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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| 4:40pm ET, Thursday November 9, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 235) |

Disenfranchised Voter Idea Pushed; Rather Reminded Viewers of DWI; Ratherisms; Hillary's Name Booed by Letterman Audience -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) Morning and night the networks are advancing the Democratic agenda by focusing attention on complaints of "irregularities" and putting the burden on Bush surrogates to defend not counting improperly filled-out ballots. NBC's Matt Lauer: "Should the election stand if those people didn't have a chance to have their voices heard?" Bryant Gumbel asked Bill Daley if he was "disappointed" by George W. Bush's attitude.

2) In the midst of Bush's short-lived time of victory announced by the networks, Dan Rather used the three finger signal to remind viewers about the drunk driving disclosure.

3) Ratherisms: "Melted faster than ice cream in a microwave," "madder than a rained on rooster," "shakier than cafeteria Jell-O," "it's spandex tight," "more likely to see a hippopotamus coming running through this room."

4) The audience at David Letterman's show booed when he brought up Hillary Clinton's Senate victory.

5) Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard Last Night at the Florida Election Commission."


Morning and night the networks are advancing the Democratic agenda by focusing attention on complaints of "irregularities" in Florida, whether substantiated or just speculation, and putting the burden on Bush surrogates to defend not counting ballots in which the voter voted for two candidates.

    This morning's Good Morning America featured an interview with a Palm Beach County woman who complained about how she voted by mistake for Buchanan instead of Gore. On CBS, Bryant Gumbel asked Bill Daley if he was "disappointed" by George W. Bush's attitude.
    NBC's Matt Lauer challenged James Baker about 19,000 improperly filled out ballots: "Should the election stand if those people didn't have a chance to have their voices heard?"

    There's more to analyze and quote than time or space allows, but here are a few quick examples:

    > MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on Wednesday night brought aboard Gertrude Borenstein, a Palm Beach County voter who claimed she mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan but then got a new ballot and switched her vote. Lester Holt asked her: "Who did you want to vote for?"
    MRC analyst Paul Smith noticed that her answer showed she really didn't know the correct names of her choices: "I wanted to vote for Al Gore and Al Lieberman."

    > CBS's The Early Show. In back-to-back interviews with Bill Daley and James Baker, CBS's hosts assumed something nefarious had or is occurring in Florida. Check out the questions posed this morning, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:

    Bryant Gumbel to Bill Daley:
    -- "What's your assessment of how the recount is proceeding?"
    -- "Voter miscount is one thing, do you think in Florida that voter fraud has been perpetrated?"
    -- "Well, that can result, we assume, from the so-called, controversial butterfly ballot and the possibility that a number of voters after punching out one name tried to correct their mistake by punching out a second one and thus invalidating their votes. Do you think that ballot, that butterfly ballot, which I trust you've seen, violates Florida law as some are contending?"
    -- "We see that Governor Bush keeps expressing confidence about the outcome, yet Vice President Gore seems a great deal more cautious, why?"
    -- "Is that to say that you think the Governor's position has been inappropriate?"
    -- "Are you disappointed in the attitude of Governor Bush who at times I've seen it described as seems annoyed by the Democratic position of the past 36 hours?"
    -- "What's your best feeling right now, what's your gut telling you about how long before we know a winner?"
    -- "Final question, win, lose, or draw, Mr. Daley, are you prepared to accept the recount that's underway as the final arbiter of this election?"

    Jane Clayson to James Baker:
    -- "Can you confirm as the recount continues that the difference between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush is now down to about 900 votes?"
    -- "Have you seen Warren Christopher your counterpart from the Gore campaign?"
    -- "How confident are you, Mr. Secretary, that this will be done in a fair manner?"
    -- "Does it concern you at all to hear Bill Daley from the Gore camp just say that 19,000 votes in Palm Beach were not counted?"
    -- "Well there are a lot of rumors and allegations about problems in various districts, confusion with the ballots in Palm Beach, and even racism at certain polling areas. Do you believe that's true or do you think the Democrats are trying to stir up trouble?"

    > NBC's Today. Matt Lauer, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, challenged Baker: "Let's talk about the will of the Florida voters because obviously if, if 19,000 votes Secretary Baker were nullified because there appears to be have been some confusion on the ballot doesn't that mean that the voices of those 19,000 people will not be heard in this election?"

    He followed up: "But I guess what I'm asking is should election, should the election stand if those people didn't have a chance to have their voices heard?"


In the midst of Bush's short-lived time of victory announced by the networks at 2:18am ET, Dan Rather took time to remind viewers about the Democratic hit job on him over a 24-year-old drunk driving case.

    An e-mailer alerted the MRC to this comment that I missed at about 2:50am ET. But I went back and found it over video of the celebrating crowd in Austin with people holding up three fingers. Rather explained the meaning of the hand sign: "That sign, hook 'em horn sign for the University of Texas Longhorns, but George W. Bush has been lately holding up three fingers as one of those celebrants is doing here for George W. Bush. Of course in the late stages of the campaign, the Democrats came back and said well those three fingers stand for DWI. But that isn't going to stand up through the rest of the way. It's going to be his signal."

    About 45 minutes later CBS decided that maybe Bush really wasn't the President-elect.


"Ratherism" mania. What's a live news event without the spectacle of Dan Rather's rhymes and odd analogies. MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth scanned through many hours of CBS's election night coverage to take down Rather's oddest phrases. We have many hours to still go through, but we've already found plenty of amusing "Ratherisms."

