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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday September 29, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 183) |

Winnie's Story "Totally Genuine"; Bush "Scare Tactic" in Calling Gore Liberal; Gumbel Avoided Lieberman's Two-Faced Promises

1) Making it so, Tom Brokaw Thursday night admired how Winnie Skinner's plight has turned into "more than 15 minutes of fame." Jim Avila insisted: "Her neighbors say her story is totally genuine." She lives in a house, but he claimed that drug companies aren't doing enough to "take this great grandmother off the streets." And how does she afford a Tommy Hilfiger jacket?

2) NBC's David Gregory warned that Bush employed "a scare tactic" when he branded "the Vice President an old style tax and spender." But with Gore, Claire Shipman did not tag as a "scare tactic" his claim that "forty days from now prosperity itself will be on the ballot" because Bush's tax cut "could wreck our good economy."

3) Before Bush listed what Gore would bring, ABC's Dean Reynolds complained that he offered "few details to back up his charges," including how "Bush predicted darkly, more IRS agents." CBS looked at how Bush's "secret weapon," GOP Governors, "is misfiring."

4) ABC Thursday night finally addressed the Bush "mole" story as Jackie Judd showed clips of her interview with Yvette Lozano, the woman questioned by the FBI.

5) Bryant Gumbel did ask Joe Lieberman about taking money from Hollywood when the industry is under fire for marketing R-rated movies to kids. But when Lieberman insisted that "we've said stop or we'll take action" through the FTC, Gumbel failed to point out how Lieberman promised at a fundraiser to only "nudge" them.


After showing the good judgment Wednesday night to ignore the anecdotal story of Winnie Skinner which both ABC and CBS, as well as MSNBC, showcased, Thursday night NBC Nightly News caught up and ran a glowing story in support of her Gore-agenda cause and discrediting anyone who would dare question the genuineness her plight. At a Gore event Wednesday in Iowa with a pre-selected audience, Skinner became a media hero after she stood and recounted how she collects cans along roadsides in order to pay for her prescriptions.

    "Her neighbors say her story is totally genuine," Jim Avila insisted, adding: "In fact one neighbor, a Republican, told me she's angry that anyone would suggest that Winnie is a political plant." Avila boosted the liberal cause of using a victim to promote another government program as he argued that "experts say she represents many older Americans." Though she lives in a house and has a son, and as a great grandmother presumably other relatives who could help her, Avila shamefully asserted that pharmaceutical company programs for the poor aren't doing enough to lower her medicine bill to "take this great grandmother off the streets."

    An earlier Avila piece ran on Thursday's Today. To read about it go to:

    For details about Wednesday night's fawning coverage of her:

    Thursday night Tom Brokaw trumpeted: "While these presidential campaigns are scrambling to make the most of the country's prosperity, there are still a great many Americans who have been left behind. One of them turned up at a Gore campaign event yesterday in Iowa, and her story has turned into more than 15 minutes of fame. NBC's Jim Avila tonight on campaign soundbites and real-life struggles."

    Avila began his fawning story, which also ran later on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, by recounting how Skinner takes blood pressure pills every morning before she heads out to pay for them by getting $5 a day picking up cans.

    After a clip of her at the Gore event, Avila elevated her importance and then tried to discredit any doubters: "White-haired, gentle-faced. Winnie, taking center stage. So perfect a symbol of what many older Americans say is wrong with the nation's health care system some people doubted her story, suspected she could be working for Gore."
    Skinner, sitting in front of her house: "If somebody even suggested me being a plant I would tell them to get lost. I'm not that kind of person."
    Avila made her case: "Winnie's been collecting cans to make ends meet since 1967 when her husband died. Her neighbors say her story is totally genuine. In fact one neighbor, a Republican, told me she's angry that anyone would suggest that Winnie is a political plant. Winifred Skinner does speak her mind. Retired factory worker, founder and former President of a Des Moines UAW local. She votes Democratic, a friend at the union gave her a ride, but Winnie says it was her idea alone to go to Gore's event on prescription medicine for one reason."
    Skinner: "I says I want to see Al Gore, I got something to say."
    Avila: "She told the Vice President her basic budget, determined to make it on her own without help from her son."

    Avila ran down how she gets $782 a month from Social Security, $159 from her UAW pension and then must pay $111 for health insure and spend $200 on medication.

