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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday September 21, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 172) |

Not Knocked on "Nudge"; Gore Gaffe Delay; CBS Pounced on "Racist" Pro-GOP Ad; Focused on Whitewater Probe Costs & Timing -- Extra Edition

1) Days after promising to use federal power to crack down on the entertainment industry, at a Hollywood fundraiser Al Gore and Joe Lieberman promised to only "nudge" them. ABC, CBS and NBC ignored the hypocrisy as ABC focused on the popularity of Gore's business-bashing.

2) Two days after the disclosure that Al Gore fabricated an anecdote about how a drug costs more for his mother-in-law than for his dog, the CBS Evening News became the first broadcast network show to touch the gaffe. Gore "was almost under assault" over the issue, MSNBC noted, but the media didn't pounce.

3) CNN and FNC, but not the broadcast networks or MSNBC, showed how Al Gore sang a union lullaby he heard "as a child," but pointed out the slogan wasn't created until 1975 when he was 27.

4) CBS jumped on a pro-GOP independent ad in Missouri that liberals say is racist because, over video of a white teen pulling out a gun, it complains about too much "diversity" in schools. But two years ago CBS failed to utter a word about an official Missouri Democratic Party radio ad which claimed voting Republican would lead to more church and cross burnings.

5) NBC's Tom Brokaw rued: Whitewater "may never die in the hearts and minds of hard-core Clinton-bashers." ABC and CBS worried about the length, cost and pre-election timing of the Whitewater report. CNN, FNC and NBC noted how Ray blamed Clinton for delays.

6) "With winter coming," a 72-year-old woman "fears having to cut back on medicine and food to pay for oil." But ABC's anecdote wasn't aimed at heartless conservatives.


Newspaper reports Wednesday revealed how Al Gore and Joe Lieberman kissed up to the Hollywood elite at a Monday night fundraiser, promising to only "nudge" them, days after publicly rebuking the industry and threatening a legal crackdown. Both FNC and CNN picked up Wednesday on George Bush and Dick Cheney's criticism of the hypocrisy, but not the broadcast networks Wednesday morning or evening. (As noted in the September 18 CyberAlert, last Friday morning ABC and CBS picked up on Gore-Lieberman hypocrisy over Hollywood and on September 13 NBC Nightly News addressed it, but ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News have yet to focus on it.)

    Instead, Wednesday night ABC plugged the effectiveness of Gore's business-bashing: "Anti-big business rhetoric may play particularly well this season. Endless airline delays, sky high electric bills, and the massive tire recall have corporate America on the ropes."

    In a story in the September 20 Washington Post, Mike Allen reported from Beverly Hills:
    "Vice President Gore and his running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, sought to placate the entertainment industry at a $4.2 million fundraising dinner held a week after the ticket excoriated Hollywood for marketing raunchy products to teenagers.
    "'Al and I have a tremendous regard for this industry,' Lieberman said late Monday to an audience that had contributed $10,000 a couple to the Democratic National Committee. 'We're both fans of the products out of the entertainment industry -- not all of them, but a lot of them. And the industry has entertained and inspired and educated us over the years.'"

    Allen later quoted Lieberman: "'It's true from time to time we have been, will be critics -- or nudges -- but I promise you this: We will never put the government in the position of telling you by law, through law, what to make,' Lieberman said. 'We will nudge you, but will never become censors.'"

    World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings introduced the show's campaign story of the day: "ABC's Betsy Stark has been looking at this question of Al Gore identifying himself with the little people against big business."
    Stark: "Big business is a favorite target of the Gore campaign. Before the convention:"
    Al Gore: "The big polluters, the big drug companies, the HMOs."
    Stark: "At the convention:"
    Gore: "Big tobacco, big oil-"
    Stark: "And since the convention:"
    Gore: "I'm telling you, it is time to take 'em on-"

    Stark gave ammunition to Gore's cause, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The Vice President has hammered American industry. Americans are historically suspicious of big companies. An ABC News poll finds that 63 percent think large corporations have too much power. And anti-big business rhetoric may play particularly well this season. Endless airline delays, sky high electric bills, and the massive tire recall have corporate America on the ropes. The Gore campaign says the Vice President is not targeting corporate America. He's targeting specific industries. He's not anti-business, he's pro-consumer."

    Citing their support for NAFTA, China trade and a ban on Internet taxation Stark declared: "Gore and his running mate actually have solid pro-business records."

