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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday October 6, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 191) |

Moderator Shaw's Agenda; Rather Raved Over Debate Tone; Cheney Bested Bush; Winnie Doesn't Need to Collect Cans to Pay For Drugs -- Extra Edition

1) VP debate moderator Bernard Shaw of CNN did not press the nominees from the right but did pose several questions from the left, including a liberal canard about unequal pay for women. He oddly propounded: "Imagine yourself an African-American."

2) Dan Rather raved over the tone of the debate, describing it as "the best vice presidential joint appearance" in "the television era." Viewers were also treated to a Ratherism: "He looked at him like he was a hitchhiker with pets."

3) ABC's George Stephanopoulos called it "a model debate." ABC, CBS and NBC analysts praised both candidates, but Cheney got more nods for gaining the most. Tom Brokaw noted how Cheney and Lieberman "articulated the positions of their campaigns more effectively than did the tops of the ticket."

4) By 43 to 24 percent voters surveyed by ABC News picked Cheney as the winner over Lieberman with 27 percent calling it a tie.

5) Sam Donaldson did not join the media pack thrilled about the civil tone. He wondered "where were the sharp differences?" Why were the candidates so timid? Donaldson seemed to blame the media for demanding candidates not be "mean."

6) NBC hit Cheney for not including "payroll taxes" when he claimed the Bush tax cut would cut taxes for everyone who pays taxes, though obviously he meant income taxes.

7) CNN gave former Senator Alan Simpson time to recall how Al Gore in 1991 based his decision, on whether to vote for against the Gulf War, on how much TV time he would be allowed.

8) FNC's Brit Hume learned Winnie Skinner, the 'can lady,' is "not in such dire straits as Mr. Gore's words might have suggested." FNC located her son and determined she "could can the can routine if she wanted" but has turned down her son's offers of help.


Vice presidential debate moderator Bernard Shaw displayed more liberal bias during the debate, in the liberal agenda of his questions about gender pay, gay rights and how Social Security is sacrosanct, than the networks did afterward.

    In an AP story distributed before the debate, CNN anchor Shaw promised: "I'm an old-fashioned journalist who believes in being fair, balanced and accurate, and those principles color everything I do." But as debate moderator Shaw posed no explicitly conservative agenda questions while he posed at least three questions explicitly from the left, plus an inquiry with the odd premise of making Cheney and Lieberman imagine they were black. Specifically:

    -- Just 15 minutes into the 90-minute session Shaw forwarded as fact a liberal canard: "Gentlemen, this is the 21st century. Yet on average an American working woman in our great nation earns 75 cents for each dollar earned by a working male. What do you males propose to do about it?"

    (The Independent Women's Forum published a study last year documenting how women with equal years in the work force and comparable qualifications as men make 98 percent as much. To read "Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America" by Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba, go to: http://www.iwf.org/pubs/figures.shtml)

    -- "We all know Social Security is the backbone of the retirement system in our nation. Can either of you pledge tonight, categorically, that no one will lose benefits under your plans?"

    -- "Senator, sexual orientation. Should a male who loves a male and a female who loves a female have all, all the constitutional rights enjoyed by every American citizen?"

    At another point he formulated a very odd premise for a question: "Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman: You are black for this question. Imagine yourself an African-American. You become the target of racial profiling either while walking or driving. African-American Joseph Lieberman, what would you do about it?"

    When he did raise a Clinton-Gore policy failure he offered Lieberman cover by including Republican administrations in his question: "Senator Lieberman, this question is to you. Many experts are forecasting continuing chaotic oil price on the world market. Wholesale natural gas prices here in our country are leaping. Then there are coal and electricity. Have previous Republican and Democratic Congresses and administrations -- including this one -- done their job to protect the American people?"

    He did do a balanced job in raising the hypocrisy charge against each nominee. To Cheney: "Your congressional record. You sponsored a bill that said no to oil and gas exploration in Wyoming wilderness areas, your own state. However, you co-sponsored a bill that said yes to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Your explanation?"

