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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday September 22, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 174) |

Bush: "Pawn of the Oil Industry"; NBC Caught Up on Gore Gaffes; Pro-Gore Media Bias Admitted; Geraldo Demands Apology -- Extra Edition

1) ABC's Terry Moran decided Gore welcomes the debate over tapping the strategic oil reserve if only "to point out" that Bush and Cheney "hail from the oil industry." But Gore's plan was mostly derided Thursday night as political and ineffective. Two CBS reporters couldn't agree whether the move would reduce oil prices.

2) NBC Nightly News caught up with two Gore gaffes the show had ignored when initially revealed. Claire Shipman cited the "blowup on the issue of health care" over his made up story about drug costs as well as his claim to have sung as a child a union jingle not created until 1975.

3) Media bias for Al Gore is so obvious that a network anchor admitted it. MSNBC's Brian Williams noted the lack of play for Gore's "mammogram" fumbling: "Had that happened to Bush the news media would have used it to further the theme that the Texas Governor has a troubled relationship with the English language."

4) On GMA, Jeffrey Toobin and Elizabeth Vargas stressed the taxpayer cost and human toll, especially on Hillary, of the Whitewater probe. Toobin: "Kenneth Starr made Mrs. Clinton the only First Lady in history forced to walk the gauntlet and testify before a grand jury."

5) New York Times part of the "vast right-wing conspiracy"? Geraldo Rivera suggested so Wednesday night in holding the paper "as guilty" as the House Judiciary Committee. He demanded that the paper apologize for serving as an outlet for Whitewater charges.

6) Lincoln bedroom sleepovers for donors are no big deal, former CBS and NBC reporter Giselle Fernandez contended. Besides, Bill Clinton "only had one kid." She'd prefer a room oozing with sex: "The Kennedy bedroom -- now that I'd like to at least experience."

Correction: The September 21 CyberAlert noted how "a network used a heart-rendering anecdote." That should have read "heart-rending."


Although ABC's Terry Moran began his story, on Al Gore announcing his recommendation to release some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, by relaying how Gore is "casting himself as the champion of beleaguered consumers and Governor Bush as a pawn of the oil industry," in an unusual event, elsewhere Gore got a tougher media drilling Thursday night than did George W. Bush.

    All the broadcast and cable networks highlighted how Treasury Secretary Summers opposed the oil release, featured soundbites from Bush or others denouncing it as a crass political move and, with the exception of CBS, doubted such a small release as Gore proposed would have any impact on prices. ABC and NBC also raised the point that the current crisis shows the Clinton administration's energy policy has failed.

    CBS couldn't agree whether tapping the oil reserve would or would not reduce oil prices. Bob Orr declared: "If the President gives the go-ahead to open the reserve tap, analysts say oil prices could quickly drop." But in the very next story CBS reporter John Roberts cited how former Energy Secretary James Schlesinger "says compared to the American thirst for oil...Gore's proposal is but a drop in the bucket."

    Here's how the three broadcast network evening shows on Thursday, September 21, handled Gore's energy proposal:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight led with Terry Moran on how Gore was "casting himself as the champion of beleaguered consumers and Governor Bush as a pawn of the oil industry." Moran explained how Gore called on Clinton to tap the strategic reserve for "several" five million barrel releases, proposed his own policies for a new home heating oil reserve, a tax credit to oil distributors and $400 million to help the poor pay for heating oil.

    Moran showed Gore proclaiming: "I will not go along with an agenda that is of big oil, by big oil and for big oil."

    Moran moved on to Bush's reaction: "But Governor Bush, campaigning in Cleveland, said the Clinton-Gore administration helped cause the problem in the first place."
    Bush: "Over the last seven years America has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil."
    Moran added: "Bush blasted Gore's proposal to dip into the strategic reserve."
    Bush: "The strategic reserve's an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. It should not be used for short-term political gain."

    Moran outlined how Bush advocated a tough stance with OPEC, an increase in domestic refining capacity "and, in his own controversial proposal, opening up Alaska's wilderness to drilling."

    Moran concluded by giving the last word to Gore: "Now the Gore campaign was quick to point out Governor Bush's agenda has no short-term effect to help consumers this winter and the Gore campaign says that they welcome this debate if only to point out to voters that both Governor Bush and Dick Cheney hail from the oil industry."

