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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday November 2, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 224) |

Dan Rather Easy on Gore, Rough on Bush; Gore Ad Not Tagged "Harsh"; White House E-Mail Problem Worse Than Thought -- Extra Edition

1) Al Gore and George Bush were not treated the same by Dan Rather in taped interviews shown Wednesday night. He portrayed Gore as a victim of an ungrateful nation not rewarding him for prosperity and prompted Tipper about how she's said Bush is "not quite ready yet." But with Bush, Rather demanded he respond to the charges he has less "knowledge" than Gore and that his tax cut skews "to the wealthiest."

2) Tom Brokaw delivered a tough interview with Al Gore, countering his assertions about his own Social Security plan and Bush's.

3) Instead of labeling it "harsh," NBC's Claire Shipman stressed how the Gore "campaign doesn't want to appear too negative" as it released a TV ad asking of Bush: "Is he ready to lead America?"

4) ABC Wednesday night aired a full story on how Ralph Nader is still campaigning "despite mounting criticism that he might cost Al Gore the election." Dean Reynolds highlighted how "one of the fishmongers along the Seattle waterfront apparently mistook Bush for Al Gore."

5) "Zero on Zinc: The mining double standard" for Al Gore by the news media has been explored by the MRC's Tim Graham in a piece for National Review Online.

6) FNC reported that the Justice Dept. conceded the White House e-mail problem is much worse than previously stated. And FNC disclosed how the NAACP is getting men in county jails to register to vote.

     >>> "Goodbye to a Great American and Beloved Friend of the PTC." Steve Allen, National Honorary Chairman of the MRC's Parents Television Council, passed away Monday night. The PTC has created a special Web page with tributes to him and highlights of his efforts to clean up the content of prime time television. Go to:
http://www.parentstv.org/adboard/steveallen10312000.html <<<


Wednesday's CBS Evening News featured separate taped interviews with the two presidential candidates by Dan Rather, but in the excerpts shown he did not treat them the same. With Al and Tipper Gore, Rather pointed how odd it is that Gore is not winning given the good economy and thus portrayed them as victims of an ungrateful nation: "You must have said, maybe one to the other, 'Why is this happening to us?'" Rather also cued up Tipper: "Have you also been telling people that you think the other guy's a nice guy, but not quite ready yet for the presidency?"

But with George W. Bush, Rather demanded he respond to a New York Times editorial: "Most citizens know that Vice President Gore wins in a comparison with Mr. Bush on experience and knowledge."

    Rather also pressed Bush with a Gore campaign spin book attack from the left on taxes: "Do you agree or disagree with the premise that the tax cuts that you proposed, about 40 percent of them will go to the wealthiest one-and-a-half to two percent of the people?"

The November 1 CBS Evening News originated from the White House to mark its 200th anniversary. Rather began the broadcast by relaying how a new CBS News poll found 44 percent favor Bush while 43 percent prefer Gore.

    John Roberts handled CBS's only field report on the campaign: "Both candidates were playing on each other's turf today. George Bush took that same bold confidence he showed in California to Minnesota, where a Republican hasn't won since Richard Nixon's second term....Al Gore today roared through the Bush family stronghold of Florida, with the tenacity of a candidate vying for an upset."

    Roberts went on to recount how Gore hammered Bush on Social Security and Medicare and slammed Bush's "compassionate conservative" message as words that don't buy medicine. Bush, he noted, denounced Gore's scare tactics as he simultaneously predicted doom under Gore.

    Rather then went to his interview with Al and Tipper Gore taped this week on a bus in Wisconsin. Here are his questions:

    -- "Mr. Vice President, you've been part of an administration that one can argue has presided over the greatest economic, sustained economic boom in the history of the country. But here you are in the last week of the presidential campaign, in which even by your own estimate you're locked neck and neck with the other guy. Why is that?"

    -- "But surely sometime at night the two of you talking, you must have said, maybe one to the other, 'Why is this happening to us?'"

