Bush "Veracity" Questioned; Real Victim: Gore; FNC Unearthed Judge's Politics; Perot Spiked; Streisand's ABC Forum
1) Drunk driving disclosure
undercut Bush trust message, the networks contended Friday night. Because Bush
has "attacked Al Gore's credibility," ABC's Dean Reynolds
argued, "his own veracity was suddenly drawing greater scrutiny."
CBS's Bill Whitaker raised worries about damage to an "image as the
honest antidote to the Clinton-Gore years."
2) The real victim of the Bush disclosure: Al Gore.
"There was little rejoicing about this" by Gore's team, insisted
NBC's Claire Shipman. ABC's Terry Moran stressed how the Gore camp is
"worried it could hurt them if voters see it as a dirty trick."
3) The networks questioned Tom Connolly about his agenda, but
ABC and CBS also gave him time to contend it's not a dirty trick when it's
true. CBS ignored his "W is for Wiener" Web site and only FNC
explored the Democratic connections of the judge who got the records pulled
4) Friday night ABC, CBS and NBC all showed Gore mocking Bush
for saying Social Security is not a "federal program," but did not
find time for a syllable about how Ross Perot had endorsed Bush.
5) ABC indeed did give Barbra Streisand a forum to defend Bill
Clinton, denounce George W. Bush and promote Al Gore: "The first three
reasons to vote for Al Gore are the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the
CBS and NBC led Friday night with multiple stories on the Bush drunk
driving disclosure and all asserted in their very first reports that it
raises questions about Bush's honesty. "Because Bush has
consistently attacked Al Gore's credibility," ABC's Dean Reynolds
argued on World News Tonight, "his own veracity was suddenly drawing
greater scrutiny." Bill Whitaker contended on the CBS Evening News:
"The campaign is clearly worried the late revelation could damage his
well-crafted image as the honest antidote to the Clinton-Gore years."
On the NBC Nightly News David Gregory insisted: "The question today
is whether Bush has been truthful about his mistakes."
All three explored how Bush told Dallas Morning News
reporter Wayne Slater in 1996 that he'd never been arrested, an event
NBC's Gregory described as "evidence that two years ago Bush lied
when questioned directly about prior arrests." All three also delved
into how he did not complete a jury questionnaire. ABC even searched
fruitlessly for a smoking gun in his hunting license application.
Below is a rundown of how the broadcast evening
network shows on Friday, November 3 handled the impact of the drunk
driving story on the Bush campaign. Item #3 below explores contrasts and
missing facts in how each characterized the leaker, Tom Connolly.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings noted
up front that an ABC News poll had Bush at 48 percent compared to 45
percent for Gore and 3 percent still sticking with Nader.
Jennings contemplated: "Both of the major
campaigns are struggling today to deal with the news, just about this time
last night, that George W. Bush was arrested 24 years ago for driving
under the influence of alcohol and what does that mean today?"
From Saginaw, Dean Reynolds found it added a dose of
uncertainty to the Bush campaign as they tried to put the story to rest.
Reynolds played a soundbite of Bush at a rally saying he's made mistakes
but learned from them before Reynolds noted that Bush communications guru
Karen Hughes called it an "example of campaign treachery."
After a clip from Hughes, Reynolds contended:
"But because Bush has consistently attacked Al Gore's
Bush from a recent
campaign appearance: "You need somebody in office who'll tell the
Reynolds picked up:
"His own veracity was suddenly drawing greater scrutiny. Wayne Slater
of the Dallas Morning News says Bush told him in an interview that beyond
a couple of college-age pranks he'd never been in trouble with the
Reynolds recalled that Bush has only given the
"broadest answers" about making mistakes in the past as he told
the Houston Chronicle he "didn't have a perfect record."
Reynolds concluded by wondering: "Tonight the question is will that
decision harm the Bush candidacy and that depends on a great extent on
whether the public believes he really was trying to protect his daughters
or intentionally misleading the voters for years."
Following stories on Connolly and the Gore
campaign, Jennings returned to Bush's
honesty. He recounted how a Texas jury questionnaire asked if he'd ever
been accused of or was a complainant in a criminal case, but Bush left it
blank, though Jennings conceded an aide could have filled out the form.
Jennings revealed the effort ABC made to catch Bush: "And we found no
hunting or fishing or firearms license for which the Governor has been
asked about any arrests at all."
-- CBS Evening News.