    Next, John Cochran outlined how the Clinton decision is a fight between Treasury Secretary Larry Summers who called an oil release a "dangerous precedent" and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson who wants to tap the reserves. Cochran then hit Clinton's record, or lack of one:
    "Regardless of what the President does, critics ask how did we get in this mess? For much of his presidency energy did not seem to be a major preoccupation. Although Mr. Clinton did ask Congress to approve measures to encourage lower fuel consumption, he did not fight hard for them. For a while the President was lucky. Production was high, demand was low, oil prices were down to $10 a barrel and gasoline was less than a dollar a gallon."

    -- CBS Evening News. "Petro politics" announced the on-screen graphic next to anchor Bob Schieffer's head as the show opened with Bob Orr on how tapping the strategic reserve "may be the only hope for lower energy prices this winter."

    Orr reported how Richardson predicted home heating oil prices will be up 75 percent this winter from two years ago and natural gas in the Midwest will also soar, forecast to rise 43 percent from 1998.

    Little can be done about natural gas prices, Orr lamented, by "the President may be able to force down oil prices by dipping into the nation's strategic petroleum reserve....If the President gives the go-ahead to open the reserve tap, analysts say oil prices could quickly drop from this week's ten year high of nearly $38 a barrel."
    John Kilduff, energy analyst: "We believe a release of a million barrels a day for even a month would help bring us quickly down into the upper $20s for crude oil."
    Orr concluded: "And that may be the only hope for lower energy prices this winter. While the United States is pressing OPEC to ramp up oil production, the oil cartel says it won't even consider it until November."

    But in the very next story Orr's Washington bureau colleague, John Roberts, offered just the opposite assessment. Roberts first pointed out Gore's flip-flop: "Eight months ago Al Gore dismissed the idea. Today, seven weeks to the election, it's suddenly sound policy." Roberts played clips from Gore and Bush as well as a soundbite from left-wing Democratic Senator Charles Schumer who claimed Bush and Cheney have "too much faith in Big Oil."

    Viewers then heard from James Schlesinger: "The timing is perhaps driven by electoral considerations."
    Roberts identified him: "James Schlesinger was Energy Secretary under Jimmy Carter. He says compared to the American thirst for oil, 20 million barrels each day, Gore's proposal is but a drop in the bucket."
    Schlesinger suggested: "It's a gesture. It's tokenism. It may have useful effects, it may not, but it is not much more than a gesture."
    Nonetheless, Roberts concluded with a upbeat spin for Gore's effort: "Even Gore's closest advisers don't know if the plan would work or if now is the right time to do it, but at the very least they say it's worth a test shot to send a signal to the market that the government is willing to take action."

    -- NBC Nightly News led with the controversy over Gore's proposal. After Claire Chipman looked at the politics of Gore's idea (see item #2 below for details), Lisa Myers took on the policy: "So is dipping into the reserves now a good idea? Republicans say no."
    After a comment from Senator Frank Murkowski, Myers continued: "Even most of the President's economic team has opposed it. In a memo last week, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summer writes that he and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan agree it would be quote, 'a major and substantial policy mistake,' but today Summers tows the line, says Gore's limited action, only five million barrels, might be appropriate. But many experts say Gore's plan would, at best, have a small temporary impact on prices because this country uses twenty million barrels a day."
    John Kilduff, the same energy analyst featured by CBS to support the idea the release would lower prices, was used by NBC to support the opposite contention: "Five million barrels would help ease some of the fears that are in the market that are resulting in prices being pushed up."

    Myers continued to stress the downside: "Opponents also point to big potential down sides. It could complicate efforts to get Saudi Arabia to expand production, diminish the effectiveness of dipping into the reserves in a real emergency. Even some who support Gore's plan say the administration is partly responsible for the problem."
    C. Fred Bergsten, Institute for International Economics: "Well I think the administration has been remiss in terms of energy policy or lack thereof."

    Myers concluded by assessing the Clinton record: "When Clinton took office, the U.S. was dependent on foreign producers for 50 percent, half of our oil. Now it's 59 percent. Then the price of oil was $16 a barrel. Today it's $35. But experts say no one, including George W. Bush, has come up with a quick painless solution to this crisis. So far polls show the public blames big oil and oil producing countries. Al Gore hopes it stays that way."


NBC Nightly News used Gore's oil release advocacy to finally catch up with two Gore gaffes the show had ignored when initially revealed. Claire Shipman contended that Gore is "hoping that his oil announcement will provide a change of subject from what has been his worst week in a month and a half." She went on to cite the "blowup on the issue of health care" over his made up story about drug costs for his dog versus his mother-in-law as well as his claim to have sung as a child a union jingle not actually created until he was well into his 20s.

