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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday July 27, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 123) |

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Cheney Not Compassionate; Gore Called "Conservative" in 1992; Lynne Cheney's "Stalinist Resolve"

1) ABC's Terry Moran relayed how Gore's team is trying to hurt Bush "by painting Cheney as an extremist." Dan Rather played along and called Cheney a "hardline conservative." Today's Matt Lauer saw a contradiction between Cheney's conservative views and being a "compassionate conservative."

2) Back in 1992 the networks not only avoided labeling Clinton's VP pick, Al Gore, as a liberal, they described him as "moderate" or even "conservative" despite his liberal voting record. CBS: "Both Clinton and Gore are centrist, some would say conservative."

3) CNN's Jonathan Karl pointed out: "On the potentially explosive issues of gun control and abortion, the Bush team says Gore was often voting the same way as Cheney" back in the 1980s. Both earned A's from the NRA.

4) FNC's Brit Hume disclosed that an anti-Cheney Web site set up by the DNC features a Reuters story with this lead: 'The U.S. oil industry may have found its dream team with Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush's pick of Dick Cheney..." 

5) Chris Matthews and Los Angeles Times reporter Elizabeth Shogren don't know any pro-life reporters who are women. Shogren bemoaned how Dick Cheney is "too pro-life" and "too pro-gun." And she urged Al Gore to "go ethnic" and pick Henry Cisneros as his VP.

6) Lynne Cheney "acquired an almost Stalinist resolve to kill off national standards at all cost," former Newsweek reporter Timothy Noah charged in a Slate diatribe in which he denounced her criticism of a history standard which tilted to the left.

>>> Convention 2000 Media Reality Check, starting Monday morning. All next week the MRC will produce twice-daily reports on network coverage of the Republican convention. These special Media Reality Checks, one concentrating on prime time and the other on the morning shows, will be posted on the MRC Web site and distributed by fax to the regular Media Reality Check fax list. Their content will become the text for CyberAlerts next week. Thanks to analysts working all night and our Webmaster coming in at 4am or so, the report on prime time should be up on the MRC home page and at www.mrc.org/campaign2000 before east coast morning drive.
If you'll be in Philadelphia, be sure to sign up for CyberAlerts at whatever address you'll have access to. If you are a member of the media and want to get the fax report, send your fax number to: cyber@mediareseach.org.  The MRC's Brent Bozell and Tim Graham will be in Philadelphia to provide media analysis. If you'd like to interview them or have them on your talk show, e-mail the same address or call Keith Appell: (703) 683-5004. <<<


The ideological labeling of Dick Cheney continued unabated on Wednesday with ABC's Terry Moran relaying how Gore's team is trying to hurt Bush "by painting Cheney as an extremist." Dan Rather called Cheney a "hardline conservative" and though Cheney has a "very conservative" record, Phil Jones threatened it's not a problem now "but this could change as voters learn more about his record." NBC's David Gregory tagged Cheney "an unabashed conservative," before listing some supposedly out of touch views, but a new Zogby poll picked up by FNC and MSNBC showed Bush-Cheney in tune with independents on guns and abortion.

    And Wednesday morning Today co-host Matt Lauer saw a contradiction between Cheney's views, including supposedly being "anti-equal rights," and being a "compassionate conservative." 

     Here are highlights of Cheney coverage from Wednesday night, July 26, on the broadcast networks followed by the Today item:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Without even a soundbite ABC showed a brief video clip of Bush and Cheney in Casper before going to Terry Moran for a look at Gore's attack strategy displayed during an appearance with Jesse Jackson. Viewers heard Jackson proclaim: "Dick Cheney has an image that is palatable, but Jesus warned to be aware of wolves in sheep clothing."

     After some clips of Gore and Clinton talking about how the GOP ticket appeals only to the wealthy, Moran summarized the strategy: 
"Gore's staffers say the Vice President is going after Dick Cheney so aggressively because it helps him against Governor Bush, who they note is still not that well known by most voters. By painting Cheney as an extremist they really hope to hurt Bush. That's why the Vice President and his surrogates will make so much of Cheney's conservative voting record in Congress."

     Of course, that strategy only works because of the compliant media.

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather read two short items on what the two tickets were up to during the day. Rather relayed how before the Rainbow Coalition "Gore called the Republicans the quote, 'old guard ticket' of quote, 'big oil, big polluters and price gouging drug companies,' unquote." Rather then showed video of Cheney and Bush at a rally in Casper, and noted: "To critics of his hardline conservative congressional voting record Cheney said today quote, 'he is genuinely proud of that record.'"

     Phil Jones checked in with a look at a political focus group gathered to discuss VP choices. An MD decided of Bush's pick: "I don't think Mr. Cheney did cocaine or got drunk in high school or college and all that kind of thing. Like I said before, it's nice to know there's two guys in the cockpit, at least one knows how to fly the plane." 

