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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday August 30, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 153) |

Nets Jumped on ADL Complaint; Lieberman Double Standard Conceded; Gore Attacks Energized NBC; Survivor to Save Early Show?

1) The networks jumped on the ADL's criticism of Joe Lieberman for mixing religion and politics, but only ABC's Peggy Wehmeyer reminded viewers how Gore and Bush "toned down" their religious rhetoric "as a result of press criticism" and suggested "Lieberman can get away with it because he's Jewish and a Democrat."

2) Time and USA Today reporters conceded a media double standard on religion and politics: "If a conservative Republican were saying these things it would, people would be going nuts."

3) ABC's World News Tonight ignored Bill Clinton's response to the official Arkansas lawsuit calling for his disbarment while CBS gave it 25 seconds and NBC 28 seconds on Tuesday night.

4) Monday night only NBC's Claire Shipman called Gore's attack on Bush over prescription drugs "harsh" and only ABC's Terry Moran pointed out how Joe Lieberman has been a major recipient of "drug industry campaign funds."

5) Al Gore's Monday attack on George Bush over prescription drugs sure energized NBC News. Tuesday morning Today led with it and Tuesday night, of the broadcast networks, only NBC focused for the second straight night on Gore's efforts to "needle Governor Bush."

6) New edition of MediaNomics: "Media Aid Environmental Hit Job on ABC Reporter" and "Journalists Try to Pull Out the Plug On Electricity Deregulation."

7) $5 million to Bryant Gumbel and it's still mired in 3rd place, so CBS plans to boost the ratings of The Early Show by making most of the Survivor cast appear regularly on the show.


The broadcast networks Tuesday night all jumped on the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) criticism of Joe Lieberman for mixing religion and politics, but only ABC's Peggy Wehmeyer reminded viewers how other candidates have "toned down" their religious rhetoric "as a result of press criticism" and suggested "Lieberman can get away with it because he's Jewish and a Democrat."

   CBS made the complaint its lead story as Phil Jones turned to the "conservative Bill Bennett" to vouch for Lieberman's sincerity and noted how "Bush has avoided hot-button religious and social issues. A mistake says a conservative, family values lobbyist." NBC merged the ADL criticism into a larger story on Gore's day of campaigning against Bush.

    Here's a rundown of how the Tuesday August 29 ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows treated the ADL complaint:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight led with the fires in West. Later, anchor Charles Gibson announced:
    "In presidential politics today, something of a backlash against mixing politics and religion. The Anti-Defamation League, a group founded to fight discrimination against Jews, has written a letter to Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman asking him to stop invoking his faith on the campaign trail."

    Reporter Peggy Wehmeyer explained how "after a speech in Detroit where Lieberman said belief in God is the basis of morality, a Jewish watchdog group issued a terse warning."

    Following a soundbite from the ADL's Abraham Foxman and a quote from his letter, Wehmeyer pointed out how talking about religion on the campaign trail is not new in this campaign and she showed two old Gore and Bush clips as a reminder. First, Gore in April 1999: "The purpose of life is to glorify God." Second, Bush in December 1999: "When you accept Christ as your savior, it changes your heart, it changes your life."

    Wehmeyer then uniquely blamed the media for their abandoning the theme and suggested why there is a double standard for Lieberman: "Gore and Bush have since toned down the religious rhetoric, some say as a result of press criticism. But Lieberman continues to invoke God's name repeatedly. Some think Lieberman can get away with it because he's Jewish and a Democrat."
    Forest Montgomery, Counsel, National Association of Evangelicals, asserted: "If an evangelical or Bush had said something like this the press would have been on them like so many tigers."

    Wehmeyer concluded by reporting how Lieberman is "unrepentant" and plans to continue sharing his passion about religious faith.

    -- CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts led the program:
    "Seventy days now until America elects a new President and Vice President and suddenly religion is becoming a big issue. Not the religion any of the candidates practices, but the religion they preach on the campaign trail."

    Phil Jones outlined the ADL criticism, playing a clip of Lieberman which so enraged the ADL: "We are children of the same awesome God."
    Jones suggested Democrats picked Lieberman to separate Gore from Clinton's scandals, "but is Lieberman being political or sincere? It's a little of both says Republican conservative Bill Bennett."

