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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday November 1, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 222) |

Gore Kiss "Heat" to Rub Off on Voters; CBS Turned Naderite Press Release Into News; Bush Denounced Again by Martin Sheen -- Extra Edition

1) CBS's John Roberts respected Gore's attack: "Gore was dead serious today as he accused the Texas Governor..." But in the next story CBS's Bill Whitaker jabbed Bush: "Even while talking compassion," he "took a dig at Al Gore." Roberts gushed about how "Gore has even resurrected the famous convention kiss, hoping all that energy and heat will rub off on voters."

2) Tom Brokaw's symmetry: He asked Bush if he would reduce his tax cuts and Gore if he would reduce his spending plans. Brokaw pressed Bush about whether he considers Gore to be a liar and queried Gore on whether it's "inappropriate" to "suggest that George Bush is not equipped to become President?"

3) Dan Rather turned a liberal agenda report, about "extensive big money corporate lobbying" by pharmaceutical companies, a report released by the colleagues of a presidential candidate, into a news item credited to a "consumer group."

4) Following Al Gore on the Tonight Show, actor Martin Sheen who plays a TV President, belittled George Bush: "I think he lacks a really essential ingredient to be President and that's intellectual curiosity."

5) Who mused: "This contest remains as tight as a tick in Grandma's corset"? It wasn't Dan Rather.


"Gore was dead serious today as he accused the Texas Governor of selling out the middle class," CBS's John Roberts intoned Tuesday night in giving weight to Gore's charge by employing the positive "dead serious" term, but in the very next story Bill Whitaker suggested hypocrisy by George Bush as he took this jab: "Even while talking compassion," Bush "took a dig at Al Gore." Roberts also gushed about how "Gore has even resurrected the famous convention kiss, hoping all that energy and heat will rub off on voters."

    Of the three broadcast networks and CNN, ABC's World News Tonight and CNN (both Inside Politics and the current 8pm ET election special hosted by Wolf Blitzer) on Tuesday night, October 31, played a clip from the new RNC/Bush ad which replays Gore maintaining "there's never been a time when I've said something untrue" and then asks: "Really?"

    NBC Nightly News featured interviews with both Bush and Gore. Tom Brokaw asked Bush about, but did not show, his new ad and asked if he considers Gore to be a liar. See item #2 below for more on NBC's interviews.

    After the campaign topped all the evening shows Monday night, on Tuesday night all led with the 747 crash in Taiwan.

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings asked his Bush and Gore correspondents, both of whom were in Portland, Oregon, to outline the candidates' strategies to win the toss-up states.

    Dean Reynolds explained how Bush hopes to exploit Nader's rise to win in Oregon and Washington, but that during the day he visited a homeless shelter in San Jose to "show off a more compassionate image to swing voters."

    Jennings asked: "Is the message getting any sharper?"
    Reynolds affirmed: "As an ulterior theme to the compassionate message there is a tougher message and you can tell by looking at this Bush campaign ad that was running today entitled 'Nonsense.'"

    ABC played a portion of the ad, starting with Gore asserting: "There has never been a time in this campaign when I have said something that I know to be untrue. There's never been a time when I've said something untrue?"
    Ad announcer, with same word on screen: "Really?"

    Reynolds added: "Well, the Bush campaign says that that is not a negative attack, they're merely quoting the Vice President."

    Next, also from Portland, Terry Moran told Jennings that Gore will travel on Wednesday to Florida where he's targeting baby boomers with his message on the environment and will be helped by a concert by Jimmy Buffet.

    Jennings asked Moran too about any sharpening attack. Moran replied: "No question about it Peter. Here in Oregon today he gave what was without question the most aggressive, toughest speech he's given in a while" as he tagged Bush's tax cut a "giveaway to the rich." But Moran did not show any of Gore's aggressive words.

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather set up CBS's coverage by reporting that CBS now gives Bush 209 electoral college votes and Gore 182 votes, leaving 147 in 14 toss-up states. Rather announced an update as CBS has moved Pennsylvania from leaning toward Gore to a toss-up and Nevada from a toss-up to leaning toward Bush.

    John Roberts opened his Gore piece from Portland: "Facing double trouble from George Bush and Ralph Nader, Al Gore set down in Oregon today aiming to throw a scare in his opponents."

    After clip of Gore clowning with costumed members of the media, Roberts intoned: "Gore was dead serious today as he accused the Texas Governor of selling out the middle class."
    Gore: "What he is actually proposing, let's be plain about it, is a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest few. It is, in fact, a form of class warfare on behalf of billionaires."
    Roberts continued: "Each day in the campaign the rhetoric is more pitched, a deliberate strategy to confront what has emerged as Gore's biggest hurdle nationwide -- to fire the passions of voters."