     Jones then warned: "On other issues, Cheney's very conservative voting record, his anti-abortion rights stand and his current connection to a big oil company, not problems right now but this could change as voters learn more about his record." 

      Was that a warning or a threat?

      -- NBC Nightly News. David Gregory provided the only full broadcast network story of the night on the Bush-Cheney appearance in Casper. Gregory showed Bush praising Cheney's small town roots and attacking Clinton's Lewinsky evasions, but Gregory noted, facing reporters Bush was forced to answer critics who say that Cheney "overshadows him."     

     Over video of Cheney next to Bush at the airport, Gregory referred to how Cheney is "an unabashed conservative with a voting record Democrats compare to that of Newt Gingrich. Today Cheney downplays his record that includes support for the tightest restrictions on abortion, opposition to gun control, a vote against the Equal Rights Amendment for women and against sanctions on South Africa during apartheid."

     Following a clip of Cheney saying he might now find some votes he would cast differently, Gregory showed Gore's attack. NBC next ran a piece on how most experts say Cheney's heart surgery is not a problem. 

     As for Gregory's list of Cheney's out of touch votes, the ERA never had enough public support to gain ratification. And on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume viewers learned about a new poll putting Cheney in the mainstream on abortion and guns. 

     During the roundtable segment Hume cited a Zogby poll of 1,008 "independent voters" taken July 6-8. On partial birth abortion, 49 percent would "support candidate who would ban" while 41 percent of independents would "support candidate who would veto ban." Asked "Would you support a candidate who believes doctors should be required legally to notify parents of minors about abortions?" 68 percent said yes versus just 28 percent who said no. And on guns, 69 percent of independents, not the population overall, replied they would "support candidate who wants better enforcement of current laws" over a mere 25 percent who agreed they would "support candidate who wants more gun control laws."

     Though Gregory didn't mention the numbers on NBC Nightly News, John Zogby himself appeared on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams Wednesday night to discuss his findings.

     Wednesday morning, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Today co-host Matt Lauer asked Tim Russert: "As soon as it became clear that Dick Cheney was indeed the man people came out of the woodwork and started challenging his voting record while a member of Congress. And it's a pretty conservative record. Do you think people had a more moderate image of him than is true?"
Russert explained: "That's because of his personality, his presentations, his avuncular approach to life, Matt. But this is the race, the battle to define Dick Cheney and therefore define George W. Bush. The Republicans will say Cheney is reliable, steady, competent and will help us govern. The Democrats will say, 'Not so fast. Before you govern you have to win an election. And let's look at Mr. Cheney's record of anti-abortion, anti-environment, anti-equal rights amendment for women, anti-gun control.' That's what we're going to see play out over the next few days." 

     Lauer eagerly took up the Gore cause and painted a contradiction between all the things Cheney is supposedly against and Bush's compassionate message: "And when you talk about votes like that, that he made while in Congress, anti-affirmative action, anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-equal rights, how does George Bush portray him as a compassionate conservative?"

     Tuesday night MSNBC's Brian Williams had pushed a similar theme. MRC analyst Paul Smith picked up on this question to Brent Scowcroft:
"The Governor of Texas is fond of talking about compassionate conservatism. Fond of talking about a big tent. In this choice, he has picked someone whose ideology on, let's say, the issue of abortion is identical to his despite the suggestions and pleas of some including former President Gerald Ford. Do you think it is too limiting, do they run that risk?"


The networks can't tire of adding adjectives to describe how conservative Dick Cheney really is, but back in 1992 they not only avoided labeling Clinton's VP pick, Al Gore, as a liberal, they described him as "moderate" or even "conservative" despite his liberal voting record. NBC's Tom Brokaw dubbed Gore a "moderate Southerner" and CBS's Susan Spencer actually referred to Clinton and Gore as "a conservative pair."

    In a Media Reality Check "Quick Take" fax report distributed on Wednesday, the MRC's Tim Graham contrasted two ABC News quotes from the two years. On July 25 this week, ABC's Linda Douglass insisted on World News Tonight: "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." 

    But from the Democratic convention floor on the July 13, 1992 World News Tonight Jim Wooten asserted: "That's the ticket. Not a liberal in sight, and that's the picture Clinton wants the convention to leave with the country, Democrats happily moving from their liberal past to their centrist future." 

