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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Tuesday October 17, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 202) |

Media Suppressed Bush Errors?; Bush and Gore Too Frugal; Public Realizes Journalists Favor Gore; ABC's Prime Time Gore Aid -- Extra Edition

1) While simultaneously relaying Gore campaign-cited instances of Bush errors, CBS picked up the Gore complaint that Bush's mistakes did not get adequate media focus. In fact, the networks gave more attention to Bush's errors after the second debate than they did to Gore's fabrications after the first one. Also, ABC and NBC cited polls which put Bush well ahead.

2) ABC News flunked Bush and Gore from the left on education for advocating too little federal money for schools. "It's not enough money," a school principal complained. "Not nearly enough money," echoed ABC's Deborah Amos.

3) "The President himself is taking an enormous risk here. At stake: Possibly the world economy," Dan Rather oozed from Egypt. John Roberts credited Clinton with "seven years of painstaking work."

4) By two-to-one registered voters say "most journalists" are "pulling for" Gore over Bush. Even a plurality of Democrats see a pro-Gore slant, a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll determined. And the closer people follow news coverage the more they see a pro-Gore tilt.

5) ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Thursday night endorsed Al Gore's boast that he "was the basis" for Love Story. But the contestant who picked another answer has protested ABC's claim. Regis Philbin insisted: "Yes, it's true, it's true."

6) "An innocent man is serving a life sentence...If this were Texas, he might already be dead." So warned a character on ABC's The Practice in seemingly taking a shot at George Bush.

7) FNC showed that at the "Million Family March" one speaker "praised Libya's Moammar Ghadafi for providing universal health care." Really.

8) Time magazine on CPUSA's Gus Hall, who passed away Monday: "How can anyone think ill of Hall when he beams so about cooking pancakes for his grandchildren...or shares his secret for making tasty beef stew.

     >>> Twice-daily news updates. You can now sign up for the "CNS News E-Brief" service, a morning and afternoon e-mail listing fresh stories posted on the CNSNews.com Web site. CNSNews.com is a project of the MRC. To subscribe to the e-mail updates compiled by the MRC's Michael Quinn Sullivan, go to: http://www.cnsnews.com/e-brief.asp <<<


Bush's supposed mistakes during the second presidential debate did not get adequate media attention, Gore operatives complained Monday. And CBS compliantly picked up their complaint while simultaneously relaying Gore campaign-cited instances of Bush errors. "All eyes were on the Middle East, not on the candidates' mistakes," last week CBS's Bill Whitaker asserted, so, "Democrats claim...Bush got away with false claims on the death penalty and his Texas record of insuring poor children."

    In fact, the broadcast networks gave more attention to Bush's errors the morning and evening after the second debate than they did to Gore's fabrications after the first one.

    Monday night ABC and NBC also passed along vague references to Gore's claim that Bush inflated the amount spent on child health in Texas, but neither offered a syllable of what Bush said Monday on the campaign trail. Both ABC and NBC also briefly relayed new poll numbers which put Bush ahead of Gore by greater than the margins of error.

    First a look at ABC and NBC coverage Monday night, October 16, and then an examination of CBS's hypothesis of anti-Gore media bias. All three evening shows led with the summit in Egypt, but only CBS's Dan Rather anchored from Sharm el Sheikh.

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings reported that the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found Bush leading Gore 48 percent to 44 percent. He added that since the last poll a week ago both candidates fell in the "honest and trustworthy" question, with Gore plummeting from 63 to 49 percent and Bush slipping from 62 to 53 percent.

    Jennings then offered a brief re-cap of what the candidates did Monday, but while he relayed a Gore attack line he failed to give equal time to anything Bush said: "On the campaign trail today, Al Gore's campaign attacking George Bush's record in Texas, very central to their message now. In Missouri they presented three Democratic lawmakers from Texas who criticized the Governor's health care record. They say he is not spending what he said he was spending. Mr. Bush campaigned in Arkansas where the polls show that he is tied with Mr. Gore."