    After noting how Republicans are more enthusiastic and better focused on turnout, Roberts crowed over matching video of Al and Tipper: "Gore has even resurrected the famous convention kiss, hoping all that energy and heat will rub off on voters."

    Colleague Bill Whitaker also checked in from Portland: "Storming up the West coast this Halloween, George Bush is showing voters two faces. With recovering addicts at a San Jose rehab center the self-proclaimed compassionate conservative showed his compassionate side."

    Following a bit of video of Bush at the clinic and a brief note about how Bush supports faith-based charities to supplement government programs, Whitaker suggested Bush's rhetoric contradicted his "compassionate" claim:
    "In this booming dot-com valley where voters are fiscally conservative but socially progressive, he preached his vision of government that lends a hand to those in need, but stays out of the way of entrepreneurs. And even while talking compassion, took a dig at Al Gore."
    Bush: "He called programs such as these 'crumbs of compassion.' I don't believe that. I believe programs like these are the bread of life."
    Whitaker elaborated: "It's part of a two-pronged approach with a single purpose: carouse supporters to go to the polls. If the soft sell doesn't work, maybe the hardline will. Last night he whipped a Fresno crowd into a frenzy with a sharp attack on Al Gore's Social Security plan."
    Bush: "Halloween politics we call it. Trying to scare seniors by saying we're going to take away their Social Security checks. They're not going to get away with it this time."

    Of course, in that Bush soundbite he was defending his Social Security plan against Gore's attack on it, not delivering a "sharp attack" on Gore's plan.

    Whitaker moved on, ominously recounting: "Then he raised the specter of President Bill Clinton, painting his California campaign swing this week as Al Gore's worst nightmare."


NBC's Tom Brokaw provided near-perfect symmetry in the questions he posed Tuesday night to Bush and Gore. He raised the lowering surplus estimates with both and asked Bush if he would reduce or phase in his tax cuts and he asked Gore if he would reduce his spending plans. Brokaw also made each address their latest campaign attacks on the other: After he pressed Bush about whether he considers Gore to be a liar, and Bush rejected the term, he queried Gore on whether it's "inappropriate for your campaign aides and even Joe Lieberman to suggest that George Bush is not equipped to become President?"

    Monday night he interviewed just Gore about education, explaining Bush had rejected the chance to appear on NBC Nightly News all week. But on Tuesday night's show Brokaw announced that Bush had agreed to one interview session with Brokaw, so it would cover several topics, while the interview with Gore would focus on the topic of the day: the surplus.

    The October 31 NBC Nightly News did not include any full campaign stories from the field, just a brief rundown by Brokaw of how Bush and Gore spent the day. Brokaw then got to his interviews.

    First up, George Bush. These are all of Brokaw's questions, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:

    -- "I began by asking him about the stalemate between the Republican Congress and President Clinton over a tax cut and spending program that is so rich it cuts the current surplus by about forty percent. Is the Governor concerned?"

    -- "You're not worried that the Republicans are going too far?"

    -- When Bush asserted tat he sees "warning signs on the horizon about the economy," Brokaw demanded: "Those warning signs that you've referred to, have they prompted you in any way to think about cutting back on your tax cut proposal or maybe phasing it in over a longer period of time?"

    -- "Governor, it does appear that your plan to privatize Social Security in part is beginning to perhaps hurt you in states like Florida and Pennsylvania, and the big question is how do we pay for it all. The American Academy of Actuaries has done an analysis of your plan, and it has concluded that the surplus will be wiped out in fifteen to twenty years, and they give you three real options. They say how are you gonna fund this? By raising taxes, by cutting benefits, or by extending the age that people can retire at?"

    -- When Bush claimed Gore is trying to scare seniors, Brokaw retorted: "But Governor, this analysis came from the Academy of Actuaries, the people who spend all of their lives determining how much money will be available at what age for American citizens, whether it's insurance or Social Security plans."

    -- "You have a new ad that is going out in which the voice over invokes Al Gore and his mother-in-law and prescription drugs, and the bottom line is that it seems to be suggesting that Al Gore just can't be trusted to tell the truth. Do you think that he is a liar, as some of your admirers and aides have suggested?"
    Bush replied: "I certainly would not use that word" and would say instead that he's "prone to exaggeration."

    -- "Finally, Governor, what is your little brother Jeb Bush, the Governor of Florida, saying to you about what's gonna happen there next Tuesday to your campaign?"

