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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Monday October 2, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 184) |

Gore's "Teeny-Weeny Exaggerations"; More Bush/Big Oil; Columnist Documented Bias; Ex-Reporter Suggested How to Avoid Bias

1) Al Gore has recently "been caught embellishing personal stories," ABC News acknowledged Sunday night, but World News tonight has yet to tell viewers about those incidents.

2) Media too tough on Gore? Nina Totenberg of NPR and ABC: "I don't actually think Gore has told any whoppers at all, they are the minor-est kind of factual, teeny-weeny exaggerations."

3) CBS promised an examination of the energy policies of both candidates, but only hit Bush: "Al Gore called it mostly a short-term fix, a long-term environmental threat and evidence, he said, of Bush's deep ties to big oil." CBS added that a Bush donor has been indicted for clear air violations.

4) Bush and Gore didn't get the same standardized test on education from GMA. Unlike Gore, Bush was pressed with follow up questions and pestered about not wanting to spend enough money, but the show did not make Gore address the expense of his plans.

5) As one of the hosts of MTV's Tuesday night Choose or Lose 2000 special with Al Gore, Time's Tamala Edwards pressed Al Gore to satisfy the demand for universal health care as soon as possible.

6) Columnist Charles Krauthammer documented the bias in the New York Times. "'Gore Offers Vision of Better Times For Middle Class.' It's the kind of headline Pravda used to run for Brezhnev's presidential campaigns."

7) If you believe the media are biased, cancel your subscriptions and rely on C-SPAN and the Internet. So recommended in USA Today the former reporter who oversaw the survey which found 89 percent of top Washington reporters voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.

     >>> "Where is the Balance? How the TV Networks are Covering Up for Al Gore." That's the heading over an ad produced by the MRC's Bonnie Langbourgh which appears in today's New York Post. To view it as a quick-loading HTML reproduction, go to:
    To view a graphic of the actual ad, complete with a subliminal message, go to:
    Coinciding with the presidential debate in Boston, the same ad will run in Tuesday's Boston Herald. <<<


ABC's World News Tonight has yet to inform viewers of Al Gore's fabrications about hearing as a child a union lullaby not created until he was 27 or of how a prescription drug costs more for his mother-in-law than for his dog, but ABC knows about them.

    In a Sunday World News Tonight story previewing Tuesday's debate, John Yang acknowledged: "As a debater, Gore is known for having a command of the issues, but recently he's been caught embellishing personal stories. Another pitfall could be his aggressive debating style."

    Caught by everyone but ABC News.


Maybe Nina Totenberg of NPR, who also contributes stories to ABC's Nightline, had an influence on ABC's news judgments. By her reasoning, all Al Gore has done is pass along "teeny-weeny exaggerations."

    On Inside Washington over the weekend, she maintained the media are holding Gore to too high a standard:
    "This is one of those areas where I really think Gore does suffer from Clinton. I don't actually think Gore has told any whoppers at all, they are the minor-est kind of factual, teeny-weeny exaggerations, if that. Very human things that we wouldn't jump on people normally for, but we've just had a President who looked right in the camera and lied to us and he was his Vice President for eight years and I think this really does rub off in doubts about him."


Bush proposed, Gore deposed and CBS helped out. Friday night Dan Rather loaded up his introduction to the Evening News campaign story with Al Gore's criticism of Bush's energy policy. Ending the subsequent report, Bill Whitaker noted how a Bush donor has been indicted for clean air violations.

    Rather declared: "It's 39 days to Election Day, and energy policy became a hot topic again today as an early frost overnight hit parts of the Northeast and the Midwest. In Michigan today, George Bush put out a plan that would allow oil drilling in a US wildlife refuge. Al Gore called it mostly a short-term fix, a long-term environmental threat and evidence, he said, of Bush's deep ties to big oil. CBS's Bill Whitaker looks past the rhetoric on both sides to their real substantive policy differences."

    But Whitaker only really looked at Bush. He began his September 29 piece by relaying Bush's charges: "With oil prices high and the election fast approaching, George W. Bush today blasted Vice President Al Gore as an environmental extremist without a clue and, most critically, part of an administration without a plan.

