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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday July 28, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 124) |

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Cheney "Outside" Mainstream; Convention Controversy; Cheney Pounded in the AM; CBS "Cuddling"

1) Thursday's CBS Evening News again inspected Dick Cheney's "rock solid conservative record" and "rigid conservative votes, "which are supposedly "prompting new questions," though CBS repeated the same old Democratic talking points. Dan Rather questioned if Cheney is "too outside the American mainstream?"

2) ABC and CBS discovered a Republican convention controversy even before the convention has opened. Dan Rather: "There's word your tax dollars are being spent there in a special sideshow for Republicans put on by the U.S. military."

3) Dick Cheney was pounded from the left on all three morning shows as ABC, CBS and NBC interviewers argued he can't appeal to moderates and demanded he defend votes they found upsetting. "There are a number of people within the Republican Party," ABC's Jack Ford claimed, who say Cheney is "way too conservative."

4) Dick Cheney "isn't even the most conservative member of his own family," Today's Katie Couric marveled in introducing a profile of Lynne Cheney. Both Today and NBC Nightly News raised the issue of the sexual orientation of one of their daughters.

5) Republican success in passing another tax cut became another opportunity Thursday night for Dan Rather to present a one-sided item relaying just the negative spin of President Clinton.

6) In a discussion about Survivor, Bryant Gumbel managed to do a little Reagan-bashing, defining being "Reaganesque" as someone who "does nothing."

7) Hosting Big Brother, CBS News anchor Julie Chen probed the meaning of all the "cuddling."


For the fourth straight weeknight the CBS Evening News on Thursday night dedicated a story to rebuking Dick Cheney's House votes, this time referred to as his "rock solid conservative record" and "rigid conservative votes." After Dan Rather questioned whether Cheney is "too outside the American mainstream," reporter Bill Whitaker raised the usual litany of votes against abortion and the ERA, but added a fresh citation of how he "opposed funding for the Clean Water and Endangered Species acts."

     Rather opened the July 27 broadcast: "Good evening. Sharp turns and even sharper questions today for the George Bush-Dick Cheney Republican ticket. They faced more questions about their ties to big oil in Texas and Cheney's voting record on key issues during his time in Congress."

     Though CBS has been citing them all week, Dan Rather bizarrely introduced the subsequent hit piece by claiming Cheney's votes are "prompting new questions." Rather's intro in full: "Past votes in Congress are prompting new questions about Dick Cheney and whether, as some say, they show he's too outside the American mainstream for voters in the year 2000. CBS's Bill Whitaker has the latest on Bush-Cheney playing offense and defense."

     Whitaker gave a lot more time to the Democratic offense against Bush-Cheney than to their defense. Whitaker began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The Bush campaign expected the new team to be hailed as rock solid and competent. Instead they're dodging a hail of criticism over Dick Cheney's rock solid conservative record."

     Of course the media and Whitaker are willing accomplices which have and are creating the reality of the "hail of criticism" by turning liberal opposition research into news stories.

     Whitaker continued: "On the CBS Early Show, the VP-select defended his rigid conservative votes as Wyoming's Congressman in the eighties as appropriate to the era of Cold War and budget deficits."
     Dick Cheney: "I think you've got to look at decisions based upon the time at which they occurred. I'm happy to talk about basic fundamental principles. I think those have been generally consistent over time."
     Whitaker then ran through the same old Gore/Democratic talking points: "It's not his principles but his votes the campaign is being forced to defend. Congressman Cheney consistently voted against abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. Against gun control, even of so-called 'cop killer' armor piercing bullets, or plastic guns that escape metal detectors. He opposed funding for the Clean Water and Endangered Species acts, voted against South Africa's sanctions, even a resolution urging the release of Nelson Mandela. He voted against Head Start, a program Bush now praises."
     Dick Cheney, on Wednesday: "I'm sure if I were to go back and look at individual votes, I could probably find some that I might tweak and do a bit differently."
     Jesse Jackson: "According to Business Week, the record of Dick Cheney rivals that of Jesse Helms."

