Prodded to Hit Cheney Harder; Lauer Excused Gore on Fibs; Media Flunked Kaus Test; Left Wing West Wing Back
-- Back to today's CyberAlert
1) An ABC poll found Dick Cheney
to be the "clear winner" of last night's VP debate, so Good
Morning America's Jack Ford prodded Joe Lieberman about why he didn't
attack Cheney harder, especially on his "congressional record."
2) Network truth squads were AWOL this morning on
Lieberman's Hollywood hypocrisy, but Bill Bennett brought it up on Today.
3) NBC's Matt Lauer defended Gore's fibs: "I mean, he
is under the heat of a huge national audience."
4) Russ Mitchell gave Clinton credit for Dick Cheney's good
fortune, showcasing how "Lieberman teased Cheney for his
multi-million-dollar stock portfolio, accumulated under a Democratic
5) Mickey Kaus suggested Gore's debate fabrications
presented a great opportunity to test the liberal bias theory. By his
measurements, the media didn't pass.
6) Left-leaning stopwatches? ABC claimed Gore and Bush got
about the same amount of time in their debate, but Sam Donaldson corrected his
7) Gore got the bigger "half" of CNN's
8) NBC's The West Wing returned Wednesday night with a left
wing shot at the idea that allowing citizens to carry guns makes for a safer
community. And a reporter agreed.
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Correction: A table of contents listing in this morning's CyberAlert
inadvertently substituted "Gore" for "Lieberman" in
stating: "By 43 to 24 percent voters surveyed by ABC News picked Cheney
as the winner over Gore with 27 percent calling it a tie."
three of the network morning shows led Friday with the situation in Yugoslavia
and interviews with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright before reporting on
last night's vice presidential debate, and all pushed the theme that Dick
Cheney and Joe Lieberman provided a lesson in civility to the two presidential
candidates. (ABC and CBS aired pre-taped interviews with both Dick Cheney and
Joe Lieberman, but neither appeared on NBC's Today.)
Only ABC had a poll, so only Good Morning America
substitute co-host Jack Ford asserted that Cheney was the "clear
winner," favored by 43 percent of those polled by ABC last night,
compared with just 24 percent who thought Lieberman triumphed.
Ford also interviewed both candidates last night for
playback this morning and, unlike in his questions to Cheney, he pushed
Lieberman to explain why he didn't mount more of an attack. Ford's first
two questions to Lieberman:
-- "It was an
extraordinarily courteous and non-confrontational event. There are some people
that are saying that you guys were just way too polite to each other, and as a
result you weren't able to create sharp differences between the two of you.
What do you think about that?"
-- "It was widely assumed that you would use this
opportunity to raise the questions about Secretary Cheney's congressional
voting record, about Governor Bush's record in Texas, but you didn't. Why
His last question informed Lieberman of the results of
ABC's poll, and the Democrat seemed genuinely surprised that so few of those
who watched thought that he won.
Ford neglected to push Cheney on why he didn't exploit
weaknesses in either Lieberman's or Gore's record, such as the Vice
President's out-of-the-mainstream environmental views, his persistent class
warfare rhetoric, and his no-holds-barred support of Clinton during the
Maybe Ford doesn't recognize those as weaknesses in
reporter Friday morning played the role of truth cop when it came to Joe
Lieberman's flat-out assertion that he's as tough on Hollywood now as he
was before Al Gore tapped him to be on the Democratic ticket. But Bill Bennett
brought it up on his own during a Today interview.
Last night, debate moderator Bernard Shaw asked Cheney
if he'd noticed any "hypocritical shift by your opponent on positions
and issues since he's been nominated." Cheney answered that Lieberman
had muted his condemnations of the entertainment industry, a suggestion that
Lieberman said was not true.
Coverage? None on CBS's The Early Show. ABC's Morton
Dean provided just a quick mention of the issue in a debate summary. Dean said
that in "the only hint of a personal attack, Cheney accusing Lieberman of
being a changed man, no longer as principled, softening his attacks on sex and
violence in the movies to raise money in Hollywood."
He showed Cheney in the debate: "I like the old Joe
Lieberman better than I do the new Joe Lieberman, let me see if I can put it
in those terms." Then Lieberman's response: "I have not changed a
single position since Al Gore nominated me to be his Vice President."
Dean made no effort to help viewers determine the facts.
On NBC's Today, no journalist touched the issue, but
Bill Bennett brought it up on his own, telling Matt Lauer that his old friend
Lieberman was wrong: "He said last night that when he went to Hollywood
he reiterated his position, you know, that Hollywood was a place that was
producing these horrible things and they should stop. He did not do such a
thing. Instead, he lavished praise on Hollywood."
Since the network correspondents won't do it, here's
a Reality Check. First, Lieberman last night: "Al Gore and I have felt
for a long time, first as parents, and then only second as public officials,
that we cannot let America's parents stand alone in this competition that they
feel they're in with Hollywood to raise their own kids and give their kids the
faith and the values that they want to give them. And I've been a consistent
crusader on that behalf."
