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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| 4:05 pm ET, Tuesday October 3, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 186) |

Bush Issued "Extreme Conservative" Warning; Bush Put "Tax Cuts Before Tots"; Lehrer Follows Liberal Pack and Helped CDF -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) George Bush needs to "make sure he doesn't get cornered as too much of an extreme conservative on issues like a woman's right to choose or gun control," George Stephanopoulos lectured on today's GMA. On Nightline Jackie Judd saw abortion cutting for Gore.

2) Time magazine blasted Bush's Texas record: "Tax Cuts Before Tots." On the day of the debate a front page headline in the Los Angeles Times declared: "Felons Get Concealed Gun Licenses Under Bush's 'Tough' Law."

3) Media Reality Check: "Debate Moderator Is Not Bryant Gumbel, But His Journalism Has Historically Followed the Liberal Pack." In 1989 he attended a fundraiser for the liberal Children's Defense Fund, then-chaired by Hillary Rodham Clinton.


This morning on ABC's Good Morning America, ex-Clintonista turned ABC News analyst George Stephanopoulos warned that George W. Bush might turn off voters if he takes what Stephanopoulos considers "extreme conservative" positions, but Stephanopoulos did not see any danger of "extreme liberal" positions for Al Gore.

    MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this exchange from the October 3 show:
    Diane Sawyer: "George Bush, who has he got to imagine on the other side of the screen? Is it women?"
    Stephanopoulos: "Yeah, it's those same people that were watching Oprah and Regis a couple weeks ago, Diane. He's still got a big problem with women voters, 18 points behind Al Gore. So what does he have to do? Be his warm, engaging -- show his warm, engaging personality, but also make sure he doesn't get cornered as too much of an extreme conservative on issues like a woman's right to choose or gun control, and that's what Al Gore will be trying to do to him."

    Last night on Nightline, though most actually oppose partial-birth abortion, Jackie Judd asserted Gore is in "in sync" with most voters on abortion. Referring to the new Supreme Court term, she examined:
    "Which party most benefits from the Court as a political issue in this election? Abortion is the subject most closely identified with the Supreme Court. Bush's position appeals to already faithful conservative Republicans. According to polls, Gore's views are in sync with the majority of Americans. So for voters who care more about the Court than anything else, Gore may be helped more than Bush."


Just in time for the first debate Time magazine and the Los Angeles Times delivered stories castigating Bush's record in Texas.

    -- "Tax Cuts Before Tots" announced the headline over an October 9 Time story by Michael Weisskopf. The subhead: "Candidate Bush is pushing his compassion, but poor kids in Texas have not seen much of it."

    In a sidebar box under the heading "Bush and Poor Kids," Time asserted: "He helped secure tax cuts by underfunding Medicaid, causing a $400 million shortfall in the program."

    The story is not on Time's Web site but you can read it on pages 57-58 of the actual magazine.

    -- "Felons Get Concealed Gun Licenses Under Bush's 'Tough' Law," declared a front page headline in today's Los Angeles Times to which MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey alerted me. The subhead over the story by reporters William C. Rempel and Richard A. Serrano: "Texas governor vowed a system of 'rigorous background checks.' A Times study finds that the screening process has shortcomings. Bush advisor calls the program a success."

    The story began:

AUSTIN, Texas -- In 1995, four months into his first term as governor, George W. Bush signed a bill ending a 125-year ban on concealed handguns in Texas. The new law, he vowed, would make the state "a safer place," and he promised Texans that license applicants would undergo rigorous background checks.

But since the law took effect, the state has licensed hundreds of people with prior criminal convictions--including rape and armed robbery -- and histories of violence, psychological disorders and drug or alcohol problems, a Times investigation has found.

James W. Washington got a license to carry a concealed weapon despite having done prison time in Texas for armed robbery. So did Terry Ross Gist, who left a trail of threats and violence in court records from North Carolina to California. A license also went to an elderly Dallas man with Alzheimer's disease. 

Still others committed crimes, ranging from double murder to drunk driving, after they were licensed. A frustrated commuter, Paul W. Lueders, shot and severely wounded a Houston bus driver. Audi Phong Nguyen ran with a Houston home invasion ring. Diane Brown James helped her husband kidnap a San Antonio woman to be their sex slave.

