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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday November 29, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 253) |

Dan Rather: The Bush "Fix" Is In; Voting Victims; Judge Speedy or Slow?; Fineman Conceded Pro-Gore Bias; Harris Hailed on MNF -- Extra Edition

1) Peter Jennings and Dan Rather opened their shows Tuesday night by stressing worries about how time is running out on Al Gore. Rather: "A race against the clock as time grows shorter."

2) Diabolical GOP plot. CBS hit Jeb Bush with the Democratic attack line about how he's "pulling strings behind the scenes." Dan Rather told a State Senator how "some say" the "fix" is in because of the Republican Governor, state legislature and Secretary of State, so "there's no way Al Gore can win this."

3) Democrats "trotted out real people" unable to handle proper voting and CBS and NBC obligingly showcased the "victims." CBS highlighted a white teen who attacked Katherine Harris while NBC showcased a baseless incendiary charge from a black woman.

4) NBC Nightly News spiked its own poll which discovered three times as many think Bush should be declared the winner as prefer Gore and a large majority believe Bush has won the election.

5) ABC: Judge Sanders Sauls is "seen by many as slow and methodical." NBC: He's "known for his speed." Both networks agree he's "conservative."

6) Bias admitted by Newsweek's Howard Fineman who told Don Imus that if the situation were reversed the media line would be: "That George Bush was a crybaby, that he was the spoiled son of a failed President..."

7) "Ker-Plotz! The Fox factor," an article by the MRC's Tim Graham posted on National Review Online, about how FNC has become a target of liberal pundits who can't see bias at ABC, CBS or NBC.

8) During Monday Night Football this week play-by-play announcer Al Michaels let slip that he considers Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to be an "American heroine."


Official certification isn't giving George W. Bush any advantage with the broadcast networks, judging by how they opened their broadcasts Tuesday night. ABC and CBS worried about time running out on Gore while NBC gave a more balanced overview of the day's claims:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the show: "We're going to begin this evening with what to do about time, time to contest and defend the election results in Florida. A court in Florida allowed Al Gore and George Bush an equal time to deal with any challenge to certified results. Mr. Gore, as we know, is trying to overturn Mr. Bush's victory. Mr. Gore and his surrogates have spent the day saying it can only be done if the court hurries up the normal process. Mr. Bush's team says don't rush to judgment."

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began: "Vice President Gore's battle for the White House is coming down to a race against the clock as time grows shorter."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw led the broadcast: "As Governor Bush in Texas made a public show today of moving ahead with his cabinet plans, Vice President Gore continued to insist that thousands of votes have not been counted, a charge the Governor's legal team in Florida immediately rejected. All of this is in the courts in Florida today as part of the Vice President's formal challenge to the election results."

    Later, Brokaw introduced a story by seeming to assume that Bush will be the next President: "NBC's David Gregory joins me now from his post in Austin, Texas to look at how George W. Bush spent another day getting ready to become the next President."


Coming soon, the CBS Evening News warned Tuesday night, a diabolical Republican plot to use the Republican state legislature and Governor to steal the election from Al Gore.

    CBS dedicated a story to Democratic spin about how Republicans are plotting unfairly behind the scenes. In the piece Jim Axelrod confronted Jeb Bush with the Democratic attack line about how he's "publicly recused himself but he's doing nothing but pulling strings behind the scenes." Dan Rather followed up by hitting a Republican State Senator with how "some say" the "fix" is in since "you've got a Republican Governor...a dominant Republican state legislature and a Republican Secretary of State" so "there's no way Al Gore can win this."

    Axelrod began his November 28 story by warning that the Florida legislature is plotting its own plan "to end run the courts" and "with Republicans making up 60 percent of both Houses, it would be a slam dunk for George W. Bush....In Florida Republicans control the cabinet, the congressional delegation and the biggest prize of them all."
    Lois Frankel, a Democratic State Representative opined: "George Bush's brother is our Governor. He has tremendous influence over our process."
    Axelrod: "Democratic Representative Lois Frankel notes Jeb Bush has publicly removed himself from his position on the state canvassing board. But, she says, don't be naive."
    Frankel: "He wants his brother to win. Do I think that he's just sitting in a corner twiddling his thumbs?"
    Axelrod: "Jeb Bush has kept a low profile, but drew some careful distinctions today."
    Axelrod to Jeb on the street: "Here's the position the Democrats want to lay out. Governor Bush has publicly recused himself but he's doing nothing but pulling strings behind the scenes."
    Jeb Bush: "That's not true but I haven't recused myself from being Governor of the state. I will do what I think is right."
    Axelrod demanded: "And to the people who say he just wants his brother elected and this is a clear conflict?"
    Jeb Bush: "You guys are all going to leave, a week from now or two weeks from now and all the satellite trucks are going to be gone and I'm going to still be Governor of this state and I'm going to have to be part of the healing process. I love my job, I love this state, I don't like what's going on and for Al Gore's campaign to suggest anything other than my motivations are as sincere as they can be is just wrong."
    Axelrod concluded: "If legislators convene and pass a law requiring Bush electors, Jeb Bush would either sign the bill that could make his brother President or let it pass without his signature to avoid the appearance of conflict. Either way, his low profile in this story would be raised significantly."