And here's what Lieberman said when he visited "a
posh Hollywood mansion" collecting money for the Democrats last month,
according to a September 21 news item by The Washington Times's Sean Scully:
"Al and I have tremendous regard for this industry. We're both fans of
the products that come out of the entertainment industry."
"I promise you this," Lieberman pandered at
the fundraiser as also quoted by the Washington Post: "We will never,
never put the government in the position of telling you by law, through law,
what to make." He added: "We will nudge you, but we will never
Imagine what the networks would have said if Dick Cheney
had made similar pledges to oil or drug company executives while seeking
Lauer proposed on Today that Al Gore has been making false statements because
he's under too much pressure.
After guest Bill Bennett cited Gore's claims about his
trip to view Texas fires and the high schooler who has no seat, MRC analyst
Paul Smith noticed how Lauer offered an excuse for Gore: "Let me play
Devil's advocate for a second, though. I mean, he is under the heat of a
huge national audience. He maybe exaggerated, maybe a slip of the tongue. Are
those things reason enough to keep him out of the White House?"
on CBS's The Early Show this morning boasted of the good economy. In a
debate re-cap, Russ Mitchell gave Clinton credit for Dick Cheney's good
fortune. On the vice presidential debate: "Both men were clear in their
own government philosophies, well highlighted when Lieberman teased Cheney for
his multi-million-dollar stock portfolio, accumulated under a Democratic
Later, in an interview with Mario Cuomo and Jack Kemp,
Jane Clayson asked Cuomo: "About the issues, about Social Security, about
Medicare and all these different things, some journalists have been
fact-checking what all of the candidates have been saying, and they've found a
few flubs. I mean, are these just missteps, misspeaks? [sic] Or is it spin,
Cuomo responded: "I think hyperbole on both
sides....If you look at where this campaign started, the whole effort by the
Republicans was to make Clinton the issue, and to win by saying Clinton was a
bad guy, let's scrub clean the White House. It didn't work, because the
President's performance as President was more powerful than his problems
personally. And so they've had to abandon that, and come to the issues. And on
the issues, you have the greatest economy in modern history in the
Clinton-Gore years, and you've got a plan. They have a tax cut that goes
mostly to the people who don't need it. That's a fact. I love that issue, I
love the Medicare issue, I love the prescription-drug issue, if they keep
talking about those issues, the Democrats win."
Clayson seemed sold, turning to Kemp, "Jack Kemp,
isn't the economy really going to ultimately decide this? We're in such good
Gore's fibs, all day Wednesday the revelation that Al Gore made up a story
about going to fires in Parker County, Texas, with FEMA Director James Lee
Witt began picking up steam. Or did it? On his Web site, Kausfiles.com, former
Newsweek and New Republic writer Mickey Kaus found this evolving boast of bull
a fabulous test of the media's biases.
Here's an excerpt of his idea for a test, posted
Okay, media, over to you! If there is an ideologically neutral press cycle,
the Witt Fib should certainly set it off. The Cyclical Theory would predict a
mini-orgy of Gore-trashing stories, emphasizing the serial, obsessive nature
of the fibs, pointing out that by now the issue isn't whether the fibbing is
important, but why Gore persists in fibbing when he knows that whether it's
important or not he has to stop or else the press will treat it as important!
It's as if Gore were told that whatever he did at the debate he shouldn't hop
up and down on one foot and he'd gone and hopped up and down on one foot. It's
as if Gary Hart had gone home with yet another babe after the Donna Rice
incident! Put another way, the question isn't whether Gore's a liar and
whether that's worse than Bush being dim; it's whether Gore's lying shows
that, in some respects, he's a bit dim too.
If the Liberal Bias Theory is correct, however, the predicted mini-orgy,
the anti-Gore cycle, won't happen. Reporters will for one reason or another
pass off the Witt Fib as a non-story. It will play deep inside the New York
Times and Washington Post. It won't be featured on the nightly news or in the
newsweeklies. The last-straw lie will mysteriously become a next-to-last straw
lie. If he lies again, then we'll nail him! That's the ticket! Anyway,we don't
harp on stereotyped flaws any more! That's old news--the voters have processed
Which will it be? As this item is written, it's shortly before midnight on
Wednesday, October 3. The dailies come on line in a few minutes. The
newsweeklies get written a day from now. Only time will tell! But not much
time. Does the press herd target Democrats and Republicans randomly? Or is
even the dynamiting of a large boulder unable to start an avalanche against a
Democrat in the waning weeks of a close campaign?"
To read the entire Kaus challenge, go to:
Well, now we know that the answer is: B, the Liberal
Bias Theory wins, as Kaus admitted. On Thursday morning, the Witt Fib was
buried inside the Washington Post on page A18, while the first few words from
reporter Dan Balz on the upper left side of the front page read: "There
were no memorable moments, no crippling mistakes...."
The New York Times buried the Witt story on page A24.
(Richard "RATS" Berke hit the story on Friday....on A26.)