    Bennett asserted: "The fact that it may be to their advantage politically to talk about these things doesn't mean it isn't a conviction of Joe Lieberman's. It is s conviction of Joe Lieberman's, as I know."
    Jones recalled what happened to Bush when he touched religion, but did not mention the media's role in fueling the controversy: "After Republican George Bush declared Jesus Christ his favorite political philosopher in a primary debate, and in the aftermath of the controversy surrounding his trip to Bob Jones University, a chastened Bush has avoided hot-button religious and social issues. A mistake says a conservative, family values lobbyist."
    Richard Lessner, American Renewal: "I think Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have sensed the importance of those issues and they are filling a vacuum that was very consciously left by the Bush campaign."

    (Some may recall Lessner from his previous job as editorial page editor at the Union Leader in New Hampshire.)

    Lieberman's true miracle of the day: He got CBS to put two soundbites from conservatives, though preceded by warning labels, into one story.

    -- NBC Nightly News gave the ADL complaint only a couple of sentences in a larger story. Claire Shipman, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, reported: "And Gore is also answering questions today about his running mate Joseph Lieberman, about concerns from the Anti-Defamation League that Lieberman is making too big a point about religion on the campaign trail." After Gore insisted "I believe in what Joe Lieberman is saying," Shipman continued: "Advisors say they think the public likes it, too. Lieberman may start to talk more about his support for the separation of church and state, but he won't cut out the religion."


"If a conservative Republican were saying these things it would, people would be going nuts." Reporters from Time and USA Today acknowledged to Chris Matthews on Hardball Monday night that Democrats are benefitting from a huge media double standard on religion and politics, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed.

    On his August 28 MSNBC/CNBC show, Matthews suggested: "The odd thing of having an orthodox, very observant Jewish candidate for Vice President, talking a lot about religious faith. Biblical references, Talmudic references, John. Who would've believed this three weeks ago?"
    John Dickerson of Time magazine conceded: "Well not to mention that, but it bears repeating that, if a conservative Republican were saying these things it would, people would be going nuts."

    Matthews soon turned to Tom Squitieri of USA Today: "Tough question, I said the liberal press. Suppose this guy was a religious conservative from the Christian fundamentalist tradition and he was out there quoting from the Old Testament, as most people from that tradition do. Would he be mocked by the media? By the New York liberal media? Would we be saying what kind of a clown act is this?"
    Squitieri admitted the media bias: "Just look back a couple of years ago when Pat Robertson ran for the Republican nomination. You had that kind of, that kind of thing going on."
    Matthews: "Cultural."
    Squitieri: "Yeah, I mean making fun of him because he was a man of the cloth and imposing his religious views. I think it's the reverse, in a way, of the Nixon can go to China. He could get away with that, if McGovern had been President he would've been pilloried for doing that."
    Matthews: "So it's alright to talk about your Christian fundamentals if you're Jewish?"
    Squitieri: "If you're Jewish. Yeah exactly."
    Matthews: "I think that's true. I think we've lurched into the truth here."


Bill Clinton's response to the official Arkansas lawsuit calling for his disbarment went unnoticed Tuesday night by ABC's World News Tonight while CBS gave it 25 seconds and NBC 28 seconds.

    CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts announced: "President Clinton today began the campaign to save his license to practice law. In his response to disbarment proceedings filed late this afternoon, the President admits he was trying to avoid embarrassment in the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky depositions, but claims he did not intentionally give false statements. His attorneys argue that stripping the President of his law license would be excessively harsh and unprecedented given the circumstances of the case."

    Over on the NBC Nightly News, unusual substitute anchor Matt Lauer reported: "One note from the White House tonight. President Clinton has asked a lawyer's committee in Arkansas not to disbar him over his testimony in the Paula Jones sex harassment suit. In his response to a complaint filed by an Arkansas prosecutor, Mr. Clinton says having his license pulled is too harsh a penalty for the accusation. The prosecutor argued President Clinton lied to save himself embarrassment in the Jones case and for that he should lose his law license. No word yet on when this all will be decided."


Al Gore's attack on George Bush over creating a new prescription drug entitlement program and Bush's laying out of his education plan led to stories Monday night on the broadcast evening news shows, but only NBC's Claire Shipman called Gore's attack "harsh" and only ABC's Terry Moran pointed out how Joe Lieberman has been a major recipient of "drug industry campaign funds."

