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 CyberAlert Weekend Edition

CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| 3:55pm, ET Friday November 17, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 248) |

Only Bush Judges Should Be Recused?; Gumbel to Lieberman: "Disappointed" with Bush?; Bob Dole Took Up Media Bias -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) Bush and Gore are equally guilty of using "partisans and lawyers to find the advantage that wins them Florida," reporter Wyatt Andrews concluded on Thursday's CBS Evening News.

2) The federal appeals court in Atlanta contains Bush and Clinton-nominated judges, but CNN's Judy Woodruff only wondered if the ones named by Bush would recuse themselves.

3) The morning shows on Thursday sympathized with Joe Lieberman while they hammered GOP guests to defend the decision of Katherine Harris to not certify hand count numbers. ABC pressed both Lieberman and Harris's lawyer about why she won't recuse herself. CBS's Jane Clayson asked: "What do you say to Floridians who now believe that they have been left without a voice" because "of Ms. Harris' decision?" Gumbel to Lieberman: "Has the Governor's tone, his behavior since Election Day disappointed you?"

4) Bob Dole wrote an op-ed piece documenting his evidence of media bias: "Ms. Harris has said that she will uphold the election laws in Florida, and for that, her character is questioned....It's one thing for the Gore campaign to question her integrity. It's another for the mainstream media to follow suit."


Both George Bush via Katherine Harris and Al Gore through his lawyers are equally guilty in using "partisans and lawyers" to win Florida, a Thursday night CBS Evening News story decided.

    Wyatt Andrews ran through the strategies employed by both candidates before concluding: "Candidate Bush says he wants a fair and accurate count of the votes. Candidate Gore says he wants to honor the true will of the people. That's what they say. What they are doing is asking partisans and lawyers to find the advantage that wins them Florida."


CNN's Judy Woodruff on Thursday only cared about having federal judges appointed by President Bush recuse themselves without asking about the same course of action for those nominated By President Clinton.

    On the November 16 Inside Politics, Bob Franken outlined the political make-up of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, the court to which the Bush team is appealing a federal district court ruling that it did not have reason to stop a state recount:
    "There are twelve members. Seven are Republican-appointed by Republican Presidents, five by a Democrat. Of the Republicans, four were appointed by President Bush, father of the presidential candidate, and on the Democratic side, four were appointed by President Clinton of the Clinton-Gore administration. Judy."
    Woodruff wondered: "Bob, on that very point, would the fact that they were, those who were appointed by President George Bush, the father of the candidate vitally interested in the outcome here. Would that be cause for any of those justices, or judges, to recuse themselves?"

    As if the Clinton-appointed judges would have any more or less a partisan interest than the Bush-named ones.

    Franken answered, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Everybody would be startled if that were to occur. The judges, particularly at the federal level, like to make the claim that in fact their political dispositions before they were judges do not affect their dispensation of justice. There are others, however, who say that there is a predilection to rule a certain way. We're gonna have to see how this comes out. But in any case, no one is expecting any of these judges to recuse themselves."


Catching up with Thursday morning material I didn't have room for in this morning's CyberAlert, network morning show hosts were clearly displeased with Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris's decision to certify vote totals before some counties completed a full hand count. Her lawyer was pounded and other GOP guests hammered on all three morning shows while the hosts sympathized with Democratic VP nominee Joe Lieberman.

    On the November 16 Good Morning America, ABC's Charles Gibson suggested to Lieberman that since Harris is "Governor Bush's co-chair in the state of Florida, should she recuse herself from this entire matter?" Moments later Diane Sawyer quizzed Harris's lawyer: "Given that she is a declared Republican, why not go the extra mile in this situation, and at least in order to assure the perception of fairness, bring in outsiders from all parties to help deliberate?"

    CBS's Jane Clayson demanded of Harris's lawyer on The Early Show: "What do you say to Floridians who now believe that they have been left without a voice in this election because of Ms. Harris' decision?" Incredibly, Gumbel asked Lieberman: "Has the Governor's tone, his behavior since Election Day disappointed you?" In contrast, Clayson argued with Haley Barbour about why Bush wouldn't accept Gore's offer to meet: "Why not meet now?....Wasn't that a conciliatory move on the Vice President's part?...Wouldn't you agree that this is so divisive that it might help America, sort of pull us all together?"

   NBC's Katie Couric mildly challenged Joe Lieberman, but was not nearly as tough as Matt Lauer was with Republican Fred Thompson, to whom he argued: "In places like Palm Beach County though isn't it true that legal actions from the Secretary of State and from the Bush campaign actually delayed the process?"

    Here are details on the three November 16 morning show interview segments:

    > ABC's Good Morning America.