    Next, Dan Rather ran an excerpt of an interview with a guy seemingly named after a college in New Hampshire, Daniel Webster. Now there's an amazing name for a State Senator. Do they have any elected officials in Florida named George Washington or James Madison?

    Rather first asked the Republican whether the legislature will ultimately decide the presidency. Webster replied only if they have to because the electors would not be named otherwise. Rather's second question: "Are you or are you not saying that if the Florida state courts rule for Vice President Gore and the counting, or if you prefer to call it recounting, is taken up again and Gore prevails, that the legislature will let that stand as the legal answer to where Florida's electoral votes go." Webster maintained that Florida will follow what voters decided if there's no court ruling pending.

    Rather then delivered this loaded inquiry: "Let me come to a point that I have heard some people express, by no means a majority of people I've talked to. Some say, listen, quote, 'Is the fix in in Florida? You've got a Republican Governor, you've got a not just a majority but a dominant Republican state legislature and a Republican Secretary of State.' And under those circumstances, so the quote goes, there's no way Al Gore can win this."

    "Some say" inside CBS News and within the Democratic Party, if those two groups can be differentiated.


Democrats "trotted out real people" victims of the Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County ballot and CBS and NBC obligingly showcased their complaints. CBS highlighted a dorky white teen while NBC showcased a baseless incendiary charge from a black woman.

    In a Tuesday night CBS Evening News story John Roberts showed Al Gore demanding every vote be counted. Roberts picked up: "To drive that point home, the Democrats today trotted out real people who claim they were victims of a bad ballot in Palm Beach County."
    Liz Campbell: "At this time I would like to say to Katherine Harris that I am 19-years-old and I vote and my vote counts just as much as your vote and everyone else's."

    Try again next time.

    Over on the NBC Nightly News, David Bloom relayed: "Gore's Tallahassee team today using not lawyers but real voters to focus attention on Miami-Dade County where some 10,000 ballots, counted by machine, failed to register a vote in the presidential race. 76-year-old Efalla Frasier (sp?)."
    Frasier, a black woman, raised the race card: "We do not want to go back to those days where our vote can't count."
    Bloom, unlike CBS's Roberts, at least noted in segueing into a James Baker soundbite: "But Bush's point man in Florida argues those aren't votes, those are non-votes, already counted twice by machine."

    Later, Jim Avila highlighted the supposed under vote problem in Miami-Dade. "My card wouldn't go down in the slot," whined a woman. Avila identified her: "Election officials call that an under vote. Beverly Jones calls it a shame." Jones rued: "If it didn't count I will be very sad because I voted for Al Gore."


NBC Nightly News suppressed its own poll which discovered three times as many think Bush should be declared the winner as prefer Gore and a large majority believe Bush has won the election.

    On Tuesday's Today by Matt Lauer outlined the new NBC News poll which found "50 percent say Bush should be declared the winner to 16 percent for Al Gore" and when asked "Do you think that George W. Bush has won the election?" Lauer relayed that "61 percent of the people said yes, 28 percent said no, 11 percent not sure."

    But a few hours later, the November 28 NBC Nightly News provided only a vague reference to the poll as Claire Shipman noted: "When confronted by questions about poll numbers that show his public support dropping, Gore also argues that might not matter."

    ABC's didn't hint at any poll numbers while CBS without its own poll actually provided slightly more concrete information about NBC's than did NBC Nightly News. John Roberts reported: "The Vice President is in a race against time, not only against a deadline of December 12th when Florida's electors must be seated, but against new polls showing the majority of Americans now think the process should end."


Is Judge Sanders Sauls "slow and methodical" or "known for his speed"? Depends if you believe ABC or NBC -- which both agree he's "conservative."

