Standing Student Tale Skipped; ABC & NBC Ruled Gore Right on Bush Tax Cut Skew; Jennings Upset Tax Cut Means Less for Government
-- Extra Edition
1) Post-debate analysis and reaction topped all the networks
Wednesday night. Only CBS cited overnight poll results showing little change
in candidate preference.
2) ABC, CBS and CNN on Wednesday night ignored Gore's
fabrication about a Florida high school girl who because of overcrowding must
stand in class. Only NBC and FNC corrected Gore on it. All the networks took
note of Gore's false claim that he once accompanied FEMA chief James Lee
Witt to a fire scene in Texas.
3) Fact-checking for the fact checkers? ABC and NBC ruled as
accurate Gore's claim that Bush would "spend" more money for a tax
cut for the top one percent than on all other programs. CNN and FNC found it
inaccurate. NBC's Lisa Myers noted how Gore was "misleading" in
"seeming to minimize his new spending plans." NBC and FNC cited
Bush's inconsistency on RU-486.
4) Peter Jennings on what Bush's tax cut would really mean:
"A very large chunk of money not available for government programs."
5) CNN's Jeff Greenfield again contended Bush might have
been "hurt" by bringing up Gore's fundraising scandals, but the
Washington Post's David Broder found no such problem amongst people in a
focus group. They were upset with a Gore line.
6) ABC found undecided voters "overwhelmed by the
numbers" and urging the candidates to "keep it simple" next
time. The Bush and Gore proposals were "too complicated to
understand" for a group profiled by CBS's Phil Jones.
7) Treading where the network news divisions won't, ABC's
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? asked who urged "eliminating the internal
combustion engine?" Regis Philbin: "Yes! It was Al Gore."
debate spin, fact-checking and reaction from undecided potential voters
led all the evening shows Wednesday night on both the broadcast and cable
networks. ABC, CBS and NBC all went to their Bush and Gore correspondents
for brief updates on reactions from their respective candidates, but none
said anything very interesting so in the interest of time and space I'm
skipping those stories to concentrate on which mistakes by the candidates
the networks picked up on and inconsistency among the networks in ruling
Gore's attack on Bush's tax claim as true or false.
But first, to give you a flavor of the network spin,
here's how ABC, CBS and NBC opened Wednesday night, October 4:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
announced: "We begin with last night's presidential debate and its
fallout. Fewer than 50 million people appear to have watched. That may
turn out to be the fewest number ever. Who won, who lost, what will it
mean in the days ahead? Today, because the race is so close, no rest for
the weary, the candidates are both back on the campaign trail trying to
take advantage of the very real differences apparent between them last
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather declared: "It
was billed as the first great televised debate between George Bush and Al
Gore. Whatever you make of the style and substance of last night's
face-off, fairly or unfairly, not many are calling it great. And overnight
polls, including CBS's, show the same thing. The overall presidential
race is still close because few minds appear to have been changed. Polls
that will be coming out in a few days may give us a better read on all
this. Tonight we're going to take you beyond the spin doctors, who
provide managed care for the candidates, and get to the facts and
Of the broadcast networks only CBS cited poll
results. As Rather referred to CBS's overnight poll viewers saw an
on-screen graphic showing Gore moved from a 47 to 42 percent lead before
the debate to a 50 to 42 percent lead afterward.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the
broadcast: "It was one of the smallest television audiences ever for
a presidential debate and neither candidate moved a lot of undecided
networks took note Wednesday night of Al Gore's false claim that he once
accompanied FEMA chief James Lee Witt to a fire scene in Texas, but ABC,
CBS and CNN ignored Gore's fabrication about a Florida high school girl
who, supposedly because of overcrowding, must stand in class. Only NBC and
FNC informed viewers of the baseless tale.
CNN's Candy Crowley, on both Inside Politics and
The World Today, mentioned the fire trip error.
Terry Moran acknowledged on ABC's World News
Tonight that Al Gore "had to concede that he's never been in Texas
with James Lee Witt, the Federal Emergency Management administrator,
because he hasn't. He also made a half concession to his answer to the
first question, when he said he'd never questioned Governor Bush's
experience when he has, a lot. He said he meant his personal experience
rather than his political experience."
Though Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson
was the only morning host to have asked Gore about the fire trip
fabrication, ABC's own World News Tonight did not play a clip from the
exchange of Gore admitting his false statement. But the ABC morning show
did get credit on the CBS and NBC evening shows which both featured a clip
from Gore on GMA.