    Bush: "They have had seven and a half years to develop a sound energy policy. They have had every chance to avoid the situation that confronts us today."

    Whitaker elaborated: "Seeking to capitalize on consumers' oil anxiety, the Texas governor and former Texas oilman went to the upper Midwest to lay out his supply-side energy plan. He called for more money for low-income Americans to buy home heating oil and for a home heating oil reserve for the Northeast. He said he'd streamline regulations so industry would build more pipelines, refineries and boost electric production. And he said he'd work with our oil-producing allies to boost production. His most controversial proposal: to open up a portion of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. The spectacular, 19-million-acre preserve was put off limits to oil drilling by Congress two decades ago."
    Bush: "The Vice President says he would rather protect this refuge than gain the energy, but this is a false choice. We can do both, taking out energy and leaving only footprints."

    Whitaker turned to the other side: "Al Gore and running mate Joe Lieberman responded quickly."
    Gore: "I think we should protect our environmental treasures and, instead, focus on new kinds of energy sources."
    Joe Lieberman: "It's an old, but bad idea: allow big oil companies to drill for new oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Give me a break."

    Without a word about the Gore proposals, Whitaker concluded with a jab at Bush: "Meanwhile, a federal grand jury indicted one of Bush's major contributors for clean air violations. Koch Industries, which has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the GOP and Bush, was charged today with emitting hazardous benzene from one of its Texas oil refineries. The Bush campaign said if the company is found guilty, it should be punished."


Bush and Gore were held to unequal standards on education last week by ABC's Good Morning America. Inaugurating a series of separate interviews with Bush and Gore about just one subject, George W. Bush appeared on GMA last Monday to discuss education and on Friday the show talked about the same topic with Al Gore.

    But they didn't get the same standardized test, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed. Bush was pressed with multiple questions, and made to defend himself, while Gore was just asked
where he stands on certain issues, only having to defend himself on school vouchers. While Bush was pestered about not wanting to spend enough on education, the show did not make Gore address the expense of his education package.

    And having asked Bush, "Was school hard for you, any part of it?", four days later the show posed the same question to Gore.

    Here's how the two interviews unfolded, in date order:

    Diane Sawyer handled the September interview with George W. Bush on education:

    -- "There are a lot of people who think that it's going to take a revolution to fix the American public education system. Are you a revolutionary and is that what it's going to take?"
    -- Sawyer: "Vice President Gore has said from the ages of three and four to six, there should be universal preschool, and he's putting money on it. He's going to put $50 billion toward it."
    -- "Would universal preschool hurt? Because people say, 'Oh, if you've got the money, I mean how can it hurt three- and four-year-olds that extra education?'"
    -- "The Democratic campaign says that the tests should be voluntary and among the other questions that have been raised about testing in Texas, as you know, is that teachers end up teaching to a test, which doesn't necessarily translate in being able to go into college and do college work, and that you end up taking kids who are not going to do well and put them in special education, so that they don't count toward the final result."
    -- "But teachers have said in some schools that, yes, there is money being spent on consultants to help pass the test instead of on libraries."
    -- "Another big difference is if you do have one of these failing schools based on the testing, you have said that after three years you would give the parents $1,500 a year to spend on even private schooling if they want to. You don't call it vouchers."

    -- "What about the Gore campaign's proposal that after a certain amount of time, you bring in a whole new administration, but you keep the money inside the public education system."
    Bush replied: "But Gore has no accountability. First of all, there's no mandatory testing, so if there's no accountability and no measurement, that means there's going to be no consequence. And so to the extent we're spending federal money, we're going to say that, fine, if you can't meet standards -- you're given a period of time, a reasonable period of time -- something else must happen. I happen to think the best decision-maker at that point in time is going to be a parent."
    Sawyer: "Even if that money goes into a private school and out of the system?"

