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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday August 31, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 154) |

Bush's Unpopular Tax Cut; FOB Kaplan Forced Out By CNN; Mayor Rivera?; Letterman Caught NY Times Bias

1) CBS focused Wednesday night on how Bush's "$1.3 trillion tax... hasn't caught fire like the campaign expected." CBS failed to note how the rich get the smallest cut, passing along the usual canard about how most of the benefit goes to high income households.

2) Rick Kaplan forced out of CNN. He had a history of helping Clinton and liberals. This year he stayed overnight at the White House, last year he denounced Ken Starr's "obsession." He produced a special on fundraising that never mentioned "Clinton scandal."

3) MSNBC preposterously claimed 42 million watch The News with Brian Williams. More like barely 200,000 as it finishes behind CNN, CNBC and FNC in its time slot.

4) Mayor Rivera? Geraldo might run next year for Mayor of New York City, the New York Post overheard.

5) Letterman's "Top Ten Signs The New York Times is Slipping." A Top Ten list prompted by liberal bias in environmental reporting. North Pole ice melting! Santa Claus will drown! Oh, never mind.


"Despite recent efforts to explain his $1.3 trillion tax cut, it hasn't caught fire like the campaign expected," declared Bill Whitaker about George Bush on Wednesday's CBS Evening News before passing along the usual liberal spin about how "more than half his across-the-board cuts would go to households earning more than $90,000." Whitaker found little support among New Hampshirites for a tax cut as he featured a McCain backer who asserted: "The adult thing to do is to accept that we spent other people's money for fifteen years, and now you pay it back."

    NBC Nightly News skipped the campaign Thursday night as Tom Brokaw anchored from in front of fire trucks in Red Lodge, Montana. ABC's World News Tonight ran a canned piece providing an overview of the Bush and Gore education plans. Bill Blakemore began with the obvious: "The main difference between Gore and Bush on education is a classic Democrat-Republican difference: The extent to which federal government should get involved."

    Back to the August 30 CBS Evening News, anchor John Roberts announced: "With 69 days now until America elects a new President, the strong U.S. economy is making it difficult for George W. Bush to sell one of his two major campaign themes."

    From New Hampshire, Bill Whitaker started his piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Education and taxes, two of the main engines of the Bush campaign. Despite recent efforts to explain his $1.3 trillion tax cut, it hasn't caught fire like the campaign expected."
    George W. Bush: "We have got a surplus. I wanna share some of that surplus with the people who pay the bills."
    Whitaker blamed the miscue on a misguided fear of Steve Forbes: "Bush proposed massive cuts last winter when tax-bashing billionaire Steve Forbes seemed his main opponent. Not even tax-averse New Hampshire warmed to them. Bush lost the primary, remember. On his first return trip tax cuts still don't spark much support, just debate. Are tax cuts a big issue for you?"
    First man in barber shop: "Oh definitely, yeah, I've got a family. I could use the tax money."
    Second man in barber shop: "That's for the rich, that's what that is I think. I'd rather to take the deficit down so our kids don't have to pay for it."

    Whitaker then delivered the usual liberal spin, though he did add a Bush campaign point: "More than half his across-the-board cuts would go to households earning more than $90,000, but Bush argues everyone would pay less. A two-income family of four earning some $47,000 would enjoy almost a $2,000 cut."

    As usual, by coming at the Bush tax cut from the left Whitaker ignored points a conservative would make, including how Bush's plan is actually quite "progressive" since it reduces the marginal rate for those at the bottom who now pay 15 percent to 10 percent, a one-third reduction, while those in the middle bracket would get a one-fourth rate cut and those paying the top rate only a one-fifth cut of their marginal rate. And of course those who pay the most taxes get a bigger tax cut in raw dollars since those earning $75,000 to $200,000 now pay 79 percent of income taxes collected by the federal government while those in the $20,000 to $30,000 range pay a mere one percent of taxes collected.