By the way, USA Today put the Witt story on 15A,
paragraph four. Reporters Laurence McQuillan and Judy Keen followed Gore's
suggestion that "he might have been with the official on another
trip," with the quote: "'I think it's better to attack America's
problems rather than attacking people personally,' Gore said to the cheers
of 10,000 people in Warren Ohio...."
at ABC News have a left-leaning stopwatch? After Tuesday night's debate,
some people complained that Gore got more time than Bush. On Wednesday's
Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos assured viewers that it was
"very close." He related that the political team at ABC News used a
stopwatch and found Bush spoke for 42 minutes 30 seconds, and Gore for 43
minutes 15 seconds, a difference of just 45 seconds over a 90-minute debate.
This morning, anchor Diane Sawyer was forced to confess
that ABC was wrong on Wednesday. "Well, we're going to make a quick
note this morning, take a little second here, because we want to make a
correction," Sawyer told viewers at 7:30 this morning. "We want to
tell you that we goofed earlier this week. We reported that Al Gore spoke only
45 seconds longer than George W. Bush in Tuesday's debate because so many
people have been talking about that fact that he seemed to speak quite a bit
longer. Well, guess who our personal truth squad was?"
At this point, Sawyer theatrically cleared her throat
before revealing that the in-house critic was "Sam Donaldson, who
immediately started e-mailing all of us and said we had to check again. We
did, we double-checked, and our crack political watchdogs here found that in
fact it was closer to three minutes, and not nearly the one minute we
reported. So we're sorry we passed along incorrect information to our
viewers and to ABC News political analyst George Stephanopoulos and Sam is
going to come get me and throttle me personally, I believe."
It may be worth noting that Sawyer didn't offer
precise numbers this morning, perhaps worried that Donaldson would fire up his
Vice President Al Gore six percent more of the TV screen when both he and
George W. Bush were shown on a split-screen during Tuesday night's debate,
the New York Post's Richard Johnson revealed. The other networks, he added,
split their screens into equal halves.
In an October 6 story noted by MRC Communications
Director Liz Swasey, "Gore's the Winner Any Way TV Ted Slices It,"
Johnson disclosed that Republicans "suspect CNN's manipulation of the
pooled camera feeds was done to help Gore." Here's an excerpt from
Brian Propp, a former TV-station engineer who watched the debate on CNN
International, noticed the inequity.
"Its impact was to give Gore a more commanding presence on the screen,
and Bush a visually reduced impact," Propp said in an e-mail to Bush
headquarters after he measured each side of the split screen with graph paper.
The split-screen scandal comes after The New York Times attacked the
Republicans in a front-page story for showing the word "rats" for a
fraction of a second in a health-care ad slamming bureaucrats.
"They were all upset about a tenth of a second of a subliminal
'rats,' but they have no problem with 90 minutes of George W. Bush being
diminished," one Republican scoffed.
To read the entire story, go to http://nypostonline.com/news/12429.htm
Last night and today the Fox News Channel has been
illustrating the difference in screen size by showing a still shot from
CNN's debate coverage.
Wing West Wing returned Wednesday night. It took until near the end of the
second hour of the season premiere of NBC's drama for The West Wing to
deliver a liberal political message, but when it did the shot took aim at an
idea supported by conservatives and George W. Bush -- that allowing citizens
to carry guns makes for a safer community.
NBC ran back-to-back hour-long episodes to answer the
May season-ending cliffhanger which showed the President and his aides being
fired upon as they walked to the limos after "President Josiah Bartlet,"
played by Martin Sheen, addressed a group of students at the Newseum in
When the show unfolded Wednesday night, in a plot line
ripped from what really happened to Ronald Reagan, as the limo raced from the
scene a Secret Service agent saw blood coming out of Bartlet's mouth,
figured out he'd been shot and diverted the limo to The George Washington
University Hospital. By the end of the two hours Bartlet had recovered, but
aide "Josh Lyman" remained in critical condition. A bunch of West
Virginia skinheads were the shooters and their target was not the President
but "Charlie Young," the black personal aide to the President who is
dating the President's white daughter.
The liberal political crusading came when Allison Janney,
as Press Secretary "C.J. Cregg," briefed the press the morning after
the shooting. As transcribed by MRC analyst Paul Smith, she used the barely
12-hour-old tragedy to make a political point:
"This is our fifth
press briefing since midnight and obviously there is one story that's going
to be dominating the news around the world for the next few days and it would
be easy to think that President Bartlett, Joshua Lyman and Stephanie Abbott
were the only people who were victims of a gun crime last night. They
weren't. Mark Davis and Sheila Evans of Philadelphia were killed by a gun
last night. He was a biology teacher and she was a nursing student. Tina
Bishop and Belinda Larkin were killed with a gun last night. They were twelve.
There were 36 homicides last night, 480 sexual assaults, 3,411 robberies,
3,685 aggravated assaults, all at gunpoint. If anyone thinks those crimes
could have been prevented if the victims themselves had been carrying guns
I'd only remind you that the President of the United States was shot last
night while surrounded by the best-trained armed guards in the history of the
world. Back to the briefing."
In the back of the room a reporter turned to
Chief-of-Staff "Leo McGarry" and opined: "She's good." McGarry agreed: "Yes she is."
The show accurately reflected the predictable reaction
from a member of the White House press corps.
-- Edited by
Morning show material written by Rich
Noyes with input from Tim Graham.
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