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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Tuesday November 21, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 250) |

NBC Countered Hand Count Concerns; Rejection of Military Ballots Just Like Voting Twice; CBS Broadcast Anti-Gumbel Sign

1) All the broadcast networks described how the justices were full of questions for both sides, but only the CBS Evening News pointed out how they seemed to favor Gore. NBC's David Bloom referred to Katherine Harris as "Florida's Republican Secretary of State," but the NBC Nightly News uniquely reported how two justices "were active contributors to the Democratic Party."

2) NBC's Jim Avila undermined GOP complaints about the hand counts, dismissing them as exaggerations. "The strangest accusation: Eaten chads. The judge says he's seen none of that for a simple reason." The judge: "I don't think they taste very good."

3) Most want the hand counts included in Florida's vote, a CBS News poll found, but Al Gore's "unfavorable" rating has risen as more disapprove of his handling of the situation. Riding above it all, however, is Bill Clinton with 65 percent approval.

4) NBC equated a vote being rejected for a reason beyond a person's control with a vote not counted because a person was too stupid to follow simple and obvious rules. The Today show paired the wife of a sailor with a Palm Beach County voter who punched two selections for President.

5) Live on Bryant Gumbel's The Early Show someone held up a sign which proclaimed: "MR. GUMBEL: WITH YOUR BIASED REPORTS YOU'LL SOON BE IRRELEVANT."

6) From National Review Online, "TV News in Deep Gumbo: Billy Tauzin takes on the media," by the MRC's Tim Graham.

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Al Gore is Depressed."

     >>> Latest Notable Quotables now online thanks to the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Andy Szul. The never-ending presidential election delayed our production by a week of the November 12 edition of the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media, but we got it done last week. Amongst the quote headings: "Let's Press to Certify Gore"; "Clinton, Genius of the Boom"; "Empathizing with Gore, Not Bush"; "No Compassion If GOP Wins"; "Driving While Biased"; "Gore Lies? That's So Harsh" and "Media Far Too Nice to Bush." To read the issue, go to:
    To view the issue as an Adobe Acrobat PDF document, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/notablequotables/2000/pdf/nov132000nq.pdf <<<


The Florida Supreme Court hearing, carried live not only on the cable news networks but also on ABC, CBS and NBC from 2 to 4:35pm ET, led the Monday night broadcast network evening newscasts. All described how the justices were full of questions as ABC's Erin Hayes remarked that things "quickly got contentious with justices losing no time cutting attorneys off mid-sentence," but only the CBS Evening News specifically pointed out how the justices seemed to favor the Gore side.

    Only NBC's David Bloom listed a party affiliation for Katherine Harris, "Florida's Republican Secretary of State," but the NBC Nightly News also uniquely reported how "Chief Justice Wells and Barbara Pariente were active contributors to the Democratic Party before they came to the bench."

    In the lead story for the CBS Evening News, Byron Pitts noted how "58 times they interrupted Gore's lawyers, but most of the contention and more than a hundred questions were aimed at lawyers for Bush."

    Dan Rather followed up with CBS's newest legal analyst, Jonathan Turley, most familiar as a regular expert on cable news channels, especially FNC. Turley suggested: "It's always dangerous to read from the questions what the results will be, but if these justices view this case as evidenced by their questions it's a very good day for Al Gore. They were not asking the questions that they would ask if they accepted the Bush argument. From the Bush perspective this is a clear issue. You have a threshold question of whether the Secretary of State had authority and if she did you go home. Well these justices were clearly not buying into that."

    Tom Brokaw opened the November 20 NBC Nightly News: "It was a nationally televised lesson in the rule of law and intellectually vigorous disputes that are required to settle it. In Tallahassee today lawyers for Vice President Gore, Governor Bush, the state of Florida, and Palm Beach voters engaged in more than two hours of forceful arguments and faced skeptical questions from the Florida Supreme Court."

    David Bloom highlighted the partisanship of just one player: "The Bush team argues that Harris, Florida's Republican Secretary of State, should be allowed to declare Governor Bush the winner in Florida. After all, he's ahead by close to a thousand votes. And then let Vice President Gore fight that certification in court. But the Gore team argues that's just a political trick to let Bush declare victory and then make Gore out to be a sore loser if he fights on."

