheney, Bush's VP pick:

     -- ABC: Linda Douglass referred to him as one of the "most conservative members" of Congress who had "a very conservative voting record." Diane Sawyer sighed that while he "doesn't look fire-breathing," he's "very conservative." George Stephanopoulos dubbed him a "very hardline conservative."

     -- CBS: Bill Whitaker managed three different adjectives, tagging Cheney "a bedrock conservative" and "a rock-solid conservative" with a "a solidly conservative voting record." Whitaker also relayed how Democrats are "planning to paint him as too far right and wrong for the country." Plus, Bryant Gumbel put Cheney outside the mainstream: "Cheney's politics are of the hard-right variety." (More on Gumbel in item #3 below.)

     -- NBC: Tom Brokaw noted Cheney's "stellar conservative credentials" before Anne Thompson stressed his "very conservative record." Lisa Myers agreed, recalling his days in Congress: "His voting record? Very conservative."

     As noted in the July 25 CyberAlert, there's nothing necessarily wrong with this labeling so long as the networks apply the same standard to Gore's VP candidates so viewers hear liberals described with the same creativity at the same frequency.

      More about the context for these quotes in items #2 and #3 below. 


"The Republican ticket is now exquisitely balanced: A man of the center who doesn't alienate the right has now chosen a man of the right who doesn't alienate the center." So observed John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review's e-mailed Washington Bulletin on Tuesday afternoon. But that's not how the network media saw the choice since they certainly don't see Bush as any kind of moderate.

     Instead of concentrating on how the Cheney pick balances Bush the networks focused on depicting Cheney as on the "far right," illustrated by his strange votes against the ERA, funding abortion and Head Start. Tuesday night the broadcast network evening shows all passed long the Democratic spin about how Dick Cheney is out of touch, with some reporters eagerly providing evidence to back up the charge. Only NBC noted how Bush's pick was "applauded by the right."

     ABC's Linda Douglass offered only one expert opinion on Cheney's days in Congress and she insisted "he was on the far right." Douglass stressed how "he was one of the few to vote against more funds for the Older Americans Act, services for the elderly." Douglass reported that Cheney grew rich running Halliburton while consumers were getting screwed: "Records show he sold some of his holdings for $5 million last June, just as oil prices were skyrocketing and consumers were paying a premium at the pump."

     CBS's Dan Rather stressed how Democrats "blast Cheney's voting record in Congress as again quote 'outside the American mainstream' because of Cheney's votes against the Equal Rights for Women Amendment, against a woman's right to choose abortion..." CBS also featured a soundbite from Democratic Senator Tom Daschle putting Cheney on "the far right."

     Here's a rundown of Tuesday night, July 25, broadcast network coverage, a night all the shows began with the Corcorde crash.

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Dean Reynolds reported on the 3pm ET announcement of Cheney. Reynolds stressed: "Then too there's the issue of former President Bush's role in all of this. Sources say he was considerably more active as an advocate for Cheney than the campaign let on, though that may expose the Governor to charges that he's unduly influenced by his father."

     Linda Douglas then provided a brief for how right wing Cheney was in Congress and how his business dealing can be exploited by Democrats. She began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: 
"A close look at his ten years in Congress reveals that Cheney was one of its most conservative members, say analysts who have looked at his record."
Sarah Binder, The Brookings Institution: "If you look at any of the big issues in the 1980s, he was on the far right."
Douglas: "Democrats are already isolating the most controversial votes. On abortion, 26 of 27 times he voted to restrict women's access to abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. On gun control, he voted against restricting the sale of so-called 'cop killer bullets' and against a waiting period before buying a hand gun. He voted against the Safe Drinking Water Act, against stiffer sanctions for air polluters. He was one of the few to vote against more funds for the Older Americans Act, services for the elderly, and he voted ten times against imposing sanctions on South Africa during the struggle over Apartheid. As Secretary of Defense, he defended the policy that did not permit gays to serve in the military."
Cheney in an old clip: "It's based upon the proposition that gay lifestyle is incompatible with military service."