    -- Sawyer: "In Texas, you increased teacher salaries 33 percent, you reduced the size of rooms. A lot of things that you're not proposing nationally, and the Gore campaign, again, says they're giving money, a lot of money to teachers' salaries -- $8 billion over 10 years -- and that they're going to ensure that room sizes are smaller, and yet you're not doing something that worked in Texas."
    Governor Bush: "That's not a federal responsibility and it's just typical of focus group-type politics....I subscribe to helping schools with some federal funding -- as I said, I increase the budget by $47 billion -- but if this campaign comes down to who's going to promise to spend the most taxpayers' money at the federal level, I'm probably not going to win."
    Sawyer: "So his $115 billion, as opposed to your $47 billion."
    Bush: "He outspends me, but he outspends all across the board on every program."
    Sawyer: "And $47 billion is plenty?"

    -- Sawyer: "On a personal level, what did you learn about education that you are acting on now, when you were in school?"
    -- "Was school hard for you, any part of it?"
    -- "What was your hardest subject?"
    -- "Alright, so what's the hardest question that should be asked Al Gore about education?"
    Bush: "Why don't you hold people accountable for results?"

    At the end of the week on Friday, September 29, Jack Ford questioned Al Gore, but he got a lot fewer follow ups.

    -- "Do you think we're in the midst of an education recession in this country, as Governor Bush has suggested?"
    -- "There have been improvements made, and yet you look out there -- we have 30 percent of our students don't read at grade level, some three million students are trying to learn in buildings that are literally falling down around them, some 25 percent are in overcrowded classrooms, some are being forced to learn in trailers."
    -- "Give me a list of what the most important steps that President Gore would take immediately upon taking office to improve the quality of education in the United States."
    -- "Perhaps one of the most striking differences between Vice President Gore and Governor Bush is the issue of school vouchers, a coupon students can use to pay for private school. You have said, your words, 'I will never, ever support private school vouchers.' Why not?"
    -- "Even Senator Lieberman, and others in your party, such as Senator Bradley, have said in the past, 'Let's at least try the voucher system. Let's at least experiment with it. We can't lose anything by trying. Maybe it'll help.' Why not just try?"

    -- "There are some that would look at your position on vouchers and they'd say, your parents had the luxury of choice, deciding whether to send you to private school or public school. You had the luxury of choice with your children. Why then should a family with a child in a failing school not have that same luxury of choice?"
    -- "Governor Bush, in his proposal, has said that he would test every student every year, from grades three through eight, in order to establish some sense of accountability on the part of the schools. You would not do that. Why not?"
    -- "Looking back to your own school days, was there a particular area or a subject that you found was the most difficult for you to deal with as a student?"
    -- "Last question for you, and it's the same question we posed to Governor Bush, so I'm going to give you the same opportunity here. What do you think is the hardest question that should be posed to Governor Bush about his educational policies?"
    Gore: "I'd like to ask him why he won't consider supporting the proposal I've made to make college tuition mostly tax deductible up to $10,000 a year? Why not help middle class families with the burden of college tuition?"


As one of the hosts of MTV's Tuesday night Choose or Lose 2000 special with Al Gore, Time reporter Tamala Edwards held a microphone so audience members could pose questions, but she couldn't resist herself, pressing Al Gore to satisfy the demand for Hillary-style universal health care as soon as possible.

    The MRC's Tim Graham caught the exchange which began with student Sam Dobson asking on the September 26 broadcast: "I spent the last year studying in Spain, and something I noticed there is that every citizen has access to health care. And I got to thinking, that we're a superpower, and we're a world leader, why can't we do the same thing?"

    Gore then listed all the liberal health initiatives he would support: "I think we should. I think we should move step by step toward universal health care for all of our people. And there's a difference between the step-by-step approach and just trying to tear down what he have and start over from scratch. 85 percent of our people do have health insurance, and the majority of them like what they have. I think that means for one thing, we should build on some of the good things we have, the highest quality of health care in the world, and then reach out to the ones who do not have health insurance, and make sure they get it. I would start by giving every single child in America full health insurance within the next four years. And then the parents of those children, when the family is poor, or when the family income is up to two and a half times the poverty rate. I'd give business owners in the small business sector big tax credits to make it easier for them to give their employees health insurance. I think we need to help families that are dealing with long-term care. I think mental health care needs to be on an equal basis with other diseases, just because it's a behavioral disorder or rooted in the brain, instead of some other part of the body, that discrimination should not be allowed. I think that these are the kinds of steps that can get us to universal health insurance."