    Monday night, as noted in the November 28 CyberAlert, ABC reporter Erin Hayes asserted on World News Tonight that the Leon County judge who will decide the Gore election contest case has been "on the bench for nearly twenty years, conservative, seen by many as slow and methodical, he was demoted from a chief judge position."

    Tuesday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, NBC's Claire Shipman offered a contrasting assessment: "The judge, a conservative Democrat, appointed by a Republican and known for his speed, gave Gore's lawyers two days and the Bush team until Friday to put together their witness and exhibits list."


Bias admitted by Newsweek's Howard Fineman. Asked Tuesday by Don Imus "how would the liberal weenies of the news media be treating this if the roles were reversed?", Fineman conceded: "That George Bush was a crybaby, that he was the spoiled son of a failed President. You know, you could just hear, the personal attacks on Bush would be just absolutely vicious."

    The MRC's Rich Noyes took the exchange taken down from MSNBC by MRC analyst Paul Smith and turned it into a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check "Quick Take" distributed by fax Tuesday afternoon. To view it as fax recipients received it, access the Acrobat PDF:

    Here's the text:


Newsweek Washington bureau reporter and MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman let it slip out this morning: The liberal media's double standard is benefitting Al Gore as the Democrat tries desperately to spin his way from defeat to victory.

Fineman was a guest this morning on radio's Imus in the Morning, simulcast on MSNBC, when host Don Imus asked the question that most liberal reporters dread: What if the roles were reversed?

"What if Gore had won and Bush, what if the roles were reversed," Imus wondered. "How would, I wouldn't want to include you in this, but how would the liberal weenies of the news media be treating this if the roles were reversed?"

"Oh, my God. Are you kidding?" Fineman truthfully replied. "That George Bush was a crybaby, that he was the spoiled son of a failed President. You know, you could just hear, the personal attacks on Bush would be just absolutely vicious."

But, as Fineman knows, the networks aren't calling Gore a crybaby or subjecting him to vicious personal attacks. Monday, all of the broadcast networks interrupted prime time to carry Gore's plea for patience; Sunday, NBC refused to give the certified winner,

George W. Bush, a similar chance to speak live and unedited to the entire country.

Instead, in the Eastern and Central time zones, NBC showed Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. For those who missed the movie so they could watch the finale of this historic election: the ship sank.

    END Reprint


"Ker-Plotz! The Fox factor," an article by MRC Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham posted on National Review Online, about how the Fox News Channel has become a popular target of liberal pundits who can't see any liberal bias at ABC, CBS or NBC but see conservative bias riddled throughout FNC.

    To read this piece online, go to:

    Here's the text:

Conservatives have been documenting the liberal bias of the TV networks for at least three decades. In her book The News Twisters, author Edith Efron chronicled how the networks favored Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential race. So perhaps we should watch patiently as liberals attempt the baby steps of complaining about conservative media bias. The primary liberal target is the Fox News Channel, which is the hottest phenomenon in cable television, a growing powerhouse that is crushing MSNBC (which is a film-clip festival of celebrity interview repeats outside major political crises) and costing jobs at an increasingly nervous CNN (namely Clinton golfing buddy/ex-CNN president Rick Kaplan).

Fox's founding declaration of difference was to announce the slogan "We report, you decide." This is a shocking deviation from the liberal media modus operandi, which is marinated in the impatient belief that the American people are too politically unreliable to be allowed to make decisions for themselves. With that slogan in the air, liberal media critics like the Columbia Journalism Review quickly announced the discovery of a media-bias problem -- but only at Fox. With the politeness that only an insular clique can muster, somehow the rest of the media had utterly rejected editorializing, except for these dastardly Republican-sympathizers that Rupert Murdoch was bankrolling.

In September, the New York Times noticed, with a story headlined "The Right Strategy for Fox: Conservative Cable Channel Gains in Ratings War." The Times later ran a correction that "the headline exceeded the facts in the article." Reporter James Rutenberg pointed out that "In critiques of Fox, it is usually noted that [Fox chief Roger] Ailes was a political consultant to Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush." But later, Rutenberg quoted CNN chairman Tom Johnson without any mention of his years of service as an aide to Lyndon Johnson.

The latest silly exercise in tunnel vision comes from Slate's David Plotz, who writes with characteristic liberal precision: "This ostentatious fairness is preposterous. The big three networks and CNN stifle any seeping opinion with a deadening evenhandedness. If you watch ABC news for 48 hours, you will detect a lefty bias in story choice and interview subjects. If you watch Fox News for 48 seconds, the righty bias will stomp you on the head." Plotz offered no specifics, no examples, no quotes. If the bias is so noticeable, couldn't the man at least tape an hour or two and give us an example? The transcripts are on Nexis. How hard could it be? To add to the fun, Plotz followed up: "TomPaine.com has dubbed Fox 'GOP-TV,' but that's too crude." Too crude? Cruder than "in 48 seconds, the righty bias will stomp you on the head"?