    Later, ABC ran a "A Closer Look" at the education proposals from each candidate. See item #2 below for details.

    -- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Tom Brokaw recounted how the new

     NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll put Bush ahead of Gore by 48 to 42 percent. Brokaw added: "One of the reasons that Bush is pulling ahead may be that Americans now think restoring moral and family values is more important than maintaining the economy. That's a switch from what the polls have been telling us for most of the year."

    Brokaw then turned to NBC's two campaign beat reporters for an update. From Little Rock with Bush, David Gregory reported that the Bush team feels good about its situation and is being cautious. One sign of that caution, they've stopped doing press conferences. They know that to pull women voters from Bush, Gore will drive home his attack on Bush's health care record in Texas, Gregory noted. So to counter that, Gregory observed, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush and Cindy McCain will all campaign in swing states to sell women on Bush.

    From St. Louis with Gore NBC's Claire Shipman found that Gore will avoid intensive debate preparation. Unlike Gregory, she then relayed the Gore attack line: "Prosperity itself is on the ballot. Gore trying to use stark terms to make it clear that he believes a vote for George W. Bush is a risk and one theme we're going to keep hearing, something David Gregory mentioned, the Texas record. The Gore campaign even flying three Texas legislators here today to hammer that theme home."

    -- CBS Evening News. Bill Whitaker explored how the foreign crises have benefitted Bush as they shut down coverage of Bush's debate errors. He began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Privately, Bush staffers acknowledge the Yemen terrorist attack could highlight the Governor's differences with Al Gore on military preparedness, but they also know even appearing to use the tragedy for political benefit could backfire....So publicly Bush campaigns as usual, today in President Bill Clinton's home state Arkansas, and stands by his statement of support that sounds almost like Al Gore's."

    After a clip of Gore urging prayers for summit participants, Whitaker contended: "But in a sense Bush already has benefitted from the foreign flare-up. Last Thursday, the day after the second joint appearance, all eyes were on the Middle East, not on the candidates' mistakes. Democrats claim while no one was looking Bush got away with false claims on the death penalty and his Texas record of insuring poor children."
    George W. Bush during the October 11 debate: "We spend $4.7 billion a year on the uninsured in the state of Texas."
    Whitaker countered: "Not so say frustrated Democrats who were still trying today to make voters take notice."
    Elliott Naishtat, Texas legislator: "Those are the most misleading statements in the campaign to date."
    Without explaining the complaint, Whitaker moved on to a larger point: "All of this is especially frustrating to the Gore camp because after the first debate Gore was deemed the winner but dropped in the polls after opponents and pundits pointed out his mistakes and exaggerations. With the race so close, the Bush strategy is to hold the course -- don't make any mistakes or do anything dramatic. Gore, on the other hand, hopes to hold Bush's Texas record up to closer scrutiny at tomorrow's town hall meeting and hopes that this time that'll score some points."

    +++ REALITY CHECK. While it certainly is true that Gore's fabrications in the October 3 debate gained attention from the late night comedians and cable TV talk show guests, the broadcast networks gave them less attention the next morning and night than they gave to Bush mistakes in the second debate -- despite the fact that the Yemen bombing occurred before the evening newscasts aired the night after the October 11 debate.

    On October 4, the morning after the first debate, only ABC's Good Morning America raised Gore's fabrication about accompanying FEMA Director James Lee Witt to a Texas fire. Zilch about that on both CBS's The Early Show and NBC's Today.

    That night, all the networks took note of Gore's false claim that he accompanied Witt and NBC and FNC reported the revelation, from that morning, that Gore's anecdote about a Florida high school girl who because of overcrowding must stand in class was also false. ABC, CNN and Whitaker's CBS ignored that fib.

