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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| 4:55 pm ET, Wednesday October 4, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 188) |

Only GMA Confronted Gore With Gaffes; Lehrer Scolded For "Pro-Life"; Gore "Most Positive I Have Seen"; Letterman Top Ten -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) Wednesday morning only ABC's Charles Gibson asked Gore about his make-believe Texas trip, while NBC's Tom Brokaw tripped himself up trying to question Bush's budget facts.

2) MRC Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check: "Tall-Tale Al Gets Ignored or Excused on TV; Only ABC Asked About Witt, and Stephanopoulos Found 'No Big, Big Lies or Grand Distortions.'"

3) Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales scolded debate moderator Jim Lehrer for using the phrase "pro-life," which he claimed no "reputable journalistic organization" would allow.

4) Tim Russert complimented Gore's debate demeanor. "When you look at the Al Gore of last night he was much more disciplined, much better behaved, if you will, in terms of staying on message and avoiding any kind of condescension or in any way being impolite to his opponent. Quite the contrary."

5) GMA's Antonio Mora seemed surprised that voters had a different take on the debate than the liberal media, whom he called "professional observers."

6) Actor Martin Sheen, who plays "President Josiah Bartlet" on NBC's The West Wing, is starring in a new anti-George Bush TV ad for Handgun Control, Inc. just as his show returns to NBC with a two-hour season premiere tonight.

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Ways To Make The Gore/Bush Debate More Exciting."


ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's The Early Show and NBC's Today all ran interviews with George W. Bush that were taped after last night's presidential debate, and all interviewed Al Gore live this morning. Most of the questions focused on the two candidates' personal reactions to the debate, not following up on the policy statements each made.

    By morning, a number of Gore misstatements had been discovered, but none of the interviewers raised them with the Vice President save ABC's Charles Gibson, who seemed to blame Republicans when he asked the Vice President: "They're already indicating that they're going to go after you today for, for revising history in ways, saying that you have questioned his [Bush's] qualifications in the past, not just his policies, and also questioning whether you actually went with James Lee Witt down to Texas to go to those fires in Parker?"

    Last night, Bush had answered a question about meeting unexpected challenges in office by relating how he visited regions of his state that had been devastated by fire. Although the discussion had moved on to intervention in financial markets, Gore re-visited the topic with this gratuitous pat on his own back: "I want to compliment the Governor on his response to those fires and floods in Texas. I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out. And FEMA has been a major flagship project of our reinventing government efforts. And I agree, it works extremely well now."

    That wasn't true, it turned out, but neither NBC nor CBS bothered to ask Gore about why he would go so far out of his way to make such a statement, although Today's Katie Couric twice asked Gore what Bill Clinton told him in a post-debate phone call.

    Today also showed an interview with Bush conducted by NBC's Tom Brokaw last night in Boston. Brokaw tried to challenge Bush's facts, but only showed his own lack of expertise with federal budget projections.

    "Almost everyone who's an authority in this area says that both you and the Vice President are way too optimistic when we talk about this $25 trillion surplus," Brokaw demanded. "That there is a very good possibility we'll never get to that number."

    Projections are for a $4 to $5 trillion surplus; $25 trillion is the total projected revenues for the next ten years, of which Bush wants to return $1.3 trillion to taxpayers. So Brokaw's right when he says "there is a very good possibility we'll never get to that number."


The text of the MRC's Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check report distributed by fax this afternoon. The MRC's Tim Graham compiled the issue titled, "Tall-Tale Al Gets Ignored or Excused on TV: Only ABC Asked About Witt, and Stephanopoulos Found 'No Big, Big Lies or Grand Distortions.'"

    "Gore's Vanishing Class Size Crisis" read the headline over the pull-out box quote:
    "I would not permit any students to stand. We have 2,480 students on a practically brand-new campus. In my opinion, it's one of the top high schools in the nation right now. We don't have any portable classrooms. All of our students are in regular classes and we have 900 computers, 600 Internet sites. We'd never allow a student to have to stand up during class." -- Sarasota, Florida principal Daniel Kennedy refuting Gore's tale of overcrowding to CNSNews.com.

    Now the text of the rest of the afternoon Media Reality Check for October 4:

Washington Post reporter John F. Harris claimed this morning that in the Bush-Gore debate, "Neither fulfilled the negative stereotypes about himself." But Harris hadn't heard of the Al Gore tall tales that emerged within 12 hours of the debate.

