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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| 4:40 pm ET, Wednesday October 18, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 205) |

Russert Took on Gore; Lauer Scolded Matthews; Sheen Wants to Be "Pain in the Ass" to Bush; ABC's In-Kind Contribution to Gore -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) Tough questions for Gore from NBC's Tim Russert, but softballs from Good Morning America. ABC's Terry Moran to Gore: "You've spent a quarter century in public service and have worked on a lot of these issues, obviously have mastered a lot of the details of them. When you look across the stage, are you frustrated at all?"

2) NBC's Matt Lauer scolded a fellow journalist for saying critical things about the Democratic nominee. "Al Gore irritates you. Al Gore irritates you!" he bellowed at MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

3) ABC's George Stephanopoulos celebrated the 8-to-2 slant in favor of liberal questions during last night's debate: "Three cheers for the citizen questions."

4) In addition to FNC, MSNBC's Chris Matthews pointed out the agenda of the debate questioners: "These are all special pleaders for Democratic causes."

5) Martin Sheen, the President on NBC's The West Wing, would be "enormously disappointed" if Bush won, but then, Sheen hoped, his show would be a "royal pain in the ass." Sheen called Bill Clinton "terrific and heroic."

6) "Dems to Get Barb Boost on ABC," the New York Post disclosed. The Friday before the election 20/20 will feature an interview conducted by Barbara Walters with Barbra Streisand. Neal Travis learned Streisand "insisted" she get time "to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary and the Democratic platform."

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Election Issues Important to Dumb Guys."

Correction: A table of contents item in this morning's CyberAlert flipped the direction of the debate questions. It stated "conservative agenda questions outnumbered liberal ones by 8-to-2." It should have read, as the subsequent article accurately outlined, "liberal agenda questions outnumbered conservative ones by 8-to-2."


Although the New York-based morning shows were all giddy about the upcoming Mets-Yankees "subway series," the third and presumably final presidential debate of Campaign 2000 led each program. All three shows once again featured taped interviews with George W. Bush and Al Gore, along with wrap-up reports and punditry. ABC and CBS tossed softballs to Gore, but not NBC's Tim Russert.

    -- ABC's Good Morning America. Terry Moran, who covers the Gore campaign for World News Tonight, kissed up to the Vice President shortly after the debate. Among his questions, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Why did you feel so good out there? Because it seemed like you just wanted to seize the moment tonight?"

    And: "You've spent a quarter century in public service and have worked on a lot of these issues, obviously have mastered a lot of the details of them. When you look across the stage, are you frustrated at all?"

    -- CBS's The Early Show. Bill Plante wondered to Gore: "Do you get the sense that your opponent is trying to make this a personality contest, as opposed to an issues contest." Gore replied: "Seems that way, yeah."

    -- NBC's Today. Tim Russert interviewed Gore for the first time since a July 16 Meet the Press appearance in which Russert's first question was to ask Gore what he meant when he told a woman in Michigan that being Vice President was a lot like being "the woman behind the man."

    This morning, he pressed Gore on his opposition to school vouchers, and Gore at one point accused Russert of bias. "I know you're in favor of vouchers," Gore defensively told Russert, prompting Russert to respond: "No, I have no view on it. I have no view on it. But I went to a private school, you went to a private school. Your children go to private school, mine goes to a private school....Why not, as you said [before], if I was the parent of a child that went to an inner city school that was failing, I might be for vouchers, too. Why not give it a shot?"

    Gore said he preferred a program in which failing schools are shut down and re-opened by a team of "specialists."

    "Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina has put a plan just like that into effect and it works great," Gore exuded. "We called his office tonight," Russert informed the Vice President. "He has not shut down any schools."

    "Well, he has turned around a bunch of schools that were failing schools," Gore insisted, "and he has sent specialists in. Whether the terminology used is 'shut down' or whether it's 'a take over,' you know, that's something that you ought to-"
    Russert countered: "He says he hasn't had to do that yet."
    Gore argued: "Well, he turns around the failing schools by bringing in new personnel and turning them around dramatically and, you know, the terminology that you use is not important."

    In his interview with Bush, Russert also repeatedly quizzed the candidate about school vouchers, challenging the Texas Governor's contention that his voucher plan did not involve a federal mandate on states. "When you talked about vouchers, you said that the federal government would not mandate vouchers. And yet, in your own plan, in your own proposal, it says very clearly, quote, 'The state will be required to offer parents [a] $1500 per year voucher they can use."