    Later he set up Cheney: "Have you noticed a contradiction or hypocritical shift by your opponent on positions and issues since he was nominated?"


The CBS News team, led by Dan Rather, was ecstatic about the tone of Cheney-Lieberman VP debate. "Give it a rave," exclaimed Dan Rather immediately after it ended Thursday night. He argued: "This may well go down as the best vice presidential joint appearance on television since the television era in presidential and vice presidential campaigns began." Phil Jones gushed that it was "probably the best vice presidential discussion that we've had so far in the history of these discussions."

    Bob Schieffer suggested Gore and Bush could learn a lot from their VPs since "these two men talked in ways that people could understand."

    Rather delivered a fresh Ratherism during his post-debate analysis. He suggested that at one point Cheney looked at Lieberman "like he was a hitchhiker with pets."

    Picking up on Rather's post-debate remarks quoted in the first paragraph above, he continued his gushing:
    "Give it a rave. This may well go down as the best vice presidential joint appearance on television since the television era in presidential and vice presidential campaigns began. Some people may not call it exactly lively and some may want to say, well for long stretches it should have carried a warning, 'do not listen while driving or operating heavy machinery.' But this was a civil, intelligent, informative discussion of the issues by two candidates for Vice President. Both of them showed how well experienced they are, what decent and moderate people they are. They sparred, but they did it politely. It may have been a little short on style. It did have, however, more substance than the first Bush-Gore joint appearance, at least in my judgment that may be the conclusion of a lot of people."

    Bob Schieffer saw the VP candidates as a model: "The thing that I come away from this is I hope that their bosses -- Al Gore and George Bush -- were watching tonight because I think both of them could learn a great deal from their running mates. This was not a case of people who seemed to be trying to work in soundbites that they had memorized, but two men who have been dealing with these issues for a long, long time and seemed to be able to get to the second and third paragraph on these issues...."
    "These two men talked in ways that people could understand. Whatever you thought of their positions on the issues, at least you come away thinking they have a good grasp of it and that they knew what they were talking about and this was not the first week that they had been required to state what they thought about these issues. I also think they did it in very good humor. These are a couple of fairly spontaneous fellows and I think we saw that tonight and I found it a very enjoyable evening."

    Rather then chipped in: "Well the humor came, what about three-quarters the way through? Joe Lieberman, Senator Lieberman, used the phrase 'big time.' Cheney shot him back a look as if to say, looked at him like he was a hitchhiker with pets. He didn't like it at all."

    From Danville, reporter Phil Jones was even more enthused than Rather: "You said that this was probably the best vice presidential discussion that we've had so far in the history of these discussions, or debates. I think you could probably go on to say it may be one of the best presidential kind of debates too because I think both of these people needed tonight to look like they deserved to be a heartbeat away from the presidency and I think they both accomplished that."


The VP debate impressed ABC's George Stephanopoulos almost as much as it did Dan Rather. Stephanopoulos predicted: "This debate is going to be played in college debate classes for years as a model debate. Both candidates were solid and substantive and funny."

    ABC, CBS and NBC analysts all praised both candidates, as NBC's Tim Russert referred to them as "two class acts," but Cheney got more nods for gaining the most. Tom Brokaw went so far on NBC as to ruminate about how "there is no clause in the Constitution to allow us to flip the ticket." Brokaw also noted how "they articulated the positions of their campaigns more effectively than did the tops of the ticket" at the first debate.

    -- ABC News. Dean Reynolds, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed, delivered a positive assessment of Cheney's performance:
    "I thought Secretary Cheney had as his first order of business the job of reassuring the country that the first and most important decision that Governor Bush made after becoming a standard-bearer was a wise one, and that was picking Cheney himself. I don't know what the audience thought, but it seemed to me that Cheney made the points of Bush's platform better than Bush himself, and he did it in a very unaffected way -- taking his glasses off from time to time. He exuded confidence. I think the Bush people should be very, very pleased with the performance."