Dan Rather opened the broadcast by stressing what Bush "kept
secret" for many years:
heading now into the final turn in what could or could not be a
photo-finish presidential race. However it goes, what a race! And this
weekend many voters will make up their minds. In these final, perhaps
decisive hours, the Bush campaign has been concentrating on
explanations, following the revelation that the Governor kept secret
for 24 years an arrest and conviction for driving drunk. Bush
questions the timing of the revelation that started at a small TV
station. His campaign claims straight out it's all a dirty trick.
CBS fact-driven coverage begins with Bill Whitaker in Saginaw,
Bill Whitaker played the Bush made
mistakes/learned from them soundbite and noted the campaign thought it
had put the controversy to rest last night, "but it flared again
today when a Texas reporter said two years ago Bush flat out denied an
Dallas Morning News: "I asked him, 'Were you ever arrested
after 1968?' He said no. [edit jump] That's a fact. I remember it
Whitaker went on to show Karen Hughes accusing
Democrats of a "dirty trick" as she moved into "damage
control" mode. Whitaker related: "The campaign is clearly
worried the late revelation could damage his well-crafted image as the
honest antidote to the Clinton-Gore years."
October 20: "What can we do to inspire my generation to believe
in public service again?"
George W. Bush:
"Tell the truth. Tell the truth."
Whitaker trumpeted the jury questionnaire as a
potential smoking gun: "But new questions about truthfulness are
now coming up. Late today CBS News obtained this jury questionnaire
from Texas courts. Bush was required to fill it out in 1996 while he
was Governor. The portion that asks if you have ever been accused in a
criminal case was left blank. Texas justice officials say the Governor
should have answered the question. Now the Bush campaign says the form
was filled out by an assistant to the Governor who left about a dozen
questions blank because he didn't know the answers. Now the
Governor, so says the campaign, was dismissed from the jury panel
before a judge ever reviewed the form."
-- NBC Nightly News.
Tom Brokaw began by announcing: "The campaign of George W. Bush
has a major distraction. But for how long? That drunk driving arrest
24 years ago has raised questions about judgment in the Bush campaign
and also attacks for dirty tricks against the Democrats."
David Gregory in Saginaw observed, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well, Tom, as you can
imagine, today the Bush campaign was thrown completely off stride,
forced to confront evidence that two years ago Bush lied when
questioned directly about prior arrests."
Like ABC and CBS, NBC ran the clip of Bush
saying he's made mistakes but has learned from them and noted how
Karen Hughes accused Democrats of a "dirty trick." Gregory
then plunged into the Slater matter: "But the question today is
whether Bush has been truthful about his mistakes. An article in a
November 1999 issue of the New Republic magazine recounts a
conversation between Bush and a Texas newspaper reporter in
Wayne Slater of
Dallas Morning News recalled: "I asked him were you ever arrested
after 1968 and he said no."
"Slater says Karen Hughes, Bush's spokeswoman, refused to allow
the Governor to say any more."
As other soundbites I've seen somewhere other
than ABC, CBS or NBC have made clear, Slater thought Bush wanted to
clarify his denial but Hughes cut him off.
Gregory explored further: "Bush was far
less direct when asked in 1996 whether he'd ever been arrested for
drunk driving. Quoted in the Houston Chronicle, he said, 'I do not
have a perfect record as a youth,' though Bush was 30 at the time of
his arrest. Today Bush advisers accused Democrats of 'gotcha
politics' when they learned that Tom Connolly, a Democratic activist
in Maine, leaked the story and tried unsuccessfully to pass Bush's
arrest record onto the Gore campaign."
"They're saying that it's somehow been used to hurt him. Well
it's been used to hurt him only in the sense that the truth
Gregory wrapped up with a clip of George H. W.
Bush calling the timing of the disclosure about his son
real victims, according to the networks, of the Bush drunk driving
disclosure: Democrats and the Gore campaign. "Believe it not
there was little rejoicing about this Bush story today" by the
Gore team, insisted NBC's Claire Shipman. ABC's Peter Jennings
maintained it didn't make things easy for Democrats as colleague
Terry Moran stressed how the Gore campaign is "very worried it
could hurt them if voters see it as a dirty trick."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. In setting up a
look at who Tom Connolly is, Jennings observed: "In political
terms this is obviously difficult for Mr. Bush, obviously. But neither
is it easy for the Democrats. It was leaked to the press by a
well-connected Democrat who very much dislikes Mr. Bush."