    Bush explained that the provision was not a general mandate, but one that would only take effect if the state had fallen below new federal standards on education. "Are you comfortable in having that federal mandate," Russert followed up. "I wouldn't have said it if I didn't believe it," Bush responded.

    Prediction: Whether he wins or loses next month, Al Gore will do everything he can to avoid another interview with Tim Russert.


Matt Lauer expressed concern his CNBC/MSNBC colleague Chris Matthews has an anti-Gore bias. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this exchange between the two this morning, in which Lauer implied Matthews can't get past his dislike of Gore.

    Lauer started off by baiting Matthews, who once worked for former Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill: "Before you tell me who won, and I know who you think won, just tell me how you rate the debate. Was it the best of the series?"

    Later in the interview, Matthews referred to public opinion polls, saying: "It's interesting. People keep saying, even the Bush people say Gore won the debate, but I like Bush."
    Lauer scolded: "Be honest here. You've been saying that all along. Al Gore irritates you. Al Gore irritates you!"

    Matthews: "The public's been saying that, too."
    Lauer insisted: "But, but you just don't like Al Gore's style and it's very hard for you to look past it....The American people also haven't clearly taken to George W. Bush."

    A few minutes later, Matthews maintained he was among the ranks of still-undecided voters: "I think they have to decide this on who do you trust. And I think that people are going to see Gore as a Clinton guy, as a government man, as the incumbent. And they're gonna look at the other guy as not the most trained guy to be President, and probably not the perfect candidate, but they do want a change. And I think it's about a 50-50, that's why it was a draw last night and the American people are going to have to make the decision. And there's about 10 percent of the people that are gonna make that decision, including people like me that haven't made up their mind, yet."

    Lauer was disbelieving. "Yeah, right," he snorted.
    Matthews: "I haven't."
    Lauer fired back: "Yeah, you have. You made it up four years ago."

    Matt Lauer, poster-boy for open-minded journalists?


As this morning's CyberAlert noted, eight out of the fifteen questions posed by "undecided" citizens at last night's debate reflected a left-liberal agenda, while only two could be construed as reflecting a conservative point of view.

    On ABC's Good Morning America, an obviously pleased George Stephanopoulos congratulated the questioners for what he considered fine lines of inquiry. Host Diane Sawyer asked him: "So, George, what did you think?"

    Stephanopoulos exulted: "I think, three cheers for the citizen questions, Diane. These real people last night produced the most revealing debate of the series, showing sharp differences between Gore and Bush, both on questions of style and on substance; between Bush's philosophy of smaller government and the policy specifics that Gore is going to fight for, and I think it really sets the ground, the strategic ground for these final three weeks."

    But not everyone agreed with Stephanopoulos's assessment. "Did you think those people in that room last night were undecided?" MSNBC's Chris Matthews wondered in his interview with Today's Matt Lauer. "I thought that they were all pro-Gore."

    For a complete rundown of all eight liberal questions posed, check out today's Media Reality Check complied by Tim Graham titled, "Lehrer Picks Pile of Liberal Questioners: PBS Anchor Stacked the Deck for Gore With Eight Questions from the Left, and Two from the Right." Go to:

    To view it as an Adobe Acobat PDF file, go to:


Clarification: After the debate FNC "uniquely acknowledged" the liberal slant of the questions, this morning's CyberAlert reported. That declaration of uniqueness applied to the half hour of post-debate analysis on ABC, CBS and NBC (simulcast on MSNBC) from 10:30 to 11pm ET.

    In addition, during the 12am ET News with Brian Williams re-cap of the October 17 debate, Chris Matthews pointed out the pro-Gore agenda of the questions. MRC analyst Paul Smith took down his early morning comment: "Will somebody please admit that these are not bipartisan audience selections. These are all special pleaders for Democratic causes. There was a teacher in the union. There was somebody talking about prescription drugs. They wanted the Democratic bill. There was somebody for gun control. Were there any conservatives in the audience that were against big government anywhere? I didn't hear one."


Martin Sheen would be "enormously disappointed" if Bush won, but then, Sheen hoped, The West Wing would be a "royal pain in the ass" to Bush. Sheen, who plays Democratic President "Josiah Bartlet" on the NBC series, let loose with his liberal opinions on Rivera Live Monday night and on today's Today. Sheen called Bill Clinton "terrific and heroic" and revealed his character is a melding of the best of Presidents Kennedy, Carter and Clinton.

    Thanks to the American League Championship Series ending before a seventh game, The West Wing returns tonight to NBC at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down these exchanges from Sheen's two interviews.