    Whitaker picked up: "Still, polls show tax cuts aren't the voter magnets they once were here or across the country."
    Andrew Smith, University of New Hampshire: "It's difficult to sell a plan when you have the economy going good, and there's nothing for people to get mad about."
    Whitaker: "An especially hard sell to independent voters like Adam and Madeline Fishman, whom we first spoke to before the New Hampshire primary. They voted for John McCain. Now Adam says he still won't for Bush, partly because of taxes."
    Adam Fishman: "The adult thing to do is to accept that we spent other people's money for fifteen years, and now you pay it back. You know, it didn't wash with me back in February, and it still doesn't wash with me."

    Whitaker concluded: "The Bush folks insist this tax plan is a winner, and though they admit it hasn't caught fire so far, they remain confident it will as the campaign heats up these last two months."


In a reshuffling at CNN announced Wednesday as the boys from AOL plan their takeover, FOB Rick Kaplan was forced out as President of CNN/USA and so he left Time Warner. As the AP's David Bauder noted in a Wednesday night dispatch about Kaplan's time at CNN, his "friendship with President Clinton made conservative activists suspicious."

    Indeed, and with good reason. Kaplan has a history of liberal activism and Clinton friendship which have impacted his news judgment, a subject CyberAlert last addressed this past April 11 in reporting how Kaplan and his daughter spent a night at the White House after the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner.

    Kaplan departed after CNN's ratings fell 35 percent last quarter from their level of a year earlier. The AP's Bauder elaborated: "CNN's average daily viewership sank from 463,000 people during the third quarter of 1997, when Kaplan started, to 288,000 during the second three months of this year, according to Nielsen Media Research. The prime-time dropoff was even steeper, at 47 percent. The network's second-quarter ratings were the lowest since 1988."

    Obviously, the creation of MSNBC and FNC and their gaining of cable carriage by the day, as well as growing public interest in stock coverage provided by CNBC, has split the cable news audience. And before getting to the bashing of Kaplan, it should be acknowledged that while he did do things which hurt CNN's credibility (NewsStand on Tailwind) and ratings (forcing out Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs and creating the viewer-starved daily prime time NewsStand), during his tenure with CNN Chairman Tom Johnson CNN did not take the lowbrow road followed by MSNBC.

    CNN still offers expensive-to-produce live newscasts on weekend days and nights, not repeats of repeats of clips of repeats of Dateline NBC segments on Jon Benet. And two of three of their ET prime time hours are devoted to serious news shows sandwiched around a usually serious Larry King Live. Compare that to MSNBC's prime time dominated by Crime Files and Headliners & Legends pre-taped clip shows about sensational crimes and celebrity lives.

    Now to some highlights of Kaplan's liberal career.

    -- The April 11 CyberAlert this year reported:

CNN President Rick Kaplan, who stayed overnight in Clinton's White House while at ABC News, spent another night there with his daughter last Thursday night after the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner, USA Today disclosed. But Kaplan doesn't see anything wrong with it.

In his "Inside TV" column for April 10, USA Today's Peter Johnson revealed:

CNN president Rick Kaplan, who took some heat when he worked at ABC News for staying overnight at the White House during President Clinton's first term, spent another night there Thursday -- after Clinton roasted ABC News over "Leogate."

"No, I do not feel embarrassed, ashamed or compromised in any way, shape or form," Kaplan said Friday, after sleeping in the Queen's Room while daughter Alexis, 21, slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Generally speaking, it's an ethical no-no for journalists to get too cozy with people they cover. But Kaplan, a former Nightline, PrimeTime Live and World News Tonight producer, said Clinton's gesture won't affect CNN's coverage of him. "Everyone has relationships," Kaplan said. "We met each other before either of us knew we'd amount to anything. He doesn't expect anything from me, and I don't expect anything from him."