    But first, an amusing assurance he issued at about 7:08pm ET: "Let's get one thing straight right from the get go. We would rather be last reporting returns than to be wrong. And again our record demonstrates true. If you hear somewhere else that somebody's carried a state, and you're awful as you shouldn't be watching them, then come back here because if we say somebody has carried a state, you can pretty much take it to the bank, book it, that that's true."

    Now to the "Ratherisms," all times Eastern:

    -- 7:05pm: "Now Florida, that race, that race, the heat from it is hot enough to peel house paint."

    -- 7:12pm: "Bob, the polls have closed in Virginia. A Senate race there ugly enough, nasty enough to gag a buzzard."

    -- 8:03pm: "It's believed to be extremely close in Pennsylvania. I'm prepared to say that they're playing what amounts to a sudden death overtime in Pennsylvania. It's that close."

    -- 8:10pm: "I can hear some people at home saying, 'Whooh! If the electoral vote count is now what Dan Rather and CBS News says it is, 121 for Bush, 119 for Gore, it seems to me just a few minutes ago Bush had a long lead.' His lead has evaporated and been melted faster than ice cream in a microwave, what's happening here?"

    -- 8:15pm: "Now remember Florida is the state where Jeb Bush, the brother of George Bush is the Governor, and you can beet that Governor Bush will be madder than a rained on rooster that his brother the Governor wasn't able to carry this state for him."

    -- 8:30pm: "Alabama, the Jackhammer State, drops a hammer on Al Gore, goes for Bush as expected." "Bush has had a lead since the very start, but his lead is now shakier than cafeteria Jell-O."

    -- 8:32pm: "Then in Tennessee, now Al Gore may be as cross as a snapping turtle about this Tennessee situation because it's his home state."

    -- 8:35pm: "Mark this, this man [Corzine] spent an estimated $80 million, no you did not hear, $80 million. He spent money like he had shorted Microsoft and won this race."

    -- 8:37pm: "Bush is sweeping through the South like a tornado through a trailer park."

    -- 8:48pm: "Pennsylvania drops for Gore, 23 electoral votes, and for the first time tonight, mark it, if you're in the kitchen, Mabel, come back in the front room, 145 for Gore, 130 for Bush, 270 needed win."

    -- 10:03pm, after retracting Florida from Gore column: "Now that will have the Bush people in Austin jumping out of their seats like they were stabbed with hat pins because if Bush should carry Florida, it's sayonara for Gore."

    -- 10:15pm: "This much tension you can't cut with a saw. It requires a blow torch."

    -- 10:38pm: "At any rate, one night they counted those absentee ballots until the cows literally had gone to sleep and then came back the next day."

    -- 10:43pm: "His [Gore's] chance are slim right now, and if he doesn't carry Florida, slim will have left town."

    -- 11:30pm: "This shows you how tight it is. It's spandex tight."

    -- 11:54pm: "Now Governor George Bush, Karl Rove, and the others around him bragged, there's no other way to put it, all along on the campaign we will carry the home states of Al Gore and Bill Clinton. They've put up and they delivered. They put up. Now they can shut up because they've won the six electoral votes in Arkansas and eleven in Tennessee and can simply sit back and say, 'Listen, we told you we were gonna do it and we did it.'"

    -- 12:20am: "The presidential race still hotter than a Laredo parking lot."

    -- 12:21am: "I have to say, though, and I don't mean to be flip about it, that I think you are more likely to see a hippopotamus coming running through this room than you are to see Governor Bush appoint Nader to the Cabinet."

    Can't go out on a better one than that. More in a future CyberAlert.


Hillary Clinton booed by David Letterman's audience. Bush supporters who are depressed should have been heartened Wednesday night when Letterman on his Late Show, taped in New York City, prompted boos when he brought up Hillary name's.

    In his opening monologue Letterman set up a joke: "How 'bout Hillary Clinton?...Remember, we thought it was a joke?" At first the audience clapped, but the clapping was soon overcome by a growing chorus of hisses and boos.

    Letterman joked: "They're saying already that maybe in 2004 she might run for President. So if you look at it in these terms, listen to this: Becoming the Senator from New York is the first very important step to the Clintons so they can become, perhaps, a two impeachment family."

    And he told another about Hillary: "They're saying that Hillary has her eyes on the Oval Office for 2004 and I'm thinking, well it's too bad she didn't have her eyes on the Oval Office when Bill was nailing Monica."


From the November 8 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Overheard Last Night at the Florida Election Commission." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "The first vote goes to Gore...call CNN and tell them Gore won."
9. "Wait, if my wet laundry is in the ballot box...oh my God! Stop the dryer!"
8. "If someone voted for 'the jerk,' do I give it to Gore or Bush?"
7. "Let's be extra careful, because every single vote counts...ha, ha, ha, ha, just kidding!"
6. "120... 121... 122! Yes! I'm the ballot-eating champion!"
5. "This is much easier than my last job designing tires for Firestone"
4. "America must never know Ralph Nader actually won the election"
3. "Discard all these votes for Bush -- they're obviously left over from 1992"
2. "I'm sure gonna miss you guys when this is over. If only there was a way to make it last a few more days..."
1. "Heads Bush...Tails Gore"

    And, from the Late Show Web site, some of the extra proposed items that didn't make the final cut:

-- "I don't have my glasses. Does that read 'Bush' or 'Buchanan'?"
-- "Instead of counting the ballots, can't I just weigh them?"
-- "No, Mr. Nader, you may not help us count"
-- "Boy. Stacking ballots sure is hard work...Lemme turn on this enormous fan."
-- "They didn't give us napkins for our spare ribs. Here, use these ballots"
-- "You know what would make this small unventilated room more fun? An open can of paint!"
-- "Look, wherever we're at by midnight, let's just call it and go home in time for 'M*A*S*H'" -- Brent Baker


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