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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Monday September 18, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 169) |

Gore Operative Directed Berke; Quid Pro Quo Blackout; Actors Tout Gore; Elian's Cable Story; Lazio "a Punk"

1) Rick Berke of the New York Times conceded "it took me several viewings" of the ad played in slow motion by a Gore operative "to notice the RAT" frame of it. But, a female editor supposedly caught it at regular speed. Jack Germond scolded the media for making such a big deal about it.

2) Tony Snow: "Berke had no idea he had been fooled into touting a stale story about an ad scheduled to go off the air the day his piece appeared. Gore operatives thus transformed the Times into a purveyor of all the news that's fit to reprint."

3) Networks continued Friday to black out the quid pro quo charge. Morning shows hopped on Gore's hypocrisy in Hollywood fundraising, but the evening shows stressed George Bush's bad week, only gently touching on Gore hypocrisy. Bette Midler: "Go, go, go, Al. We need a little spanking."

4) Liberal, pro-Gore pontificating at the Gore fundraiser. Julia Roberts: "Republican in the dictionary comes just after 'reptile' and just before 'repugnant.'" She also advised: "I'd tell Tipper to wear more leather." An actor's insight: "It's like the '60s, man, artists supporting and caring and making a stand for things."

5) In Fox Family's The Elian Gonzalez Story guess which real-life character assures Juan Miguel he can move to Miami permanently with Elian and which character "can't understand" why Juan Miguel wants to stay in Cuba, urging him to consider the views of "the thousands who have escaped. Or the hundreds who have died trying."

6) "He is a bit of a punk," Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas insulted New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio.


New York Times reporter Rick Berke denied any nefarious political agenda in the decision by his paper to plaster across page one his "dispassionate" story on the "RATS" ad. On PBS's Washington Week in Review Friday night he conceded he was more than spoon-fed the story by the Gore team as he was so slow on the up take "it took me several viewings" of the ad played in slow motion by a Gore operative "to notice the RAT" frame of it. But, a female editor supposedly noticed it at regular speed.

    Moderator Gwen Ifill asked Berke: "I have to ask you about your role in this Rick because you, you personally have come under attack from other news organizations, and certainly by the Republicans, as having been a tool of the Gore campaign in this."

    In defending himself Berke indicted himself as to how much he relied on a Gore operative: "Well, let me tell you how it came about. The Gore people called me last week and they said we want you to view this tape of a commercial. We don't want to tell you anything more about it. Judge for yourself. So they showed it to me, I'm looking at it, I don't notice anything unusual about it. Then they slow it down and I still don't notice it [points finger at head]. It takes me a while sometimes, you know, go figure. It took me several viewings to notice the RAT.
    "And then, they were, 'isn't this incredible?' and I said 'well wait a minute, I don't know what we're going to do with this.' So what I did is, I started calling around, calling experts, saying is this unusual and they said yes it is. And I also showed it to people at my office. I showed it to one editor and I said 'look, there's something unusual about this commercial.' She picked it up immediately at a regular speed. She said 'my gosh, there's RATS there.' So I simply wrote the story in a dispassionate way, giving all sides, and let people judge what they will about it."

    If the "no-blink" editor caught it so quickly why hadn't she noticed it before?

    At least one colleague was not impressed with how the media at large were so enamored with the story. On Inside Washington over the weekend liberal syndicated columnist Jack Germond wondered: "What's wrong with the press? We think it's a big deal if some guy, a hired hand for Bush -- Bush himself didn't put the word 'rats' in this -- does this. Why is it a big story? Why are we paying so much attention to it?"



Tony Snow recounted in column late last week how his Fox News colleagues weeks before had noticed the same ad frame made so famous by Berke, but put it in proper perspective as "everyone who saw it had a good laugh." Berke's gullibility, Snow suggested, allowed Gore to transform "the Times into a purveyor of all the news that's fit to reprint."

    Here's an excerpt of the column by Snow who back on August 28 was filling in as anchor of FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume:

I know a fair amount about the story because I was the first to report it. Two of my colleagues at Fox News, Andy Schwartz and Jim Eldridge, spied the "rats" while screening the ad on Aug. 28. That evening, we put the whole thing on Fox News Channel -- stopping the tape for the seemingly inadvertent reference to vermin. Everyone who saw it had a good laugh.

Our publicity department dutifully contacted a number of papers, including The New York Times, and even placed a follow-up call to the Times. But nobody bit on the story, presumably because they understood that in moving the word "bureaucrats" from left to right across a television screen, the final four letters naturally would appear together.