    Edwards jumped in and insisted: "But Mr. Vice President, a lot of these kids are working part-time jobs or creative fields, they're on their own, maybe married, so they don't have kids, ultimately getting covered themselves, and I think they wonder, how long before they get some coverage?"
    Gore: "Right. I know, and the big challenge is when you graduate, then right away, you're in the soup, and some kids are able to get riders on their parents' policies, but you know, many aren't, and that's not your best option. That's why the 25 percent tax credit for small business employers is important. That's why initiatives to beef up community health care services are important, and when we get large numbers of new people insured, then we'll be close enough to take those extra steps to go to universal health insurance."
    Edwards remained impatient: "How many years do you think we are away from universal?"
    Gore: "I think that it will happen within this decade."


Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer took up the issue of liberal media bias in his latest offering, serving up New York Times front page headlines on the campaign as his evidence.

    Here's an excerpt from his column as it ran in Friday's Washington Post:

When the subject of liberal bias in the media is brought up, particularly during an election campaign, journalists tend to roll their eyes and groan "there you go again" at this recrudescence of an old right-wing shibboleth. This pose, while convenient, was shaken by a famous Roper poll of 139 Washington bureau chiefs and correspondents. It found that in 1992 they had voted 89 percent for Clinton, 7 percent for Bush. Regular Americans had voted Clinton over Bush, 43 percent to 38 percent. The country went marginally for Clinton; the journalists went for him 13 to 1.

In other words, for every seven Bush voters among the American people, there were eight Clinton voters. But for every seven Bush voters in the Washington media, there were 89 for Clinton. Margins of victory that lopsided are rarely seen this side of Syria. Party registration numbers were just as impressively lopsided: 50 percent Democratic, 4 percent Republican.

The standard response is that these affiliations or predilections do not influence coverage. For some journalists with superhuman self-control, I'm sure this is true. Most journalists, alas, are not superhuman. Which is why the bias issue keeps recurring....

The most notorious example occurred in the New York Times. It has been widely cited...for its astonishing editorial decision to put on the front page a two-week-old story about the RATS commercial. On the other hand, the Times relegated Gore's concoction about his mother-in-law, arthritis medicine and his dog -- part of his anti-Big Pharm demagoguery -- to Page A18. And that story opens: "The Republicans continued a sharp assault yesterday on Vice President Al Gore..."

This is no isolated case. Here are the Times' Gore-Bush front-page headlines of the first two weeks of September:

Sept. 1: "Bush Approves New Attack Ad Mocking Gore; Democrats Say G.O.P. Has Turned Negative."

Sept. 2: "Bush Defends Ad That Assails Gore; Governor Maintains He's Only Engaging in Self-Defense."

Sept. 4: "Bush Adapts and Goes On the Attack." "A Confident Gore Sets Off on a Grand Tour." "Bush Puts Forth Alternative Plan for 3 TV Debates."

Sept. 5: "TV Networks Jilted By Bush; Won't Take Part in 2 Debates."

Sept. 6: "Bush Spells Out Major Overhaul in Medicare Plan."

Sept. 7: "Gore Offers Vision of Better Times For Middle Class." "G.O.P. Leaders Fret at Lapses in Bush's Race."

Sept. 8: "Bush Planning to See Voters, And to Be Seen."

Sept. 9: "A Populist Pitch Helps Gore Woo Back His Party's Base."

Sept. 11: "Gore Takes Tough Stand on Violent Entertainment."

Sept. 12: "Democrats See, and Smell, Rats in G.O.P. Ad."

Sept. 13: "Poll Shows Gore Overcoming Voter Concerns on Likability."

Sept. 14: "Bush Tax Cut Loses Appeal for Republicans in Congress."

It would take a mollusk to miss the pattern. Particularly striking is the front-page echo of the substance of a Gore charge (the RATS ad) vs. the front page portrayal of the "negativity" of Bush's charges....

My favorite is the headline of Sept. 7: "Gore Offers Vision of Better Times For Middle Class." It's the kind of headline Pravda used to run for Brezhnev's presidential campaigns.