     Whitaker then gave a few seconds to the Bush-Cheney counterattack: "But Republicans say Democrats who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and point to Al Gore's voting record in the eighties when he too voted against abortion rights and gun control."
     George W. Bush: "Secretary Cheney brought people together and helped win a war. My opponent is somebody who's tearing down and dividing people to create political war."
     Whitaker concluded: "The Bush camp launched a counteroffensive defending Cheney, but one staffer said today they have to remind voters the campaign ultimately is not about Cheney but Bush."


Even before the Republican convention has begun ABC and CBS have found a controversy to focus on other than Cheney's exotic conservative voting record -- and it has nothing to do with pro-choicers being excluded. The controversy: a display of military equipment by the armed forces at he Navy Yard across the street from the Comcast Center, home of the Republican convention in Philadelphia.

     ABC's Peter Jennings tied the matter to GOP policy, announcing on Thursday's World News Tonight: "One of the things that Mr. Bush and other Republicans will argue for next week in Philadelphia is reinvigorating the military establishment. It is true the armed forces are pretty stretched these days. But not so stretched they cannot make a very controversial appearance at the convention and it came to a head today."

     John McWethy looked at how the Pentagon "strained" to explain why the display of tanks, planes and missiles does not violate the military rule against partisan activity.

     On the July 27 CBS Evening News Dan Rather intoned: "Just days before the Republican convention opens in Philadelphia, there's word your tax dollars are being spent there in a special sideshow for Republicans put on by the U.S. military. CBS's David Martin has the high caliber facts on that story."

     Martin began: "From Kosovo to the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon says its troops are over deployed and underfunded, but that hasn't stopped it from taking on still another mission, this one to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia....Starting tomorrow, the military will fly in some of its best weapons to put on a display the Pentagon says will educate Republican members of Congress attending the convention, an operation that will force hundreds of military personnel to work through the weekend and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars."

     Martin relayed: "Pentagon policy prohibits the use of military equipment or personnel for partisan political purposes, but Defense Secretary Cohen has decided this is not a violation because he's willing to do the same thing at the Democratic National Convention."

     Over video of a missile going haywire, Martin snidely concluded: "The Pentagon is also planning to bring in one of its newest air defense missiles, but don't bet on them showing this video of one of its many test failures."


Dick Cheney appeared simultaneously at about 7:10am Thursday on all three morning shows, though only Today had him live, and he was simultaneously grilled about his conservative record and how he will turn off voters. "People are talking about your conservative record while a Congressman from Wyoming and saying that perhaps that conservative record will not help to attract swing voters like minorities and women," Today's Matt Lauer told Cheney before going down a list of votes which upset liberals and demanding Cheney explain each, as if there was something wrong with holding such conservative views.

     Similarly, CBS's Jane Clayson hit Cheney from the left on The Early Show: "When you were in Congress you had a very conservative voting record, how will you and Governor Bush appeal to the more moderate Republicans and perhaps more importantly independents? "She tagged him "a hardline conservative."

     "There are a number of people within the Republican Party, even supporters of Governor Bush," ABC's Jack Ford preposterously claimed in confusing the DNC-Gore spin operation with actual Republicans, who supposedly say Cheney is "way too conservative. "Ford saw a contradiction between Bush's interest in education and how Cheney "had voted twice against the creation of the Department of Education" and opposed increased funding for Head Start.

     In reverse alphabetical order -- NBC, CBS and ABC -- here are the questions posed to Cheney on Thursday morning, July 27.

     > On NBC's Today, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, for all but a few seconds of the seven-minute interview Dick Cheney was on the receiving end of hostile questions as Lauer even tried to equate some briefings Cheney held at the Pentagon with Clinton-Gore fundraising:

     -- "I know the pundits are already weighing in on your selection. One guy I heard the other day said that, 'In choosing you, George W. Bush was selecting his father's old, Oldsmobile and not a new model.' How do you feel about that?"