    "By the end of the month, her checking account down to a couple of dollars, her pantry down to cereal," Avila lamented.
    Skinner: "If I run out of anything to eat I can always have a dish of oatmeal. And that's nourishing."
    Avila: "Experts say she represents many older Americans, 39 million on Medicare, ten million low income, four million below the poverty line. A spokesman for the drug company says he's touched by Winnie's story, but insists there are programs already in place to help."
    Alan Holmer, pharmaceutical industry spokesman: "We want to be able to make sure that every senior is able to have affordable access to those medicines."
    Over video of Skinner walking down a street and bending over to pickup a can, Avila concluded: "Programs Winnie Skinner says are not enough to pay her $200 a month medicine bill or take this great grandmother off the streets."

    A news organization interested in serving their viewers would have asked why anyone finds symbolic a woman who has a hobby of picking up cans for five cents per can when she clearly doesn't have to given that she has a large family and friends who can help her.

    A September 29 story in the Des Moines Register recounted how Skinner became a national media celebrity on Thursday. Reporter Mike Siebert noted that "while she walked her regular morning route picking up cans on Des Moines' east side, a woman asked how Skinner could afford a designer jacket from Tommy Hilfiger."

    Siebert documented how she got into the "invitation-only" event via her union connections and how a someone in the invitation-only audience urged Gore to call on her.

    An excerpt from Siebert's report:

Here's her version of what happened Wednesday:

A secretary at the local United Auto Workers office called to see whether Skinner wanted to attend an invitation-only Gore event in Altoona.

No, she replied, her "93 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera was in the shop with an oil leak. Marilyn D. Arnold, the union secretary, said she had a list of senior citizens who might want to attend a town-hall meeting on health-care costs. Skinner was one of about 30 on the list, she said.

Arnold knew Skinner. They had coffee occasionally and Arnold gave Skinner cans. Arnold offered her a ride to Altoona.

"She walked in the door and gets to talking to people and says, 'I wanted to talk to the man,'" Arnold said.

A man in the audience told Gore he should give Skinner the microphone.

She shined. She was poignant, funny and completely unafraid about being on TV or in front of a presidential candidate.

The frenzy began.

    END Excerpt

    To read the entire Des Moines Register story, go to:


Bush "scare tactic" versus Gore's effort to "make voters worry about George W. Bush's economic policy." Thursday night NBC Nightly News presented back-to-back pieces on the Bush and Gore economic arguments, but only George Bush's rhetoric was negatively described and only with Bush did NBC claim he's had to defend the validity of his economic program.

    David Gregory warned that Bush delivered "a scare tactic of his own" when he branded "the Vice President an old style tax and spender." Gregory soon added: "Yet it's Bush who's been forced to defend his proposed $1.3 trillion tax cut against the charge that it will bust the budget."

    But with Gore, Claire Shipman simply relayed how he insisted "the stakes...couldn't be higher" as he wants people to worry about Bush's plans. But Gore's rhetoric was every bit as much of a "scare tactic" as he warned that "forty days from now prosperity itself will be on the ballot" because Bush's tax cut "could wreck our good economy in the process."

    In the sequence they aired, here's how the September 28 NBC Nightly News assessed the economic pitches of Gore and Bush.

    Claire Shipman began: "Gore's team believes that the booming economy is his greatest strength heading into the debates and not just how healthy it is right now, but how it could easily go bust according to Gore in the wrong hands. The stakes, according to Gore, couldn't be higher."
    Gore at the Brookings Institution: "Forty days from now prosperity itself will be on the ballot."

    Shipman explained how he vowed to protect the middle class by balancing the budget and paying down the debt, "but the key, Gore advisers believe, to using the economy effectively is to make voters worry about George W. Bush's economic policy."
    Gore: "What I can't support is a $1.6 trillion tax cut that mostly helps the very wealthy, which comes at the expense of middle class families and could wreck our good economy in the process."

    After relaying how a NBC poll found that when asked "Who would do better with the economy?" 42 percent said Gore versus 36 percent who answered Bush, Shipman concluded: "Still, Gore advisers admit since the race is dead even, the issue hasn't helped that much, but look for him to keep pounding away at it because his advisers believe in the final weeks the economy will make a difference."