Gore's campaign admitted Gore did not travel to a Texas disaster area with Federal Emergency Management Agency head James Lee Witt as he boasted last night. The Gore camp didn't return calls for CNSNews.com's story that Gore was wrong about over crowding in a Sarasota, Florida school.

CBS's The Early Show and NBC's Today failed to raise these stories with Gore or anyone else this morning, although ABC's Charles Gibson asked Gore about Witt on Good Morning America. (The CBS News Election Unit noted the Witt tall tale last night in an "Accuracy Report Card" on CBS.com.)

Gibson blamed the Republicans for the emerging falsehood: "They're already indicating that they're going to go after you today for, for revising history in ways, saying that you have questioned his qualifications in the past, not just his policies, and also questioning whether you actually went with James Lee Witt down to Texas...?"

Gore looked away and mumbled: "Well, I was there in Texas. I think James Lee went to the same, went to the same, uh, fires, and I've made so many trips with James Lee to these disaster sites. I was there, in Texas, in Houston, with the head of the Texas Emergency Management folks, and with all of the Federal Emergency Management folks. If James Lee was there before, or after, then [shrugs shoulders], you know, I got that wrong then, but uh, it was basically a compliment to the way our FEMA team had handled things, and it was in the context of a compliment to the Governor for the way he handled it for the state of Texas."

Later, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos discussed the ABC "truth squad" on the debate. Despite Bush telling Gibson that Gore was wrong to claim Bush's tax cut would "spend" more on the top one percent of taxpayers than on health, prescription drugs, education, and national defense combined, Sawyer claimed, "We heard Governor Bush just say that Vice President Gore was right on the amount that he'd be spending for the richest Americans."

After Stephanopoulos explained how "the facts bear out Vice President Gore" on his claims against Bush's prescription drug plan, Sawyer asked: "Major issues about truth, then, from our truth squad?" Stephanopoulos claimed Gore's invented Texas story was no big deal: "Gore exaggerated a little bit. You saw him backtrack on whether or not he was really with James Lee Witt in Texas last night. He also misstated when he said that more than half of Bush's tax cut went to the top one percent in the country, when in fact, the Bush campaign came back and said it was about 44 percent, but there were no big, big lies, or grand distortions."

Exaggerated a little bit? How about made up out of whole cloth? How do you "backtrack" on an event that didn't happen?

    END Reprint of Media Reality Check


Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales scolded debate moderator Jim Lehrer for using the phrase "pro-life," which he claimed no "reputable journalistic organization" would allow.

    In his October 4 review of debate coverage, Shales was especially peeved that Jim Lehrer broke out of the media's politically correct paradigm on abortion: "Lehrer committed another blunder when he said to Bush, 'You're pro-life.' Generally, reputable journalistic organizations do not use this term to refer to those opposed to abortion. Would Lehrer have turned to Gore and said, 'You're anti-life'? He should know better."

    The liberal Shales also displayed disappointment with Gore: "Al Gore did 'win' in terms of points made and impression presented. He conveyed more stature, authority and poise than Bush and had a better grasp of a wider range of material. And yet he also, at times, came across as his own toughest opponent with his tendency toward hauteur, superciliousness and the condescending tone he sometimes uses when speaking to viewers. Someone should play Madonna's old song 'Papa Don't Preach' for Gore before each of his presidential appearances. He can be as prissy and bossy as a cranky granny."


Last night NBC's Tim Russert refrained from issuing broad assessments, but on this morning's Today show he called Gore's performance the "most positive" he has ever seen from the Vice President this year, and defended the Vice President's irritating interruptions and audible sighs, saying "that's just a tendency he has."

    Co-host Matt Lauer brought up the question of Gore's demeanor, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, telling Russert: "Pundits and voters, Tim, are gonna pick apart every little aspect of this from the clothing to the body language to what you heard. And what you heard a lot from Al Gore were these audible sighs. When George Bush, Governor Bush was talking. Was that a mistake for Al Gore? Does he have to be more careful of that in the next two debates?"

    Russert responded: "I do think so. He did the same thing in December with Bill Bradley. It's just a tendency he has. Some people interpret it as being condescending and almost being so much above his opponent. But when you look at the Al Gore of last night he was much more disciplined, much better behaved, if you will, in terms of staying on message and avoiding any kind of condescension or in any way being impolite to his opponent. Quite the contrary. It is the most positive I have seen Al Gore in any debate setting, certainly during this campaign debate cycle."

