Pro-Gore Court Decision Hailed; Standing O for Harris Distorted; Katherine "Cruella de Vil" Harris; Peggy Noonan for President?
1) ABC's Terry Moran promised
being made up of Democrats had nothing to do with the Florida Supreme Court
ruling. A Boston Globe reporter rejoiced at how the court promoted "the
simple revolutionary thought that created the country two centuries ago,"
that "the merest individual voice matters."
2) On MSNBC, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter celebrated the ruling
for hand counts as he denounced Republicans for how "they thought they
could snow us" with machines counts, but "it didn't work."
3) Media Reality Check. "ABC's Diane Sawyer Can't
Spot Non-Votes, But Praises Those Who Can: Florida Dimple-Spotters Are Doing
4) Al Gore "scored on the PR front" by suggesting he
and Bush meet, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asserted on Wednesday's Today.
But when Chris Matthews advised Bush not to meet "because it would be
like a Mob meeting" since "there will be a trap," Alter fired
back: "The Vice President is not a terrorist!"
5) Katherine Harris earned a standing ovation from members of
both parties at a swearing-in ceremony for legislators. NBC Nightly News
ignored it, the CBS Evening News reported only "state Republicans"
applauded her while ABC's Peter Jennings recognized she "got a standing
ovation...from members of both parties," but he dismissed it as
"having to do with state pride."
6) Time's Margaret Carlson insulted Katherine Harris,
contending she's "often compared to Cruella de Vil, snatching ballots
rather than puppies." The Washington Post Ombudsman this week denounced a
reporter for issuing a personal attack on Harris for not using "restraint
when she's wielding a mascara wand."
7) The latest edition of MediaNomics: "Economic Freedom
is Overlooked Concept at Broadcast Networks" and "Kudos to U.S. News
& World Report" for reporting how the "Clinton administration
had pushed through new workplace rules that could cost employers up to $126
billion a year."
8) Off the reservation at ABC. During Monday Night Football,
Dennis Miller recommended Peggy Noonan for President. Al Michaels conceded her
writing gives him "goose bumps."
Florida Supreme Court ruling announced Tuesday night in which the
justices, appointed by Democratic Governors, decided to ignore the state
statues and create their own new vote counting deadline of Sunday night,
earned approval in some media quarters.
-- ABC News. During an ABC News special report about
the ruling just before 10pm ET Tuesday night, November 21, ABC's Gore
beat reporter Terry Moran assured viewers:
say, 'oh, the Democratic Supreme Court of Florida awarded victory to the
Democratic candidate,' they should go back into the law books and see
that Florida, like most states, has a long history of saying the most
important value in an election is to count the votes that were
-- Boston Globe. In a November 22 front page
"news analysis," Boston Globe
Washington Bureau Chief David Shribman, a veteran of the Wall Street
Journal reporting staff, celebrated the court's activist decision.
"Every voice matters, the justices remind us," declared the
headline over the piece in which he rejoiced at how the court decided the
voters must be primary and "if that means counting every last ballot
card, that is both the burden and the glory of democratic rule."
Here's an excerpt of what Shribman contended:
For drama and decisiveness, the moment had few equals.
Late at night, with Thanksgiving nearing and with the political impasse
moving into its third week, the Florida Supreme Court stepped into the
election struggle, throwing the battle for the presidency into upheaval
with the simple revolutionary thought that created the country two
centuries ago and could eventually bring the 2000 campaign to an end: The
merest individual voice matters.
Huge political armies continue to clash in the capital and in Florida,
but the decision of the state's highest court seeks to assure that the
relatively few anonymous voters whose views were missed by machine count
-- but whose intent may be discerned by the human eye -- will be
considered in the final count. In the hands of those anonymous few rest
the destinies of Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore....
The theory behind the court's action was clear, and was anything but
the sterile product of an isolated court. Ruling in the most fevered
political atmosphere of the age, with control of the White House in the
balance, the court gave every indication of having followed this dispute
and all of its curious, even maddening, turns.
In that context, it said that a political campaign so close that the
margins were microscopic must ultimately be decided the way even the most
lopsided elections are decided, by the voters. And, the court ruled, if
that means counting every last ballot card, that is both the burden and
the glory of democratic rule.