    The August 28 World News Tonight on ABC dedicated a full story to Gore's day followed by a few seconds on Bush's education plan; CBS ran one story which covered the main points made by each candidate and NBC aired a full story on each.

    -- "Harsh" Gore. Only NBC's Claire Shipman applied the term to Gore. Shipman observed: "The Vice President attacks the drugmakers."
    Gore: "These companies have so much power and so much wealth. This is by all odds the most profitable industry in America."
    Shipman: "And harsh words for his opponent, a new ad released today in nine states."
    Gore TV ad: "George Bush's approach leaves millions of seniors with no prescription drug coverage."

    -- Gore hypocrisy because of Lieberman's donors. Monday night only ABC's Terry Moran pointed out: "The Vice President has proposed a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program, but he may have a problem with his own rhetoric, since one of the main recipients of drug industry campaign funds is his own running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman. In an interview, the Vice President says Lieberman's record shows he was not unduly influenced by the campaign funds."


Al Gore's Monday attack on George Bush over prescription drugs sure energized NBC News. Tuesday morning Today led with it as evidence, in Ann Curry's words, that "this presidential campaign is starting to heat up!" Tuesday night, of the broadcast networks, only NBC focused for the second straight night on Gore's efforts to "needle Governor Bush," including how he has Bush on the defense over debates. David Gregory concluded by asserting that some "aides think that Bush seems trapped, unable to go on the offensive for a second week now."

    The August 29 Today opened with this soundbite from Al Gore on his plane: "The time for, for generalities without specifics, I think is, just about over. And so it is kind of, you know, where specifics are concerned it's kind of put up or shut up time."
    Co-host Matt Lauer then welcomed viewers: "Good morning. With those words Vice President Al Gore threw down the gauntlet to Governor George W. Bush, stepping up the challenge in the race for the presidency today, Tuesday August 29th, 2000."

    The attack excited co-host Ann Curry, observed MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "Okay this presidential campaign is starting to heat up!"
    Lauer agreed: "In a big way. The Vice President made that challenge as he traveled the country, riding the momentum of a popular plan for providing prescription drug coverage for seniors. We're gonna talk about why that's working with voters and how the Bush campaign plans to respond."

    Sara James introduced the top story: "And more now about some comments from the Vice President. With 10 days [sic] to go until election day Vice President Gore raised the stakes in a debate over a prescription drug plan. Last night he told George W. Bush to, in his words, put up or shut up. More from NBC's Chip Reid."
    Chip Reid began: "Tough talk from Vice President Al Gore aboard Air Force Two....Put up or shut up time for George W. Bush on the subject of prescription drugs. Gore, taunting Bush for failing to offer a detailed plan to help seniors with the high cost of prescription drugs. Last night a Bush spokesman called Gore's words, quote, 'Not very statesmanlike.' Earlier in the day Bush said he's already offered the blueprint of a plan and will offer details next week. Bush aides say their plan will be much less expensive and bureaucratic than Gore's. But in the meantime with Bush on the defensive Gore is getting all the political mileage he can."

    After a Gore soundbite, Reid continued: "At a pharmacy in Tallahassee, Florida, 82 year old Mertle Jennings told Gore she often lives in pain, forced to choose between food and arthritis medicine. Gore later told a forum of seniors about her plight."

    Reid soon made Gore's case: "Many here had stories just as dire, just as emotional. Medicare generally does not cover prescription drugs with 39 million seniors and with drug costs soaring Gore believes his detailed plan to spend $253 billion over 10 years to help seniors buy prescription drugs is a political grand slam. The Gore campaign believes Florida could be the key to winning this election and they believe prescription drugs is such a powerful political issue with seniors that it could be the key to winning Florida."

    Tuesday night, Claire Shipman announced: "The issue today: children's health care, but the point is to needle Governor Bush....And a sharper attack in a new ad to be released tomorrow obtained by NBC News."
    Clip of anti-Bush ad: "The new prescription drug ad for George Bush, the New York Times says its accuracy is 'zero.' Bush has no specific plan."
    Shipman: "That follows the tough jab last night above Air Force Two, accusing his opponent of lack of specifics."
    Al Gore: "It's kind of put up or shut up time."
    Shipman: "Any regrets today about what aides say was an unscripted comment?"
    Gore: "No."