    Now, fast forward to the morning of October 12, the morning after the October 11 debate. Both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today highlighted Bush's error in saying all three men, convicted of murdering James Byrd, were sentenced to death when, in fact, one was given a life sentence. That's twice as many morning shows as noted any Gore errors after the first debate.

    That night, despite the breaking news of the bombing in Yemen and violence in Israel, both ABC and NBC corrected Bush on the Byrd case, NBC corrected Bush about his allegation that Russia's Viktor Chernomyrdin embezzled IMF funds and ABC's Dean Reynolds backed up Gore's charge that Texas ranks at the bottom in health insurance coverage.

    Whitaker's CBS -- both in the morning and evening -- did skip Bush's second debate errors, but they also ignored Gore's.


ABC News flunked both Bush and Gore from the left on education for not advocating enough federal money be allocated to schools. "It's not enough money," a New Jersey school principal complained. "Not nearly enough money," echoed ABC's Deborah Amos.

    Monday night World News Tonight launched a series of "A Closer Look" segments on the candidates and education. The first segment looked at how Bush and Gore want to use the federal government. After Peter Jennings relayed how the new ABC News/Washington Post poll found the public better trusts Gore to handle education by 48 to 41 percent, Amos checked in from a Camden, New Jersey elementary school where music is taught in a stairway and gym classes are held in a hallway.

    She provided a pretty straight forward summary of how Gore wants to increase federal spending while Bush wants to provide states with more flexibility. The Camden principal said she'd like more money and more flexibility. Amos outlined how Gore wants poorer schools to get money for pre-school and after school education and how Bush focuses on getting kids to read by the 3rd grade and implementing annual testing. Amos allowed the principal to criticize Bush's testing as "not always a good measure" because of kids from unstable homes who switch schools often. Gore wants higher teacher salaries, but Amos showed a soundbite from a teacher insisting more pay will not necessarily convince people to work in an inner city school.

    Amos then drew to her liberal conclusion that a lack of money is the core problem and neither candidate will spend enough: "The federal government has very little to do with funding public schools. Only about seven percent of the yearly budget comes from Washington. That won't change much in either plan."
    Principal: "They put all those billions. Break it down and then see how much we get in Camden and how much I get a Cooper's Point. It's not enough. It's not enough."
    Amos concluded by lamenting: "Not nearly enough money from either man to provide the same education that suburban schools offer just five minutes down the road."

    ABC promised Tuesday's segment would look at vouchers.


Bill Clinton: Risk-taker and peace-maker. From Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday night CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather oozed: "The President himself is taking an enormous risk here. At stake: Possibly the world economy, his legacy and maybe the election campaign at home."

    CBS reporter John Roberts began his subsequent report by crediting Clinton's hard work: "Rarely in this process has President Clinton seemed so somber in public, almost grim as he attempted today to rescue seven years of painstaking work."

    No mention by CBS of the impact of Clinton interfering with Israeli elections to ensure Benjamin Netanyahu lost his re-election bid to Clinton's favored candidate, Ehud Barak. But, Roberts did play the debate soundbite of Bush promising he'd make sure peace talks were not "on my timetable" but at the pace preferred by participants.


More people think the media are being "unfair" to Bush than believe reporters are being "unfair" to Gore and by two-to-one registered voters say "most journalists" are "pulling for" Gore over Bush. Even a plurality of Democrats believe reporters are pushing for Gore, a new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has determined.

    The poll also discovered that the closer people follow the news the more they see a pro-Gore tilt: "Those who follow campaign news very closely are more likely to say that the media wants Gore to win -- 54 percent of those who track campaign developments very closely think most journalists are in the Vice President's camp, while 18 percent of this group say most journalists want Bush to win."