     Douglas moved on to his business career: "His years in the private sector will also be scrutinized. He became rich in his years as chairman of the oil services giant Halliburton. Records show he sold some of his holdings for $5 million last June, just as oil prices were skyrocketing and consumers were paying a premium at the pump."
Jeffrey Freedman, Oil Industry Analyst: "The appreciation of Haliburton stock has everything to do with increasing oil prices and natural gas prices over the last twelve to fifteen months."
Douglas concluded: "Cheney is one of the few vice presidential candidates who have come from the private sector. That means Halliburton, a company that does business in a hundred countries, may be examined as closely as the candidate himself. Democrats think they'll have a field day painting Cheney and George Bush as tools of big oil, but Cheney is an old Washington hand. Republicans are confident he can take care of himself."

     -- CBS Evening News. Anchor Dan Rather announced: "In the presidential campaign, the official announcement and first photo-op today of Republican George Bush and his running mate Richard Cheney. Democrats were quick to portray the ticket as quote 'two Texas oilmen' because Cheney was chief of a big Dallas-based oil supply conglomerate. They also blast Cheney's voting record in Congress as again quote, 'outside the American mainstream' because of Cheney's votes against the Equal Rights for Women Amendment, against a woman's right to choose abortion -- against abortion as Cheney prefers to put it -- and Cheney's votes against gun control. Republicans see it all differently, most of them hailing Bush's choice and Cheney's experience."

     Bill Whitaker opened his subsequent piece: "Though he promised an electrifying choice to fit his self-styled new Republican campaign, George W. Bush instead reached back to the past to the steady, tried and true."

     Whitaker later asserted that "Cheney's a rock-solid conservative who manages to appeal to party moderates." (Earlier, live on CBS just after Bush's 3pm ET announcement, Whitaker delivered a similar formulation: "Now Cheney is a bedrock conservative but he manages to reach out to moderates in this party.")

     After relaying how Democrats blasted his voting record against abortion and the ERA, Whitaker played this soundbite from Tom Daschle: "He is probably as far right as anybody in the Republican Party today."
Whitaker concluded: "Now Democrats are going over Cheney's record with a fine-toothed comb. His voting record against gun control and environmental controls, his medical record of mild heart attacks, his business record as head of a huge energy concern, planning to paint him as too far right and wrong for the country."

     Rather added that a CBS News/New York Times poll of Republican convention delegates determined that just "one percent named Cheney as their first choice for Vice President. The delegates top choice, at 11 percent, was Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania."

     -- NBC Nightly News. David Gregory concluded his piece on the day's announcement: "The Gore campaign is sharpening its knives. Democrats will attack Cheney as too conservative and Bush as too influenced by his father to make a bolder choice. A senior aide to the Vice President says tonight Gore was quite 'relieved' to hear of Bush's pick."

     Tom Brokaw introduced a look at Cheney's record by noting how "Dick Cheney is a veteran of the Washington scene, a hard-core Republican with stellar conservative credentials." Brokaw cautioned, "Cheney's long record in Washington is widely admired, but it also leaves a trail for Democrats to attack."

     Anne Thompson examined "some serious questions" about his heart before getting to his ideology: "Tonight Democrats raising questions about his political past, a decade in Congress, a very conservative record."
Thompson offered some examples and then aired assessments of Cheney from the right and left: "Voting against the Equal Rights Amendment for Women, against funding for Head Start, and federal funding of any abortions. Voting for aide to the Nicaraguan Contras, prayer in schools and President Reagan's Star Wars missile defense program. The selection of Cheney applauded by the right."
David Keene, American Conservative Union: "It really ratifies what conservatives have come to believe and that is George W. Bush is one of them."
Thompson: "And that is fine with Democrats who now see a clear choice in November."
Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif: "We're in the 21st Century, he's willing to take us way back into the 20th Century. This country is not going to go backwards."