The court established that, as great as the institutions of government
are, the individual is greater still, and his or her voice must be heard
-- and counted.
And so the counting will go on, through the holiday weekend. No presidential
election in modern times has lasted so long, or prompted so many legal
battles, or rewarded and then punished the participants with such
swiftness. But, then again, no election has so unambiguously affirmed the
founding principles of the nation, especially the primacy, the
prerogatives and, ultimately, the power of the individual.
To read Shribman's entire "news
analysis," go to:
the 1am ET hour on MSNBC the night of the Florida Supreme Court ruling,
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter used the decision as an opportunity to
denounce Republicans for trying to "snow us" in how they argued
machine counts are more accurate.
In my absence from the MRC on Wednesday, Rich Noyes
rewound a tape a few hours to track down the early morning blast:
"The real Republican
problem has been their legal strategy. They started out with a losing
strategy, a political and legal strategy that stressed the machine count.
They actually thought that they were going to get all of us to believe
that machine counts all around the United States were the last authority,
when on the books in states all over the country they have these hand
counts. And they thought they could snow us with these machines, and it
Diane Sawyer used a flashlight Wednesday morning to try to see a
"dimpled chad," but when she couldn't, instead of saying
her failure demonstrated how inaccurate such counting must be, she
praised Florida hand counters for their "phenomenal work."
Her reaction fueled a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check "Quick
Take" from the Media Research Center, produced by Rich Noyes and
To read it online with an accompanying
RealPlayer video clip posted by MRC Webmaster Andy Szul, go to:
To see the Media Reality Check in the format in
which it was distributed by fax, access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
Here's the text of the November 22 report:
ABC'S DIANE SAWYER CAN'T SPOT NON-VOTES, BUT PRAISES THOSE WHO
CAN FLORIDA DIMPLE-SPOTTERS ARE
DOING "PHENOMENAL WORK"
Racing through the numerical options for a Gore victory this
morning, ABC's Political Analyst George Stephanopoulos announced on
Wednesday's Good Morning America that his Democratic sources
estimate that if a "looser standard" of counting votes is
allowed in Florida, Al Gore would finally achieve a lead of a couple
of hundred votes.
How loose is loose? The Democrats want "dimpled" ballots,
or punch cards that have been neither punched nor perforated but which
have a barely-detectable dent near what would be the right hole, added
to Gore's count so that he, not Bush, would be President.
After Stephanopoulos's arithmetic display, viewers saw co-host
Diane Sawyer hold up a punch card ballot that she said was dimpled.
"I'm holding this because I've been obsessed with what it is to
see an actual ballot with a dimple in it and it is a very subtle
thing," Sawyer said. "And we, I don't think, I've been
putting flashlights through it," at which point she aimed a
flashlight beam through the paper, revealing no obvious holes or
marks. "I'm telling you the people doing this work are really
doing phenomenal work to see all of this and to take care over all of
these," she added.
Her co-host, Charles Gibson, remarked that "It's just a slight
indentation in that in that uh, in that card." Sawyer
hastened to add that "If you didn't see it [the dimple] at home
that's because it's really hard for you to see."
Gibson agreed: "And they're not hitting it with a pen so that
you see an ink point, they're hitting it with a stylus so you just
have to look for an indentation."
Sawyer: "That's right."
Moments later, when Gibson interviewed Gore chief William Daley, he
failed to challenge him to defend the Gore camp's insistence that
such unreliable marks be counted as votes. Instead, he tossed a
softball about last night's ruling from the Florida Supreme Court:
"Did you expect this much of a victory from the court?"
END Reprint of Media Reality Check "Quick
Gore "scored on the PR front" by suggesting he and Bush
meet, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asserted on Wednesday's Today, as
he argued "it's important for them to appear together publicly to
reassure the country and the world that we have a stable
democracy." But in the same segment, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens
observed, Chris Matthews advised: "If I were Bush I'd never meet
with him because it would be like a Mob meeting. It's like who's gonna
handle security and what's gonna be the trap? There will be a
trap." An appalled Alter fired back in Gore's defense:
"The Vice President is not a terrorist!"