    The MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me to this latest Pew poll conducted earlier this month of about 1,000 registered voters. Specifically, it found:

    -- "Would you say the press has been fair or unfair in the way it has covered George W. Bush's election campaign?"
Fair: 65 percent
Unfair: 25 percent
Don't know: 10 percent

    -- "Would you say the press has been fair or unfair in the way it has covered Al Gore's election campaign?"
Fair: 74 percent
Unfair: 15 percent
Don't know: 11 percent

    -- "Who do you think most newspaper reporters and TV journalists want to see win the presidential election: George W. Bush or Al Gore?"
Gore: 47 percent
Bush: 23 percent
Neither: 6 percent
Don't know: 24 percent

    (As noted above, of those who follow campaign news "very closely," 54 percent observe media bias for Gore and just 18 percent see a slant for Bush.)

    Under "Most journalists pulling for" in an accompanying table, Pew provided a partisan breakdown for the same who do "journalists want to see win the presidential race" question.

    For Republicans:
Gore: 67 percent
Bush: 12 percent
Neither: 2 percent
Don't know: 19 percent

    For Democrats:
Gore: 36 percent
Bush: 30 percent
Neither: 8 percent
Don't know: 26 percent

    For independents:
Gore: 44 percent
Bush: 28 percent
Neither: 4 percent
Don't know: 24 percent

    Despite the large 47 to 23 percent margin which sees a media tilt toward Gore over Bush, it's actually less lopsided than a 1996 Pew poll discovered. Back then 52 percent said they believed the media wanted to see Clinton win versus just 17 percent who somehow saw a pro-Dole bias.

    -- Pew also reported: "Over the past eight years, there has been an increase in the number of voters who say that reporters often allow their political preferences to shape news coverage. Fully 57% of voters hold that view now, compared to 49% in September 1992. Nearly nine-in-ten (89%) say that journalists at least sometimes let their political views affect coverage, while just 9% say this seldom or never occurs."

    For details about the poll conducted for Pew by Princeton Survey Research Associates, go to:


ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Thursday night endorsed Al Gore's boast that he "was the basis" for Love Story. But this week's U.S. News & World Report noted the contestant who picked another answer has protested ABC's claim that Gore really was the model for the lead male character.

    Upon reviewing a tape of the ABC quiz show I caught two noteworthy actions not quoted by U.S. News: First, the contestant revealed he was aware that Gore thought "in his own mind" that he inspired the movie and, second, Regis Philbin insisted: "Yes, it's true, it's true."

    The question and answer favorable to Gore came nine days after the same show on October 3 posed a question less favorable to Gore's image: "In the 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, what politician proposes eliminating the internal combustion engine?" For more details and to watch a RealPlayer clip, go to:

    In the "Washington Whispers" column in the October 23 U.S. News, Paul Bedard disclosed:
    "Vice President Al Gore's exaggerations have claimed a victim, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contestant Joel Foss. The Marysville, Wash., contractor faced this $64,000 question last Thursday: 'Al Gore was the basis for the main male character in which of these best-selling novels?' A Separate Peace, Primary Colors, The Secret History, and Love Story. Foss saw a trick. He recalled that Gore repeated an erroneous report that he and Tipper were the basis for Erich Segal's Love Story. He remembered Segal saying he used a dash of Gore, a pinch of actor Tommy Lee Jones, and imagination to create Oliver Barrett IV. So he rejected Love Story and guessed Primary Colors and lost.
    "Was the question fair? ABC says Segal now insists 'he derived a great deal from Al Gore.' That's the furthest he's gone on it, but how was Foss to know? ABC wouldn't release Segal's letter. 'We didn't say that Al Gore was the only basis for the character,' whines ABC. Says Foss, 'In my opinion, when they say Al Gore was the basis for it, that's singular; they didn't say a basis.' The result: He's filing a grievance and hopes to return."

    For the rest of the Washington Whispers column, go to:

    On the October 12 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? the question came at the $64,000 level. Host Regis Philbin read it: "Al Gore was the basis for the main male character in which of these best-selling novels?"

    The possible answers:
a) A Separate Peace
b) Primary Colors
c) The Secret History
d) Love Story

    Contestant Joel Foss studied the answers for about three seconds and then remarked, to scattered laughter and guffaws from the audience, "Well, it doesn't say, 'in his own mind,' so."