In a later story by Terry Moran with Gore in
Knoxville, Moran relayed how "they're wary of this wildcard and
they are very worried it could hurt them if voters see it as a dirty
trick." Moran noted that Gore
avoided commenting on the matter, but his surrogates
were used "to send a far harsher message. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin
said the incident raised questions about Bush's honesty."
-- NBC Nightly News. Claire Shipman opened her
piece from the traveling Gore party in Knoxville: "Believe it
not, there was little rejoicing about this Bush story today in the
Gore campaign. The staff had to spend the whole day insisting they
didn't start the story and worrying about an unpredictable impact in
the final stretch of this campaign."
and CBS on Friday night questioned Tom Connolly about whether in
providing the Bush drunk driving information to a reporter he was
working in cahoots with the Gore campaign, but both also gave him the
opportunity to deny that and contend it's not a dirty trick when
All three broadcast networks noted Connolly's
Democratic activities as a convention delegate and gubernatorial
candidate, but CBS skipped his anti-Bush Web site. Connolly "now
operates an outlandish anti-Bush Web site called 'W Is for
Wiener,'" NBC's Pete Williams noted over a shot of a Web logo
with Bush inside a hot dog bun. But none told viewers how on the Web
site, as the Saturday Washington Times observed, Connolly declared:
"Wiener Boy Bush is 97 percent filler with 2 percent pig lips and
snout and 1 percent pure bull, coupled with .001 percent rodent
The Web address, though every time I try I get a
"no response" error message: http://www.wienerboy.org
For a small picture of Connolly wearing his
always-present fly-fishing cap and audio and video of his interview
with CNN late Friday morning, go to:
ABC, CBS and NBC did not touch on the Democratic
Party connections or agenda of the judge who provided the crucial
court docket sheet to Connolly. ABC's Dan Harris only noted that
Judge Bill Childs "was pedaling the story of Bush's arrest for
operating under the influence."
FNC's Carl Cameron, however, uniquely explored
his suspicious role. Cameron revealed "that Mr. Childs is himself
an activist Democrat who some four months ago requisitioned a document
about the Bush arrest," but since they are stored-away paper
documents, "it is said by a number of sources that the judge used
his influence as a member of the court in order to get the papers
-- ABC's World News Tonight. As already quoted
in item #2 above, ABC's Peter Jennings introduced the November 3
look at Connolly by sympathizing with Democrats:
political terms this is obviously difficult for Mr. Bush, obviously.
But neither is it easy for the Democrats. It was leaked to the press
by a well-connected Democrat who very much dislikes Mr. Bush."
Dan Harris traveled to Portland to find
Connolly. Harris asked Connolly at the top of his piece: "How are
people not supposed to be suspicious that this is Democratic dirty
responded: "Because it's the truth. So you're saying it's a
dirty trick because we're revealing the truth that he
Harris outlined Connolly's background:
"Thomas Connolly, who works as a defense attorney, is a staunch
Gore supporter. He was a delegate to the Democratic National
Convention this summer and runs this anti-bush Web site. [shot of
button proclaiming: "'W' is for Wiener" with Bush inside
a hot dog or, shall we say, a wiener bun]."
Harris continued, as transcribed by MRC analyst
Brad Wilmouth: "How did Connolly get a hold of the information
about Bush's arrest? He's told varying stories. It appears he was
tipped off yesterday by either a client or a colleague. That colleague
may be Bill Childs [picture on screen], a probate judge. Several
lawyers who were in the Portland courthouse yesterday say Childs was
pedaling the story of Bush's arrest for operating under the
attorney: "Judge Childs was indicating to anyone who would
listen, the fact that he had first-hand knowledge of court records
which indicated George Bush had an OUI conviction from 24 years
Harris then described how Connolly got the word
to WPXT-TV reporter Erin Fahleau who denied anything was orchestrated.
-- CBS Evening News. Jim Axelrod began by
running down what happened in Maine 24 years ago and how Bush had a
.12 blood alcohol level and that the police officer recalled Bush was
cooperative. Axelrod then got to how the story came out:
Connolly is the source of the story. A lawyer, former Democratic
nominee for Governor here and delegate to this summer's Democratic
convention. He says he was tipped by a friend of friend who was in
court with Bush 24 years ago."
Connolly: "Was the Gore campaign involved in any way, shape or
form with this revelation?"
"None, zero, absolutely not."