    Brokaw switched to Gore, and asked the Vice President:

    -- "Mr. Vice President, the topic tonight is that federal surplus. How reliable? How large? If the current congressional spending and tax cut program goes through, it'll eat up about forty percent of the surplus that has been projected for this year, as you know. The rate of growth in the American economy in the third quarter is about half of what it was in the second quarter. At the same time, earnings are down in the corporate world, and consumer debt is up. Now you're counting on all of those things to be at the top of their game for your spending program to succeed. Don't you think the American public is willing to have both of you say look, maybe we ought to cut back on our ambitions here because that surplus is not gonna be as great as we thought it was gonna be?"

    -- "Mr. Vice President, to make your plan work, you're counting on $96 billion in closing tax loopholes, $30 billion from Pentagon savings, and $66 billion in new cigarette taxes. Almost no one in Washington, Republican or Democrat, thinks that you can achieve all three of those goals, and yet they are required for you to come out zero, zero."

    -- "But as you know, the Congressional Budget Office, which is the non-partisan agency that everyone relies on, says that substantial deviation can result from incorrect economic and technological assumptions, not to mention the effect of new legislation. In other words, these projected surpluses that we're talking about come from that well known Washington woman 'Rosie Scenario.'"

    -- "Mr. Vice President, you heard the Governor say that he believes that it's too strong to call you a liar. Are you prepared tonight to say on his behalf that it's inappropriate for your campaign aides and even Joe Lieberman to suggest that George Bush is not equipped to become President of the United States, especially when he has people like Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf around him?"
    Gore argued "the President is the one who has to make the decisions." Gore insisted, "I have not challenged his competence or experience," but contended Bush's tax cut for the rich and plan to take a trillion dollars out of the Social Security trust fund, "calls into question his judgment."


Dan Rather turned a liberal agenda report, from the colleagues of a presidential candidate -- a report which supported one of his campaign tenets about corporate influence -- into a news item credited to a "consumer group." Only at the end of his brief story did Rather acknowledge the source was a group "founded by Ralph Nader."

    Rather read this short item on the October 31 CBS Evening News, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed: "There is news tonight about extensive big money corporate lobbying. A consumer group reports the prescription drug industry has shoveled a record $230 million or more into lobbying and political campaigns in just the last two years. That's far more than any other single industry spent. Last year alone, the drug companies deployed 297 lobbyists. That's more than one lobbyist for every two members of Congress. This study is from Public Citizen, the group founded by Ralph Nader."

    To use a Halloween theme, it's frightening how easy it is for left wing groups to get networks to treat their press releases as unimpeachable news stories.


The TV President who was preparing to campaign with the real Vice President who hopes to become the real President, appeared on the same Tonight Show as that candidate working for a promotion. And that TV President did his part on the show by questioning the "intellectual curiosity" of the man standing in the way of that elevation.

    To translate, actor Martin Sheen, who plays the President on NBC's drama The West Wing, appeared on Tuesday's Tonight Show after Al Gore's segment. Sheen told host Jay Leno that immediately following the taping he planned to follow Gore to Westwood where he'd appear on stage with the Vice President.

    Leno asked: "What do you think of Bush?" Sheen belittled him: "I think he lacks a really essential ingredient to be President and that's intellectual curiosity."

    When thinking of Hollywood actors, does "intellectual curiosity" spring to mind?

    To read about how Sheen told George magazine that George W. Bush is a "bully" who is "full of shit," go to:

    In the preceding Halloween Tonight Show segment, Jay Leno asked Gore about Clinton's demand in Esquire that Republicans apologize for impeachment. Gore fired back to applause: "I'm stilling waiting for the Republican Congress to apologize for electing Newt Gingrich Speaker."

    Leno also read some audience questions to Gore that certainly were odd, such as what would be the first meal he'll order as President (if he wins, a "Happy Meal" at McDonald's), and should the U.S. follow Australia and make voting compulsory?

    Now there's another frightening thought: All the people without the "intellectual curiosity" to be able to figure out who to vote for being required to vote instead of just staying home.


At the top of CNN's pre-election show now running this week at 8:30pm ET, Unconventional Wisdom, host Jeff Greenfield contended: "This contest remains as tight as a tick in Grandma's corset. I have no idea what that means, but it works for Dan Rather."

    Nice to see that even Rather's media colleagues are amused by his colloquialisms.

    Reminder: Al Gore will appear today on the syndicated Queen Latifah daytime TV show where in the taped interview he'll talk about leather and lace on a woman and once fleeing the police on a motorcycle. -- Brent Baker


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