    With the help of the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, Tim Graham then compared the annual American Conservative Union ratings for Cheney and Gore:

1979: 89 1980: 74 1981: 87 1982: 91 1983: 91 
1984: 90 1985: 100 1986: 100 1987: 86 1988: 100 
Average: 90.8

House: (Average: 19.6)
1977: 29 1978: 13 1980: 11 1981: 13 1982: 29 1983: 20 1984: 22

Senate: (Average: 10.4 )
1985: 17 1986: 9 1987: 6 1988: 9 1989: 19 1990: 9 1991: 14 1992 (based on 15 of 25 ACU votes): 0
Overall average: 14.6

    These numbers were gathered from:

    Given Gore's representation of Tennessee he could not vote as liberal as he probably really was, but over his lifetime in Congress the liberal Americans for Democratic Action rated him at 66 percent, clearly the liberal side of the spectrum. ADA's Web address: http://adaction.org

    Nonetheless, back in 1992 Gore largely escaped liberal labels. To learn how the network tagged Gore 1992 when tapped by Clinton, I dug out old issues of the MRC's MediaWatch ConventionWatch, which brought back horrible memories of our days in the rat-infested Ramada Penta hotel in Manhattan during the Democratic conclave. But I also found some quotes which contradict with how the networks have approached Cheney.

    The night Gore was announced, Thursday July 9, 1992 just a few days before the convention, Dan Rather avoided any ideological labeling on the CBS Evening News: "Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton made it official today. Environmental expert and Vietnam veteran Senator Al Gore will be his running mate." Reporter Richard Threlkeld claimed: "Both Gore and Clinton are centrist, some would say conservative Democrats, and white and male." 

    Tom Brokaw announced on the NBC Nightly News: "Today, Bill Clinton broke the rules. He chose someone from the same gene pool: a fellow moderate Southerner of the same generation, Senator Al Gore of Tennessee." That night only NBC's Bob Kur used the word liberal, noting that while "his label, after 15 years in the House and Senate is moderate, he's cast enough liberal votes to win high ratings from those interest groups." 

    During prime time coverage on the first night of the convention, July 13, CBS's Susan Spencer found that even "liberal" delegates think Clinton-Gore could be a winning team so "they're willing to swallow their problems that they have with such a conservative pair in hopes of winning."

    Now compare that treatment of Gore and the lack of repeated recitation of any of his left-wing votes with this week's incessant labeling of Cheney and repeated listing of votes the media find unpopular. 

    As reported in the July 26 CyberAlert, here's how Cheney was described the day Bush made his selection official:

    -- 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." 

    -- 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."

    For more examples of Cheney labeling, go to:


In the midst of network reporters happily promoting the Democratic/Gore opposition research hits on Dick Cheney, a CNN reporter actually picked up on the Bush team's counterattack on Gore, an angle ignored by ABC, CBS and NBC. In a story on CNN's Inside Politics Wednesday night, but which did not run on The World Today, Jonathan Karl showed how in the 1980s Al Gore voted just like Dick Cheney on guns and abortion, positions for which the Gore camp is now accusing Cheney of being an extremist. 

    On Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's Jim Angle made a brief mention of how Gore got good grades from the NRA in the early 1980s. (Referring back to item #2 above, that Gore could earn a 66 percent ADA rating while voting conservative on issues on which Tennesseans were on the right -- like gun control -- suggests how liberal he must have been in many other areas.)

    Karl informed viewers of the July 26 Inside Politics: "On the potentially explosive issues of gun control and abortion, the Bush team says Gore was often voting the same way as Cheney. Take gun control. From 1980 to 1984 Gore received virtually straight A ratings from the National Rifle Association while representing his conservative Tennessee district in the House, grades similar to Dick Cheney's on the gun issue."

On screen CNN displayed a graphic:
NRA Grades 
Gore Cheney
1980: A- A
1982: A- A
1984: A A 

    Karl continued: "And on abortion, Gore voted with he National Right to Life Committee 94 percent of the time [1979-84] in the early 1980s, nearly as high as Cheney's 100 percent rating. And in 1984 Gore voted for an amendment banning federal funding of abortion that said quote 'the unborn are persons from the moment of conception.' Cheney voted for that too. It lost."

    Karl explained the Bush strategy: "Attacked on Cheney's voting record the Bush campaign will respond with an attack on Gore's, telling voters Gore has flip-flopped on hot-button issues like gun control and abortion. Bush calls it political judo and it's the modus operandi of his campaign -- use an attack against you as an opportunity to turn the attack back on your opponent."

    But that only works if the media report your counterattack and so far ABC, CBS and NBC have all ignored this "political judo."

+++ Watch a clip of Karl's story. On Thursday the MRC's Eric Pairel will post a RealPlayer video clip from this story. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 


Some reporting is so biased one campaign is able to incorporate it into its Web site. Naturally, that would be an anti-Bush page set up by the DNC, FNC's Brit Hume reported Wednesday night. 

    Hume relayed on July 26: "The Democratic National Committee has managed to get a polished Web site called Bush-Cheney.net up and running, filled among other things, with negative research about Dick Cheney's House voting record. Among the contents there is a supposedly straight Reuters news story from Tuesday that contains the following quote: 'The U.S. oil industry may have found its dream team with Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush's pick of Dick Cheney as his vice presidential running mate.'" 