    -- To Tipper: "Have you also been telling people that you think the other guy's a nice guy, but not quite ready yet for the presidency?"
    Mrs. Gore demurred: "I don't engage in any personal attacks. What I'm doing is saying that I think my husband is ready for the presidency because he's got 24 years of experience in public service. He's gotten up every morning not figuring out how much money he can make for himself, but figuring out how he can serve the public interest, working hard to make people's lives better."

    -- "If God smiles -- you're lucky enough, and the people decide, you are the next President of the United States -- tell me the first thing you want to do?"
    Gore: "Make sure that our economic policy is in sound shape. Send the campaign finance reform bill to the Congress, because that'll help us get favorable action on education..."

    -- Rather set up the next question: "Gore says flatly he will not actively campaign with President Clinton. Some fellow Democrats say the Vice President is squandering what could be his biggest weapon." To Al Gore: "Are you going to call him in the last few days of the campaign, has he offered to come in?"
    Gore's answer: No.

    -- "Made any mistakes in the campaign?"

-- "Both you and Mrs. Gore are people who've been around the White House quite a bit, not just in the last eight years. Give me some sense of what you think the historical symbolism of the White House is to us as Americans."
    Gore: "...fond of two large trees planted by Andrew Jackson..."

    That ended the portion of the interview shown on the CBS Evening News. The CBS News Web site, however, features a full transcript, though full of errors at least in the parts I could compare to what aired, of Rather's entire interview. One of Rather's questions which did not make it onto TV: "Mrs. Gore, it's a personal question, but you know, a lot of wives would be praying at this point, 'God, I know you're a God of all people, but if you could sort of lean our way it certainly would be handy just now.'"

    For the full Gore interview transcript, go to:

    After an ad break, Rather rhymed: "I flew down to sit down with the Governor at the Governor's Mansion in Austin."

    Rather's questions in the interview with Bush alone, probably taped on Sunday:

    -- "What about the theory that you're sitting on a lead? That you've got a lead? One of the toughest things in politics or sports is to protect a lead."

    -- "If you're lucky, God smiles and you win. First agenda item. You're bound to have some things you say to yourself, right off the bat, 'I want to get these things done.' What's the first thing you'd want to get done?"
    Bush: "Well, I can't say one single thing but I can say a group of things. One is education, for I want to continue the Ed-Flex program out of Washington, with some strong accountability. The second one is Medicare. I mean, it is time to move on Medicare, and that may sound strange for a Republican saying that...."

    -- "Let me read you a couple of quotes from the New York Times and give you an opportunity to respond to their view of the campaign. One, most of this is direct quote: 'Most citizens know that Vice President Gore wins in a comparison with Mr. Bush on experience and knowledge.'"
    Bush: "Well, I just respectfully disagree with the New York Times when it comes to experience. They must think that the only experience that counts is if you spent your life in Washington..." Bush added that Clinton-Gore have had their chance to resolve the Medicare problem.

    -- "Let's talk about your tax program. Do you agree or disagree with the premise that the tax cuts that you proposed, about 40 percent of them will go to the wealthiest one-and-a-half to two percent of the people in the country?"
    Bush: "Well, I agree that everybody is going to get tax relief, and if you are a wealthy person, you're going to get tax relief. The largest percentage of the tax relief goes to the bottom end of the economic ladder. There are going to be over six million additional families that will pay no tax. [edit jump] And that the wealthier will pay a higher percentage of the tax load after the plan is in place than before."

    -- "How much time have you spent in the White House over the years?"

    -- "Did you stay overnight there a lot?"

    -- "I know it hit you hard when your father lost in 1992, that you believed right to the very end that he was going to be reelected for another term."

    That was the last question shown. In the online transcript, after the tax question quoted above, Rather suggested Bush was too dumb to realize the terrible skew of his tax plan: "As you would say, with all due respect. When you designed the plan, did you realize at that time that 40 percent of it would benefit those at the wealthiest level?"

    Rather also wondered: "Ever seen Lincoln's ghost?"
    Bush: "Well, I quit drinking before I spent time there. I might have still been a drinking man."
    Rather: "But you've never seen Lincoln's ghost?"