Kaplan, a Clinton friend for 30 years, said the president gave Alexis an "amazing" 2 -hour White House tour. "It was extremely nice of him to do it. In the waning months of his presidency, I felt, 'What the heck?'"

    END Reprint of previous CyberAlert item

    -- From the October 9, 1997 CyberAlert:

An October 6 CyberAlert item on the then upcoming two-hour CNN special on campaign finance noted that it was to be produced by CNN President Rick Kaplan, who U.S. News reported had demanded that CNN staffers "limit the use of the word 'scandal' in reporting on Clinton's campaign fundraising woes."

I wondered: "Can you do a two-hour show on Clinton's 1996 fundraising and not use the word 'scandal'?" A rhetoric question, or so I thought. But incredibly enough the answer is -- yes!

The October 7 show titled "Democracy for Sale" wandered well beyond Clinton to examine Republicans and to argue for campaign finance reform, but summarizing charges against Clinton took up a significant portion of the show. Nonetheless, the phrase "Clinton scandal" was never uttered.

MRC news analyst Clay Waters reviewed the show and then ran the transcript from the CNN Web page through WordPerfect's "find" feature. The words "scandal" or "scandals" appeared just four times.

Twice in the Crossfire segment of the special liberal Bill Press claimed that Republicans are trying to use scandal to bring down Clinton since they can't win on the issues. At another point, Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs made this generic reference: "The campaign funding scandal hasn't slowed the parties' lust for soft money."

And the fourth "scandal" mention? Here it is, from Brooks Jackson: "So, you want to be a Washington player, get next to the powerful, lobby for a tax break or a nice ambassador's job? If you've got money, I can help. First, you've got to get around that law they enacted back in '74 after the Watergate scandal...."

Yes, having an FOB, who stayed overnight in the Lincoln bedroom, as President of CNN is reflected in the network's coverage.

    END Reprint of another previous CyberAlert item

    -- In his book on the 1992 campaign, "Strange Bedfellows," Tom Rosenstiel quoted this from Kaplan about Bill Clinton: "I know he wasn't Slick Willie, and not a scourge, a really terrific, terrific person."

    -- Last year during a commencement address at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Kaplan complained that Ken Starr is "putting obsession ahead of the best interests of the nation" while Bill Clinton has delivered "extraordinary" achievements.

    Thursday morning, MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post on the MRC home page a RealPlayer clip of Kaplan's assessments of Starr and Clinton. You can see a picture of Kaplan from that speech at: http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/1999/cyb19990614.asp#4

    In the meantime, here's the text of a portion of Kaplan's May 16, 1999 remarks:
    "In the past eighteen months, we have seen a Congress damage itself in the shameless partisanship of the House. We have seen a Senate run from the light to debate the future of a President in secret. The independent counsel law seems destined to die but Ken Starr is still around and many believe still putting obsession ahead of the best interests of the nation. And then there is the President, who if not guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, well, it may have been because our Founding Fathers never thought a President would get caught acting in such a manner.
    "Is there a lesson here? We have learned more about perjury and fidelity in the presidency of Andrew Johnson than I ever thought imaginable. Our young children learned more about sex than I may know right now. But if in the wake of this national tragedy, how many of you now believe that with the right connections, you can get away with anything. The President got impeached but he didn't lose his job so did he get away with it? I'm here to tell you that there is always a price to be paid. Not always paid on demand but paid in the end, always.
    "As many of you may know, I've been privileged to be a friend of Bill Clinton's for more than twenty years and like many, I had high expectations for his presidency. His intellect and his heart and his drive to help people should have guaranteed his success, his greatness. But as it stands now, when history writes this President's story, his accomplishments, while noteworthy, even extraordinary at times, will be listed after an explanation of who Monica Lewinsky was. He kept his office, but at a very high price and I'm only talking about his public life. Well, before it's all over others will pay, I trust, as well. But remember there is always a price. You are not going to be perfect. We all make mistakes."