So the whole thing vanished -- until, on a slow news day in a laggardly news week, the Gore campaign called Berke with its "scoop." It said a clever viewer in Seattle had noticed the "r" word in a Republican ad, insinuating that the rodentine reference constituted dirty, lowdown, filthy politics at its worst.

Berke snapped at the bait. He wrote a piece, which the Times splashed across its front page. It alleged deep and troubling ugliness in the heart of the Republican camp -- all because of four letters only a highly vigilant viewer would notice. The story fingered Alex Castellanos, a GOP ad man, and fulsomely quoted some of Castellanos' most ardent enemies. It gave him a sentence or two for rebuttal.

The original item carried no mention of Fox News, meaning Berke had no idea he had been fooled into touting a stale story about an ad scheduled to go off the air the day his piece appeared. Gore operatives thus transformed the Times into a purveyor of all the news that's fit to reprint.

Let's put the matter in perspective. The spot criticized Gore's plan to replace garden-variety HMOs with the Godzilla of HMOs, a giant federal health-care plan -- and to force all senior citizens to get their medicine from Uncle Sam. The spot warned that under such a scheme, we would have to entrust our very lives to that most hated of species: bureaucrats....

    END Excerpt

    To read the entire column, go to Townhall.com:

    To read what Snow said August 28 on FNC about the ad, go to: http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000913.asp#2


Friday morning and night the broadcast networks, which so enthusiastically jumped on the Tuesday New York Times "RATS" ad "discovery" as a story, continued to refuse to let their viewers in on a Thursday front page report in the same paper about a probe of a possible quid pro quo donation for a veto, a fundraising effort which involved Al Gore. For an excerpt from the Times story, go to: http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000918.asp#1

    Instead of devoting whole evening stories to Al Gore's hypocrisy in criticizing Hollywood while taking their money, an issue made hot by a $6 million fundraiser Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall, Friday night ABC and CBS stressed Bush's bad week, only gently touching on Gore hypocrisy. ABC's Peter Jennings admired how Gore used the issue to his advantage, CBS gave it a sentence.

    (Olympics-obsessed didn't utter a word about the campaign on Friday's NBC Nightly News. NBC, however, was the only one of the three broadcast network evening shows last week to dedicate a full story to Gore's Hollywood hypocrisy. Go to:

    Friday morning, however, the networks did focus on Gore's hypocrisy and his defense of it as taking on a constituency group. On CBS's The Early Show, Bill Plante showed Bette Midler wishing: "Go, go, go, Al. We need a little spanking." Plante earlier scolded: "Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have redefined chutzpah. They've raised millions from the very same show biz folks they're accusing of sleazy marketing."

    -- ABC's World News Tonight, September 15. Peter Jennings handled the week in review himself, recounting without any mention of the media's role: "The Bush team got knocked off message this week by rats in commercials and posturing about debates that got then nowhere. A week in which policy got trumped by process."

    He then admired Gore's maneuver: "Mr. Gore this week the advantages of being an incumbent. He knew the government report on entertainment and children was coming, a very big deal to suburban parents. And so a well-timed appearance on Oprah about the evils of Hollywood."
    Gore on Oprah: "Joe Lieberman and I have talked about trying to give parents more help in protecting their kids from entertainment that they think is inappropriate."
    Jennings: "But Hollywood is still a constituency so last night in New York Mr. Gore was again taking their money. 'Hypocrisy' said Mr. Bush. 'Bravely crossing our supporters' said Mr. Gore."

    Jennings soon acknowledged: "We thought this week that Republican Dick Cheney was looking a lot more casual. Several Republicans said 'about time.' And we did think it odd that Democrat Joe Lieberman appeared on a radio program [Imus] that is often the epitome of crude behavior that Mr. Lieberman is now campaigning against."

    -- CBS Evening News. John Roberts reviewed the week, starting with Bush's problems: "In a week that began with the controversy over rats and ended by caving on debates faster than a Texas sinkhole. His retooled campaign looks to political analysts to be more than a little disoriented."
    After a soundbite from Charlie Cook, Roberts reminded viewers: "Still, a CBS News analysis shows the race for the White House is so close is to make any bet a fool's game. Gore is ahead in 16 states, Bush in 21, the electoral vote count is 224 to 175, with the remaining 14 contests narrow enough that the election could turn either way. In an effort to swing the tide of undecideds his way, Bush is switching strategy: from attacks on Gore's character to a fight in the policy arena. It's traditionally Democratic turf, but a game Bush plays better than most Republicans, says Democratic strategist Bob Beckel."