    Stark then picked up on concerns from the business community: "But business groups comforted by that record in the past say all voters are hearing now is anti-business rhetoric, and it's dangerously hot."
    Bruce Josten, US Chamber of Commerce: "I think you get pretty close to pitting workers against employers with that kind of rhetoric."
    Stark: "George W. Bush calls it 'a return to class warfare.' You can't love employees and hate employers business leaders say. Politicians did not create 22 million jobs in the Clinton-Gore years. Businesses did."
    Jerry Jasinowski, National Association of Manufacturers: "Business ought to be treated as heroes given that extraordinary historical achievement and not beat up on as some guys in the black hats."

    Stark concluded: "Al Gore may need big business if he wins, but it's working families he thinks will get him elected. And for the moment, anti-business populism is selling well."


Two days after the Boston Globe disclosed how Al Gore fabricated an anecdote about how an arthritis drug costs more for his mother-in-law than for his dog, the CBS Evening News became the first broadcast network program to mention the gaffe, but only in the context of using it as an example of how it almost drove Gore off message. MSNBC picked up on it the night before.

    To read an excerpt from the Globe story, to link to the full piece and to see a RealPlayer clip of Gore uttering the made up numbers, go to:

    Wednesday night John Roberts looked at how Gore has implemented a "front runner strategy" in which the campaign message is tightly controlled and he rarely talks with reporters.

    Roberts warned, however: "But the defense broke down yesterday, as Gore scrambled to rebut accusations that he fabricated a personal anecdote, comparing costs of an arthritis drug for his dog with those of his mother-in-law."
    Gore, back on August 28, though CBS did not date the clip: "And it costs her $108 per month."
    Roberts: "Gore was forced to admit that the price wasn't what she actually paid, it was taken from a congressional study."
    Instead of detailing the incorrect information, Roberts played a soundbite of Gore spinning his larger point: "The issue is not her, the issue is what seniors around the country are paying and the wholesale price is between two and three times as much as what is charged for pets."

    Roberts then concluded: "It took the Gore campaign two days just to come up with that response. It was the closest that the Vice President has come to being pulled off message in the last month and giving the Bush campaign just the kind of opening they're looking to pounce on."

    Yeah, and it took CBS News two days to report on the Monday Globe story. And Gore only came close to "being pulled off message" because unlike what happened to Bush when a newspaper made the "RATS" letters in an ad into a story, not every broadcast network show pounced and made it the top story.

    MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams arrived on the Globe discovery a day late but still a day before the CBS Evening News, but only by accident as Chris Matthews mentioned it in responding to a question about how Gore is avoiding the media.

    On the September 19 show, MRC analyst Paul Smith noticed, Brian Williams asked Chris Matthews live from California: "Let's talk about the availability of the Vice President. There have been complaints that he is in the bubble to use a worn phrase and that is kept a safe distance from media and shouted questions."

    Matthews, who is serving as a MSNBC reporter while Hardball is dumped for the Olympics, replied from Sunnyvale, California where he was traveling with the Gore campaign: "Well, I'd compare it to Dean Smith's old UNC four corner offense. He is continuing to play offense, staying on message, but avoiding the press. He is moving the ball and he doesn't want to get into the situation that happened last week to Governor Bush where Bush was attacked both by the Gore people and by the press over mispronunciation of words, over ad copy, over all kinds of things. Gore was almost under assault today on the question of whether he was wrong when he compared the price of medicine that his mother in law, Tipper's mother, paid for some arthritis medicine compared to the amount that is normally paid for dog medicine of that type. He spent a good, his people, rather Chris Lehane his press spokesman spent a good part of today defending that. But as I said, the Vice President stayed in the bubble, stayed out of the action, stayed on message."

    Yes, "Gore was almost under assault today" as the networks decided to let him off.


Singing lullabies at age 27? Another Gore gaffe went unnoticed by the broadcast networks Wednesday morning and night as well as by MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, despite the fact the September 20 USA Today caught it.

    Both FNC and CNN showed it to viewers of their political shows.

    FNC's Jim Angle explained on Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume: "As Gore finished his West Coast swing there was one little embarrassment to put aside. Gore of course depends on union members to fill the audiences at his events and to be the foot soldiers for his campaign. So it was natural when he told the Teamsters this week a story from his early childhood."
    Gore on Monday in Las Vegas, breaking into singing for the lyrics: "You know I still remember the lullabies that I heard as a child, [singing] 'Look for the union label.'"

    Angle pointed out: "The problem is that song is not an old labor lullaby. It's a jingle from an ad campaign written in 1975 when Gore was 27-years-old. Gore aides say what he actually meant was an old 1901 labor song, which has the refrain 'don't forget the union label.'"