    Charles Gibson to Joe Lieberman:
    -- "Senator Lieberman, Vice President Gore made an offer last night. Governor Bush's response was a flat turn-down. Your response to Governor Bush?"
    -- "But the Republicans seem to be hanging their entire strategy on what Governor Bush said last night, that recounts, and particularly a statewide recount, would be arbitrary and chaotic. Secretary Baker earlier, former Secretary of State Baker earlier had used the word 'crazy.'"
    -- "When you say outside observers, former President Carter made an offer last night that he and President Ford could come in to oversee this whole thing. Is that acceptable to you?"
    -- "Meanwhile, the Secretary of State in Florida, to whom you made reference just a moment ago, says she won't accept or count any of the hand recounts that are now underway. First of all, your role on her role, since she's Governor Bush's co-chair in the state of Florida. Should she recuse herself from this entire matter?"
   -- "Her avowed statement is that her intent is to accept the vote as it now stands, with Governor Bush having a 300-vote lead, plus the overseas absentees, that are yet to be counted, and then bring down the curtain. Is your only recourse to that then in the courts?"
   -- "The Bush folks expect to win the overseas absentees. Do you expect to lose them?"

    Diane Sawyer later interviewed Harris's lawyer, Joseph Klock, and posed these questions taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
    -- "So let me ask you about what we just heard Senator Lieberman say. He says basically that counties came to the Secretary of State and said we need recounts for several reasons. We need them because our limited recounts have shown that the votes change and this could be critical in this election, we need them for logistical reasons -- some of the machines, apparently, didn't record some votes -- and also because of the confusion, and the Gore campaign argues her answer was, 'Tough, too bad.' Your response."
    -- "Well, as you know, the counties, some of them have argued that with all the confusion, there was no way that they could get a recount done by the deadline she had set and this really becomes the question. Even Judge Lewis seemed to hint that the legislature felt that the accuracy of the vote was more important than the quickness of the vote. Which is more important: accuracy or a deadline?"
    -- "You know, people sitting at home, some people sitting at home can't follow all of the legal niceties in all of this."
    Klock: "They're lucky."
    Sawyer: "But another question has been raised, another question has been raised, which is given that she is a declared Republican, why not go the extra mile in this situation, and at least in order to assure the perception of fairness, bring in outsiders from all parties to help deliberate these decisions?"

    > CBS's The Early Show. Jane Clayson pressed Klock, as observed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
    -- "Can you elaborate on why Katherine Harris decided not to include these hand counts, these recounts?"
    -- "But it was to her discretion, and she could have decided whether or not she wanted to include them or not. Why didn't she?"
    -- "Can you explain the process that Ms. Harris went through coming to this decision, because a lot of people believe she had her mind made up from the start."
    -- "I guess the question is how difficult was it for her to make this decision, and how much did she consider her own political future?"
    -- "Mr. Klock in our last ten seconds here what do you say to Floridians who now believe that they have been left without a voice in this election because of Ms. Harris' decision?"

    Bryant Gumbel hardly questioned the Democratic position in his softball inquiries to Lieberman:
    -- "I'm sure you weren't surprised by the GOP dismissal of Mr. Gore's offer, why do you think Governor Bush turned it down?"
    -- "Well, he said that you could not have any uniformity of manner in which you would count those ballots by hand. You don't buy that?"
    -- "Has the Governor's tone, his behavior since Election Day disappointed you?"
    -- "What are your expectations from the absentee ballot count?"
    -- "On a personal note, how nerve racking has the past week been?"
    -- "But have you and the Vice President not had any private talks about when the costs of winning this, whatever it might be, becomes too prohibitive either in the national interests or in the court of public opinion? Have you had any private discussions along those lines?"

    But instead of being equal with the GOP representative, former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour, and ask him how disappointed he is with the Democratic position, The Early Show's Jane Clayson made him defend the Bush position:
    -- "Why did Governor Bush reject the Vice President's offer so quickly?"
    -- "Well, what's wrong with recounting the entire state. Why would that be less fair?"
    -- "The Vice President also asked to meet with Governor Bush as soon as possible. The Governor said he would meet with the Vice President after the election is over, why not meet now?"
    -- "Wasn't that a conciliatory move on the Vice President's part, and why wouldn't the Governor agree to that?"
    -- "Wouldn't you agree that this is so divisive that it might help America, sort of pull us all together?"
    -- "Governor Bush referred to that last night. He was actually referring to Al Gore when he said quote, 'We have a responsibility to respect the law and not seek to undermine it when we do not like its outcome.' Do you really believe that the Gore camp is trying to cheat you out of this election?"
    -- "I've got 15 seconds left and I want to ask you how much you think Governor Bush is playing to the court of public opinion now?"