"Connolly, a bit of an eccentric who wears his fly-fishing cap
everywhere but court, says he tried to get the information to the Gore
campaign, but couldn't get through."
Connolly: "But they can say this guy is a Democrat,
dyed-in-the-wool, delegate to the convention. And so that it in some
way compromises the nature of the disclosure."
"It doesn't because you look at the truth. Trust the tale not
-- NBC Nightly News. Pete Williams also opened
by going through what occurred in 1976. Williams insisted: "The
arrest and court documents were never expunged or deleted."
Williams also elaborated on Bush's good attitude: "The
policeman who arrested him now says Bush was quote, 'the picture of
integrity' that night and says Bush's father later thanked him for
arresting his son."
Now there's an angle not yet explored.
Williams arrived at
the instigator of the big controversy: "Tom
Connolly, who began spreading the word yesterday, and then confirmed
it to reporters, says he heard about it from a fellow lawyer at the
Portland, Maine, courthouse, who heard it from a doctor, who in turn,
heard it from someone who was in court when Bush paid his fine 24
years ago. But Connolly says he gladly spread the story after checking
"It came out only because a citizen was concerned and because
public records are kept public, giving me free access to those."
"But Connolly is more than just a concerned citizen. An active
Democrat, he lost a run for governor two years ago and now operates an
outlandish anti-Bush Web site called 'W is for Wiener.' He passed
out hundreds of buttons like this one in Maine in a successful bid to
become a delegate to the Democratic National Convention [button with
Bush caricature inside a wiener]. Tonight Connolly insists he acted on
his own and had no contact with the Gore campaign before spreading the
Carl Cameron related unique information about
the Democratic connections of Judge Childs and the special effort he
must have had to employ to obtain Bush's record. On Friday's
Special Report with Brit Hume, Cameron disclosed:
attorney Tom Connolly, a staunch Democrat, revealed the story
Thursday. He runs a Web site called 'W is for Wiener,' also the
title of his book. He attended the Democratic convention in Los
Angeles two months ago. He's acquainted with various top Gore
campaign staffers and was Maine's Democratic Party gubernatorial
candidate two years ago. Connolly makes no apologies about his desire
to help Gore and hurt Bush...."
will not say how he heard about it other than that he was told of a
rumor. But Fox News has learned that it was a judge, a probate judge
in Maine by the name of William Childs, Billy Childs. The Childs
family, prominent Democrats, Mr. Childs' father, in fact, once the
House Speaker in Maine, and that Mr. Childs is himself an activist
Democrat who some four months ago requisitioned a document about the
Bush arrest. The documents were in cold storage. Computer records were
not available at that time, and it is said by a number of sources that
the judge used his influence as a member of the court in order to get
the papers pulled. How it was that for some four months the documents
did not come to light remains something of a mystery. It was just
yesterday, however, that witnesses say Judge Childs, as well as Mr.
Connolly, were talking about it in a courtroom in Kennebunk, Maine,
and as one witness described it, Mr. Childs was actively peddling the
While on this subject, I came across a
RealPlayer video file of Erin Fehlau's Thursday night "Fox 51
News at 10" report. It's her complete 10pm newscast piece and
it answered a question I had about how a TV station with just a 10pm
newscast managed to break a story at 5pm. The answer: a special
report. Go to:
I came across that because a CyberAlert reader
alerted me to the location of a bio for Erin Fehlau. It doesn't
really say much, but here it is in full from the www.ourmaine.com
Web site, for the reporter who first broke the story:
grew up in Bedford, Mass., but has strong family ties to Maine: Her
mother was born in Portland, and her father was the son of a popular
pastor in Lewiston. After graduating from Syracuse University she
worked at WMTW in Portland, then at WLVI in Boston, where she won a
New England Emmy Award for producing. Her favorite part of reporting
is meeting people from all over the state, and appreciating their
down-to-earth, caring natures and sense of humor. She lives in
Portland, and enjoys skiing, singing, acting, and visiting
lighthouses. Her favorite place in Maine is Portland Head Light in
And one more thing, the MRC's Rich Noyes
discovered through Nexis that Tom Connolly was the defense lawyer in a
high-profile Maine drunk driving case last year. Scott Hogenson of the
MRC's CNSNews.com turned that into a story which reads in part:
search of news article from the Bangor Daily News turned up a May 21,
1999 article describing how Connolly was defense counsel for Pat
LaMarche, who was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle
while under the influence of intoxicating liquor on March 10, 1999.