In the November 22 segment with Katie Couric,
Alter asserted: "I also think
that Gore scored on the PR front by suggesting again that the two men
meet. You got financial markets that are getting jittery. The American
public is getting concerned about this."
"But you yourself say nothing very good would come from that
meeting but Gore looks good suggesting it."
meeting itself is not important. They would just, it would be very
frosty between the two of them. But it's important for them to appear
together publicly to reassure the country and the world that we have a
stable democracy. And just say look we disagree about this. We
disagree about the law but we agree that we have a democracy that
still works. That would-"
"Okay. Do you think we're gonna see a Gore-Bush public
"I'd never meet. If I were Bush I'd never meet with him because
it would be like a Mob meeting. It's like who's gonna handle security
and what's gonna be the trap? There will be a trap."
Vice President is not a terrorist!"
"Gore's people will put out the word that they're gonna agree on
something about no further litigation and then all of a sudden Gore,
Bush has to come out and face the cameras and say, 'Didya make the
deal? Didya make the deal?' Because they'd leak what they are going to
put out at the meeting. I wouldn't trust the other guy in politics,
"Alright that's got to be the last word. Alright, trust no one in
politics! The last word from Chris Matthews."
More like the Bush campaign should trust no one
in the media.
in a moment of triumph, Katherine Harris couldn't get a break from
ABC, CBS or NBC. During a special joint session of the Florida House
and Senate Tuesday to swear in new members, she received a standing
ovation from nearly all in the chamber.
But Tuesday night, the MRC's Tim Graham and
Brian Boyd determined for me, the NBC Nightly News didn't show the
event while on the November 21 CBS Evening News Byron Pitts asserted
that only "state Republicans" gave her "a hero's
welcome." ABC's Peter Jennings acknowledged she "got a
standing ovation in the legislature today from members of both
parties," but he dismissed any affirmation of her work,
attributing it to "perhaps having to do with state pride."
-- CBS Evening News. Over video of the standing
ovation, Byron Pitts reported: "Today the only public judgment
came from state Republicans as they gave Secretary of State Harris a
hero's welcome, she's the one player most often vilified by
-- ABC's World News Tonight allowed viewers to
hear the applause as anchor Peter Jennings explained: "Just one
other note from Tallahassee. Perhaps having to do with state pride,
the Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, got a standing
ovation in the legislature today from members of both parties. She was
there for the swearing-in of new legislators."
new harangue about Katherine Harris and a previous one denounced. In
this week's Time magazine, the MRC's Tim Graham observed, Margaret
Carlson argued that Harris "mixed the pious certitude of Linda
Tripp with the hauteur of a Dynasty protagonist." Carlson added
this insult: "Harris, often compared to Cruella de Vil, snatching
ballots rather than puppies, was briefly the most powerful woman on
The Washington Post Ombudsman this week
denounced a reporter for issuing a personal attack on Harris. Fashion
reporter Robin Givhan had
denigrated Harris: "One wonders how this Republican woman, who
can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will
manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan
-- Margaret Carlson in the November 27 Time. On
a page which included Harris's head, with deranged red cartoon eyes,
posted on the cartoon of Cruella DeVil, Carlson opined:
person who looks like a character from one of the more usual cable
dramas is Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Bush campaign
co-chairwoman who mixed the pious certitude of Linda Tripp with the
hauteur of a Dynasty protagonist. She once performed in a Sarasota
nightclub, getting audience members to join her in flapping their arms
to music in a peculiar art form called chicken dancing. Until the
Florida Supreme Court enjoined her from certifying the vote, Harris,
often compared to Cruella de Vil, snatching ballots rather than
puppies, was briefly the most powerful woman on the planet.
the enormity of what Harris was up to, imagine James Carville as a
political appointee of Governor Roger Clinton's, deciding to shut down
a legal recount of an election with a 300-vote margin and award the
victory to Roger's brother Bill."
As Tim Graham pointed out, Harris is not a
"political appointee," but a public servant elected through
the "will of the people."