    For the transcript of the full Bush interview, go to:

    Thursday night, November 2, the CBS Evening News will run excerpts about Social Security from Rather's interviews.

    +++ Watch a video contrast of the two Rather interviews. Late this morning ET MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post RealPlayer clips of each side-by-side in the posted version of this CyberAlert:


Al Gore got a much tougher reception from Tom Brokaw in an interview done live for the 6:30pm ET edition of the NBC Nightly News. (George Bush, as Brokaw explained, declined the invitation to appear daily this week and did one interview with Brokaw which NBC played Tuesday night.)

    Brokaw's three November 1 questions to Gore, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:

    -- "Mr. Vice President, as you heard David Gregory say, a lot of people have the impression that you're suggesting that Governor Bush's plan to reform Social Security will threaten current benefits for senior citizens. All the independent analysts that we've talked to said that's simply not the case, that Social Security is good to go for at least another ten to fifteen years."

    -- "Mr. Vice President, that same American Academy of Actuaries is just as critical of your plan, saying that your arithmetic and your assumptions are also erroneous, that you're gonna use general revenue, that you're gonna count on these surpluses being just what they are forever, and they say you're either gonna have to extend the retirement age or cut benefits or raise taxes after ten to fifteen years."

    -- "Mr. Vice President, even Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey was saying tonight that he likes the idea of Governor Bush's plan of creating some private savings account within Social Security, although he doesn't like all the financing plans. Would you absolutely reject forever the idea, that young people especially, could invest their own payroll taxes, even if they knew there was a risk involved."


Brokaw's Nightly News interview with Gore followed back-to-back reports from the campaign trail from David Gregory and Claire Shipman which I'm quoting here less to show any bias than to give you a flavor of the coverage in the final days. But, Shipman did refrain from using a term like "harsh" to describe a new Gore ad which questions Bush's capacity to be President. She stressed how the Gore team "doesn't want to appear too negative."

    Monday night on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, Shipman's colleague Campbell Brown had tagged as "harsh" a Bush ad: "In stark contrast to the warm and compassionate message on the road, on the air the Bush Campaign today released this harsh new attack ad that accuses Vice President Gore of lying about Bush's Social Security plan."

    From Duluth, Gregory told November 1 NBC Nightly News watchers, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Bush, who you'll see speaking behind me, remains persistent. He is fighting for territory his opponent should be carrying easily. Today Bush promises to defy expectations by becoming the first nominee to carry Minnesota since 1972. Bush in Minneapolis today promoting his tax plan and keeping up the attacks, declaring the Vice President will spend the government surplus and then some expanding the federal government, threatening the country's economic prosperity in the process."

    After a Bush soundbite, Gregory continued: "Bush has intensified his attacks on the Vice President, who he has accused of scaring voters, especially seniors, on the issue of Social Security. Gore charges Bush's plan to allow workers to create individual investment accounts within Social Security would be so costly it would force him to cut existing benefits to seniors..."

    Shipman checked in from Tampa: "Social Security was the buzz word here in Florida today. Al Gore pushing that message both in Orlando and here in Tampa, and of course with a third of the voting population here over the age of sixty, it can be an effective message. The campaign thinks that's why the polls are moving in their direction. They have a couple of Social Security ads on the air down here questioning Bush's reform proposal. But Tom, on another subject, we've also learned that the Gore campaign plans to go on the air tomorrow with a tougher message. It's that commercial we talked about on Monday questioning Bush's experience. At the same time, the campaign doesn't want to appear too negative. They've been accusing Bush of being negative, so they weren't exactly handing this commercial out today, but we got a hold of it."
    Clip of ad: "He squanders the surplus on a tax cut for those making over $300,000. Is he ready to lead America?"
    Shipman: "At this point though, the campaign believes that the race is so close here in Florida it's less dependent on commercials than simply getting out the vote. One Democratic official said today, and he wasn't joking, 'Look for ambulances to be bringing senior citizens to the polls.'"


