Bush Contradicted "Restoring Honor and Dignity"; GW Scolded; More Rebukes Over Anti-Gore Ad
1) Networks pounced on George W.
Bush's "asshole" remark. ABC's Kevin Newman scolded that
"he was caught on tape with a decidedly uncivil comment." NBC anchor
John Siegenthaler pronounced: "Bush may have stepped on his message of
restoring honor and dignity to the White House today."
2) Oops. Hosting Face the Nation,
Gloria Borger read a quote from Joe Lieberman about religion in politics and
then asked Bill Bennett: "Did that cross the line?" Bennett had to
tell her Lieberman was just quoting America's first President.
3) NBC News, which ignored the new
RNC ad Thursday night, caught up Friday morning and night as ABC and CBS also
ran follow up stories based on the supposed Bush hypocrisy of running the ads
after promising to not be "ugly and mean." NBC and CBS reminded
viewers of how Bush had gone negative against John McCain.
Clarification: The September 1
CyberAlert correctly pointed how Brooks Jackson on CNN's Inside Politics
and Wolf Blitzer on CNN's The World Today on August 31 both misleadingly
corrected an error that was not in the new RNC ad. The ad showed Gore
boast in a 1999 CNN interview: "I took the initiative in creating the
Internet." Jackson showed the ad
clip and then said, "Wait, play that again." CNN
did so viewers heard it another time: "I took the initiative in
creating the Internet." Jackson then corrected the non-error:
"Gore never said he invented the Internet, as he's widely misquoted,
and, in fact, he did push government support for computer networking as
far back as 1986..." In seeing the ad played elsewhere, I now realize
what may have prompted the CNN admonishments, though they are still
distorted. After the Gore line, the announcer then concluded the ad:
"Yeah, and I invented the remote control too." But CNN did not
play that portion.
networks jumped Monday night on George Bush's private comment to Dick
Cheney, about how a New York Times reporter is "a major league
asshole," claiming it contradicted his campaign message of civility.
Topping ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Kevin Newman warned that
Bush's low poll numbers "may test his often-stated desire to bring
a new tone of civility to politics. Well today he was caught on tape with
a decidedly uncivil comment." NBC Nightly News anchor John
Siegenthaler pronounced: "Governor
Bush may have stepped on his message of restoring honor and dignity to the
White House today when a microphone caught him making an undignified
remark about a newspaper reporter."
Only Fox News
Channel stories by Rita Cosby Monday night actually aired an unbleeped
version of the remark. CNN's Inside Politics, which left it out of
Candy Crowley's wrap-up of the day, played back a bleeped version in
an interview with Karl Rove. Even CBS's Late Show with David
Letterman bleeped the first half of asshole. In fact, Letterman
delivered more news of the day than MSNBC, which decided to take Labor
Day off and so didn't bother with a News with Brian Williams. At 9pm
ET Monday night viewers saw about the 34th repeat of a show about
Spring Break in Cancun.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Anchor Kevin Newman made the remark the top news of the
day: "Increasingly, Governor Bush is seen to be falling behind in
the polls, which may test his often-stated desire to bring a new tone
of civility to politics. Well today he was caught on tape with a
decidedly uncivil comment, the kind that could get in the way of what
the Bush campaign would rather talk about, which is debates."
Dean Reynolds at
least put the remark in perspective, not getting to it until after
reporting on Bush's position on debates and his criticism of Gore
for not accepting ones he already agreed to. He then showed Bush on
stage in Naperville, Illinois: "It's time to get rid of all
those words, like 'no controlling legal authority.' We need
plain-spoken Americans in the White House."
up: "At one point today the Governor may have been a little too
plain spoken for his own good, making a clearly audible comment about
a veteran New York Times reporter who has apparently fallen out of
favor with Bush and his running mate."
Bush on stage
beside Dick Cheney a few feet behind the microphone as rally music
played: "There's Adam Clymer, a major league [bleep] hole for
the New York Times."
yeah, he is, big time."
Up next, Terry Moran
looked at Gore's "marathon" day.
CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts opened with a review of how the
two candidates spent the holiday, but added, "Bush forgot a rule
of the road: Don't say anything near a microphone that you
wouldn't want your mother to hear."
Roberts played the
same set up clip from Bush as had ABC: "It's time to get rid of
all those words, like 'no controlling legal authority.' We need
plain-spoken Americans in the White House."
Roberts saw the
promise contradicted: "But Bush was caught speaking a little more
plainly than he'd intended by a microphone that he didn't know was
"There's Adam Clymer, major league [bleep] hole from the New
yeah, he is, big time."
On screen, CBS
provided this text: "There's Adam Clymer, major league a------
from the New York Times."
After Roberts, Bill
Whitaker looked at the debate about debates.