    Shipman began her September 21 top of the show story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Hoping to tap into public outrage over high oil prices, Gore today pushes the President to make the controversial move of tapping into the nation's oil reserves."
    Al Gore: "I support oil releases from our national strategic petroleum reserve."
    Shipman: "Clinton is supposed to make a decision within days, but Gore is only proposing a test sale of five million barrels, a small percentage of the almost six hundred million barrels the U.S. keeps on hand for emergencies. Many experts say its's a clear attempt to protect himself politically."
    David Gergen, political analyst: "This oil issue could be an issue that costs Gore the election in some close states."
    Shipman: "And the Bush campaign immediately called it an election year ploy."
    George W. Bush: "We have no comprehensive energy policy."

    Shipman then got to events NBC skipped when they happened: "Gore may be looking for political cover, but he's also hoping that his oil announcement will provide a change of subject from what has been his worst week in a month and a half. First a blowup on the issue of health care. Questions about whether Gore misstated the costs of arthritis medication for both his mother-in-law and his dog."
    Al Gore on August 28, though NBC did not date the clip: "It costs her $108 per month. It costs $37.80 a month for a dog."
    Shipman: "In fact, it seems Gore did not take those numbers from personal experience but from a congressional report on drug prices. The Gore campaign says the general idea is right but citing privacy issues, won't give the actual numbers."
    Gore: "Well, the issue is not her. The is issue is what seniors around the country are paying."
    Shipman: "Why is this important?"
    Bill Turque, Newsweek: "He has had a tendency over the years to, to take a pretty good story and try to make it a little better by embellishing, adding, sort of stretching it beyond where the facts would take it."
    Shipman jumped to something which occurred Wednesday: "And then questions about this:"
    Gore: "You know, I still remember the lullabies that I heard as a child, [singing] 'Look for the union label.'"
    Shipman noted: "But that union song was written in the 1970s when Gore was in his mid-twenties. Gore says he was obviously joking. Reporters are also grumbling that it's been hard to get answers from Gore. He hasn't held a full-scale news conference in two months."

    Shipman concluded with an upbeat assessment: "Gore aides admit it's been a choppy week, but they hope today's announcement on oil reserves, including a proposal to release four hundred million dollars to help poor families pay home heating bills this winter, is what the public will really pay attention to."

    Well it's hard to pay attention to Gore gaffes that Shipman contended led to a "blowup" when the networks won't tell anyone about them:

    -- The dog/in-law fabrication was disclosed Monday by the Boston Globe. Not until the fourth night after the Globe story ran did NBC Nightly News mention it. The CBS Evening News didn't get to it until the third night, Wednesday. And ABC's World News Tonight has yet to touch it.
    This past Monday also brought Gore's fumbling over the words sonogram and mammogram, a miscue yet to be shown on any broadcast network morning or evening show.

    For a RealPlayer clip of FNC showing both incidents, go to:

    -- Gore on Wednesday this week recalled the union jingle/lullaby he heard as a 27-year-old in a crib. All three broadcast network evening shows ignored the claim that night and while NBC got to it the next night neither ABC or CBS have informed their viewers about it.
    For a RealPlayer clip of CNN showing and correcting Gore:


A breakthrough? Media bias against George Bush and for Al Gore is so great and obvious that even a network anchor, who himself is at the helm of a show which displayed the bias, admitted it. Thursday night MSNBC's Brian Williams opened his The News with Brian Williams by citing Gore's inability on Monday to come up with the word mammogram, confusing it with sonogram, and conceded: "Had that happened to Bush the news media would have used it to further the theme that the Texas Governor has a troubled relationship with the English language."

    Williams opened the September 21 show:
    "Good evening. We begin tonight with presidential politics and proof that it's a cyclical business. Lately it's been George W. Bush's turn in the barrel as Gore was having a good week last week. Now, however, a series of small mistakes have taken their toll on the Gore campaign. There was the campaign event where Gore forgot the word mammogram, called it a sonogram, before asking some nurses in the audience for help. No big deal mind you but had that happened to Bush the news media would have used it to further the theme that the Texas Governor has a troubled relationship with the English language. For Gore, it was the first of a series. Today the Vice President was trying to get out in front of a hot issue -- heating oil prices, now part of this campaign. And there may be trouble with it for Gore for not seeing it coming and for Bush for his ticket's ties to the industry."