    Terry Moran approved of Lieberman's effort: "As for what Joe Lieberman accomplished for Al Gore, what was surprising in a way is that he didn't mention once Governor Bush's record in Texas. That was something that Joe Lieberman has made a specialty of out on the campaign trail. He didn't do that. The tone tonight was not appropriate, and I think just as Dean mentioned, Dick Cheney does credit to Governor Bush, Joe Lieberman showed why Al Gore's selection of him did so much for Gore in the polls from the moment he made the choice. It was a good night for them."

    George Stephanopoulos assessed: "I think they both have elevated their tickets' position, which means it's a wash. I think that, Peter, this debate is going to played in college debate classes for years as a model debate. Both candidates were solid and substantive and funny. Both were what debate coaches call appropriately aggressive on policy, and I think they both shored up -- Cheney shored up one of Bush's weaknesses, a sense of gravitas. Joe Lieberman warmed up Al Gore a little bit."

    -- CBS News. Bob Schieffer opined: "I think Dick Cheney helped himself. You know Joe Lieberman was so good tonight. I don't think you can say either one of them won, but up until this point Dick Cheney in a way has sort of looked like he was at the dentist or something while Lieberman seemed like he was having a lot of fun. Tonight Dick Cheney showed that he too has kind of a wry sense of humor."

    -- CNN. Bill Schneider conceded: "It's gonna be very hard to depict Dick Cheney as radical, some sort of a smug fat cat oil man who's completely out of touch. I mean he was relaxed, he was communicative, I thought he connected with voters just as we saw tonight. And this caricature of him that's been promoted mostly from his rather far right voting record, it's gonna be hard for Democrats to sell that."

    -- NBC News. Tom Brokaw judged: "It was highly civilized. In many ways they articulated the positions of their campaigns more effectively than did the tops of the ticket when they met in Boston, it seems to me. Neither will be gold medal winners in the excitement Olympics, which you can see based on how they had command of their language and their positions tonight, why they are both so highly regarded within their parties and have been effective in Washington, in the highest reaches of the nation's capital."

    Tim Russert contended: "There are very clear distinctions between the Bush/Cheney ticket and the Gore/Lieberman ticket. I think the American people watching tonight will say, 'Two class acts, two solid performers,' and the expectations for Dick Cheney, I think, were rather low because of his uneven campaign performance. He did quite well tonight, but so did Joe Lieberman. I think the effect on the election will practically be non-existent because of tonight's debate, but the American people will feel quite secure knowing that whoever is elected, there will be a very strong Vice President. But underscore your point, there are big differences -- big time, as Dick Cheney would say -- on education, Social Security and taxes."

    Near the end of NBC's post-debate half hour, Brokaw offered his thoughts: "First of all, about Dick Cheney -- a lot of people have been saying good for governance, bad for campaigning. But this is why George Bush picked him. Tonight everyone had a chance to see that: small group, articulate, strong positions, an effective debater and a reasonable man....And in case you're wondering, there is no clause in the Constitution to allow us to flip the ticket tomorrow morning, at this time."

    One wonders how much less the media admiration for Cheney would have been if Cheney had taken a strict pro-life position on RU-486 and abortion, blasted away at Gore's fabrications, raised impeachment and fundraising scandals, or really gone after Lieberman as a phoney because of all his changed positions.


Only ABC relayed post-debate poll results Thursday night. Peter Jennings assured viewers the ABC News quickie poll was indeed scientific despite its speed. Just before 11pm ET he announced how it determined more thought Cheney won than were impressed by Lieberman:
    "In an ABC News poll of registered voters who watched the debate, here's what it looked like. Twenty-four percent thought that Mr. Lieberman had won, 43 percent thought that Mr. Cheney had won and 27 percent called it a tie. We also asked these registered voters whether the debate affected their choice, and here you see the support for the Gore/Lieberman ticket among voters: 45 percent before the debate and 44 percent after it. Support for the Bush/Cheney ticket: 49 percent before the debate, 51 percent afterwards. Not much change for the ticket, but with those registered voters, a significant win for Mr. Cheney."