Fox takes this guff in part because of who their coverage attracts. Its convention coverage nearly trumped CNN during the Republican convention in Philadelphia this summer, but plunged during the Democratic confab in Los Angeles. The difference is probably hundreds of thousands of conservatives who wanted to see the Republicans without sneering Dans and Peters, but couldn't stand to watch the Democrats uncork a week of Old Democrat rhetoric. Plotz argued that Fox "is targeted not at the entire country but at the millions of right-leaning Americans skeptical of mainstream media. It is an assertive conservative tabloid."

Fox's popular evening talk-show lineup does feature feisty conservatives Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity (who is paired nightly with liberal Alan Colmes.) But these are not the "We report, you decide" hours of the network. What about its nightly newscast, Fox Report? What about its reporters, like David Shuster and Carl Cameron, who in the last few years have broken major stories on the Clinton scandals? Plotz admitted: "Fox also believes that critics unfairly lump its news and its commentary together and that its news deserves more respect, which it probably does."

But how does Plotz's "assertive conservative tabloid" theory match up with the reality that under Ailes, Fox has consistently hired away many familiar faces from -- gasp -- the liberal networks? Former ABC star Brit Hume may have the highest profile, but Ailes has also added NBC's Jon Scott and Linda Vester, ABC/NPR reporter Jim Angle, former MSNBC anchors Laurie Dhue and John Gibson, and CBS's Paula Zahn, who hosts her own nightly hour-long show called The Edge.

As my colleague Brent Baker noticed in reviewing the "conservative channel" article in the New York Times, Zahn interviewed George W. Bush that week and asked: "But even members of your own party aren't crazy about your tax-cut idea. They think it's too big, even some guys running now in November for new congressional seats. They're abandoning you. Why?" Does this sound like a "conservative channel" in action? Plotz didn't ask or answer the question: why did the "conservative channel" join the other networks in the "Dewey Defeats Truman" mistake of calling Florida for Al Gore before the polls closed?

Plotz concluded by phonily applauding the addition of Fox: "Until now, we've been stuck with three absurdly evenhanded networks and a TV wire service. Cable has fragmented every other part of the TV market -- we have a cartoon network, food network, history channel, etc. it's about time that the news fragmented too....Hooray for media bias -- and for Fox, whatever dishonest slogan it adopts."

Fox News Channel should be analyzed, scrutinized, and criticized for how it reports the news. But Fox's critics seem incapable of detecting any on-air evidence to back up their complaints of overtly right-wing Republican bias. If liberal skeptics one day offer a real content analysis of Fox, they could really attempt to gain our respect and acknowledge that the other networks are not to be dismissed as "absurdly even-handed." The actual record of network coverage is too littered with liberal sermonizing to earn Plotz's backhanded compliment.

    END Reprint


ABC has a conservative mole and in the ongoing presidential battle he's revealed his ideology, but he's not with ABC News. He's with ABC Sports. During Monday Night Football this week play-by-play announcer Al Michaels let slip that he considers Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to be an "American heroine."

    Last week, during the November 20 game, Dennis Miller recommended Peggy Noonan for President and Michaels conceded her writing gives him "goose bumps." For details, go to:

    The MRC's Tom Johnson again alerted me to this moment of political comment. Just as the 4th quarter began during the November 27 Green Bay Packers versus Carolina Panthers game, Michaels called a play: "Steve Beuerlein hands the ball off to Hoover and he gets swept under by Bernado Harris. Bernardo the middle linebacker, 6th year, coming home out of North Carolina."
    Commentator Dan Fouts picked up on the Harris name of the Packers player: "Katherine Harris would be proud of that tackle!"
    Michaels: "Ha, ha, ha."
    Fouts: "Man!"
    Michaels: "American heroine."

    Above accurate spellings of player names made possible by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens.

    MRC Webmaster Andy Szul has already posted a RealPlayer video clip of the above exchange and it will be added to this item in the posted version of this CyberAlert. For now, go to: http://archive.mrc.org

    Too bad Al Michaels isn't in the news division, but then a lot more people watch Monday Night Football than tune in World News Tonight or Good Morning America. -- Brent Baker


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