    Shipman then went on to the Lieberman/ADL controversy, quoted in item #1 above, before concluding: "But most of the focus of the Gore effort now seems to be on getting under Bush's skin. The campaign today, for example, releasing this letter accepting the debate commission's terms for three prime time match-ups this fall, debates that the Gore team says Bush is ducking."

    David Gregory next provided the Bush response, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Tonight Governor Bush strongly denies what Claire was talking about, that he is ducking any of the debates....The Vice President's formal acceptance of the commission's debate calendar today puts new pressure on Bush, but he says the commission debates are just three of fifty-three invitations he's considering..."

    After a clip of Bush's retort on prescription drugs, Gregory concluded: "While some Bush aides say that there is an advantage in allowing Gore to appear so negative, other aides think that Bush seems trapped, unable to go on the offensive for a second week now. Said one, 'We haven't scored a punch in a long time.'"

    NBC will hardly let him.


The August 29 edition of MediaNomics from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP) is now online thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul. The articles researched and written by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

    -- Media Aid Environmental Hit Job on ABC Reporter
    It makes sense that the liberal activists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) would attack ABC's John Stossel. But it's a different issue with Stossel's media brethren. Allegedly mainstream news organizations revealed their true mindset when they chose to repeat the EWG's distorted claim that Stossel is a sloppy and biased reporter, rather than hunt down the facts for themselves.

    To read the entire analysis as well as to view a RealPlayer clip from the Stossel story in question, go to:

    -- Journalists Try to Pull Out the Plug On Electricity Deregulation
    Business owners and residents in San Diego, California are understandably peeved that their electric bills have doubled over the past twelve months. But national media personalities have now parachuted in, blaming "deregulation" for consumers' woes when both past and present regulation of the electric power industry continues to affect market prices.

    To read the rest, go to:

    To access both stories, go to:


Helping Bryant Gumbel and The Early Show survive. Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (www.poynter.org/medianews) highlighted Gail Shister's Philadelphia Inquirer exclusive that since appearances by Survivor cast members boosted Early Show ratings, Executive Producer Steve Friedman plans to use the Survivor cast regularly even though the show is now over.

    Here's an excerpt from her August 29 story:

Steve Friedman, leader of The Early Show tribe, still carries a big Tiki torch for CBS's Survivor.

And who (but Susan) could blame him? Survivor's just-ended 13-week prime-time run gave the once-comatose morning show a major Nielsen boost every Thursday, when the previous night's reject was featured guest.

"Like the rest of America, I'm in withdrawal," Friedman says. "I looked forward to Wednesday night and Thursday morning. I'll miss the bump. Unfortunately, a lot of the momentum we had will probably be disturbed during the Olympics."

Maybe not.

As counter-programming against NBC's all-taped coverage of the Sydney Games, CBS will repeat the whole series Sept. 15 through 29 at 9 nightly, except Sundays. Fresh interviews will be included.

Then there's Survivor 2: The Australian Outback, which launches Jan. 28 after the Super Bowl.

Though still third in the morning wars, Early Show, with Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson, picked up steam, thanks to Survivor, especially among 18-to-49-year-old women. Last Thursday's show -- featuring 15 of the 16 Survivors (Kelly called in sick) -- climbed to a 3.5 rating and 12 percent audience share in the 48-market overnights.

Those were the best numbers yet for the 10-month-old Early Show and highest for any CBS early-morning broadcast since the '94 Winter Olympics. Moreover, Early Show tied ABC's Good Morning America. As usual, both finished well behind NBC's Today juggernaut (4.8/17)....

Meanwhile, Friedman has talked to all but one of the Survivors about becoming regular contributors. Lone exception: Greg, who "wasn't dependable. He didn't show up, and he seemed indifferent to the press." (The nerve!)

Friedman's first choice -- big surprise -- is Ultimate Survivor Richard. "Why not go for the winner?" But with all Mr. Hatch's bookings and endorsements, he may not have time for a regular gig....

    END Excerpt

    I think Greg showed just the right attitude toward a show starring Bryant Gumbel. -- Brent Baker


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