Sam Donaldson stood out for not joining the media pack thrilled about the civil tone. He wondered "where were the sharp differences?" Why were the candidates so timid? Donaldson seemed to blame the media for demanding candidates not be "mean."

    Donaldson contended, as taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Well, Peter, you know, it may be hard to find something wrong with this debate, but I'm going to try. It was friendly -- as you've said, convivial. It was responsible. Both these men are heavyweights and they displayed it tonight, but maybe that's what was wrong in a sense. You know, the first law in trying to sell the goods is you've got to get the customer's attention....
    "It was dull, and we had our focus group there, but they had to watch. I didn't think it got anyone's attention. But secondly, maybe more importantly, where were the sharp differences?...If there are no sharp differences to be made, why bother? Why change? I like both these men, Peter, as you know; I respect them both. But I do not believe this debate is going to be shown as a model in debating classes from here on out as to how to sell the goods."

    Jennings wanted an explanation: "Well, Sam, let me ask you this question. I said at the beginning that vice presidential candidates often have a greater license to attack. Why do you think they didn't?"
    Picking up a theme expressed recently by Rush Limbaugh, Donaldson seemed to hold the media accountable, though he did not specifically cite the media: "Well, I think because we've all said to them -- I don't mean me or you -- but, 'Hey, you must not be mean. You cannot be attack dog.' Debates -- have you ever been in Britain? I know you have, Peter -- excuse me. Have you ever been places where they have debated? I have watched in the...Indian parliament, the lower house, when Mrs. Gandhi was the prime minister, as she sat there, people jumping on desks: 'That's not right! That's not right! How dare you say this!' It was riveting and the issues were mashed out. Where is this idea that political campaigns must be between gentlemen and ladies and if a cross word is said, 'Oh, that's so bad'? I think that's nonsense."


NBC hit Cheney for not including "payroll taxes" when he claimed the Bush tax cut would cut taxes for everyone who pays taxes, though obviously he meant income taxes.

    Of the broadcast networks, only NBC offered a fact-checking report Thursday night. Lisa Myers provided the "Truth Squad" update, starting with this exchange:
    Cheney: "Fifty million American taxpayers out there get no advantages at all out of the Gore tax proposal, whereas under the Bush plan, everybody who pays taxes will, in fact, get tax relief."
    Lieberman: "The number of 50 million Americans not benefitting from our tax cut program is absolutely wrong."

    Myers reviewed the claims: "Well, it's not clear whether it's actually 50 million taxpayers who get no relief under Gore's plan or 30 million, but tax experts tell us many Americans get little or no tax cut from Al Gore. Who are they? Single taxpayers, married couples who itemize and retired couples."

    Myers then added a strange twist caught by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "But Cheney was wrong when he says Bush cuts taxes for everyone who pays taxes. In fact, millions of low-income Americans who pay payroll taxes, but don't earn enough to owe federal income taxes, get no help from Bush."

    That's a rather cheap shot since he obviously was talking about taxes in the context of an income tax cut.


CNN gave air time Thursday night to former Senator Alan Simpson to walk viewers through how Al Gore in 1991 based his decision, on whether to vote for against the Gulf War, on how much TV time he would get from each side.

    Simpson recalled at about 11pm ET:
    "The Gulf War vote was the most troubling thing I ever saw in my life. Al Gore came to our chambers and said, 'How much time will you give me in this debate?' We said, 'We'll give you seven minutes.' He said, 'They give me seven on the other side.' We said, 'We'll give you fifteen.' And he said, 'I'll be back.' And then he called the Secretary of the Senate, and he said, 'Damn it, if I don't get that kind of time, I'm going to vote the other way.' I was there. You can go ask Nunn and Mitchell and those of us who were involved who watched Al Gore on the toughest vote he ever cast shopping around to see which side would give him the most time in the debate. It galled me then. It galls me now."