On the CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer hit both
candidates as equally guilty: "Both occasionally fudged facts. Bush
incorrectly claimed Gore's primary campaign cost more than his. When
Bush brought up these fires that swept South Texas, Gore recalled going
there with the federal emergency management chief."
accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out."
"Today Gore said maybe not."
Viewers then saw a
clip from ABC's Good Morning America.
In an NBC Nightly News segment, dubbed as from
"The Truth Squad," Lisa Myers delivered the most comprehensive
and wide-ranging examination of flubs by both candidates. As transcribed
by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, she began with two Gore whoppers:
candidates took liberties with the truth, Al Gore seems most on the
defensive today, accused by Republicans of embellishing. First his claim
to have gone to the scene of devastating fires in Texas with the head of
the federal emergency response team."
Al Gore in the
debate: "I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires
Gore admits this morning that wasn't quite right. He flew over the fires
and met with local officials but didn't actually go with Witt."
Gore on ABC's Good
Morning America: "If James Lee was there before or after then, you
know, I got that wrong then."
challenged, Gore's dramatic story about the need for more money for
school construction, describing a letter from a father in Sarasota,
Florida, whose fifteen-year-old daughter has to stand in class."
Gore in debate:
"She is the thirty-sixth student in that classroom, sent me a picture
of her in the classroom. They can't squeeze another desk in for her so
she has to stand during class."
the Sarasota superintendent says Gore's right about overcrowding but
wrong about the student. She did have to stand but only for one day."
Sarasota, Florida, School Superintendent: "On her first day in
science, she did stand in the back, and the second day when the custodians
were made aware that another desk was needed, one was moved in, and it was
available to her."
(Item #3 below includes more from the remainder of
the Myers story.)
FNC's James Rosen also took up both of those Gore
gaffes, reporting them on Special Report with Brit Hume and the Fox
Report. On Hume's show he asserted, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad
Wilmouth: "Vice President Gore also recalled visiting wildfires in
rural Texas in 1996. In fact, Gore's so called visit came two years
later when fires ravaged the same area, and his visit consisted of an
airport hangar briefing which Gore sandwiched between two fundraisers.
Gore's failure to acknowledge error on the fires drew immediate fire
George W. Bush:
"You know, I took the man for his word. Of course, it turns out he
didn't. This man has got a record of, you know, of sometimes
exaggerating in order to make a point."
"Finally, Gore flunked his description of classroom conditions facing
Florida school girl Kailey Ellis."
can't squeeze another desk in for her, so she has to stand during
local school board, however, says Kailey came into the class a few days
after it started and only had to stand for that first day."
Sarasota County School Superintendent: "I think not all of the facts
surrounding the incident that Vice President Gore was referring to had
been given to him, unfortunately, and there was a bit of
For more on the situation as related by the school
principal to CNSNews.com reporter Jim Burns, go to:
fact-checking, of Gore's claim that Bush would "spend" more
money for a tax cut for the top one percent than on all other programs
combined, needs a little fact-checking itself as the networks contradicted
each other. Wednesday night ABC and NBC ruled Gore accurate, but FNC and
CNN cited sources which found Gore inaccurate.
ABC's Betsy Stark also took Bush to task for his
claim that 50 million are excluded from Gore's tax cut plan, but she
noted it's more than the only three or four million claimed by Gore. As
did FNC's James Rosen, NBC's Lisa Myers highlighted Bush's flip-flop
on RU-486, but she also uniquely pointed how "Gore appears to have
been misleading about his own priorities, seeming to minimize his new
First, a look at the varying assessments of Gore's
blast at Bush's tax plan.
-- "Ten times he said it favors the wealthiest
one percent," Betsy Stark noted on ABC's World News Tonight of Gore
before playing this debate soundbite: "He spends more money for tax
cuts for the wealthiest one percent than all of his new spending proposals
for health care, prescription drugs, education and national defense all
Stark backed him up:
"Gore's claim does seem to hold up if you count what the wealthy
get back from Bush's cut in estate taxes along with his cut in income
taxes. But the Bush camp calls it a misleading argument. The reason the
wealthy get such a big chunk back, they say, is because they paid so much
more in the first place."