    Following a Beckel clip, Roberts made a brief mention of Gore's Hollywood fundraising, but aired no critical soundbite: "But don't expect Republicans to let go of the character issue completely. Not when Gore gives them the sort of ammunition he did at last night's gala Radio City fundraiser, chastising Hollywood on the one hand":
    Gore at the Radio City Music Hall event: "It's wrong to market inappropriate material to children."
    Roberts picked up: "While accepting from them millions in campaign contributions with the other."

    -- ABC's Good Morning America, September 15. Co-host Diane Sawyer asked George Stephanopoulos: "Let's talk about this fundraiser, $6.5 million last night. The Bush people are saying this is complete hypocrisy, somebody's got to call them on it. Criticize the entertainment industry one day and then show up and raise money from them the next day."
    Stephanopoulos agreed, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "It's a pretty fair point, and what they're really trying to tap into is Gore's history on this issue. You know, many years ago, Mrs. Gore took on, took out against the music industry, and then when Gore was running for President in 1988, he basically went and apologized and said it wouldn't happen again in order to raise money from the music industry. And so they're saying, 'Listen, you can't believe everything you hear from Gore on this issue.' On the other hand, Gore did try to build a shield against that by what he said last night at Radio City."

    -- CBS's The Early Show. Bill Plante highlighted Gore's Thursday night fundraising event: "You know, Democrats and Hollywood? That's old news, right? Bill Clinton, after all, has been raking in money from his friends in the entertainment industry for years. But this week, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have redefined chutzpah. They've raised millions from the very same show biz folks they're accusing of sleazy marketing. There was Al Gore at Radio City Music Hall last night with some of the biggest names in Hollywood at a political gala for which the top ticket price was $20,000....Yet on Monday, Gore endorsed a White House report which charges that Hollywood markets violence and obscenity to pre-teens, and he warned it to clean up its act or face federal intervention."

    Plante uniquely mentioned: "But this same week began with Cher headlining a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Camden, New Jersey. Total take: $1 million. And it continued in Boston where James Taylor helped raise $2 million."

    Back to Thursday night, Plante relayed: "At last night's gala, Bette Midler, Julia Roberts and Michael Douglas entertained a crowd which forked over $6 million. Total for the week: $9 million bucks. Republicans were quick to accuse the Vice President of hypocrisy."
    Jim Nicholson, Chairman of the Republican National Committee: "Al Gore is, is faking a criticism of the, of the Hollywood elite who are producing this scurrilous stuff."
    Plante noted: "The stars didn't seem much bothered."
    Michael Douglas: "I can take some criticism, and I think our industry is, well deserves some criticism."
    Bette Midler: "Go, go, go, Al. We need a little spanking."

    They just wouldn't accept one from any conservative or Republican.

    -- NBC's Today. News reader Ann Curry, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, set up a story: "Vice President Al Gore was going for the gold himself last night at a star studded political fundraiser in New York. And that has sparked criticism from the Republicans who say it is hypocritical for the Democrats to take money from an industry whose values they criticized earlier this week."

    Reid explained: "Vice President Al Gore was serenaded by some of the music industry's biggest stars Thursday night at a Democratic fundraiser in New York that raked in more than $6 million. That just one day after Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman, sharply criticized Hollywood for marketing violence and sex to children. In his remarks at the fundraiser Gore too chided the entertainment industry."

    Viewers saw clips of Gore and Nicholson before Reid picked up on a specific concern: "Republicans also point out that the fundraiser was co-produced by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose distributed some of Hollywood's most controversial films, including Kids, about a group of teens on a relentless quest for sex and drugs. Gore advisers deny the charge of hypocrisy, claiming that Gore is not afraid to stand up to his friends when he thinks they're in the wrong."

    Reid wrapped up with clips of Gore on the Late Show with David Letterman.


"Republican in the dictionary comes just after 'reptile' and just before 'repugnant,'" actress Julia Roberts insightfully observed to the delight of the Radio City Music Hall crowd at the September 14 DNC fundraisier for Gore-Lieberman. That was just one of several liberal pro-Gore and anti-conservative pronouncements made by actors and actresses.

    Jessica Lange told Entertainment Tonight in a story aired Friday: "The entertainment industry has to be accountable for what they do and I mean I think the great thing about, you know, Gore, is that he's willing to take them on."

    As opposed to conservatives who have never taken on "the entertainment industry"?

    For CNN's September 15 Showbiz Today, reporter Michael Okwu wandered among the Hollywood celebrities to capture some off-stage soundbites, starting with Matt Damon who declared: "To me it's just a chance to kind of get behind a candidate I think could, will and should win and be our next President."
    Okwu explained: "Industry heavyweights came out in force Thursday night for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall. Most eased gracefully between sounding off musically and sounding off politically."
    One of the Crosby, Stills & Nash, not Crosby but one of the other two, asserted: "Well, let's start with the Supreme Court, the environment, the smartest guy to come along, including his predecessor, for many, many, many, many, many years."
    Crosby piped up: "And then you can get to good guy, bad guy."