    Foss picked "b," Primary Colors, prompting Philbin to wonder if he'd seen the movie or read the book. Foss replied no and affirmed "b" was his "final answer."

    Philbin corrected him: "No, believe it or not it was Love Story. The primary male character in Love Story."

    A surprised Foss walked off the set and Philbin strode to the side of the stage to handle the "fastest finger" quiz to pick the next contestant. But first, he remarked: "Yes, it's true, it's true. Eric Segal, who wrote Love Story, was a classmate of Al Gore at Harvard and based the character 'Oliver' on him."

    Actually, Segal has said the character was based on Tommy Lee Jones, Gore's roommate.

    +++ Watch ABC's quiz show give credibility to Gore's claim that he inspired the lead character in Love Story. On Tuesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of the question and answer. Go to: http://www.mrc.org


Three days after Millionaire another ABC show pitched in for the liberal cause with a shot at the error-prone death penalty in Texas, a remark viewers would naturally connect negatively to George Bush.

    This political comment aired during Sunday's The Practice, which revolves around a scrappy Boston criminal defense law firm.

    In Sunday's episode, assistant district attorney "Helen Gamble," played by Lara Flynn Boyle, realizes that a man for whom she won a murder conviction and life sentence for killing his wife, really didn't do it as the jury was fooled by a witness who lied after coaching by one of her DA office colleagues.

    After "Gamble" tells a judge her conclusion, her boss "Kate," played by Anna Deavere Smith (the National Security Adviser on The West Wing and Press Secretary in the movie An America President), threatens to fire her. This conversation then ensues:

    Kate: "Why are you doing this Helen?"
    Helen: "We all say better let a guilty man go free than put an innocent one in jail. An innocent man is serving a life sentence, Kate. If this were Texas, he might already be dead."
    Kate: "When suddenly did you become the jury?"
    Helen: "The jury doesn't know he passed a polygraph. The jury doesn't know a witness was coached, that he lied. The jury doesn't know a lot of stuff Kate. I do."

    To see what Lara Flynn Boyle looks like, go to:

    ABC's Web page for The Practice:


You can't beat a Farrakhan event for wackiness. ABC Monday night ignored the "Million Family March" on Washington's Mall of far fewer than a million. NBC's Tom Brokaw read a short item about it, as did CBS's Dan Rather who dubbed it "a pro-family values event." But FNC's David Shuster showed how one speaker "praised Libya's Moammar Ghadafi for providing universal health care." Really.

    In a piece on the October 16 Special Report with Brit Hume, Shuster recounted how in his two-hour speech Farrakhan avoided anti-Semitism and "wild charges," though I'd note he did ramble on a bit about numerology related to how George Washington was a "33 degree Shriner." But, Shuster relayed, there was still "controversy at this march" and it "seemed to belong to an American Indian who took to the podium and praised Libya's Moammar Ghadafi for providing universal health care, never mind Libya's support of terrorism."
    Chief Longwalker from the podium: "Beautiful brother, Colonel Moammar Ghadafi, I know today that the world could change. Here's a man who's proven to the world that there is a better way."

    Now here's a guy Larry King could quite properly call a "wacko."


"Who Doesn't Love Grandpa Gus Hall?" The former leader of the Communist Party USA passed away Monday at age 90. The MRC's Tim Graham recalled a gem of a tribute from Time magazine.

    In the September 9, 1991 issue reporter Michael Riley gushed:
    "Elizabeth, his wife of 56 years, applauds him as a good family man. Indeed, how can anyone think ill of Hall when he beams so about cooking pancakes for his grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, or shares his secret for making tasty beef stew. (It's the apples.)"

    One more reminder the West won the Cold War despite the Western media's too frequent affection for communism. Can you imagine any such oozing in Time about someone like Newt Gingrich? -- Brent Baker


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