    Viewers then saw the same Claire Shipman piece run on NBC Nightly News which is quoted in this CyberAlert in item #2 above. Thus, viewers of the Williams 9pm ET hour on MSNBC (10pm and 1a ET on CNBC) got their first peek at Gore's dog/in-law fabrication and union jingle claim. Tuesday night Chris Matthews, acting as a reporter, told Williams about the dog/in-law claim but MSNBC did not show it. The night before Matthews also mentioned the mammogram gaffe, but since Shipman's piece did not show it, MSNBC viewers still have yet to see it.

    +++ Watch Williams admit the media's pro-Gore bias. Late Friday morning ET, the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Andy Szul will post, in RealPlayer format, a clip of Brian Williams opening his show Thursday night. Go to: http://www.mrc.org


ABC lamented the taxpayer cost and human toll on Hillary of the Whitewater probe. On Thursday's Good Morning America ABC legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin regretted how "Kenneth Starr made Mrs. Clinton the only First Lady in history forced to walk the gauntlet and testify before a grand jury." He complained that "the Starr and Ray investigations alone cost more than $50 million and as it turned out, it was much ado -- two decades worth -- about not very much." GMA co-host Elizabeth Vargas agreed it was a big waste.

    MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down the relevant portions of the September 21 segment about Independent Counsel Robert Ray's decision to shut down the Whitewater probe.

    Vargas set up the discussion: "The six-year Whitewater investigation came to an emphatic resolution yesterday when the Independent Counsel Robert Ray announced there was no evidence to charge either the President or Mrs. Clinton with any crime. His whole investigation has cost taxpayers $55 million....Robert Ray doesn't actually clear the Clintons of any wrongdoing. He just says he can't prove it."
    Toobin argued: "Well, I think you've got to translate the legalese a little bit. 'Insufficient evidence' is the phrase he uses, but that's how prosecutors talk. They don't talk in terms of innocence. But the bottom line is there is nothing on the Clintons in this investigation."
    Vargas: "Nothing on the Clintons, and even though Ray's report was lukewarm in its tone and anticlimactic, certainly, after all this time and money, it is considered a huge victory for the President and the First Lady."
    Toobin: "Absolutely. You know, the Clintons invested in this project in 1978, 22 years ago, and the investigation's been going on almost ever since. And interestingly, the focus in this case was not so much on Bill Clinton, but the toll and the focus was really on Hillary Clinton.
    "In 1994, she was pressured into holding an unprecedented news conference for a First Lady....But the questions continued -- hearings in the House, hearings in the Senate, a first independent counsel, a second independent counsel....Kenneth Starr made Mrs. Clinton the only First Lady in history forced to walk the gauntlet and testify before a grand jury."

    Of course, she chose for political and public relations purposes to take a very public walk in and out of the front door and through a crowd of reporters. Six years later it's still paying off with gullible liberals like Toobin.

    Toobin continued his historical review: "Then Starr's probe grew. Once close friends went to jail [clip of Jim and Susan McDougal]. There was Travelgate, Filegate and then another subject entirely [clip of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky]. Mrs. Clinton wasn't the target of that one....But the Lewinsky affair took its toll, nonetheless. The President was impeached. But Starr and his successor never issued any verdict on Hillary Clinton's conduct until now...with no charges ever filed against Hillary Clinton....The Starr and Ray investigations alone cost more than $50 million and as it turned out, it was much ado -- two decades worth -- about not very much."
    Vargas chimed in: "That's incredible, when you see the toll, that, you know, all those convictions, all those people who've spent time in prison, and all that money."

    But Vargas's implication that "all those people who've spent time in prison" are somehow victims was too much for even Toobin, though he soon returned to the standard liberal spin: "Well, I think you have to remember, in fairness to Starr, there were 14 convictions in this case, mostly of peripheral people, although Clinton's successor as Governor, Jim Guy Tucker, was convicted, but in terms of the Clintons themselves, and they've been the focus, how much videotape, how much newsprint has been spent on the subject of Whitewater, and it really doesn't seem to add up to very much."


New York Times part of the "vast right-wing conspiracy"? Geraldo Rivera suggested so Wednesday night in holding the paper "as guilty" as the House Judiciary Committee in hounding Bill Clinton. He demanded that the newspaper apologize for serving as an outlet for Whitewater charges.