    Later in the show, however, Pete Williams took up the political make up of the Florida Supreme Court: "In a state where Republicans run the Governor's office and control both houses of the legislature, Florida's Supreme Court is the only branch of the government with the Democrats in charge. Seven justices, each appointed by a Democratic governor who chose from a list submitted by a nonpartisan state commission. And a former chief justice says this is a court accustomed to making tough calls, including life and death decisions in capital punishment cases."

    Williams offered brief descriptions of each justice, including two with more than a passing interest in Democratic politics: "Two on the court, Chief Justice Wells and Barbara Pariente, were active contributors to the Democratic Party before they came to the bench, giving a combined total of over $6,000. Conservative activists claim the current court tends to vote on the liberal side -- for example, frequently blocking voter initiatives from getting on the ballot."
    Dave Biddulph, Democracy Online: "They've taken 19 citizen initiatives and thrown them off the ballot, and no state court in this country of the 24 states that allow citizens initiatives have done that."

    Despite that, Williams assured viewers: "But on this most political of cases, many legal scholars say the justices will set partisanship aside."
    Prof. Charles Ehrhardt, Florida State University Law School: "These are not political hacks. They are not the result of a partisan political election. And I think once these judges have taken the robe and joined the court, they will have left politics aside."
    Williams concluded: "Thirty years ago, the Florida Supreme Court was not widely respected, two of its former members tainted by scandal, now among the nation's best and facing the country's most pressing legal question."

    I guess these two Democratic donors are amongst the justices Peter Jennings on Friday described as "moderate to conservative."


Disputing the Republican complaints. As he did on Saturday, again Monday night NBC's Jim Avila filed a whole report devoted to undermining Bush team affidavits about improprieties in the hand counts. "Those running the recount operation say the spinners are taking isolated human error and exaggerating," Avila asserted on the November 20 NBC Nightly News.

    Avila stressed the efforts to insure accuracy in Palm Beach County, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Disputed votes to separate piles for a later decision by the election board -- three Democrats, the chairman appointed by Governor Bush. Every judgment made in plain view. So why so many Republican complaints? Those running the recount operation say the spinners are taking isolated human error and exaggerating.
    "Accusation: Bush ballots in the Gore pile. The election judges say yes, that happened once, but observers caught the mistake.
    "Accusation: Tape and tin foil concealing Bush votes. Yes, but there's none in the counting room. The only tape found was on absentee ballots."
    Palm Beach County canvassing board chairman, Judge Charles Burton: "They get sent to people's homes. We don't know what they do with them."
    Avila: "Accusation: Chads on the floor. Rarely, but handing chads can fall from ballots. Election officials say missing chads change nothing. And the strangest accusation: Eaten chads. The judge says he's seen none of that for a simple reason:"
    Burton: "I don't think they taste very good."
    Avila concluded: "Florida's recount where election officials say ignore the spin and watch the less dramatic inside story."


Al Gore's popularity is going down, but Bill Clinton's is on the rise, a new CBS News poll found. Monday's CBS Evening News relayed some of the findings:

    On the up side for Gore, 59 percent believe hand count results should be included in Florida's vote, compared to 36 percent who don't think they should be included. But, Gore's "unfavorable" rating has grown from 37 percent before the election to 43 percent now while the percent who disapprove his handling of the "crisis" has increased to 50 percent this week from 41 percent last week.

    Bill Clinton, however, rises above it all. Dan Rather noted how his approval is up four points to 65 percent, though up from when I'm not sure.

    Maybe he'll get that third term he always wanted. With job approval ratings like that and if the electoral college can't decide maybe the House will make him Speaker so he can continue as the President.


NBC equated a vote being rejected for a reason beyond a person's control with a vote not counted because a person was too stupid to follow simple and obvious rules. The Today show on Monday showcased the rejection of military ballots without postmarks by interviewing the wife of a sailor whose ballot was not counted, but NBC paired her with a Palm Beach County voter whose vote didn't count because he punched two selections for President.

    Katie Couric introduced the November 20 segment caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "As the campaigns head to court in Florida today to argue over recounts the story of votes that won't be counted remains just as important. Over the weekend a number of military ballots from servicemen and women overseas were thrown out for a variety of reasons. One of them belonged to Abby Krug's, Krug's husband, Chad, yes that's right Chad. Oy! He's a lieutenant stationed on the USS George Washington in the Adriatic."

    Amongst Couric's questions: "Are you at least heartened, Abby, by the fact that Senator Lieberman has said that these absentee, oversea absentee ballots, particularly these, from military personnel should be looked at again?"