After detailing Republican jokes about hand
counting, Carlson rebutted:
fraudulent is the very notion that one side's political operative
could singlehandedly decide a disputed election. If this were a horror
movie, the audience would be mentally shouting 'Stop this woman! Call
To read Carlson's complete diatribe, go to:
-- Washington Post. In his inaugural column, new
Post Ombudsman Michael Getler on Wednesday criticized the personal
nature of an attack on Harris by a Post reporter. An excerpt of his
November 22 column, titled "Mascara Smear."
"At this moment that so desperately needs diplomacy,
understatement and calm, one wonders how this Republican woman, who
can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will
manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan
That sentence appeared on the front page of the Style section last
Saturday in an article by Post fashion reporter Robin Givhan about
Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris.
I would paraphrase that sentence: "At this moment that so
desperately needs diplomacy, understatement and calm, one wonders"
how The Post could publish such a slashing attack on the personal
appearance of a woman who has been an important figure in the
In case you missed it, here are excerpts from what Ms. Givhan told
us about Ms. Harris: "Her skin had been plastered and powdered to
the texture of pre-war walls....[S]he looked as if she were wearing a
mask....The American public doesn't like falsehoods, and Harris is
clearly presenting herself in a fake manner....Why should anyone trust
Ms. Givhan's treatment of Ms. Harris, in the view many Post readers
-- including the ombudsman -- was a classic example of the
arrogance of journalists that undermines people's confidence in the
During this extraordinary period, The Post has been bombarded by
e-mails and phone calls about alleged bias. Mostly, callers express
partisan opinions without citing specific stories. But the Harris
article produced a different and, in my view, more serious, specific
and useful reaction for the paper to ponder.
Mocking someone's appearance is not something that newspapers
Eugene Robinson, Style editor, says he had no idea the story would
provoke the reaction it did. "Part of what a Style section ought
to do is kick up a bunch of dust from time to time. But just because
there is a big reaction to this story doesn't mean that we wanted
this....Maybe we were a little deaf to the tone in this case," he
The stakes for The Post on a story such as this are high. Its
reporting and analysis of the presidential standoff have lived up to the paper's well-earned reputation for
top-notch coverage. Yet that reputation can get tarnished by such a
high-readability story that can add fuel to those who believe, or
suspect, that the paper is inherently biased.
To read Getler's entire piece, including a
defense from Givhan, go to:
November 21 edition of MediaNomics by Rich Noyes, Director of the
MRC's Free Market Project:
-- Economic Freedom Is Overlooked Concept At Broadcast Networks
is closely correlated with both the wealth of a nation and the ability
of its people to enjoy satisfying livelihoods. But none of the three
broadcast networks reported the findings of this year's
country-by-country survey of economic freedom,
released jointly by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street
Journal on November 1. More troubling, the concept of economic freedom
has been virtually excluded from the networks' news agendas this
year, even as their heavy coverage of the presidential campaign
spotlighted tax and regulatory proposals which would affect
Americans' economic freedom....
To read the whole article, go to:
-- Kudos...to U.S. News & World Report
None of the
broadcast networks took time from their ongoing coverage of the
Florida re-count to tell viewers that the lame duck Clinton
administration had pushed through new workplace rules that could cost
employers up to $126 billion a year. Yet despite all of the political
news, the November 27 edition of U.S. News & World Report
successfully included a report by Kim Clark explaining why the
business community has objected so strenuously to the new rules....
To read the rest of the article, go to:
ABC on-air personnel agreed Peggy Noonan would make the best
President, with one admitting she gives him "goose bumps."
Naturally, they aren't with the news division but with ABC Sports.
MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson alerted
CyberAlert to the comments made during ABC's Monday Night Football
game this week. Returning from an ad break during the 4th quarter, the
ABC camera focused on a poster urging people to vote which featured a
picture ABC football commentator Dennis Miller and proclaimed:
"Dennis, You Decide." Miller commented: "Well, if
it's up to me I'd pick Peggy Noonan."
announcer Al Michaels responded: "That gave me goose bumps."
"You like Peggy's writing, huh?"
about her columns in the Wall Street Journal, though he dropped the
word Journal: "I read the Wall Street editorial page, I get goose
Too bad Al Michaels isn't in contention to
anchor World News Tonight. Reading the Wall Street Journal editorial
page is probably a practice few at ABC News follow. -- Brent Baker
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