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 CyberAlert Weekend Edition

CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| 4:50pm ET, Friday November 10, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 237) |

Gibson Argued with Dole; Lawsuit Plaintiffs Praised; Military Personnel Voting Via Absentee Ballot Denounced as "Tax Dodgers" -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer posed challenging questions to Bill Daley but didn't follow up. With Bob Dole minutes later, however, Charles Gibson argued with him. "Well, now wait a minute, Senator," Gibson demanded, "I mean, isn't saying Mr. Gore should step aside pretty premature?"

2) Media Reality Check. "No Media Skepticism of Florida Ballot Challengers: So Far, National Reporters Haven't Examined the Background of Palm Beach Trio Suing For a Re-Vote." On ABC's GMA the co-hosts thought the plaintiffs delivered the "most eloquent testimonials about American democracy we've ever heard."

3) Time's Margaret Carlson deplored how, in reference to Florida absentee ballots from the military claiming residency in the state without an income tax, "we will have possibly a bunch of tax dodgers deciding the election."


Deferring to Daley, demanding of Dole. Friday morning on Good Morning America ABC's Diane Sawyer posed challenging questions to Bill Daley but didn't follow up on them. With Bob Dole minutes later, however, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that Charles Gibson didn't like some of his answers and so argued with him. "Well, now wait a minute, Senator," Gibson demanded, "I mean, isn't saying Mr. Gore should step aside pretty premature?" When Dole predicted the overseas absentee ballots would favor Bush, Gibson scolded: "You don't know that, you don't know that."

    Sawyer asked Daley for his response the Karen Hughes's assertion that the re-count proved Bush won Florida and requested that he react to how Democratic Senator John Breaux said he's questioning the Gore campaign's wisdom in challenging the Palm Beach result while Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli said that though he wants Gore to win the election, he wants somebody to win the election, suggesting sooner is really important.

    She moved on to raise how a Washington Post editorial asserted Daley took a reckless step in suggesting in so many words that the election will be illegitimate if in the end Bush is declared the winner, that it was poisonous to suggest something like that in these circumstances and that Gore should disown what he said. Finally, she noted how a New York Time editorial worried that this could go on and on and so she wondered how long it can go before damaging the country?

    Daley disagreed with the suppositions of the points raised by Sawyer, but she didn't castigate him or question his responses, a favor not extended to Bob Dole in the very next interview segment.

    Dole asserted up front: "It's always good to hear from Bill Daley from Chicago, where even the dead vote on a regular basis for Democrats and where Gore carried Chicago nine to one. Maybe we ought to take a look at Chicago where the same ballots were used to see if people understood that. But I think it's time for Al Gore to saddle up and sort of ride off into the sunset, and say, 'You know, I'm an honorable man. We don't want to start another political campaign -- that's what's happening in Florida. The election is over. I abide by the recount. Let's get on with the business.'"
    Gibson, taken aback, countered: "Well, now wait a minute, Senator. Wait a minute. The election is not over. I mean, what we have so far is an AP canvas, an Associated Press canvas and there are still votes to be counted in Florida that have to come in on absentee ballot and there are hand counts that have been ordered in a couple of counties. So this is not over. I mean, isn't saying Mr. Gore should step aside pretty premature?"
    Dole: "Well, what do you call premature? I think you just had that discussion with Mr. Daley, but we've had the election, we've had a count, now we've had a recount -- AP, which is unofficial. And I think technically, yes, we've got to wait for the overseas ballots, but they'll be 60, 70 percent Republican, but I assume technically you'd have to wait for that."
    Gibson chided him: "You don't know that, you don't know that."
    Dole: "Well, we don't know that, but I think that history would probably bear that out, but I think, I guess the point I would make is it's time to stop the street demonstrations and trying to rev up a campaign and incite people on both sides. I mean, you know, there are a lot of people who missed the vote because the networks made an early call, and they went home and they didn't vote for George Bush. How many of those people are out there?"