    A hour earlier on CNN's Inside Politics, Bernard Shaw observed: "The Gore campaign is admitting to a musical misstep that occurred when the Vice President was formally endorsed by the Teamsters on Monday."
    Gore on Monday: "My father was one of the first commissioners of labor in the state of Tennessee and our family came into public service by that route. And, you know, I still remember the lullabies that I heard as a child: [singing]: 'Look for the union label.'"

    Shaw corrected Gore: "But the problem, as USA Today points out, that 'look for the union label' was not written until 1975, when Al Gore was 27-years-old. Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway says the Vice President misstated, and he was actually sung an older song, 'Don't forget the union label.' That song was written in 1901."

    +++ Watch Gore sing the lullaby he could not really have recalled from childhood. Late Thursday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of CNN's brief item quoted above. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

    So full credit is given, in Wednesday's USA Today, both reporter Laurence McQuillan and columnist Walter Shapiro caught and pointed out Gore's misstatement.


The CBS Evening News jumped Wednesday night on a pro-Republican independent expenditure ad in Missouri which liberals claim is racist because in it a mother complains, over video of a white student pulling out a gun, that her son's public school has "a bit more diversity than he could handle." But two years ago CBS failed to utter a word about an official Missouri Democratic Party radio ad which claimed voting Republican would lead to more church burnings: "When you don't vote, you let another church explode. When you don't vote, you allow another cross to burn....When you don't vote, you let the Republicans continue to cut school lunches."

    In fact, back in 1998 only FNC and Fox News Sunday picked up on the race-baiting Democratic ad.

    CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer intoned on the September 20 show: "A televised campaign commercial in Missouri has led to charges tonight that racist tactics are being used in an effort to sway voters to vote Republican."

    Bill Whitaker opened his piece with a clip of the TV ad with a woman on a sofa saying: "When Jason started hanging with the wrong crowd, we had to act fast."
    Whitaker asserted: "It's a controversial ad by an independent conservative group running in Missouri, a crucial swing state. The controversy?"
    Woman in ad: "That was a bit more diversity than he could handle."

    Whitaker relayed the liberal complaint: "A disparaging remark about diversity. Democrats call it 'race-baiting.' The ad's sponsor says it's not about bad kids but good Republican policy on school choice."
    Richard Nadler, Republicans Ideas Committee: "I'm absolutely not a bigot. These ads, this whole series of ads are about capital issues. They make serious, substantive points, and they do so without any slur upon any group whatsoever, except possibly liberals."
    Whitaker: "It's the kind of help the Bush campaign says it doesn't want."
    Karen Hughes: "So Governor Bush is very concerned. He strongly disagrees with the sentiments in this commercial."

    Whitaker used the ad as a launching point about how there's just too darn much free speech: "He rejects it but says it's protected free speech. It's part of an exploding, some say out of control, political trend, election year issue ads, more and more by outside groups. Most, like this by the Sierra Club for the Democrats, are welcomed by the parties. According to a report out today, so far this year, more than 125 organizations have spent more than $342 million on issue ads, more than in the last two elections combined."
    Kathleen Hall Jamieson, University of Pennsylvania: "In the contest over competing ideas, we are more likely in the contested states to hear the voices of the issue advocates on these issues then we are the voices of our two presidential candidates."

    Over video of the 1988 Willie Horton ad, Whitaker concluded by lamenting: "And ugly or not, they can work. The controversial Willie Horton ad by an outside group helped George W. Bush's father win the presidency by painting Michael Dukakis soft on crime. And the trend is clear. Expect campaigns with more outside ads and more controversy."

    Now compare the ad which so outraged CBS with one they ignored two years ago, as recounted in the November 16, 1998 MRC newsletter, MediaWatch:

When the Missouri Democratic Party targeted blacks with a race-baiting ad in the St. Louis area, it only made it into the national spotlight on Fox News Sunday and FNC's Fox Report.

Running on local black radio stations, the ad tried to scare minority voters to the polls: "When you don't vote, you let another church explode. When you don't vote, you allow another cross to burn. When you don't vote, you let another assault wound a brother or sister. When you don't vote, you let the Republicans continue to cut school lunches and Head Start."

Despite such inflammatory tactics, the ad didn't make a single ripple among other news shows. But Tony Snow on the November 1 Fox News Sunday challenged guest Rep. Barney Frank about the appropriateness of the ads: "Congressman, the President said that one of the hallmarks he wants to make is in civil rights, and I know that you've been actively involved in a number of civil rights issues. What I want to do is to play for you an ad that's been running in the St. Louis area, and there are also some counterparts around the country, and I want to get your reaction to it....Congressman, is that fair play?" Snow again brought up the ad in a segment with guest Paul Begala, a presidential counselor: "Is it part of the Democratic strategy to scare black voters into going to the polls?"