    END Excerpt

    To read the lengthy article in full, go to:


The latest Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check, distributed via fax this afternoon and titled, "Stop the Church of Saint James Lehrer: Debate Moderator Is Not Bryant Gumbel, But His Journalism Has Historically Followed the Liberal Pack."

    Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis at the MRC, recalled what Lehrer was up to in 1989. The Media Reality Check pull-out box is headlined: "Jim Lehrer's Not a Political Monk." The proof:
    "Lehrer claimed he hasn't voted since 1964. But on November 30, 1989, Lehrer joined CBS's Ed Bradley, NBC's Jane Pauley, and NPR's Susan Stamberg at a $300-a-ticket fundraiser for the liberal Children's Defense Fund, chaired at the time by Hillary Rodham Clinton."

    Now to the text of the October 3 Media Reality Check:

Jim Lehrer's regular post as moderator of presidential debates is spurring a round of hosannas over his objectivity. "I really don't have any politics...I never take a stand," Lehrer claimed to the Boston Globe. This morning on Today, NBC's Bob Kur cooed: "Low-key, but above all, considered fair and impartial, his style since he started at a Dallas public TV station more than 30 years ago." Lehrer does have a "quiet, self-effacing style," as NBC reported. He is not Bryant Gumbel. But his journalism has historically followed the liberal pack.

-- Watergate, for PBS, was a war against Richard Nixon, who threatened their funding. As Robert MacNeil explained, "It reached a point where I felt obliged to throw off my own objectivity and resist. It became my personal corner of Watergate." PBS aired the Watergate hearings during the day, and then repeated them at night. Lehrer later rejoiced in how the hearings were "a terrific hit" for PBS, and "as justice, it was pure delicious. We were being bailed out by the sins of a President who was trying to do us in. He and his minions were so distracted with the crumbling of his presidency that the plan to crumble us was abandoned and forgotten."

Lehrer thanked Watergate for leading to the MacNeil-Lehrer Report, later the NewsHour: "Thank you, Nixon. Thank you, Liddy and Hunt, Dean and Colson, Haldeman and Ehrlichman. We could not have done it without you."

-- Monica Madness. On January 29, 1998, Lehrer devoted most of his NewsHour to the media's "rush to judgment" on the Lewinsky story. Anchor Elizabeth Farnsworth asked a focus group, "Have the media gone overboard or have they done a fairly good job?" Most said overdone. Then anchor Phil Ponce talked to media insiders: Newsweek's Richard Smith, CNN's Frank Sesno, former CBS reporter Marvin Kalb, and academic Kathleen Hall Jamieson. All agreed with Kalb that "This is a very sorry chapter in American journalism." That didn't mean journalists were sorry they had never cared about Clinton's lying; it meant they were sorry this story arrived.

-- Anita vs. Juanita. On October 7, 1991, just hours after NPR's Nina Totenberg leaked Anita Hill's unsubstantiated charges against Clarence Thomas, Lehrer began without a hint of distaste or revulsion: "Our lead story is the sexual harassment charges against Clarence Thomas. We have excerpts from the press conference by his accuser, Anita Hill." In case giving that unedited platform to Hill wasn't enough, Lehrer's show also aired two debate segments.

But on February 19, 1999, Lehrer announced he would touch the allegations of Juanita Broaddrick that she'd been raped by Bill Clinton, but only as a media story: "We are part of this process, we made the very clean editorial decision not to do this story, but we are talking about it tonight in a media context, because it is media news."

At a March 19, 1999 press conference, ABC's Sam Donaldson and reporter Jan Smith asked Clinton about Broaddrick and his tendency to lie. Lehrer complained: "Most of those questions, we were just listening to them again in our excerpt, they all began with a lecture before they got to the question. And that seems to be, you have to do it, right?" Reporter Terence Smith agreed: "Jan Smith even citing George Washington and swearing to tell the truth. Sure, reporters show off in situations like this." Despite his boasts, Lehrer (and by extension, PBS) are not the very definition of objectivity, and neither are Lehrer's media promoters.

    END Reprint of Media Reality Check

    If I don't fall asleep first, I'll be back in the early morning hours with a post-debate CyberAlert report. -- Brent Baker


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