NBC Nightly News. Anchor John Siegenthaler opened the program:
"Good evening. Labor Day 2000. A day set aside to honor working
Americans and a day of hard work on the presidential campaign trail.
Al Gore and George Bush and their running mates were barnstorming
through battleground states today with the question of debates still
hanging over their heads. But Governor Bush may have stepped on his
message of restoring honor and dignity to the White House today when a
microphone caught him making an undignified remark about a newspaper
As if one comment is
the same as seven-plus years of bad behavior.
David Gregory began
with the debate debate and actually showed a clip of Gore on the July
16 Meet the Press agreeing to the face-off he's now rejecting,
imploring Tim Russert: "I've accepted for two or three months
now your invitation to debate on this program. Have you gotten a yes
from Governor Bush yet?"
Gregory soon arrived
at Bush's blooper: "Also today, an embarrassing moment for Bush
in front of an open microphone. Just moments before telling a crowd of
supporters it's time for quote 'plain-spoken Americans in the
White House,' Bush uses an obscenity to describe a New York Times
reporter he spots in the crowd."
"There's Adam Clymer, major league [bleep] hole from the New
Cheney: Oh yeah,
he is, big time."
"There's Adam Clymer, major league a------ from the New York
Cheney: Oh yeah,
he is, big time."
elaborated: "Bush, who has promised to elevate the tone of
discourse in Washington, said later through a spokeswoman that he
regrets his private remark to Dick Cheney was overheard by the media.
As for the reporter in question from the New York times, he said only
he was disappointed by the Governor's language."
Claire Shipman looked at Gore's day and his improving poll numbers.
Washington scolded by CBS News for crossing "the line" on
religion and politics.
Bill Bennett sure
embarrassed Gloria Borger on Sunday's Face the Nation. Hosting the
show, Borger read a quote from Joe Lieberman about religion in
American life and then asked guest Bill Bennett: "Did that cross
the line a little bit?" Bennett informed her that Lieberman was
just reciting a comment by America's first President.
During a September 3
segment with the ADL's Abraham Foxman and Bennett, Borger inquired:
"Bill Bennett, let me go to you. Joe Lieberman also said that
quote, 'morality cannot be maintained without religion.' He later
struggled to explain that statement. But did that cross the line a
responded: "Well, that was actually George Washington who said
that and Joe Lieberman was piggy-backing on George Washington..."
Bennett went on to
suggest too much religion is not the biggest problem in society:
"Our kids are not really being overcome by piety. This is not a
major problem in American life right now."
Washington Post had made clear that Lieberman was quoting Washington:
"On his first two days of campaigning without Gore, Lieberman
spoke at length of the importance of faith not just in his life, but
in the 224-year life of the United States. 'George Washington warned
us never to indulge in the supposition morality can be maintained
without religion,' he told black churchgoers in Detroit."
+++ Watch this
humorous exchange. Tuesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a
RealPlayer clip. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
The best part of
dying in 1799: Avoiding CBS News.
News, which ignored the new RNC ad Thursday night, caught up Friday
morning and night as ABC and CBS also ran follow up stories based on
the supposed hypocrisy of running the ads after promising to not be
"ugly and mean." Like ABC the night before, as detailed in
the September 1 CyberAlert, on Friday morning NBC reminded viewers of
how Bush had gone negative against John McCain.
-- September 1
Today. Campbell Brown set up the supposed contradiction:
"Campaigning in Louisville, Kentucky, Governor Bush begins a
speech to high school students with this thought."
politics doesn't have to be ugly and mean. It doesn't have to be a
system that downgrades people."
"Yet, today, the Republican National Committee launches this new
ad in 17 states....It's the first direct attack on Vice President
Gore's credibility and character. And it uses this 1998 interview in
which Gore claimed credit for the Internet."
Gore: "I took
the initiative in creating the Internet."
"Yeah, and I invented the remote control too."
Actually, that CNN
interview occurred in 1999.
"Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes defended the ad's tone,
telling reporters she, quote, 'laughed out loud' when she saw
"It's a humorous way to make a point.
"There was immediate and strong reaction from Democratic vice
presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman."
"At the first signs that his campaign is in trouble, what does he
do, he goes to a harsh, negative, paid, political personal
"What's behind the move? One Republican Party official concedes
given Gore's momentum over the last two weeks it was time for a more
aggressive approach. And while Bush talks about elevating the tone of
the campaign and promises to stay positive, he has before demonstrated
a willingness to play hardball during the tough primary fight in South
Carolina against Senator John McCain."
Old ad clip:
"McCain's campaign is crawling with lobbyists."
political analysts says using the same strategy now against Gore may
not yield the same results."
Rothenberg, political analyst: "This is kind of a Hail Mary pass
that you might normally see at the end of a campaign in mid-October or
late October, not just as the general election is beginning around
"In presidential politics, Labor Day weekend has often been
described as the start of the mean season. And given this is already
shaping up to be an extremely tight race, few expect the campaign
rhetoric to get any nicer."