During the show's final roundtable discussion, Snow asked Juan Williams of The Washington Post what he thought about the ad, and Williams responded by calling it "scandalous," "incendiary," and "patronizing" to black voters.

The day before the election, Jim Angle's piece on FNC's Fox Report about President Clinton's efforts to get out the black vote included White House accusations of Republicans trying to intimidate black voters. After clips from White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and President Clinton making this claim, Angle turned to RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson for a response: "Nicholson pointed to Democratic ads that he said equate voting Republican with racism, such as this radio ad from the Missouri Democratic Party."

    END Reprint

    So, does the mention of "diversity" make the current pro-GOP ad racist? Judge for yourself. Tuesday's Special Report with Brit Hume played it in its entirety. Except for one scene, the whole ad is of a woman sitting on a couch as she advocates educational savings accounts. As she bemoans how her son started "hanging with the wrong crowd" in a public school and "we didn't want him in a place where drugs and violence were fashionable, that was a bit more diversity than he could handle," viewers see a white teen unwrapping cloth around a gun. He's in front of an Asian teen as on a nearby stairwell sit a white teen and a black teen.

    By early afternoon ET Thursday, or maybe a little later, MRC Webmaster Andy Szul should have, in RealPlayer format, the ad up as shown by FNC. Go to the posted version of this item:


ABC and CBS worried about the length, cost and pre-election timing of the Whitewater investigation in reporting on how independent counsel Robert Ray ended the probe after concluding not that there was no wrongdoing but that "the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either the President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in criminal conduct."

    NBC's Tom Brokaw snidely referred to how Whitewater "may never die in the hearts and minds of hard-core Clinton-bashers."

    CNN, FNC and NBC all noted how White House obfuscation and appeals delayed the process. NBC's Andrea Mitchell relayed that Ray's report "accuses both Clintons of delays, including the 18 month disappearance of Hillary Clinton's law firm billing records, part of the investigation, and what the prosecutor calls 'unmeritorious litigation.' Translation: White House appeals." But, she later scolded: "Was it necessary for Ray to make the critical comment if there was no reason to prosecute? Was that a political statement?"

    Good Morning America's Antonio Mora set the tone for the media's reporting later in the day Wednesday. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson picked up on this news brief: "Independent Counsel Robert Ray is releasing his findings today on Hillary Clinton's role in Whitewater. He's not expected to seek an indictment, but he is expected to be critical of the First Lady's actions. Critics have questioned the report's timing, coming just weeks before the Senate election Mrs. Clinton is contesting in New York."

    Wednesday night on Special Report with Brit Hume FNC's David Shuster stressed how Ray did not say the Clintons did nothing improper: "Ray repeatedly used the words 'insufficient evidence' instead of 'no evidence'" for matters such as hush money given to Web Hubbell. Shuster also noted: "In fact 12 people were convicted in the Whitewater probe, including former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker and te Clinton's former business partners, the McDougals. Robert Ray claimed the investigation was slowed down by the refusal of Susan McDougal to testify, the delay by the White House in turning over documents and the various claims of privilege by the Clintons, most of those claims rejected by the courts."

    But the broadcast networks honed to the Clinton spin on Wednesday night, September 20:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings announced, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
    "One of the lingering nightmares of the Clinton presidency has finally ended or appears to have ended, the Whitewater affair. What a run it had, six years of investigations, millions of dollars spent, and the independent counsel has finally decided he does not have enough on the Clinton's to charge them. ABC's Jackie Judd is in Washington. Jackie, you covered this story from the very beginning."
    Judd: "From the beginning, Peter, and here we are tonight with the independent counsel beginning an investigation that began long ago with a land deal in Little Rock and a long defunct Savings and Loan in Little Rock. It ended today with a terse statement."
    Robert Ray: "The investigation in connection with the Madison Guaranty Whitewater matter is now closed."
    Judd quoted Ray as using the term "insufficient" but she went on to say he "cleared" the Clintons: "Independent Counsel Ray concluded the evidence was 'insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Clintons knowingly participated in any criminal conduct.' The President cleared of lying under oath about various financial matters. The First Lady cleared of lying under oath and of withholding subpoenaed documents. Both cleared of arranging payments to her former law partner Webb Hubbell to buy his silence.
    "The Whitewater probe set in motion events leading to the Lewinsky investigation and the President's eventual impeachment. Even so, there was no gloating today. Mr. Clinton ignored reporters' questions. Mrs. Clinton, whose Senate campaign could have been knocked off stride by a critical report, also was low key."
    Hillary Clinton: "You know, this has gone on a long time, and it's cost more than $50 million, and I am just glad it's over."
    Judd concluded: "It is not over yet though for the President, Peter. A grand jury meeting now may yet be asked to decide if he should be indicted for lying in the Lewinsky matter."