    Next, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, David Gregory observed:
    "Bush is hardly shying away from a fight over the economy, but his senior advisers admit the campaign's biggest obstacle is facing an opponent who can point to prosperity on his watch. So from the Texas Governor today a scare tactic of his own. The Texas Governor today in Green Bay Wisconsin brands the Vice President an old style tax and spender who would direct the biggest federal spending hike in 35 years, a vast departure, Bush says, from the centrist 'New Democrat' philosophy that swept the Vice President and Bill Clinton into office eight years ago."
    Bush: "If the Vice President gets elected the era of big government being over is over. And so too I fear could be our prosperity."
    Gregory: "Bush, who even talks about the budget during a practice session with the Green Bay Packers-"
    Bush amongst football players: "Guess what he just asked? 'Can we get our tax bracket lowered?'"
    Gregory picked up his sentence, as he put Bush on the defensive: "charges Gore's plan for bigger government and more spending will lead to deficits and tax hikes, and yet it's Bush who's been forced to defend his proposed $1.3 trillion tax cut against the charge that it will bust the budget."

    Yeah, "forced to defend" it by a media which focuses incessantly on its "cost" and impact on the surplus while ignoring how Al Gore's spending plans will consume all of the surplus and more. A National Taxpayers Union Foundation study in August determined Gore's spending proposals are five times greater than Bush's. For details, go to:


ABC and CBS provided much less tilted reviews Thursday night of Bush's attack on Gore, though ABC's Dean Reynolds complained that Bush offered "few details to back up his charges." CBS's Bill Whitaker looked at how Bush's "secret weapon," the Republican Governors in battleground states, "is misfiring."

    Reynolds opened his World News Tonight piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In his sharpest policy attack of the campaign, Bush today suggested the Vice President is a champion of big government whose plans would cripple the economy."
    George W. Bush: "If the Vice President gets elected, the Era of Big Government being over is over. And so, too, I fear, could be our prosperity."
    Reynolds: "While offering few details to back up his charges, Bush painted a stark picture of America's future under a Gore presidency. Americans, he said, would face hundreds of new or expanded federal programs, pages of new rules and regulations, thousands more bureaucrats, and Bush predicted darkly, more IRS agents."

    Sounds like a lot of details to me.

    Reynolds showed another Bush soundbite: "We'll find ourselves working harder for government -- appeasing it, pleasing it, and trying to keep it at bay. More forms to fill out, more regulations to meet, and more lines to stand in."
    Reynolds: "And Bush said his opponents are using old-style politics to scare voters. But accusing Democrats of being big-spending liberals is not exactly new. What it is is a tried and true Republican campaign tactic that worked well twelve years ago when Bush's father used it against Michael Dukakis and went on to win the election."

    Anchor Peter Jennings then provided a short item on Gore's day: "In Washington today Mr. Gore responded to Mr. Bush by saying that he is the safer choice when it comes to the economy. Mr. Gore reiterated that he believes in paying down the debt -- this year, next year, every year -- and he criticized the tax cuts proposed by Mr. Bush, which he said would lead the country back into running deficits."

    Over on the CBS Evening News, anchor Anthony Mason castigated the hype of both candidates: "It's forty days till election day, and Al Gore and George Bush are ratcheting up the attacks over who has the better plan for the economy. This includes accusing each other of trying to sell the public a blueprint for economic disaster. Correspondent John Roberts reports on the soaring inflation of their rhetoric."
    Roberts observed: "In some of their most pointed attacks to date, the candidates today drew sharp battle lines over the economy." Roberts introduced a Bush soundbite: "George W. Bush claimed that Al Gore's tax and spend policies would bust the budget and threaten prosperity." Before a counter Gore clip, Roberts noted: "Gore charged that Bush would derail economic growth by squandering the surplus on a tax cut for the rich."

    Roberts assessed Gore's status: "That Gore has to work this hard on the issue is troubling to his campaign. Historically, if the economy is good, the incumbent party wins. The economy has never been better, but Gore has had difficulty connecting himself to that prosperity....part of the reason is that next to the President the person most likely to get credit for the economy is Alan Greenspan, not Al Gore. And there is also a feeling among some voters that the economy is so good a change at the top wouldn't matter. That's why the Vice President is driving so hard to convince voters that it would."

    Next, Bill Whitaker checked in from Green Bay with Bush, asserting: "George W. Bush came here today to slam Al Gore as the godfather of big government."