    Gibson finally got to a question: "Do you believe this first recount that will be reported with finality at the end of next week, do you think this first recount should end it without court challenge even if Governor Bush loses in that recount?"
    Dole: "I think so. I mean, I think that's what they've agreed to. We've agreed to say, 'Okay, let's have the recount,' but how many recounts are we going to have? I think there ought to be some limit to that, and I think my view is that, I think the bottom line is let's, don't carry this out to the extent where it taints the presidency. I mean, I ran for President, I lost, there wasn't any need for a recount, but I haven't spent my life trying to go out and criticize Bill Clinton or Vice President Gore. But if Vice President Gore has any future in politics or public life, he doesn't want to carry this to an extreme. The campaign ended on Tuesday. It's time to get on with the business of the country and let President-elect George Bush go to it."
    Gibson expressed displeasure with his answer: "Well, in all fairness, don't you think that's exactly what's Chairman Daley was saying? You're just disagreeing as to how long this thing can drag on before it begins to taint the presidency, and he's saying no, there's a time that this process can carry on."
    Dole: "Well, that's what he says. I think the American people will be the final judge and we keep telling the American people the system works. I don't blame Vice President Gore for asking for the recount. Now he's had the recount. Now he wants four counties counted by hand. Next it'll be something else, just trying to delay it, string it out. If he wants to wait for the overseas ballots, and they all pretty much know what the outcome will be, I guess that's legitimate, but let's not, let's get the people off the streets and trying to incite people, let's stop the rallies. The campaign ended. Let's have a little dignity here and let's not turn it over to the courts and the lawyers. This is the people's business. We live in America. Let's let the American people decide this election as they have in the past."
    Gibson argued: "But let me come back to that, Senator, because you are a good partisan. Wouldn't you, if you were on the other side, on the Democratic side, wouldn't you be fighting like hell if you believed that the will of your voters had been thwarted by a confusing and even perhaps illegal ballot in one county?"
    Dole: "I think that's a good point, but I'd go back to Richard Nixon in 1960, where it was obvious there were irregularities all over Illinois, and particularly Chicago, and he chose not to do that. He said the country's more important than the election, and the same with John Ashcroft last week in this terrible, tragic case in Missouri. He said, 'Let's end this, the election is over,' and there were polls that were kept open after normal polling hours, a lot of things he could have done to challenge it, and he didn't do that. And I think it's time for the Gore crowd to show the same decency and let's put an end to this. Okay, let's wait for the overseas ballots. Let's stop the court action...."

    CBS's The Early Show provided a better model of balance with Jane Clayson pressing Daley and Dole with the same type of questions. MRC analyst Brian Boyd took down her inquiries:

    To Bill Daley:
    -- "Well, the unofficial recount numbers are in and the Bush camp is claiming victory this morning. Do you accept that?"
    -- "But how far are you willing to take this? At what point are you ready to say enough is enough, let's move on?"
    -- "But even some Democrats are quietly suggesting that it might be best for you not to push this into the courts. Would you agree with that?"
    -- "What about all the demonstrations in the streets down in Florida, many of which called by the Democratic Party. Is that a bit excessive?"
    -- "At what point though, Mr. Daley, does this all become detrimental to our country?"

    To Bob Dole:
    -- "Your reaction this morning to the Gore camp that they still might challenge results in court?"
    -- "Isn't it possible though that some of the voting irregularities are egregious enough to cause concern and overturn this election at least in Florida?"
    -- "There's been talk of the Bush camp requesting recounts in other states, Wisconsin and Iowa, is that dead now?"
    -- "Has there been talk within the Bush camp about how all of this will affect the credibility of a Bush presidency?"


The three plaintiffs in the lawsuit demanding a re-vote in Palm Beach County because they were confused by the ballot and thus failed to vote for Al Gore, are all veterans of political activities. But the media have yet to question the accuracy of their claims given their years spent in politics. In fact, this morning, Good Morning America not only brought all three aboard and failed to cast any doubt on their stories or raise their political experience, but Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson admired them for their "most eloquent testimonials about American democracy we've ever heard."

    During the 8am half hour, Andre Fladell, Lillian Gaines and Alberta McCarthy were interviewed by Charles Gibson. His inquiries:
    -- "Mr. Fladell, let me turn to you. I now know your voting record. You vote a lot. You are a very conscientious voter. Tell me what happened with you on Tuesday."
    -- "So you thought you had voted for Al Gore."
    -- "So you know you voted for the wrong person."
    -- "Alright, so you proceed in court. I wonder, just very quickly, Andre, what your reaction was last night. A judge in a similar lawsuit -- another lawsuit, not yours -- said the election can't be certified until that case is heard. Did that give you some hope?"

    Later in the hour, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Diane Sawyer prompted Gibson: "Say publicly again what you've been saying all morning, the people filing the lawsuits, the people in the street are the most eloquent testimonials about American democracy we've ever heard."
    Gibson confirmed his view: "People care about their vote and that it be counted. Those people spoke eloquently at the beginning of the half hour."

    In a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check this afternoon, the MRC's Rich Noyes tracked down the real political backgrounds of the three plaintiffs who should have been able to figure out how to follow an arrow. The report, distributed by fax this afternoon, was titled, "No Media Skepticism of Florida Ballot Challengers: So Far, National Reporters Haven't Examined the Background of Palm Beach Trio Suing For a Re-Vote."

    To see it online as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, go to where MRC Webmaster Andy Szul has posted it:

    First, the text of the pull-out box:

    Was Fladell Really Baffled by the Ballot?
    "Next to volleyball Fladell's favorite sport is politics, and he plays it the same way he has since leading antiwar protests in the late '60s - with a ruthless drive to win. When he's not realigning patients' spines and stomping volleyball opponents, he's advising candidates and elected officials in Palm Beach County, mostly Democrats, on how to crush their election foes and steer government decisions their way." -- from "Politics as Blood Sport," a profile of Palm Beach political consultant Andre Fladell, New Times Broward-Palm Beach, December 16, 1999.