    And: "Republican officials contacted you and asked if you'd be willing to talk with members of the media correct?....Did you have any trepidation about that Abby? Feeling that you might be brought into sort of a PR campaign by either side?"

    Couric then turned to her other guest, as if he had no less control over his vote than a guy in the middle of the ocean: "Let me bring in, Abby, Seth Wirshba. His vote isn't counting either but it's for a different reason. He's one of the Palm Beach voters we heard so much about who punched his ballot two times."

    Couric did at least put the burden on him: "Well Seth, why didn't you, since you were unclear and uncertain about the outcome of your vote, why didn't you say to an election official there in Palm Beach County, 'you know I think I might have voted twice. I was confused by this ballot. May I vote again?'"


Thanks to an ingenious St. Paul area resident, on Monday morning CBS broadcast an anti-Gumbel message on Gumbel's very own Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed. Viewers who watched a live report from a St. Paul café closely saw a sign which proclaimed:

    The home-made sign came into play during a live shot of Hattie Kaufmann with a "Pulse of the Nation" segment just past 8am, a segment introduced by Gumbel. She checked in live from the Keys Café in St. Paul, Minnesota, the state with the highest voter turnout. She went table to table to get reaction to the ongoing presidential battle. One man told her they shouldn't include the hand count and a waitress argued the whole state of Florida should re-vote.

    Kaufman then sat down in a booth with man holding a folded up American flag. He held up the Esquire cover of Clinton and bemoaned: "I've had a belly full of this." Kaufmann asked: "Belly full of Clinton?" The man replied: "Not just Clinton. Clinton-Gore for eight years. Enough already. Call this election the way it was called in the first place. There have been counts and recounts. Enough."

    During this sit down, a person in the adjacent booth just behind and to the right of Kaufman and the man held up a hand-written sign in multiple magic marker colors, which announced:

    The last line was cut off, but you could see: "TH-COUN," so it may have been "TRUTH COUNTRY."

    The sign holder soon showed that the bottom half of the sign was written on what was actually a lower part folded up as he or she flipped down the bottom half and viewers could briefly make out:

    Then, as the sign holder lowered the sign you could see that above that it charged: "WITH YOUR BIASED REPORTS"

    In a RealPlayer-size screen it will be hard to see, but I'll work with MRC Webmaster Andy Szul too see if we can at least get a still shot up of it -- maybe as a holiday weekend treat to be posted late Tuesday or on Wednesday. Check this item in the posted version of this CyberAlert.

    Even if it only lasts a few seconds, this message got more air time on CBS than did the letters "RATS" in that Bush ad.


"TV News in Deep Gumbo: Billy Tauzin takes on the media." National Review Online now features a new piece posted Monday by the MRC's Tim Graham. It begins:

    "Did the national media help put us in Palm Beach Punch-Card Hell with their irresistible urge to call the state for Gore ten minutes before the polls closed on the Panhandle? Did the media's biased bad manners discourage last-minute Bush votes? And why did the networks lunge to call victorious states for Gore at the top of the hour, while eventual Bush states sat colorless for hours on end?
    "With their around-the-clock exploitation of slim margins of victory, these aren't just academic questions for the TV news divisions. Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin, a major force in Congress on telecommunications regulation, is suggesting he'll hold hearings in January to press the network bosses on their strange election-night behavior and incorrect projections. Let's take a minute to savor the glorious idea of network chieftains being grilled for their faulty product, not unlike the tobacco bosses...."

    To read the entire piece, go to:


From the November 20 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs Al Gore is Depressed." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Hardly gets any pleasure participating in his family's staged football games
9. Now goes to Buddhist temples for illegal donations and spiritual guidance
8. Composed novelty song "Bush's States Are Red, And I'm Feeling Blue"
7. During strategy meetings grabs Warren Christopher, sobs "Hold me"
6. Was recently seen passionately kissing the inventor of Prozac
5. Mr. Environment spends his days tossing rusty car batteries into Potomac River
4. Asks George W. Bush if he can borrow old Sparky for the weekend
3. At recent Joe Lieberman speech on religion shouted, "Okay, you're Jewish! We get it!"
2. Just ask Tipper -- lately, the guy's anything but stiff
1. Won't crack a smile, no matter how many lap dances President Clinton buys him

    MSNBC/NBC's Brian Williams is scheduled to appear Tuesday night on the Late Show. -- Brent Baker


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