     Nice of Thompson to give time to someone on the right, but I'm not sure all conservatives would agree that Bush "is one of them."


You knew you could count on Bryant Gumbel to go beyond the "very conservative" and "solidly conservative" labeling of Dick Cheney. Tuesday morning Gumbel came through, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed, as he delivered a pejorative tag to paint Cheney as some kind of extremist: "Cheney's politics are of the hard-right variety." 

     The same morning on ABC George Stephanopoulos labeled Cheney as a "hardline conservative." The ABC analyst, who appeared without a balancing conservative, also suggested, as did reporter Dean Reynolds, that Cheney's opposition to the Department of Education somehow conflicts with Bush's commitment to education. And Diane Sawyer was baffled that anyone could oppose the Head Start boondoggle.

     Here are some labeling highlights from Tuesday morning, July 25, starting with Gumbel:

     -- CBS's The Early Show. Introducing an excerpt of Dan Rather's interview with Bush, Gumbel gave a brief overview of Cheney's life, which ended: "Cheney's politics are of the hard-right variety. He's opposed to abortion and gun control and favors both capital punishment and school prayer."

     Do you think Gumbel will ever label Gore VP possibility John Kerry a "hard left" Senator? 

     Immediately before that assessment from Gumbel, reporter Bill Whitaker had maintained: "Cheney brings a wealth of Washington and foreign affairs experience to the ticket, yet he seems a cautious choice by Bush, who calls himself a new Republican and talks of moving the party in a new direction. And Cheney has a solidly conservative voting record on issues like abortion that may not appeal to more moderate swing voters Bush says he's going after."

     -- ABC's Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer suggested to analyst George Stephanopoulos: "He is very conservative. Doesn't look fire-breathing, but he's very conservative. Take us through the issues."
Stephanopoulos agreed, as noticed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Well, he really is. You know, he's a very nice man, lots of Democratic friends, including Gore's former chairman Tony Coelho. He's very hardline conservative on the issues, starting out on gun control. He voted against a ban on cop killer bullets, he voted against waiting period, and here's the interesting one. He voted against the ban on plastic guns, which could slip through airport metal detectors. Even the NRA was for that."
Sawyer: "And there were only four people who voted against it."
Stephanopoulos: "Only four people in the Congress who voted with him, so he was purer than the National Rifle Association on that issue. On abortion, hundred percent pro-life voting record. Voted for a ban on federal funding, even in cases of rape and incest. Now one the Democrats are really gonna focus on, I think, because George W. Bush has talked a lot about education. They're going to say Dick Cheney is as conservative as Newt Gingrich. Voted against the Department of Education, voted against Head Start funding."
A befuddled Sawyer: "Head Start?"
Stephanopoulos: "Even President Bush in 1988 was coming out for increases in Head Start. Dick Cheney was against it. Finally, they'll look at two more issues. He voted against the Older Americans Act and he also had a long record against environmental regulations, voting against the Clean Water Act and other regulations. So I think for Democrats, this is real red meat for liberals and there's kind of something for everyone."

     Later, during the 8am news update, Dean Reynolds also argued you can't care about education if you oppose federal funding of it. News reader Antonio Mora asked Reynolds: "Now, are there any aspects of Cheney's voting record in Congress that might also pose some problems for the ticket?"
Reynolds replied: "Well, he came from a very conservative state, Wyoming, and he has a very conservative voting record. He voted against the Education Department, which could be problematic for Bush, who has made education a great theme of his campaign. He voted against a ban against armor-piercing bullets -- he's very much against gun control, he is pro-life. So there'll be some conservative questions that may undermine the compassionate message that Governor Bush has tried so hard to convey."

     -- NBC's Today. Lisa Myers culled Cheney's record for instances of his "very conservative" record: "His voting record, very conservative. Against abortion, against the Equal Rights Amendment for women, against sanctions on South Africa to protest Apartheid, against strengthening fair housing laws."