    To read the entire newspaper profile, go to:

    Now to the text of the November 10 Media Reality Check:

Are the plaintiffs demanding an unprecedented re-run of the presidential election in Florida's Palm Beach county really befuddled oldsters who were confused by a two-column ballot? Or are they really sophisticated local activists who assume that their protests against the election's integrity is Al Gore's last, best chance to be awarded the White House?

The national media have repeatedly relayed citizens' complaints about the supposedly baffling ballot, but the networks haven't looked at the backgrounds of the three plaintiffs who have put their names on the lawsuit hanging over the presidential election.

A Nexis search of Florida newspapers shows all three plaintiffs -- Alberta McCarthy, Lillian Gaines and Andre Fladell -- are savvy activists with political experience, not the sort of voters who'd be stymied by a ballot layout. Yet as the plaintiffs at the center of a historic suit, each plans to testify that they personally voted for Patrick Buchanan when they were aiming to vote for Al Gore:

-- Lillian Gaines says she's mortified that she might have voted for Buchanan. "I went to the polls for one specific reason, to vote for Gore. I hit the second hole. I am sure I did," she told the Associated Press. "Somehow my right to vote had been taken away from me."

But Gaines, now a homemaker, was for several years a member of the Children's Services Council, a big-budget, taxpayer-financed group in Palm Beach County. Gaines popped up in local newspapers in 1993 when she defended the group's expenditure of $6,000 in taxpayer money on a beachside retreat. "From time to time, an organization needs to look at themselves," she told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel as a reason why taxpayers should put her and her fellow council members up in a resort hotel.

-- Alberta McCarthy also claims she cast the wrong vote, but she's a Delray Beach City Commissioner -- hardly a political naif and presumably someone who can navigate a ballot.

-- Andre Fladell, with lawyer Howard Weiss, was a guest on CNN's Larry King Live Thursday night. "I had no idea that in this country you have to read zig-zag and diagonal to know who you're voting for," he complained. "I didn't go there to take a test. I went in to vote for President." He told CNSNews.com that when it came to voting, "I wasn't too bright."

But Fladell, dim as he may be, is more than just the chiropractor which many news accounts say he is. He's also a political consultant and Democratic activist, who celebrated his hardball approach in a 1999 interview. "Politics is the greatest challenge," Fladell proclaimed to local journalist Harris Meyer. "It's where the best and worst in people comes out. You get the adrenaline of war without having to physically hurt anyone."

In his piece, Meyer likened Fladell to Machiavelli, but the notorious pol says he was confounded by the ballot. As one of three plaintiffs, the truthfulness of his claim is crucial to any decision to trigger an unprecedented re-run of a presidential election. But, so far, reporters haven't seemed particularly skeptical of Gaines, McCarthy or Fladell, despite the obvious importance of their claims.

    END Reprint of Media Reality Check


Time's Margaret Carlson deplored Wednesday morning how, in reference to Florida absentee ballots from the military, "we will have possibly a bunch of tax dodgers deciding the election." Catching up on this item from two days ago, MRC analyst Paul Smith went back today to track it down from Imus in the Morning on MSNBC and he noticed that Imus was none too pleased with her shot at service members for choosing Florida, a state without an income tax, as their residence.

    On the November 8 radio show, simulcast on MSNBC the morning after the vote, former Time reporter and current Time columnist Carlson regretted: "Here we will have possibly a bunch of tax dodgers deciding the election."
    Don Imus: "I don't think we want to refer, we want to refer to people serving in the military as tax dodgers do you?"
    Carlson wouldn't back down: "No, but they've chosen a state of convenience like going to the Cayman Islands...I mean this is just taking this whole tax issue a little too far."
    Imus: "I mean people who are serving in the military, Ms. Carlson, are already grossly underpaid. Trying to take advantage of the tax laws in Florida, I think can hardly be referred to as tax dodging. God, what the hell has happened to you?"
    Carlson tried to align herself with George Bush: "Well, when John McCain was making the point that the military was underpaid and possibly President-elect Bush was arguing with him over that point saying how when you put everything together, in fact, that most of them do just fine."
    Imus: "No wonder people hate liberals, hate the press, you know-"
    Carlson: "No, no but state of convenience, the people who are going to decide chose this place as a state of convenience, it's a wonderful phrase. I'm sorry, I just woke up. It just struck me. I have to tell you, you know, exactly what comes to mind."

    A very nice admission that the first thing which popped into her mind was a liberal shot at Army privates for daring to do something to avoid a tax. -- Brent Baker


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