     -- "People are talking about your conservative record while a Congressman from Wyoming and saying that perhaps that conservative record will not help to attract swing voters like minorities and women. Let's talk about some of those votes you took on abortion. You were opposed to federal funding for abortion even in cases of rape and incest do you still feel that way?"
     Cheney: "Well I consistently supported the pro-life position, Matt and do still support the pro-life position as does Governor Bush. That hasn't changed. The intriguing thing is to have the Democrats attacking me for having a pro-life position when during that same period Al Gore was earning a 94 percent rating from the Right to Life Committee because he was pro-life and anti-abortion."
     Lauer: "Let me ask you as a Vice President could you support an appointee to the Supreme Court who was pro-choice?"
     After Cheney promised there won't be a litmus test, Lauer demanded: "Right but could you support a nominee, or an appointee?"

     -- "On the subject of equal rights, you voted against the Equal Rights Amendment. You consistently opposed funding for Head Start programs and I read something yesterday and this was not a bill, this was a resolution. But you voted against a resolution that would have recommended freeing Nelson Mandela from a South African prison. Why'd you do that?"
     Cheney explained how the ERA vote did not allow amendments and he was afraid it would force women to be drafted. On South Africa he pointed out how many believed pulling U.S. companies out of the nation would hurt the black citizens the most and that he obviously did not wish for Mandela to remain in prison.

     -- "A little dispute on your record on guns, Secretary Cheney. You have opposed almost all gun control measures. You were one of only 21 members of Congress in 1985 to vote against a ban on the so-called 'Cop Killer' bullets. Can you explain that for me?"
     Cheney said he the solution is to enforce gun laws, not to impose new law on the law abiding.
     Lauer: "In 1988 you also voted against a ban on plastic guns. These are the guns that could make it through airport security machines. Not even the NRA opposed that measure?"
     Cheney delivered this zinger which shut Lauer up: "Well obviously I wasn't in the pocket of the NRA, Matt."

     -- "Alright let's talk about fundraising. You've been criticized in the last day or so for holding two fundraisers as Defense Secretary, 1991 and 1992 at the Pentagon. These were briefing sessions for contributors. Were they a mistake?"
     After Cheney insisted there were no fundraisers at the Pentagon, Lauer described his Gore campaign-provided talking point: "Well the brochure for the presidential roundtable put out by the Republican National Committee had a picture of you holding a briefing and it said quote, the following, 'Contributors could review courses of action, suggest legislative strategies, and have the opportunity to directly impact current policy debate.'"
     Cheney: "But Matt that's a far cry from the abuses that we've seen out of the Clinton-Gore administration in terms of White House coffees and selling the Lincoln bedroom. Again it's an effort by the Democrats to try to obscure the issues. Their candidate, Al Gore, is under investigation by his own Justice Department for potential criminal violations in connection with the '96."-
     Lauer jumped in: "But isn't it a case of using a high government office to raise political money?"
     Cheney: "Well I don't, I don't think that's the case. We did not raise political money in the Pentagon, ever."

     -- Lauer: "Last question for you Mr. Cheney, if you have time. Napster. A federal court ruled that Napster had to stop its online users from downloading copyrighted music material. Do you agree with the ruling?"
     That one stumped Cheney.

+++ Watch a some of Lauer's hostility toward Cheney. On Friday the MRC's Eric Pairel will post a RealPlayer video clip of the Today interview. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

     > On CBS's The Early Show Cheney escaped Bryant Gumbel but not his expected liberal agenda questions as Jane Clayson made him proud, though unlike Lauer she at least touched on some other subjects. MRC analyst Brian Boyd took down her queries:

     -- "You've been out of Washington life for several years now, why did you decide to come back now, to get back involved in this?"

     -- "You were in charge of selecting a vice-presidential running mate for George W. Bush, did you ever consider, did it ever occur to you that he was looking at you for the job?"