    Rivera argued during the September 20 Rivera live on CNBC: "You know Joe [DiGenova] it is outrageous that there is not, I mean The New York Times, I think The New York Times is as guilty as the majority on the, on the, the House committee there, Judiciary committee. They're the ones that lead the charge here. They were going with allegations and when we investigated them they seemed pretty shallow. But there is no I'm sorry and isn't this six years of gross torture inflicted on pretty slim evidence?"

    MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that he wrapped-up the segment by returning to the complicity of the New York Times: "I want to ask Jonathan [Alter] a question about the media. I don't want to harp on this too much. But it seems to me, but, but for The New York Times the, the implicit conspiracy between The New York Times and the people out to get Clinton this thing would've died a long time ago."
    Newsweek's Alter agreed: "Well that's how it started in '92. Sheffield Nelson, Clinton's arch rival in Arkansas, excuse me, dumped a whole lot of very damning information on Jeff Gerth, who put it in The New York Times and was off to the races. Everything has flowed from that."
    Rivera demanded: "I think The New York Times deserves, the Clintons deserve an apology from The New York Times editorial writers if not from the Republicans as well."


A loving husband and wife is an "ideal" but it just isn't "cool" and Hillary Clinton using the Lincoln bedroom as a reward to donors isn't a big deal, former CBS and NBC reporter Giselle Fernandez declared on ABC's Politically Incorrect Tuesday night before proclaiming her desire to spend time in a room that had a lot of sex: "The Kennedy bedroom -- now that I'd like to at least experience."

    On the September 19 show Fernandez argued: "I think if you define marriage as a partnership of love and respect, where the sexes are considered equal, in a partnership, then perhaps it can be a wonderful ideal, but obviously I think that's the kind of self-righteous judgmentalism that causes rifts in our society, and I think that's not cool."

    Later, fellow panelist Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post suggested that after the 1996 fundraising scandal "to allow anybody whose given any money anywhere near the White House to sleep over, and they say these are just friends, sure they're friends with a lot of money, is not good politics."

    Fernandez countered: "I totally disagree. It's her home. Rick Lazio entertains-"
    Kurtz: "It's the people's home."
    Bill O'Reilly of FNC: "Yeah, it's our home, Giselle. She's just there."
    Host Bill Maher: "Oh, it's not your home."
    O'Reilly: "Yes, it is. I'm paying the lighting bill. You're paying the water bill and I'm paying the lighting bill. They're not paying a dime."
    Joe McIntyre: "They are. They pay taxes."
    Fernandez: "And we voted for them to be able, and it's been done before, and besides, let me ask you a question. What's the big deal about the-"
    O'Reilly: "It's tacky. It's tacky. That's the big deal."
    Fernandez: "No, what's the big deal about the Lincoln Bedroom? The guy had one kid. The Kennedy bedroom -- now that I'd like to at least experience."

    I assume "the guy" is Clinton not Lincoln.

    Fernandez is now co-host of This Week in History on the History Channel. To see a picture of her, go to:

    Here's a reminder of the kind of "reporting" we're now missing from her:

    -- November 3, 1993 CBS This Morning from Cuba: "Welcome to Fidel Castro's playground, Cuba's Caribbean paradise few have seen, a Cuba the commandante is now inviting the world to enjoy. In the last two years alone, Cuba and its sultry beaches has become a major vacation hot spot...While tourism may be changing the landscape of Cuba's Caribbean shores, Fidel Castro is banking on it to save his workers' paradise from becoming a paradise lost."

    -- September 4, 1994 CBS Evening News, on Cuba: "Back then [when it received Soviet subsidies], the island may have been a thorn in Washington's side but it was a beacon of success for much of Latin America and the Third World. For decades, Cuba's health care and education systems were touted as great achievements of the revolution...Some say the trade ban has never given Cuba a chance to see whether or not Castro's socialism might work."

    -- She moved on to NBC to co-host the weekend Today show. For a September 3, 1995 utterance she earned a runner-up slot in the MRC's "Good Morning Morons Award" presented as part of our annual Best of Notable Quotables: "President Clinton will be attending more ceremonies in Hawaii marking V-J Day, Victory over Japan. Saturday, Mr. Clinton went to a ceremony on a hill high above Honolulu. He praised those who served in the military 50 years ago, saying they saved the world. After today's ceremonies marking the end of World War II, President Clinton will head back to the United States."

    Hawaii joined the United States in 1959. -- Brent Baker


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