GOP pro-life stance "damaging" to Republican prospects as the party is "held hostage" to those with "strong anti-abortion views." Two quick examples of how network stars see pro-lifers as a nuisance.

     -- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, July 24. MRC analyst Paul Smith caught this query from Brian Williams to Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson:
"Dick Cheney is pro-life. You had, however, former President Gerald R. Ford on the op-ed page of the New York Times recently urging the party to perhaps pick a number two who is pro-choice in an attempt to broaden the base. Do you think both people on this ticket being of a pro-life stance is at all damaging to Republican hopes?"

     -- Today, July 25. Tom Brokaw came aboard to show more clips from his Bush interview, including this one observed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens which did not air on Nightly News the evening before: "May I ask you about a couple of other issues. Is the Republican Party still held hostage to some degree by people who have very strong anti-abortion views?"
Bush: "Not if you got a leader that sets an agenda that is positive and optimistic. And that's the leader I intend to be."

     In another exchange shown on Today but not Nightly News Brokaw demonstrated a lack of basic knowledge of campaign finance rules:
"A lot of your critics say that you are bought and paid for by big companies in America because you have been able to raise $100 million, spend $80 million so far. And it's all money that came in from people who didn't have to do any reporting."
Bush set him straight: "That's just, they just don't know the facts. I mean the money I raised for the primaries is all reported and you know I've heard that campaign rhetoric before, but remember I'm running against people that sold the Lincoln bedroom to raise money...."


FNC's Brit Hume picked up on how CBS News wouldn't let go of Dan Rather's story about how Bush made a last-minute plea to Colin Powell. Hume was also seemingly inspired by a CyberAlert item on Tom Brokaw's complete cluelessness about influences within the Republican Party. 

     Hume told July 25 viewers of his Special Report with Brit Hume: "CBS News has continued to report Dan Rather's disputed story of eleventh hour so-called 'deep negotiations' on the vice presidency between the Bush camp and General Colin Powell. This in the face of emphatic denials from Powell and Bush himself that any such thing had occurred. Indeed, George W. Bush specifically denied Rather's story to Rather himself in an interview on Monday. CBS kept the story on its Web site throughout the day and Rather repeated it on CBS Radio where it had first aired and on the CBS Evening News and the CBS News Web site continues to mention it."

     His next item: "Speaking of network anchors, NBC's Tom Brokaw suggested to his viewers in his interview with Bush Monday that Bush had rejected Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, whom Brokaw described as quote, 'a guy with a great record, pro-choice,' because, said Brokaw, quote, 'the Catholic Church and Jesse Helms said no way.'" With a frown, a dumbfounded Hume wondered: "Jesse Helms?"

     Hume's facial expression said it all. Sometimes it's amazing how New York media types see the whole Republican Party and conservative movement controlled by a few boogeymen.


Unlike the broadcast networks and at least CNN's Inside Politics, FNC didn't ignore the release of the transcript by the White House of Bill Clinton's April 21 interview with the Justice Department's campaign finance task force.

     FNC's David Shuster prepared a piece for Tuesday's Special Report with Brit Hume and he highlighted a moment of indignation by Clinton. But first he explained the context, noting how 
James Riady, the non-U.S. resident who during a limo ride with Clinton promised to raise $1 million, may soon be indicted thanks to information provided by John Huang. Clinton claimed he could not remember ever hearing the pledge.

     Shuster set up an excerpt from the transcript: "Prosecutors suggested that Mr. Clinton bore some responsibility for the illegal fundraising."

     Viewers then saw text on screen of an exchange which Shuster also read aloud:
Justice Department investigator Robert Conrad: "The two people most responsible for it were the two people that were in position because of their relationship with you. Would you agree with that?"
Clinton: "Is this guilt by association, sir? What do you want to say?"
Conrad: "I'm just asking you whether you feel responsibility."
Clinton: "No...I had no reason to believe either one of them would ever do anything dishonest when they did it."