    After a Bush soundbite Whitaker moved on to explore how Bush's "secret weapon," the Republican Governors in battleground states, "is misfiring." Whitaker charged: "Bush, neck and neck with Gore in national polls, is down in Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, all with strong GOP governors. Tommy Thompson also helped Bush's father in '88, but Wisconsin went for Dukakis and twice for President Bill Clinton....And in this tight race, even playing with such a formidable team is no guarantee of victory in November."


ABC Thursday night became the first broadcast network evening show to take on with a full report the Bush "mole" story. Peter Jennings reminded those unfamiliar about how "a package of secret information and video tapes from the Bush campaign was mailed by someone to Tom Downey, the man who was helping Al Gore prepare for the presidential debates. There has been a noisy debate ever since about who sent it."

    Jackie Judd interviewed Yvette Lozano, who works for Mark McKinnon, the man who makes Bush's ads. She told how she's been interviewed by the FBI. Judd explained: "What made the FBI suspicious was video from a Post Office security camera in Austin of Lozano mailing a package on September 11. Two days later, former Congressman Tom Downey received a package postmarked 'Austin' containing briefing documents and a tape of George W. Bush practicing for his debate with Al Gore -- explosive political material. The package she sent, Lozano insists, did not contain the tape but a pair of pants from the Gap that she says she was sending back for Mark McKinnon, her boss."

    McKinnon confirmed her story to Judd and Lozano assured Judd she'd be willing to take a lie detector test.

    Judd added: "The Bush campaign faults the FBI for focusing its attention on Lozano instead of casting a wider net." After a clip of McKinnon suggesting Gore operatives are involved, Judd concluded: "The Gore campaign has complained it is being set up to take the blame. The mysterious mailing is a dirty trick that has left both sides in this frustrated and distracted."

    To watch Judd's story via RealPlayer, go to:


Given how Hollywood markets R-rated movies to youngsters, "how do you justify continuing to take money from Hollywood?" CBS's Bryant Gumbel asked Joe Lieberman on Wednesday's The Early Show. But when Lieberman insisted that he and Gore have told them "stop or we'll take action" through the FTC, Gumbel failed to follow up on how in direct conflict with Gore's threat to have the government regulate the content of material exposed to kids, Lieberman promised at a fundraiser that they will only be "nudges" and, "I promise you this: We will never put the government in the position of telling you by law, through law, what to make."

    Like ABC and NBC in their interviews with Gore earlier in the week, Gumbel avoided raising the subject of Gore's fabrications from the week before about his dog versus his mother-in-law's prescription costs and hearing as a child a union jingle actually not created until he was 27.

    Gumbel began the interview by asking Lieberman about polls which show a close race and "why has George Bush successfully closed ground?"

    Gumbel next inquiry: "When health and education continue to be the primary issues, primary concerns of the voters, and since both camps are offering a series of new proposals. Does this come down to simply a matter of who do you trust?"

    Gumbel followed up: "I don't want to get hung-up on polls, but poll after poll shows an undecided rate of somewhere of about 10 to 12%. Do you find that either surprising or disappointing at this stage of the race?"

    Gumbel then arrived at hypocrisy over Hollywood: "You've no doubt seen the New York Times this morning, headline up in the top of the front page how the studios use children to test market new films, how they've basically shown R-rated films to youngsters as young as nine and ten years old, full of violence. In light of stuff like that how do you justify continuing to take money from Hollywood?"
    Lieberman: "Well, you take their support, you thank them for it, but you tell them that they're wrong. And I think that's the key determinant for all-"
    Gumbel jumped in: "You don't think there's a conflict in doing that, in preaching to them, but taking their money?"
    Lieberman insisted no, asserting he and Gore are on the right side because they support McCain Feingold. Lieberman added that as for Hollywood: "We've said stop or we'll take action" through the FTC.

    Instead of pointing out how Lieberman had actually praised the industry and promised them no government action, Gumbel proceeded to a series of questions about the controversy over Lieberman remaining in the Connecticut Senate race.

    Back on September 20 the Washington Post's Mike Allen quoted how Lieberman, at a Hollywood fundraiser on September 18, privately assured the entertainment industry they had nothing to fear: "'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.'"

    The Democratic ticket doesn't need to consider any law to censor Gumbel since he self censors himself to avoid making them defend saying one thing in public to get votes and another in private to their big donors to generate contributions. -- Brent Baker


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