    -- For more on Kaplan's efforts to help Bill Clinton and his political activism, check out these additional CyberAlert items:

    For details on how in February 1992, while at ABC News, he advised Clinton on how to respond to the Gennifer Flowers story: 

    For extensive and illuminating excerpts from a January 1998 Vanity Fair profile which detailed how Kaplan once hired Hillary Clinton; how he not only advised Clinton about how to counter Gennifer Flowers, but had earlier counseled Clinton on how to recover from his too-long 1988 convention speech; how he had been a political operative for a liberal presidential candidate before jumping to journalism; how he made calls to console Hillary Clinton after Vince Foster's death and to Web Hubbell after he resigned; how he killed a Whitewater piece from ABC's World News Tonight, discouraged reporters and producers from pursuing the topic and only ran an in-depth look one night in 1994 because Nightline was about to grab it; and how he slurred conservative media critics who see liberal bias, specifically Reed Irvine and MRC Chairman Brent Bozell, as "liars." Go to:

    For the record, in CNN's re-shuffling Philip Kent, President of TBS International, will become President and COO of the CNN News Group and Jim Walton, who has been President of CNN/Sports Illustrated, will run CNN's domestic news networks and Web sites. Former Lyndon Johnson aide Tom Johnson, Chairman and CEO of the CNN News Group, will now only oversee editorial decisions as Steven Heyer, President and COO of TBS Inc., will direct CNN's business affairs.


At least CNN is willing admit and address its ratings woes, unlike MSNBC which just makes up a number about its viewership. On Monday the New York Times picked up on how a Manhattan billboard advertising The News with Brian Williams makes this preposterous claim: "Find Out Why 42 Million People are Watching." That's more people than watched most of the Survivor episodes. Adding up all its repeat airings, it's really watched by well under one million.

    New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg explored the claim:

....In the second quarter of this year -- the most recent full quarter for which cable ratings are available -- the 9 p.m. showing of "The News With Brian Williams" was actually watched by an average 203,000 people, according to Nielsen figures. It was in fourth place in its time period among the cable news networks behind CNN's "Larry King Live," with 936,000 people watching each night; CNBC's "Rivera Live," with 374,000; and the Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes," with about 308,000.

So, how can MSNBC say the program is being watched by 42 million people when its nightly audience is about one-20,500th of that? Thanks to some statistical ingenuity and vague language, the MSNBC number is basically correct, according to MSNBC executives.

Here is the calculus: Mr. Williams's program, which runs Monday through Friday, is repeated four times a night after its initial 9 p.m. showing -- twice on MSNBC and twice on CNBC, NBC's financial network. MSNBC executives said they arrived at the figure by taking the total number of people who watched at least one minute of the program in any of its runs in April.

In other words, if while clicking through the channels in April, a viewer happened to pause for 60 seconds on Mr. Williams's program, she became one of the 42 million....

Executives at MSNBC said they thought their method for the billboard would better represent the real audience for Mr. Williams in the course of a night since, they contend, many of his viewers tune in briefly for information and then head elsewhere....

    END Excerpt

    Even if you assume the 10pm ET CNBC repeat captures a fresh 200,000 and then each of the second showings on CNBC and MSNBC garner another half as many more, you get about 600,000 actual unique viewers.

    By MSNBC's rationale, CyberAlert doesn't have 5,900 subscribers, but 118,000 readers (5,900 x an average of 20 editions a month).


The Honorable Geraldo Rivera? As noted by Tony Snow on Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, the New York Post reported that Geraldo Rivera might run in 2001 for Mayor of New York City.

    The August 30 "Page Six" item by Jared Paul Stern with Paula Froelich and Chris Wilson, revealed:

    Geraldo Rivera is threatening to run for mayor. The other night at Elaine's the macho newsman was overheard telling pals that he's gunning for Rudy Giuliani's seat in 2001, and isn't worried that his womanizing past will haunt him on the campaign trail.