    If that's really the case, we'd hate to see Al Gore's dark side.


Good Morning America's news reader Antonio Mora noticed that the voters who were brought together for the media's focus groups didn't have the same reaction to the debate as did the network all-stars.

    In a conversation shortly before 8am with Mora and co-host Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer brought up that "you know, we've had a lot of people criticizing the press for leaning one way or the other in this campaign, and you were saying that you noticed a difference last night," she said, turning to Mora.

    Mora explained: "I noticed last night, as we were listening to all of the different pundits on different channels -- I was flipping around, don't tell Peter that -- but I noticed that everybody seemed to think that Al Gore had dominated the debate and had sort of been the stronger presence. And then you start listening to the focus groups, and it seemed as if they were hearing something different than what the professional observers were hearing. I found that very interesting."

    For his part, Gibson argued that "Antonio's right about the focus groups, but yet some of the instant polling last night also had people saying that Vice President Gore had won, so I don't know."

    Yes, it's certainly "interesting" that voters don't have the same pro-Gore sympathies that pundits like Stephanopoulos put on display last night, but it's even more interesting that a network personality would acknowledge that he and his colleagues are out of step with the public they claim to represent.


The season premiere of NBC's drama The West Wing airs tonight, Wednesday October 4, just days after actor Martin Sheen, who plays Democratic "President Josiah Bartlet," debuted in a new anti-George Bush TV ad produced by Handgun Control, Inc.

    In a September 28 Associated Press dispatch, Laura Meckler of the AP's Washington bureau, reported: "In a new TV ad, a pretend President weighs into a real-live campaign. And like his character, Martin Sheen is siding with the Democrats."

    She explained: "Handgun Control Inc. is spending about a half million dollars to air a new campaign commercial featuring Sheen talking about Republican George W. Bush's record on gun control."

    Sheen is in it for the political as Meckler learned he "donated his time" and "also made a second Handgun Control spot that does not mention any candidate."

    With an American flag as the backdrop, in the ad Sheen speaks into the camera and announces:
    "Hello, I'm Martin Sheen. Between now and election day at least 2,000 Americans will die from gunfire. Should the next President be the candidate of the gun lobby? Should he have signed a bill that allows hidden handguns in churches, hospitals and amusement parks? Should he be someone of whom the NRA has said, that if he is elected they'll be working right out of the Oval Office? That's Governor Bush's record."

    Sheen then directs viewers to this Web address:

    Mecker noted that "Sheen's commercial will air in Cleveland, Milwaukee and St. Louis, all large cities in states that are important to the presidential election." But I've seen, it in either local or national buys, on Washington, D.C. TV stations, including during Tuesday's The Early Show on CBS affiliate WUSA-TV.

    The West Wing will pick up tonight with the outcome of the season-ending shooting of the presidential party outside the Newseum. The two hour premiere will air at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT.

    For a RealPlayer video and a rundown of a plot line from near the end of the season, on how the show took a bizarre twist into very tolerant social liberalism with "President Bartlet" promising to help a prostitute gain admittance to the bar, yet in the same episode he fired an ambassador for having an affair, go to:

    For a summary of another liberal plot on an earlier and links to several other episodes with liberal themes, as well as one with an anti-liberal sub-theme, go to:


From the October 3 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways To Make The Gore/Bush Debate More Exciting." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc. Late Show Web page address:

10.Replace pitchers of water with pitchers of gin
9.Extra points awarded to candidate who gets in best "your mama is so fat..." joke
8.Large screen behind candidates shows baseball playoff game in progress
7.Two candidates, one suit
6 .When George W. Bush mispronounces a word, a Texas prisoner gives him an electric shock
5.The loser spends a week in boot camp for troubled teens
4. Candidate's answer must match what Charles Nelson Reilly wrote on his card
3.Give 'em a pair of nunchakus and let them settle it like men
2."Name the world leaders" is good, but strip "Name the world leaders" -- even better
1.Are you kidding -- it couldn't be more exciting

    And from the Late Show Web page, a few of the "Top Ten Extras," entries that didn't make the final cut:

-- Have them discuss real issues that matter, like what happened to the McDonald's McDLT?
-- After every correct answer, Gore gets to make out with Tipper
-- Have Gore say he invented the electric chair, watch Bush go nuts
-- Before every answer, candidates must take a big hit of helium

    At least that would give Gore something to do other than sigh and grunt. -- Brent Baker with morning show analysis by Rich Noyes


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