    A bit later, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Jeff Greenfield raised a conservative concern, asking Bob Novak: "There have been those on the right who have been urging the Bush-Cheney campaign to run harder on the issues of social conservatism. Clearly, that didn't happen tonight. Dick Cheney was at pains to move, as you pointed out, much more toward a kind of middle ground. Is that a strategic mistake on the part of Bush and Cheney?"


The "can lady" could "can the can routine if she wanted," FNC's Brit Hume demonstrated Thursday night. Instead of just letting the Gore campaign tale remain unverified, FNC did a little investigation and located her son who, it turns out, is quite wealthy and has offered his mother money and housing. Reporter John Du Pre learned from him that Gore was wrong: "Fact is Winifred doesn't have to collect cans to pay for her medication."

    Hume introduced the October 5 Special Report with Brit Hume story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In Tuesday's presidential debate, George W. Bush not only had to contend with Al Gore, he had to deal with the Vice President's unlikely cause celebre, 79-year-old retiree Winifred Skinner. But the woman who has now gained national fame as the 'can lady' is not in such dire straits as Mr. Gore's words might have suggested. As Fox News' John Du Pre tells us, turns out Mrs. Skinner could can the can routine if she wanted."

    Over video of Gore hugging Skinner last week in at an event in Iowa, Du Pre reminded viewers: "Ever since the two met at an Altoona, Iowa, campaign rally Al Gore has used Winifred Skinner as a sort of campaign prop."
    Al Gore: "In order to pay for her prescription drug benefits, she has to go out seven days a week, several hours a day, picking up cans."
    Du Pre: "Well, not exactly. Gore got that story from Skinner herself, but he didn't get it exactly right when he used the 79-year-old retired UAW worker as an example of why he wants to reform Medicare. Fact is Winifred doesn't have to collect cans to pay for her medication. Just ask her son, a wealthy Iowa horse rancher and business consultant."
    From his ranch, Winifred Skinner's son, Earl King, Jr., informed Du Pre: "She doesn't want to take money. She doesn't want to be a burden, as she puts it. The only form of income that is acceptable for her because of her health, because of her age, is going on these can tours."
    Du Pre elaborated: "King says his mother collects cans more to assert her independence than to make ends meet. He says she has refused his offers of money and his invitations to live in the small apartment on his 85-acre estate, choosing instead to live alone and provide for herself, even if that means doing a little scavenging."
    King: "It's been hard for me to accept, but after all this time I understand my mother. She has her pride and her dignity, and she wants to keep that."
    Du Pre: "Skinner refutes reports she's a pawn of Al Gore's campaign."
    Winifred Skinner: "I think they'd better get their story straight before they start telling lies on me because I'm very angry about them kind of people."
    Du Pre: "But like it or not, the retired widow is now part of the national debate, not just on health care, but on how far candidate Gore is willing to stretch his story to make a point."
    King: "She's getting a little bit fatigued with it all."
    Du Pre concluded from Des Moines: "As Winifred returns home from Boston where she was an honored guest at the first debate, her family says she hopes she can get back to the quiet life she chose, living alone and collecting cans for extra cash."

    +++ See and hear from Skinner's son. On Friday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer excerpt from FNC's story. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

    FNC's angle is quite a contrast to the broadcast network presentations last week which turned Skinner into the poster senior for a new entitlement program. Tom Brokaw, for instance, introduced a September 28 NBC Nightly News piece:
    "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 pushed the liberal cause: "By the end of the month, her checking account down to a couple of dollars, her pantry down to cereal."
    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."

    For more on this NBC story, go to:

    For September 28 morning show coverage of Skinner, go to:

    For September 27 evening coverage, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000928.asp -- Brent Baker, with the night team of Jessica Anderson and Brad Wilmouth


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