"He said he's already told everyone all about his sex life in his book ['Exposing Myself'], so he really doesn't have any skeletons in his closet," our spy reports.

"Many people over the years have urged him to run, and he has thought about it, but as far as some imminent decision to run, no," Rivera's spokesman Jim Griffin tells us. "I think what he meant was that maybe he was exploring it."

    END Reprint

    To read the daily "Page Six" column, go to: http://www.pagesix.com

    This might be an effective way to depopulate the liberal media of its top left wing crusaders so they only burden residents of one city, district or state. Now, what office could we get Bryant Gumbel run for?


Letterman's Top Ten list Wednesday night, the "Top Ten Signs The New York Times is Slipping," brought attention to some environmental scaremongering bias at the paper that David Letterman noticed. This is the first time a Top Ten list has justified a lengthy set up to outline the media bias which prompted it.

    "Ages-Old Polar Icecap Is Melting, Scientists Find," announced a front page headline on August 19. The story by John Noble Wilford began:
    "The North Pole is melting.
    "The thick ice that has for ages covered the Arctic Ocean at the pole has turned to water, recent visitors there reported yesterday. At least for the time being, an ice-free patch of ocean about a mile wide has opened at the very top of the world, something that has presumably never before been seen by humans and is more evidence that global warming may be real and already affecting climate.
    "The last time scientists can be certain the pole was awash in water was more than 50 million years ago.
    "'It was totally unexpected,' said Dr. James J. McCarthy, an oceanographer, director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and the co-leader of a group working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is sponsored by the United Nations...."

    The dire story prompted Letterman to complain on the air about how The Weather Channel was ignoring this catastrophe while instead, in the face of impending doom, offering summer beach forecasts.

    But then on Tuesday night this week Letterman had to apologize to The Weather Channel after he saw that the New York Times retracted its story. An August 29 article by the same reporter carried this headline: "Open Water at Pole Is Not Surprising, Experts Say." Reporter Wilford acknowledged:
    "Recent eyewitness reports of open water from melting ice at the North Pole have prompted climatologists and other scientists to make a closer study of satellite imagery and other observations of northern sea ice, past and present. Although striking and unusual, those reports are not as surprising as suggested in a news article on Aug. 19 in The New York Times, which was based on the descriptions and interpretations of two scientists who had just visited there."

    ABC News promoted the original New York Times story on August 19, but decided to skip the correction this week. World News Tonight anchor Antonio Mora warned on August 19: "Part of the ice cap at the top of the world has melted. The New York Times reports that some scientists are calling it dramatic proof that global warming has started to alter our climate."

    Reporter Dan Harris asserted: "On a recent expedition from Norway to the North Pole, Malcolm McKenna, along with a group of scientists and tourists, found open water, about a mile of it right on the Earth's crown. McKenna, a paleontologist who has studied global warming, immediately started taking pictures to record what he said should be a serious wake-up call....What McKenna and the others saw, however, may have been just an aberration. Experts say strong winds likely broke the ice apart. What is truly remarkable is that the expedition saw thinning ice all over the polar region. Climatologist Doug Martinson says the area has been warming at an alarming rate."

    Now that you can put it in context, let's return to where we began. From the August 30 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs The New York Times is Slipping." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Instead of "All The News That's Fit To Print," slogan is "Stuff We Heard From a Guy Who Says His Friend Heard About It"
9. President does something on the TV show "West Wing," next day it's on front page
8. It's 108 pages, and there's not one single vowel
7. For every story, accompanying photo is Tony Danza
6. Obituary has become list of people editors wish would die
5. Dick Cheney consistently referred to as "the dude from those Wendy's commercials"
4. Notice on sports page: "All scores are approximate"
3. Only ad in job classifieds: "Wanted -- someone who knows how to put together a damn newspaper"
2. For last two weeks, edited by a disoriented Anne Heche
1. They're endorsing George W. Bush

    Now that last one would truly be a sign that something is different at the New York Times.-- Brent Baker


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