ABC Wednesday night aired a full story by Dan Harris on how Ralph Nader is still campaigning "despite mounting criticism that he might cost Al Gore the election," followed by a piece by Barry Serafin on what might happen if the electoral college winner doesn't get a majority of the popular vote or if there is an electoral college tie, and Linda Douglass traveled to West Virginia to check on how the "gun lobby" has targeted union members, urging them to defy union pressure to vote for Gore.

    All that followed lead back-to-back stories from the Bush and Gore campaigns. ABC's Dean Reynolds, unlike the CBS and NBC stories, highlighted how "one of the fishmongers along the Seattle waterfront apparently mistook Bush for Al Gore."

    From Florida, Terry Moran reported on the November 1 World News Tonight: "The Gore campaign feels pretty good about its chances in Florida, though. They've been playing to win here since, as you mentioned, since last spring, when a lot of people thought that their effort here was a bluff. And today's trip marked an effort to seal the deal. In Kissimmee outside Orlando, Al Gore was reaching out to the Democratic base of senior citizens, preaching the old time Democratic gospel."
    Al Gore: "Social Security itself is on the ballot. You will vote and you will choose, and I ask you to save Social Security."
    Moran: "Citing a report by the American Academy of Actuaries which was critical of both candidates' Social Security proposals, Gore emphasized the group's finding that the Governor Bush had not adequately accounted for the cost of his plan."....

    Moran later showed a few seconds of Jimmy Buffet warming up an audience before Gore promised no offshore oil drilling.

    Next, Dean Reynolds checked in from up north: "Peter, Minnesota is one of those medium toss-up states that Governor Bush would clearly like to win, and if he loses one of the big ones next Tuesday, like Pennsylvania or Florida, he may have to. The day began with the kind of awkward moment that faces all politicians from time to time, one of the fishmongers along the Seattle Water Front apparently mistook Bush for Al Gore."

    Viewers then saw a man behind a fish counter greet Bush as "Mr. Vice President." Reynolds went on to show how Bush outlined a list of programs he charged Gore would create or expand.


"Zero on Zinc: The mining double standard." Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis at the MRC, has penned a piece for National Review Online about the lack of media concern for Al Gore's zinc interests and related environmental damage.

    The article posted Tuesday began:
    "Reporters would like the public to believe that they, more than anyone, despise hypocrisy in public figures -- the televangelist with the prostitute, the Just Say No anti-drug crusaders allegedly funding crack dealers in the inner cities through anti-Communist rebels. But that appetite for exposés has never extended to Al Gore, the passionate environmentalist with the zinc-mining royalties.
    "Today's Wall Street Journal carried a story by crack investigative reporter Glenn R. Simpson titled 'From Al to Zinc: Story of a Mine Shows How a Fatherly Favor Still Haunts Gore.' That headline is inaccurate: Gore's zinc royalties have never haunted Gore, at least in public. (Insert exasperated sigh here.)"....

    To read the rest of the analysis, go to:

    From now through election day, yes they got a late start, NR Online will be featuring pieces by Tim Graham on media coverage of the campaign. Check the "Guest" columns each day at: http://www.nationalreview.com


Lest we forget how all those Clinton-Gore administration scandals haven't been suspended by the campaign, Wednesday night FNC's Brit Hume squeezed in a short item in his Special Report with Brit Hume on a development also reported in that day's Washington Times.

    Hume relayed: "The Justice Department has quietly let it be known that the missing e-mail problem that has confounded Congressional investigators and a federal court was worse than previously known. The White House had previously said the only missing e-mails were those that came from outside the White House and some missing messages from a separate system in the Vice President's office.
    "Now, Justice Department lawyers have notified investigators that e-mail in several other White House and executive branch computer systems may also be missing. Federal Judge Royce Lamberth said this new disclosure is quote, 'contrary to weeks of testimony in my court.'"

    Next, Hume went to Bret Baier for a unique story on how the NAACP has undertaken a special project to register to vote black men in county jails along the east coast and in the South.

    The effort to "get out the vote" must have a special attraction to people in jail. -- Brent Baker


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