    Indeed, the quote from the lead sentence of the news story is featured at the very top of this new home page:

    The site links to the full July 25 story by Reuter's Tom Doggett, headlined "Bush-Cheney Is Dream Team for Oil Industry": 


Women reporters who are pro-life? You must be kidding. Chris Matthews and Los Angeles Times reporter Elizabeth Shogren don't know any pro-life reporters who are women, which shows where Shogren stands, especially since she complained about how Dick Cheney is "too pro-life" and "too pro-gun." And she urged Al Gore to "go ethnic" and pick Henry Cisneros as his VP.

    These comments came during the July 25 Hardball shown on both MSNBC and CNBC which MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens reviewed. 

    -- Chris Matthews: "Is Cheney going to help or hurt the gender gap?"
Elizabeth Shogren: "Oh I don't, I don't think he could help bring any women along."
    Matthews: "Too pro-life?"
    Shogren: "He's too pro-life and more importantly too pro-gun. I mean you look back on his votes on guns and they are, they're incredible. He voted against every gun control imaginable. Whether it was against the cop killer bullets or against the plastic guns. I mean just incredible. And this is an issue that's really resonating this time around. And he, it doesn't, it doesn't matter whether, it's a message that's very strong. I think the message will be very strong to women."

    -- Matthews on abortion: "Still a hot issue, Elizabeth Shogren?"
Shogren: "I think it's a hot issue but it's an issue that's not gonna make, it's not the deciding issue."
    Matthews: "Do you know any pro-life women reporters?"
[Shogren just smiles] 
    Matthews: "I don't know any! I'm don't [not] gonna ask you. I have never come up with any. But anyway."
Wall Street Journal editorial writer John Fund joked: "Let's have some affirmative action!"
    Matthews: "Yeah affirmative action on that issue."

    -- Shogren on Gore's VP selection: "Oh I just wish he could go ethnic and pick someone like Henry Cisneros."


Lynne Cheney "acquired an almost Stalinist resolve to kill off national standards at all cost," former Newsweek reporter Timothy Noah charged in a Slate diatribe in which he denounced her for daring to oppose a national education standard for history which tilted to the left. In the Slate posting brought to my attention by Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, Noah asserted that Lynne Cheney "is a shrill opportunist who could prove to be a serious liability for the Republican ticket."

    Noah's opened his Monday "Chatterbox" posting on Slate, headlined "Cheney's Lynne Problem," with a quote from Bill Bennett: "[T]he Cheneys themselves are an interesting couple. At one point, Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense and Lynne Cheney was Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, kind of the material and moral defense of western civilization. They're a very formidable pair. Everyone who knows them has regard for them."

    "What is Bennett smoking?" Noah then asked in opening his diatribe. Here's an excerpt:

    It's true that Dick Cheney -- whom Bush reportedly is on the verge of naming his running mate -- enjoys a certain bland respectability. But Dick's wife, Lynne Cheney, who succeeded Bennett at the NEH, is a shrill opportunist who could prove to be a serious liability for the Republican ticket.

    Lynne seemed pleasant enough 12 years ago, when Chatterbox (then a reporter at Newsweek) lunched with her. She confessed that, although she was supposed to be the nation's high-culture guardian, she'd just spent her summer vacation gulping down Stephen King's The Tommyknockers. Chatterbox was charmed. Chatterbox was also impressed by her passionate advocacy of national standards for teaching American and world history.

    Chatterbox had to revise this favorable opinion after the presidency passed from the Republicans to the Democrats. Almost immediately, Cheney started campaigning to abolish the NEH and savaging her former grantee, UCLA's National Center for History in the Schools, which was about to issue the very national standards she'd commissioned. Cheney maintained that the panel, whose draft report apparently mentioned Harriet Tubman six times and Paul Revere not at all, had tilted leftward after Clinton's election. In fact, as Chatterbox's Slate colleague Jacob Weisberg pointed out in a 1996 column for New York magazine, Cheney had herself OK'd some of the more vapidly left-wing content while running the NEH. Moreover, at least one of Cheney's allegations about the draft report -- that it ignored the framing of the Constitution -- turned out not to be true. Passages in a subsequent draft drew Cheney's ire for various inoffensive assertions, such as, "the Great Depression was one of the great shaping experiences of American history," and, "at the beginning of the twentieth century, Western nations enjoyed a dominance in world affairs that they no longer possess." By then, Cheney had acquired an almost Stalinist resolve to kill off national standards at all cost. She proved to be such a transparent phony that sympathetic panel critics like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and John Patrick Diggins had to denounce her....

     END of excerpt

     To read the entire piece, go to:

     Noah is certainly no compassionate conservative. -- Brent Baker


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