     -- "And did you have to warm to the idea?"

     -- "When you were in Congress you had a very conservative voting record, how will you and Governor Bush appeal to the more moderate Republicans and perhaps more importantly independents?"

     -- "Is it fair to look at your record from the 1970s and paint you as a hardline conservative?"
     Cheney replied that it depends on what the issues were, it was the Cold war era so military number one priority, had deficits.

     -- "Let me ask you about a couple of things. You voted against the Equal Rights Amendment and you oppose abortion rights, what do you say to women who question your stand on those issues?"

     -- "Let me ask you for a moment about your health, because that's come up so far. You've had a history of heart attacks, a bypass surgery, do you think that your health will be an issue in the campaign? Is it a fair issue?"

     -- "What should the American public know about Dick Cheney? What would your wife and your daughters tell us about you that maybe the American people should know?"

     > Jack Ford handled the Good Morning America interview. Here are his questions, all of which on policy came at Cheney from the left, though he spent the most time of the three on non-policy matters, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:

     -- "Let me ask you, first question. Other than the call of duty, which you have always responded to in the past, why would you want to be the Vice President?"

     -- "Understanding that, though, what is it specifically about the job of the Vice President that you like or is attractive to you?"

     -- "What do you think, in one or two sentences, that you add to a Bush-Cheney ticket?"

     -- "There are a number of people within the Republican Party, even supporters of Governor Bush, who have said in response to your selection here, Dick Cheney is a good man, but he's way too conservative, he's far too retro, going back to the old Republican Party, he doesn't bring in part of the new look, the non-Washington look that Governor Bush has espoused here. How do you respond to that?"

     -- "As you know, there has been a significant focus upon your health. You have talked about the previous heart problems you've had. Doctors have provided information to the public. Let me ask you this. Within the last 10 years, have you experienced any problems at all, however minor they might be, any symptoms at all related to your heart condition?"

     -- "Have you been told by any physicians that you'll need any additional medical procedures anytime in the future?"

     -- "Let's take a look at the selection process here. Your job as the head of selection committee was essentially to ask the very difficult and even sometimes embarrassing questions of possible candidates here, to make sure that Governor Bush would never, under any circumstances, be embarrassed. Who asked those difficult and perhaps even embarrassing questions of you?"

     -- "Was that a good idea, though, to have the governor, who is a personal friend of yours, obviously wanted to have you as part of it, to ask him to, in essence, be your prosecutor, to look into your background?"

     -- "You talk about the record, and obviously people are going to be looking at your record, certainly, in Congress. Let's take a look at a couple of quick issues, if we might. With regard to gun safety: 1988, you were one of only four members of Congress to vote against a ban on plastic guns that are capable of slipping through security checkpoints. You also voted against a ban on so-called cop killer bullets. Why would you vote against those?"

     -- "Governor Bush has made education one of his signature issues. He has often said that he intends to leave no child behind. Looking back at your record, you had voted twice against the creation of the Department of Education; you were one of only 33 members voting against authorizing appropriations for programs such as Head Start. How does that then dovetail with Governor Bush saying that education is going to be so important in a Bush administration?"

     -- "Last question for you then, very quickly. Your wife wrote a book about a fictional vice president. One of the lines about the vice president's job is that 'really it's just all about waiting. Everything else is make work.' I imagine you probably want to change that description, that job description a little bit if you're going to be Vice President?"

     Later in the day FNC viewers got a taste of what more balanced interviewers would ask as Carl Cameron posed some questions from the right. Special Report with Brit Hume ran Cameron's interview with Cheney in which he asked about Al Gore: "Is he an honest person?" And: "Do you think Al Gore is more liberal than Bill Clinton?"

     Plus, after Cheney said he and Bush recognize the broad views in the party on abortion, Cameron actually hit Bush from the right on the issue, a perspective unimaginable to Lauer, Clayson and Ford: "The ardent pro-lifer would say, however, that there is an appearance of an equivocation on your position in order to make the political embrace to the top of the ticket."