LaMarche was also one of four candidates for governor in 1998.
to the article, Connolly declared that a Bangor District Court
decision to throw out the charge against LaMarche meant he and his
client 'were victorious today,' and that his client's reputation
had been 'brutalized,' by the arrest."
To read the whole CNSNews.com article, go to:
Gore got his message out on Friday even if George Bush did not. ABC,
CBS and NBC all showed Gore mocking Bush for saying Social Security is
not a "federal program," but did not find time Friday night
for a syllable about how Ross Perot had surprisingly endorsed Bush.
CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather gave the
heaviest emphasis to a Gore attack line also recounted Friday night on
ABC and NBC. After the Bill Whitaker story on Bush's reaction to the
drunk driving disclosure, Rather intoned:
position is to say nothing about this and to stay on message in the
battleground states, most especially in Florida. This includes raising
questions about whether Governor Bush is qualified to be President and
using Bush's own comments in the last 24 hours about Social Security
to do that."
John Roberts proceeded to show a soundbite of
Gore mocking Bush for the rhetorical flub of saying Social Security is
not a "federal program" and Roberts ran a brief clip of a
matching new Gore ad.
But the endorsement of Bush by Ross Perot on
Thursday night's Larry King Live on CNN, accompanied by some very
tough criticism of Gore, did not get a word on the November 3 ABC, CBS
and NBC evening newscasts. Friday morning, it earned some passing
mention on the mornings shows sans any video clips.
On ABC's Good Morning America for instance,
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Diane Sawyer asked George
Stephanopoulos at the end of a discussion about Bush's drunk
driving: "One quick footnote, last night Ross Perot
endorsed...Governor Bush. Does this matter at this point?"
replied: "I'm not sure that it matters. First of all, the
endorsement is going to get blacked out by this other news. Secondly,
there isn't a big Perot faction left in the country anymore, and a lot
of his voters are already going to Ralph Nader. But I am really
surprised at this. The animosity between Ross Perot and the Bush
family is very well known, but you know, maybe he just decided it's
time to heal the breach."
It certainly was blacked out.
night ABC did indeed provide Barbra Streisand with a forum to defend
Bill Clinton and denounce George W. Bush, just as New York Post
columnist Neal Travis presaged in reporting that before agreeing to
the interview, "Streisand insisted that she would be given room
to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary and the Democratic
Well, 20/20 didn't run any praise of Hillary,
but Streisand told Barbara Walters she "definitely" would
have stood by Bill Clinton, if she was his wife during the Lewinsky
mess, since "he's a wonderful President." ABC also let her
proclaim: "The first three reasons to vote for Al Gore are the
Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court."
In the middle of interview pegged to
Streisand's decision to cease public performances, Walters observed:
"The other great passion in her life is politics. For years,
Streisand has been a fundraising powerhouse for the Democratic Party.
When she sings, the big cats show up and shell out. Her voice has
raised millions to elect candidates who share her liberal views on the
environment, civil rights, and women's issues."
Walters reviewed how she talks policy with Bill
Clinton, before she asked her: "How did you feel about the Monica
"This is not good."
over: "Clearly this subject makes Streisand uncomfortable, but a
moment later she decided to answer."
Streisand: "What was your feeling about that?"
"Overrated. I mean ridiculous. A President should be judged by
his actions as a President not how he runs his personal life. I mean
if you were to discuss Eleanor Roosevelt's sexuality or President
Roosevelt's affair with his wife's secretary, that she lived in
the White House. These things should be left alone."
Streisand: "This is kind of a delicate question, but because
you've talked about marriage and trust as well as love, could you
have stood by the President as Hillary Clinton did, if he were your
avowed: "Most definitely. He's a wonderful President."
to the current campaign: "Streisand says she doesn't know Al
Gore very well, but far more than George W. Bush, Gore represents her
political and personal agenda, as she made clear at this recent
Hollywood fundraiser that brought in $5 million for the Gore
stage: "The first three reasons to vote for Al Gore are the
Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court. Our whole way of
life is at stake when you consider that the next President will make
three or even four appointments during his term."
"Streisand is concerned that if elected, a Bush administration
will appoint conservative judges who will try to take away a woman's
right to choose in the case of abortion."
Mark the decision to run this, just four days
before the election, as Disney's "in-kind" contribution to
the Gore campaign. -- Brent Baker
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