But how about before or after they did it?


A liberal's dream tonight on NBC's Law & Order as the show's star DA holds the President of a gun company criminally liable for some murders committed with one of his company's guns. The jury finds the executive guilty but, in a surprise twist, the judge sets aside the verdict and lectures the DA about misusing the law for his political ends.

     I know all this because tonight's showing of the 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT/MT show is a repeat of the September 22, 1999 episode.

     Here's how the episode to air again on July 26 is described on the nbc.com Web site: "GUNSHOW: AFTER SHOOTING SPREE, MCCOY PURSUES MURDERERS AND MANUFACTURERS -- When an angry misogynist murders 15 people -- mostly women -- on a shooting spree in Central Park, Detectives Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and his new partner, Detective Green (new series regular Jesse L. Martin from 'Ally McBeal') try to trace the origination of the illegal automatic gun. As they close in on the suspect (guest star Neal Huff), Briscoe voices doubts about Green's questionable modus operandi both on and off the job. When the case arrives on D.A. McCoy's desk (Sam Waterston), he makes a personal crusade to prosecute not only the killer, but also the corporate gun manufacturer who legally produces semi-automatic weapons that can be converted for mass destruction. TV-14" 

     Last fall MRC analyst Paul Smith took down some quotes from the program. The show was pretty one-sided until the climatic courtroom scene, which we'll skip to:

Deputy DA "Jack McCoy," played by Sam Waterston, argued in his summation to the jury: "Gun ownership is not an American tradition. That's a myth like George Washington's cherry tree. Most Americans, going back to colonial times, did not own a gun. Didn't even know how to shoot one. That's still true today. You heard expert testimony that redesigning the slide bolt of a Rolph 9 would add twenty seven dollars and sixty four cents to the manufacturing cost of a weapon that sells for nine hundred dollars. Mr. Webber knew that his gun was being bought for the purpose of being converted to an automatic weapon. His refusal to change the design is tantamount to admitting that its intended use was as an automatic weapon. Reasonable people can disagree about the Second Amendment but this can't be what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. Of course, we must hold Dennis Trope responsible. He pulled the trigger. But remember, because of Mr. Webber's refusal to change the design of his gun, instead of firing this many bullets [drops some bullets on a desk], in the thirty seconds that he pulled the trigger, Dennis Trope was able to fire this many [drops many bullets on desk]."

     The jury rules gun executive Webber guilty, as I recall of some kind of negligent homicide criminal charge, but "Judge Wright" does not approve: "Don't pack it up just yet Linda. I'm finding as a matter of law, the people failed to meet the standard of proof I set at the beginning of trial. People did not establish that the weapon was hazardous per se. Nor that the main actor in the homicides used the weapon as it was intended to be used by Mr. Webber. Therefore I am setting aside the jury verdict and issuing a directed verdict of not guilty. The defendant is free to go."
McCoy: "Objection!"
Judge Wright: "Order!"
McCoy: "I am filing notice of the people's intent to appeal. This is outside the scope of your authority." 
Judge Wright: "Mr. McCoy, I'm not going to sanction a verdict that cannot possibly be sustained on appeal. This conviction isn't based on any proven facts. It's based on the jury's outrage at Mr. Webber's irresponsible and inexcusable conduct. You want to end the violence, the bloodletting. So do I, Mr. McCoy. In my thirty years on the bench, I have seen every permutation of it. It sickens me when somebody profits from it. But tempted though I may be, putting Mr. Webber in jail won't end the carnage. Until we cure what ails in the human heart, we won't make a dent in the body count. In the meantime, no matter how profound our grief, our indignation, I can't let you use this court to raise a lynch mob. I won't allow you to exploit the same base passions that Mr. Webber counts on to beef up his bottom line. It's not about being right, Mr. McCoy. It's about doing right. Now we're adjourned." 

     If only the news media were as discerning as this fictional judge. -- Brent Baker


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