It's not only that "they say" it, it is
also accurate, but Stark failed to give any numbers to convey how a
minuscule percent of the population pays a huge hunk of all income taxes
-- NBC's Lisa Myers, picking up her story after
recounting Gore's fire trip and crowded classroom tales, asserted:
"Beyond today's controversy, questions tonight about each
candidate's truthfulness, about their economic priorities and using the
spends more money on a tax cut for the wealthiest one percent than all of
his new proposals for prescription drugs, health care, education, and
national defense combined."
George W. Bush:
"I wanna say something, Jim, wait a minute. This man has been
disparaging my plan with all this Washington fuzzy math."
Myers sided with
Gore and used an unlabeled liberal as her source: "But most experts
say Gore's math isn't fuzzy. Though estimates vary, Bush does give the
wealthiest one percent, those making more than $300,000, a huge tax
Citizens for Tax Justice: "Gore got the numbers right. Bush didn't
really challenge him. He just said, 'I think those people deserve a tax
-- FNC's James Rosen delivered the opposite
assessment on Special Report with Brit Hume. He suggested Gore
"flirted with falsehood."
Viewers saw the
usual Gore clip: "He spends more money for tax cuts for the
wealthiest one percent than all of his new spending proposals for health
care, prescription drugs, education and national defense all
countered: "Former Senate staffer Carol Wait crunches numbers for the
bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget."
"The wealthiest one percent are estimated to get just about $300
billion in tax cuts under the governor's proposal. He proposes to spend
just about one and a half times that much on those programs."
-- CNN's The World Today. Brooks Jackson used a
different Gore soundbite, but like FNC's Rosen, he found Gore, not Bush,
the inaccurate one on the size of Bush's tax cut. CNN viewers saw Gore
assert: "Almost half of all the tax cut benefits, as I said, under
Governor Bush's plan go to the wealthiest one percent."
"Almost half? That's an exaggeration. When Bush's plan is fully
phased in 43 percent of the benefits, well under half, would go to the top
one percent. And that's according to the liberal Citizens for Tax
Justice. The bipartisan Joint Tax Committee of Congress says 51 percent of
the benefits would go to those making over $100,00 a year, but they make
up much more than one percent of the population."
-- Other areas. Jackson, Stark, Myers & Rosen,
the reporters not the law firm, also corrected the candidates in other
areas. CNN's Jackson maintained that Bush was "misleading"
when he claimed that under his plan the wealthy will pay a higher
percentage of all taxes collected.
ABC's Betsy Stark declared: "Both candidates
are exaggerating, though it's hard to say how much. The Gore camp says
only three to four million Americans, those making more than $120,000 a
year, are ineligible for the Vice President's tax breaks, not the $50
million Governor Bush alleges. But analysts say millions more could be
excluded. Gore's tax breaks for child care, elder care, education and
retirement savings clearly favor families with children over single
people, couples without children and retirees."
NBC's Lisa Myers followed up her assessment, that
Gore got it correct about how Bush's tax cut favors the wealthy, by
taking on a Gore claim: "Gore appears to have been misleading about
his own priorities, seeming to minimize his new spending plans."
every dollar that I propose in spending for things like education and
health care, I will put another dollar into middle class tax cuts."
"According to an independent analysis, that's not true. It finds
that for every dollar Gore devotes to tax cuts, he proposes more than
three dollars in new spending, some $1.4 trillion."
Carol Cox Wait,
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: "It is the largest
expansion of government since the Great Society program and LBJ."
not true, this Gore statement:"
Gore: "I have
actually not questioned Governor Bush's experience. I have questioned
fact, Gore and his aides repeatedly questioned Bush's qualifications,
Gore himself asking, 'Does he have the experience to be
She also nailed Bush on another assertion: "As
for Bush, he seemed to flip-flop on a hot-button issue: Would he try to
overturn the FDA's approval of the abortion pill RU-486?"
Bush: "I think
once the decision has been made it's been made, now unless it's proven
to be unsafe to women."
last January Bush said, 'I would be inclined not to accept that ruling
by the FDA. That's abortion.'"
Myers concluded: "In ninety minutes, both
candidates managed to oversimplify and mislead, and with two presidential
debates to go, both campaigns hope that someone's misstep or
exaggeration could tip the election."
FNC's James Rosen found Bush almost as bad as
Gore: "For his part, Governor Bush proved only slightly less
factually challenged than his opponent."