Why would anyone
want a "nice" campaign?
September 1 Good Morning America on ABC. Charles Gibson discussed the
ad with Dean Reynolds, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"Let's talk about campaign commercials. Today the Republicans are
going to start running, in many states, a new, and some say negative
campaign ad against Al Gore -- seventeen states, actually, in all. The
commercials were personally approved by Governor George W. Bush, a
surprising move from a candidate who for months has been pledging to
keep the campaign positive.... Dean, let me start with you, because we
ran a piece on World News last night about this commercial and the
Bush people were calling us and saying, 'No, no, no. We're not going
negative. This is a funny ad, it's done in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
It's a legitimate issue to talk about the Vice President and what he's
done in the past.' Is it not going negative or is this just a
gratuitous shot? What is this ad?"
affirmed: "No, there's no question it's a negative ad. I mean, it
mocks him. There's less humor here than there is bitterness, I think,
in the ad, but the real question is, why now?"
"Why before Labor Day are they going negative?"
"Having said for so long that they wouldn't."
"Yeah. Right, which appears like it's a contradiction. So they've
apparently made a calculation that they'll stomach the criticism from
journalists who say that this is somewhat hypocritical for Bush to now
go negative in the apparent hope that this will stop the slide or the
ascent of Gore."
CBS Evening News, Friday night September 1. Anchor John Roberts picked
up on a bad poll number for Bush: "Sixty-seven days now until
America elects a new President. And this was not the best of days for
George W. Bush. The latest Newsweek poll out tonight shows that in a
two-way race, Al Gore has upped his lead over Bush to 12 points now.
Bill Whitaker reports the Republican candidate is defending a new
attack ad that started running today."
After showing an ad
clip, Whitaker reported: "Democrats called it desperate and
negative. Bush called it factual and funny."
don't think this is mean and ugly. I think this is a tongue-in-cheek
use of the man's own words. I also said loud and clear throughout the
campaign I'm going to defend myself."
also resurrected the McCain campaign days: "It's a road-tested
Bush strategy: the candidate rides the high road while surrogates
deliver the body blows. It worked to great effect against John McCain
in the South Carolina primary."
Hotline: "This is really quite a negative spot. That is quite
risky, particularly because these people just got to know him and
concluded: "A senior Bush aide says they have to do something,
acknowledging that TV and newspaper pictures of Bush are often on
poorly lit planes, while Gore's are sunny. And Gore may have trumped
him again today, releasing this photo signing a new plutonium
agreement with the Russians, looking presidential."
NBC Nightly News, Friday September 1. Anchor John Siegenthaler offered
a slightly different number from the same poll cited by CBS: "In
the race to see who will be the next President, the current Vice
President, Al Gore, has according to one new national poll, opened up
a double-digit lead over Texas Governor George W. Bush. A Newsweek
magazine poll out tonight shows Gore up 10 points over Bush, 49 to 39
percent, and the Republican Party is out with a new TV ad to try to
turn those numbers around by going negative."
proclaimed: "Today, in the face of fresh evidence that Al Gore is
widening his lead over Governor Bush as Labor Day approaches, the
Republican Party goes on the offensive, unveiling an ad the Gore
campaign labels a personal attack."
Clip from RNC ad:
"Who's he going to be today? The Al Gore who raises campaign
money at a Buddhist Temple or the one who now promises campaign
finance reform? Really."
"Bush advisers say the ad, which airs in 17 key states, is
designed to remind voters of what they don't like about the vice
president. Specifically, Bush says that Gore will say anything to get
"Well, I thought it was tongue-in-cheek. This ad came up after
about $30 million in advertisements that have been attacking me and my
"Today, the Vice President in a conference call with reporters
promises never to launch a personal attack, and his running mate tells
Lieberman: "I'm afraid that it's a response to the fact that the
Bush-Cheney ticket has been having some trouble lately. But you know,
that's when our values are tested."
"Some question the ad's timing, saying it makes Bush appear
defensive after two weeks of missteps, aides admit, over issues like
taxes and prescription drugs for seniors."
Rothenberg, political analyst: "Nobody knows why they did it now.
Why do you shoot your bullets on Labor Day that you may need in the
middle of October?"
"Bush advisers maintain the ad was planned months ago, and
whether it's perceived as negative or not, attacking Gore's character
represents a major theme of the campaign."
Republican pollster: "When it's an issue of credibility, Bush
will do well. But when it's detail after detail after detail, Gore
"The question is, will it work? Or will Labor Day, the unofficial
kickoff of the fall campaign, mark just the start of this race getting
this preening just proves the Bush campaign must always factor in
media hostility toward any criticism of Gore. -- Brent Baker
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