Why is this important? Because the Times front page is the epicenter of the media echo chamber. It is the primary text for those who compose the evening news on the three networks. The night that the Times put the RATS commercial on page one, the story -- dormant for 15 days since first revealed on Fox News Network -- ran on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news. What are the odds?

The Times does not determine election results. If it did, we'd be looking back fondly on the Mondale and Dukakis administrations. But because it both reflects and affects general media coverage of campaigns, it matters. It tilts the playing field. This year, the angle is particularly steep.

    END Excerpt

    To read the whole column, go to:


Speaking of the survey cited by Charles Krauthammer in item #6 above, which found 89 percent of Capitol Hill correspondents and Washington bureau chiefs voted for Clinton in 1992, the man who oversaw the project for which the poll was commissioned has recommended that the public avoid the bias by relying on C-SPAN and the Internet for their news.

    "Does reporters' work reflect their personal biases?" read the headline over a September 28 op-ed in USA Today by Don Campbell, a former Gannett and USA Today reporter, editor and columnist.

    Campbell began by summarizing how an Editor & Publisher poll "found that 44 percent of regular newspaper readers perceive bias in news coverage. More than half of those who identified themselves as George W. Bush supporters said they detected bias, and four of five said the bias favored Gore. About three in 10 Gore supporters also said they detected bias, and more than a third of those agreed that the bias was in Gore's favor."

    For more on the E&P survey, go to:

    Campbell then lamented: "It's a subject that intrigues me because I bear some responsibility for giving credibility to the complaint that mainstream journalists are politically suspect."

    He explained: "In 1995, while directing a study by The Freedom Forum, a journalism foundation, of how the media cover Congress, I proposed some survey questions that would probe the political leanings of several groups important to the study, including journalists assigned to cover Congress.
    "The survey, conducted by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut, was a self-administered questionnaire sent to 323 Washington print and TV journalists identified as either congressional correspondents or bureau chiefs. The latter were included because they either covered Congress or made decisions about how their staffs covered it. This produced a sample of 139 respondents, with a margin of error of less than 3 percent."

    He ran through some of the discoveries: "The findings about political persuasion were these: 89 percent of the correspondents and bureau chiefs said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, 7 percent voted for President Bush, 2 percent for Ross Perot and 2 percent for 'other.'
    "Asked to place themselves on the political spectrum, the congressional journalists divided this way: 61 percent said liberal' or 'liberal to moderate,' 30 percent said 'moderate,' and 9 percent said 'moderate to conservative' or 'conservative.'"

    The exact number: Two percent said "conservative."

    Campbell recalled how "when our report was issued in 1996, conservative columnists and talk-show hosts spotted those numbers and went nuts. Everything else in this million-dollar piece of careful research virtually was ignored. So you can blame -- or credit -- me for confirming long-held suspicions about where Washington journalists are coming from."

    Campbell contended "that those convinced that they see political bias in mainstream reporting should act on their convictions." His suggestions:

    -- "First, stop reading the coverage. This brings instant gratification, even if it doesn't solve the larger problem.
    -- "If you want to confront the larger problem, organize your like-minded friends and take your complaints to the people who hire, fire and assign the political writers who offend you: editors. But don't go without solid evidence to support your grievances, whether it's a pattern of language or emphasis used by a reporter, or a carefully compiled summary of news space or headlines devoted to one candidate or another. Be prepared for a speech about how subtleties in the English language are subject to many interpretations.
    -- "While there, ask the editors whether their much-vaunted commitment to staff 'diversity' on race, gender, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation extends to political diversity in the newsroom. Watch them grimace.
    -- "Finally, after getting a respectful hearing and not much else, take the last step, one made exceedingly attractive by the rise of the Internet and the availability of C-SPAN: Cancel your subscription and tell everyone on the planet why you did it."

    Campbell concluded: "That's the marketplace at work. Even liberal Democrat editors understand that."

    To read the entire op-ed, go to:

    I especially like the third idea. By reading CyberAlert you're already following his fourth suggestion. -- Brent Baker


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