Bush: "This man
has outspent me-"
Election Committee figures show that as of September 1, including the
primaries, Bush's campaign has outspent Gore's by more than $45
million, almost two to one. Then Bush was asked if he'd seek to overturn
the Food and Drug Administration's recent ruling legalizing the so
called abortion pill RU-486."
don't, I don't think a President can unilaterally overturn it. I think
the FDA's made its decision."
fact, says George Washington University Law Professor John Banzhaf, the
FDA is an agency wholly within the Department of Health and Human
Services, and the Commissioner of the FDA is appointed by and serves
solely at the pleasure of the President."
line to Peter Jennings on tax cuts: "A very large chunk of money
not available for government programs."
On the October 4 World News Tonight Jennings described the
"philosophical" differences between Gore and Bush displayed
in two topic areas during the debate.
Jennings explained: "On prescription drugs
and Medicare, Al Gore says the government will help to pay for
everyone's prescription drugs, universal coverage, whatever their
income, which means a very large price tag for government. George Bush
wants the government to help those who can least afford it, except in
the case of a catastrophic illness.
it's the other way around. Mr. Bush believes in a universal tax cut,
which would mean a very large chunk of money not available for
government programs. Mr. Gore believes that those who make the most
money do not need to get as much back."
Jennings clearly believes all the money belongs
to the government.
as he complained after the debate Tuesday night, on Wednesday's
Inside Politics CNN's Jeff Greenfield again contended Bush might
have been "hurt" by bringing up Gore's fundraising
scandals. But this time Washington Post reporter/columnist David
Broder found the evidence lacking for Greenfield's concern as people
in a focus group were upset at Gore.
Greenfield argued: "The one time when I
thought somebody did something that might have hurt, and I'd be
curious whether David's focus group thought so, was when Bush said
'yeah I was disappointed in the fundraising and I've got a
question about how Al Gore handled that,' because we've been
hearing that one of the things that voters are least interested in is
any sign of negativity, even if it's a criticism of public behavior.
And I wondered whether that comment of Bush got a thumbs down from
From Florida, where he sat in with a group of
undecided voters, Broder found Greenfield off base: "It did not
Jeff. The only thing that they commented on negatively was the
frequency with which Al Gore repeated that wonderful phrase, 'the
wealthiest one percent of the American people.'"
voters are really too stupid to figure anything out on their own and
to lazy to try. ABC's John Cochran and CBS's Phil Jones didn't
say that, but it's the inevitable conclusion to draw from their
summaries of focus groups of undecided voters gathered by each
ABC's John Cochran traveled to Allentown,
Pennsylvania where he found a group which was "confused." In
between soundbites from the citizens he described them as
"overwhelmed by the numbers, especially those from Al Gore"
and unable to comprehend the Medicare arguments. He concluded:
"From all these Pennsylvania holdouts, advice for the next
debate: Keep it simple."
For the CBS Evening News Phil Jones sat in with
a focus group in St. Louis where he found: "The people in our
focus group were turned off by what they thought was Gore's
aggressive debate style," though "many of these voters were
also upset by Governor Bush's repetition of Clinton-Gore having had
their chance." Jones concluded: "For a small group of
frustrated undecided voters, their proposals appear to be too
complicated to understand and time is running out. There are only five
weeks and two debates left."
Five weeks, five months, five years. It won't
make any difference with these people. They'll never figure it out.
potential voters probably don't watch TV news, but if they watch
ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? they learned something not even
dedicated network news watchers would have seen this campaign season.
Just a half hour before the debate began,
eastern and central time zone viewers of ABC's quiz show heard host
Regis Philbin pose this $32,000 question to contestant Susan LaRose of
1992 book, Earth in the Balance, what politician proposes eliminating
the internal combustion engine?"
The possible answers:
A: Ralph Nader
B: Jerry Brown
C: Al Gore
D: Tom Hayden
LaRose was clueless, so she employed her last
"lifeline," the 50-50, to narrow her choices. She was left
with Nader or Gore. Philbin commented: "Eliminating the internal
combustion engine. It's quite a proposal."
A long pause ensued and LaRose joked about how
she should have listened to Philbin and not used her other
"lifelines" on some earlier questions.
But she eventually took a stab and correctly
guessed "C, Gore."
Philbin exclaimed: "Yes! It was Al
LaRose soon met her demise, stopping the game at
the $125,000 question about which Columbus ship did not return to
+++ Watch the ABC quiz show question session
about the proposal in Gore's book. Today MRC Webmaster Andy Szul
will post a RealPlayer clip. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
To view other recent clips we've posted,
including two of ABC debate coverage, go to:
Maybe there's a secret Bush "mole"
on the writing staff of the ABC show. -- Brent Baker
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