    -- CBS Evening News opened with the Whitewater case. Phil Jones began his piece with a soundbite from Ray: "The investigation in connection with the Madison Guaranty Whitewater matter is now closed."
    Jones picked up: "And with that, Robert Ray, the last of three independent counsels who spent a total of more than $50 million issued a six-page statement concluding: 'The evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either the President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in criminal conduct' in the Whitewater land deal. Nine times the statement used the word 'insufficient' to describe the evidence on whether the Clintons gave false testimony about their knowledge and involvement in the Arkansas land savings and loan scandal. For Senate candidate Hillary Clinton, the independent counsel's surrender was better than one of those big campaign contributions."
    Hillary Clinton: "I'm confident that not only have New Yorkers and Americans made up their minds but that there's nothing there to report."

    Jones failed to mention how Ray pointed out how the White House delayed the probe, but he highlighted someone who thought Ray and Starr took too long: "Even Michael Chertoff, who was the Republican legal counsel for the Senate Whitewater investigation that ended four years ago, was critical of the independent counsel's office taking so long."
   Michael Chertoff: "I think the time perhaps to officially cut bait on this was back in 1997 and 1998. I don't know that much was gained by going on for two more years. I'm sure that there was a lot of uncertainty and pain that was caused by protracting it, and it may be that the lesson here is that the result was too late in coming."
    Jones: "Kenneth Starr, the former counsel who spent most of the money, was asked today to justify the cost. He passed the buck to the man who replaced him."
    Kenneth Starr: "I think you should address those questions to the independent counsel."
    Jones concluded: "After six years, there's still one big decision left, whether to seek an indictment against Bill Clinton after he leaves the presidency for criminal charges in the Lewinsky sex and perjury scandal. Bob."

    -- NBC Nightly News. From Sydney, Tom Brokaw snidely intoned:
    "And although it may never die in the hearts and minds of hard-core Clinton-bashers, tonight Whitewater as a legal issue is officially dead, killed by the special prosecutor. Robert Ray, who is Ken Starr's successor, issued his report today with some additional commentary."

    Andrea Mitchell explained: "Hillary Clinton, campaigning today, learns that after six years, three prosecutors, three congressional investigations and at least $46 million, the investigation into the Whitewater land deal is finally finished."

    After a clip of Hillary, Mitchell relayed how Ray decided there was "insufficient evidence" to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the Clintons "knowingly participated in criminal conduct."

    Mitchell then acknowledged what ABC and CBS ignored: "But the report also accuses both Clintons of delays, including the 18 month disappearance of Hillary Clinton's law firm billing records, part of the investigation, and what the prosecutor calls 'unmeritorious litigation.' Translation: White House appeals."

    Mitchell ran a clip of Joe Lockhart and one of Ray maintaining he ended the probe in a "responsible and cost effective manner." Mitchell retorted: "But was it necessary for Ray to make the critical comment if there was no reason to prosecute? Was that a political statement?"
    Professor Stephen Saltzburg, George Washington University Law School: "It's unusual and I think a lot of people would say improper for a prosecutor to render findings of any sort in a case in which there is no prosecution."

    Mitchell concluded with good news for Hillary: "Political or not, this removes a major worry for Hillary Clinton only six weeks before New Yorkers vote on her Senate bid. In fact her Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, didn't even want to talk about it today, the best evidence to the Clinton campaign that Whitewater is no longer a political problem."


Finally, a network used a heart-rending anecdote, about an elderly person having to choose between the subject of the day and food, for a cause other than to supply evidence to bolster the justification for another huge new liberal spending program. Wednesday night on ABC's World News Tonight, John Cochran actually relayed an anti-Clinton-Gore anecdote.

    Cochran began his lead piece on rising home oil prices: "Thelma Dicksen, a 72-year-old Democrat, says she may vote Republican if the price of heating oil remains high. With winter coming to her West Philadelphia home, she fears having to cut back on medicine and food to pay for oil." -- Brent Baker


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