    Okwu then played this from Julia Roberts on stage: "What really spoke to me was that Republican in the dictionary comes just after 'reptile' and just before 'repugnant.'"

    "Others were more subtle," Okwu observed in switching back to clips CNN got from celebrities in the crowd and hallways. Lauren Hutton snidely remarked: "It'll be much better if we don't do any 'subliminalable' business. Just get out there and do it."
    K.D. Lang quipped: "You know, I'm an animal rights activist. So when I found out that the rats were on this side I was here."
    Bette Midler proclaimed: "I'm here tonight because I'm a Democrat, lifelong, and I like the party and I like the platform and I like these two guys. I think they're really decent guys."

    Okwu pressed Midler: "Is this fair to the other side, to the Republicans? I mean, it's-"
    Midler: "Sure. I'm sure they have people who love them, too. Everybody has someone to love."

    Okwu later picked up this insight from actor John Leguizamo: "It's like the '60s, man, artists supporting and caring and making a stand for things."

    And matching Midler's spanking theme quoted in item #3 above, Julia Roberts advised: "I'd tell Tipper to wear more leather [laughs]. I think that would bring in some votes."

    He probably already has the leather vote harnessed up.

    +++ Watch the celebrities pontificate. Late Monday morning MRC Webmaster will post, alongside this item, an excerpt of the CNN story. Go to:


Fidel Castro gave Juan Miguel Gonzalez the option of leaving Elian in the U.S. permanently with no further protest from Cuba, Castro offered Juan Miguel a permanent visa to live in the U.S. and lawyer Greg Craig didn't understand why Juan Miguel liked Cuba, urging him to consider the views of "the thousands who have escaped. Or the hundreds who have died trying" to get to America.

    That's reality to those who believe the Elian story as recounted in the Fox Family Channel's The Elian Gonzalez Story, a two-hour movie which debuted on the cable channel Sunday night. It will run again his Thursday and Saturday night.

    Overall, from my cursory review, with two exceptions it appeared to offer a glowingly positive portrayal of every character in the real-life drama, from Janet Reno (complete with shaking hand) to Lazaro Gonzalez to Fidel Castro to Juan Miguel. The exceptions: Donato Darymple was painted as a self-promoting opportunist and Marisleysis as a delusion psycho who imagined she really was Elian's mother.

    Two scenes stood out for me for their unlikelihood.

    -- First, Juan Miguel goes to meet Fidel Castro, who assures him: "You're a very decent man, Mr. Gonzalez. you've been a loyal party man for several years. Your country is grateful. I am grateful. Now, I want you to tell me the truth. And I promise you no matter what choice you make I will personally respect your decision. Your son, Elian, do you wish him to remain in Miami or do you want to have him returned to you here?"
    Juan Miguel: "I want him here with me, sir. I love my country and I love my son. They're inseparable."
    Castro: "Good. You will not be alone in this. The Cuban people will take to the streets. We will make sure their voices are heard in Miami."

    -- Second, a few minutes later in the movie, lawyer Gregory Craig goes to Juan Miguel's home in Cuba and while sitting at a table with him, his wife and mother, advises him: "I strongly suggest Mr. Gonzalez that you come to Miami."
    Juan Miguel: "That's impossible."
    Craig: "It's not impossible. Castro has given us assurance that he will in no way hinder your efforts. Not only are you free to come to the United States to plead for your child, he's gone so far as to grant you a permanent visa should you so wish."
    Juan Miguel: "I don't wish to leave Cuba. I love my country. Can you appreciate that sir?"
    Craig: "I can appreciate it sir. But in all frankness I can't understand it."
    Juan Miguel: "Is it that bad, you think? Talk to those who lived under Battista. Talk to them, they'll tell you different story."
    Craig: "Perhaps you should ask the thousands who have escaped. Or the hundreds who have died trying."
    Juan Miguel: "I will do no such thing. I should not have to plead for my own child. Go back and tell them that."
    Craig: "I will keep you posted on a daily basis. Reuniting you with your son will be my sole objective."


Rick Lazio is "a punk," Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas asserted on Inside Washington over the weekend in a review of the Lazio-Clinton debate. He blasted Lazio: "He is a bit of a punk...He looks like a puppy dog when he's got his teeth in your ankle, there's some punk qualities."

    Imagine the media outrage if any conservative hurled that kind of insult at Hillary Clinton. If you're part of the media it's okay to be "mean-spirited." -- Brent Baker


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