    -- October 16 Rivera Live on CNBC:
    Geraldo Rivera: "What happens if George Bush wins, will it change the tempo in the West Wing?"
    Sheen: "I, I don't even want to think about that possibility. But if it became a reality-"
    Rivera: "Well what do you mean sir?"
    Sheen: "Well if [Bush] himself ended up in the Oval Office I would be enormously disappointed for the republic and the American people frankly, as well as Mr. Gore. I would be heartsick frankly. But I would hope that our show would continue and that we'd be a royal pain in the ass frankly."

    Later, Sheen proclaimed of Bill Clinton: "I think he's terrific and heroic and, and we're gonna miss him."
    Rivera: "Could you play the other side? Could you? You're a great actor?"
    Sheen: "You know I was asked about that. I don't think one, they would've asked me to do it. And I was only asked that...I never even gave it a thought until I was shooting for about six months and a British journalist asked me if the character were Republican, would I have done it? Not could I, but would I have done it? And my first instinct was no. That I wouldn't have been able to give it my heart and something behind the eye would have given me a way. I don't know. The only Republican I ever worked for, voted for, supported and very strongly became a Democrat after he got in office and that was John Lindsey in New York in 1965."

    -- October 18 Today:
    Matt Lauer: "Do you use some of the real people as a composite?"
    Sheen: "The sitting President of course, Bill Clinton."
    Lauer: "Clinton, there's a big part of Clinton in here?"
    Sheen: "Oh absolutely yeah."
    Lauer: "Who else?"
    Sheen: "Jimmy Carter. The heart, the, the morality of Jimmy Carter. That committed person who is above politics really. And of course John Kennedy. I think if you took those three Presidents and you kind of said, if would could reflect the very best of these men, how would we do it? And I think that Bartlett might be based on that."


ABC's in-kind contribution to the Gore-Lieberman effort. The Friday before the election ABC's 20/20 will feature an interview conducted by Barbara Walters with Barbra Streisand, Neil Travis disclosed in Tuesday's New York Post. Travis learned Streisand "insisted" that in the interview "she would be given room to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary and the Democratic platform."

    MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey alerted me to the item titled "Dems to Get Barb Boost on ABC" in the October 17 "Neal Travis' New York" column. Here's an excerpt:

Yesterday in Manhattan, Barbara Walters began taping an interview that could become the Democrats' "November surprise." The ABC ace spent several hours chatting with uber-liberal Barbra Streisand for a 20/20 show that will air on the Friday before the Nov. 7 election.

Make no mistake: Diva Streisand, who has an enormous following, is using this nationwide forum to promote the candidacies of Democrats Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her remarks could be enough to push both of them over the top in what are shaping up as very close races....

I understand that, as a quid pro quo for doing the interview at a time when she has nothing personal to promote, Streisand insisted that she would be given room to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary and the Democratic platform. It could be the most important political performance the star, who has raised many millions of dollars for the party, has ever given.

"Babs is enormously popular in Middle America, where the election will be decided," says one person who claims to know why she's doing the Walters show at this crucial time. "All those undecideds out there -- if they can hear one idol telling another what a great guy Gore is, you know it's going to swing a lot of votes."

    END Excerpt

    Travis added that he's "heard" that "Gore has been granted a walk-on role on Saturday Night Live (a show that has pilloried him and GOP rival George W. Bush) within the next two weeks."

    The address for the latest column by Neal Travis:


From the October 16 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Election Issues Important to Dumb Guys." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Medicare coverage for swallowing a billiard ball
9. Use part of budget surplus to buy everybody a free hat
8. If you lose your wallet the government should help you find it by using a satellite or laser or something
7. Sure waffles are delicious now...but will they always be?
6. Why don't people on TV wave back at you?
5. We've got to be prepared for an invasion by Canexico
4. Finding the one-armed man to finally clear The Fugitive's good name
3. The next President gets to appoint, like, three new regulars to "The Hollywood Squares"
2. Strengthening military so space monkeys can't blow up White House
1. Candy/soda (tie)

    And from the Late Show Web page, some of the "also ran" nominations which didn't make the final cut:

-- Send someone up to fix the ozone layer with duct tape and a caulking gun
-- Whether "Three Stooges" marathons should include episodes with Shemp
-- There's such a short amount of time between soup being too hot and soup being too cold
-- New law requiring thumbtacks to have pointy end clearly labeled

    George W. Bush is scheduled to appear Thursday night on Letterman's show.-- Brent Baker with morning show analysis provided by Rich Noyes


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