There's someone in the world more conservative than Dick Cheney? Introducing a Today profile of Lynne Cheney, Katie Couric marveled that Dick "Cheney isn't even the most conservative member of his own family."

     Both Today and NBC Nightly News ran profiles of Lynne Cheney on Thursday. "Critics claim her style is as militant as her husband's is mild," Anne Thompson declared on the July 27 NBC Nightly News. And both stories raised the issue of the sexual orientation of one of their daughters. Thompson relayed: "Married now almost 36 years, raising two daughters, one of whom is openly gay."

     Lisa Myers began the Today piece: "Lynne Cheney is definitely not your typical political wife, though she can grip and grin with the best of them. An author and educator she's more outspoken and more conservative than her husband." After recalling how Lynne Cheney is "a former homecoming queen from Casper, Wyoming who married Dick Cheney almost 36 years ago," Myers added: "The Cheney's have two daughters. One of them openly gay."

     Myers informed viewers: "58 year old Lynne Cheney, who has a doctorate in 19th century British literature is best known for her seven controversial years as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and her crusade against political correctness. Blunt, passionate, she became a hero to the right, by taking on liberal academics."

     Myers reminded viewers of her forceful voice as a co-host of CNN's Crossfire a few years ago, then warned: "Having a sharp, very conservative tongue can get vice presidential wives into trouble. Ask Marilyn Quayle. Friends say Lynne Cheney, who's used to speaking her mind vigorously and colorfully, will have to adjust, and quickly."


Republican success in passing another tax cut became another opportunity Thursday night for Dan Rather to present a one-sided item relaying just the divisive spin of President Clinton. Rather intoned on the July 27 show:
     "On another tax dollar front, the Republican-controlled House voted tonight to reduce taxes for some Social Security recipients who earn more than $34,000 a year. This is the latest election year measure President Clinton says he'll veto because the President says it benefits the well-to-do the most, will cost $100 billion, and is, Mr. Clinton says, 'outside the mainstream of what Americans want.'"


Bryant Gumbel managed to do a little Reagan-bashing, defining being "Reaganesque" as someone who "does nothing," in a discussion segment on the CBS show Survivor.

     MRC analyst Brian Boyd caught this exchange in a July 27 Early Show "eclectic Survivor roundtable" in which a panel consisting of a comedian, an author and political analyst reviewed their predictions for who would be kicked off the island on the episode shown the night before.

     Referring to one of the island residents, Gumbel asked Craig Crawford of the Hotline: "You said Gervase is the best politician on the island. How come?"
     Crawford suggested: "He's very Reaganesque. He's managing the balance between the hard politics and staying popular. In the end, you know these coalitions set up these folks, but in the end it's going to be a popularity contest as any political contest is."
     Gumbel, leaning forward and laughing: "Reaganesque? Dare I say because he does nothing? What?"
     Crawford: "Very amiable and non-threatening, and doesn't do that much."

     Beyond the politics of this exchange, the whole segment concept is pretty pathetic for a "news" program. The Survivor taping ended more than three months ago and so who won, the last one remaining on the island, was determined back in April. You'd think a "news" show would dig out the facts of what happened and not play along with the gimmick.


Speaking of the utter decline of CBS News from just a liberally biased operation to an embarrassment to all journalists with any pride, even liberals ones, check out the subject for a question posed by Early Show news reader Julie Chen on the July 26 Big Brother. Every Wednesday night Chen anchors the show and interviews various observers about the goings-on inside the house containing people who are taped all day for CBS's six-day-a-week show.

     Anyway, here's CBS News anchor Chen's question to Dr. Drew Pinsky of MTV's Loveline: "A lot of cuddling going on in this household. We've seen Curtis cuddle with Brittany. We've seen Brittany cuddle with Josh and Karen and lately Jamie has been thrown into this cuddling mix. What do you make of all this cuddling?" 

     Experience. CBS News. -- Brent Baker


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