    > NBC's Today. Katie Couric at least challenged Senator Joseph Lieberman a bit in some of these inquiries taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
    -- "First of all let me ask your reaction to Katherine Harris's decision last night that she will not include the votes that have been hand-counted in the final tally."
    -- "But Senator Lieberman, didn't the courts basically say the hand counts could continue but she did not have to include them in the final tally?"
    -- "So on what grounds, Senator Lieberman, will you go to court today to try to get it overturned."
    -- "When you heard Governor Bush's rejection what was your reaction last night?"
    -- "Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal says this morning that you are in fact the one pushing the Vice President the hardest to hang in there and fight this because you believe he won the election or the two of you won the election. Are you urging him on behind the scenes?"
    -- "Are you trying, are you saying that they are trying to steal this election from you Senator?"
    -- "Very quickly, let me ask you one question. Because you did not give me a straight answer when I asked you this the other morning, so let me try again. If the court says the Secretary of State must include the hand recounts in the final tally and that is done for the counties in question and the absentee overseas ballots are also added and you and Vice President Gore continue to come up short will you concede that George W. Bush is the next President of the United States?"

    Matt Lauer introduced the GOP guest of the morning: "The Bush campaign has asked Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson to speak for them this morning. He is aiding the Bush team in, in the efforts in Florida. Senator Thompson, good morning to you. Senator Lieberman just said that the Secretary of State of Florida's actions were very arbitrary and they require voters now to go to court to make sure their votes are heard. What is your reaction?"

    Lauer's other questions:
    -- "So Republicans have not favored handcounts in any counties in the state of Florida and not asked for any."
    -- "But the Secretary of State Senator Thompson asked, but the count...she asked the counties to come up with reasons, these written statements turned in by two o'clock yesterday and the counties obviously came up with reasons such as confusing ballots and discrepancies between the number of counts you just talked about. Why aren't those legitimate reasons to allow this to go on, what the Democrats say four more days? They're saying Saturday would be 10 days past the election. If you give them four more days they'll wrap it up."
    -- "In places like Palm Beach County though isn't it true that legal actions from the Secretary of State and from the Bush campaign actually delayed the process? That that hand count may have been completed by now had there not been for lawsuits?"
    -- "But isn't the problem that, that, that Vice President Gore has been picking up votes in these recounts and if it continues, if George W. Bush's lead continues to shrink that even if he is named President he will be seen as an illegitimate President by a large number of people in this country?"


Retired Senator Bob Dole took up media bias Thursday in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled, "The Media's Pro-Gore Bias: They paint Katherine Harris as partisan and Bob Butterworth as disinterested." Here's an excerpt:

....Let me give you an example of media bias. Realizing that it is losing on the message, the Gore campaign has now resorted to attacking the messenger. In this case, it is assaulting the integrity of the secretary of state of Florida, Katherine Harris, in the hopes of blurring the fact that she is simply upholding the law. Never mind that she was elected by the people of Florida. Never mind that she has been praised by Democrats and Republicans for her work on the state's behalf. And never mind that she does not have a partisan reputation.

Ms. Harris has said that she will uphold the election laws in Florida, and for that, her character is questioned. Vile comments made by Alan Dershowitz (and reported in the press) referring to Ms. Harris as a "crook," only serve to remind us of the poisonous rhetoric directed at some women by this administration over the past eight years.

But it's one thing for the Gore campaign to question her integrity. It's another for the mainstream media to follow suit. Yesterday's banner headline in the New York Times proclaimed, "Judge Upholds Hand Recounts in Florida." No fair and balanced reading of that ruling would come to that conclusion.

Staying with the Times: In a front-page story about Ms. Harris in Tuesday's edition, the lead sentence called her a "Republican Party stalwart who serves in Governor Jeb Bush's cabinet." The story went on to discuss her role as co-chair of George W. Bush's Florida campaign. It would be okay if the Times wanted to label this as an opinion piece. But the front page? This was not serious news. It was an editorial posing as a front-page story.

But if the media are unable to refrain from labeling certain players as "partisan Republicans," then fairness demands that they hold Democrats to the same bar. Unfortunately, this appears too much to ask.

One of the central figures in this entire recount is Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth. On Monday, Mr. Butterworth came forward with an advisory opinion urging Palm Beach County to ignore Ms. Harris's ruling that manual recounts should not be conducted there. This despite the fact that Mr. Butterworth's own Web page says he has neither the authority nor the jurisdiction to provide advisory opinions on election issues.

In reporting these events, few in the media have mentioned that Mr. Butterworth is an intense partisan who was Mr. Gore's campaign chairman in Florida. A double standard?

Nor will it do for pundits to tell us that their polling shows the American people want all the votes to count. Of course the American people want all the votes to count. But how would they respond to an accurately phrased question: "Do you think there should be recount after recount in selective highly Democratic counties until the Gore campaign gets the result it wants?"

T.S. Eliot once said that politics is too important to be left to politicians. I hope the same will not be said of journalists. I believe the American people would make a few simple requests of the mainstream media: Let's be fair, let's be accurate, let's be balanced, and let's do this right.

    END Excerpt

    To read the entire piece, go to:
http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=65000627 -- Brent Baker


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