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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| 5:20pm ET, Wednesday November 29, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 254) |

Morning Shows Hugged Hillary; NBC's Shipman Tough on Gore; Army General Gore Imagined by Stephanopoulos -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) NBC's Claire Shipman delivered a fairly tough interview on Today with Al Gore. She tossed some softballs but mainly stuck to pressing him about the accuracy of counting dimples and how legitimate his win would be if based only on votes from select counties.

2) In a fit of balance, on Tuesday morning Today hit both Cheney and Lieberman with devil's advocate points on vote counting.

3) On Today a day earlier Jonathan Alter contended Al Gore has a good grievance about not enough votes being counted for him.

4) Hugging Hillary. ABC's Robin Roberts wondered to Hillary: "What was the moment like...when you knew you had won?" NBC's Katie Couric wanted to know "What are you most looking forward to?" in the Senate, given "the array of possibilities before you." She also empathized: "Wasn't it hard to balance being an activist First Lady and the responsibilities of a more traditional First Lady?"

5) Media Reality Check. "Networks Stumped: Is Al Gore More like a Military Hero or Teen Crush? MSNBC's Banfield Is Excited by All-Democrat Phone Fest" and ABC's Stephanopoulos imagined Gore as a General on horseback commanding his troops.


Claire Shipman came out of character on today's Today and delivered a fairly tough interview with Al Gore. In the interview taped the night before, Shipman pressed him repeatedly about changing the rules to count dimples and when he might give up. She asked him to respond to the view that the "Gore campaign has essentially cherry-picked throughout Florida finding counties that are heavily Democratic to rack up those votes and that's not a fair representation of the vote either."

    She did toss in a couple of softball, such as: "Tell us a little bit about this kind of presidential limbo that you're in. What that's like. You've worked so hard to be President and this must feel like some kind of divine torture. What is it like everyday?" And she wondered: "How does it feel to be called a sore loser?"

    Here are all of Shipman's inquiries as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:

    -- "Did you win this election?"
    -- "Do you think you should be..."
    -- "Do you think you should be President-elect right now? Do you?"
    -- "You and Joe Lieberman say count every vote. But if this is about counting every vote, if you take the whole country there are 1.2 million of those under votes, why not, look more broadly at those undercounted votes?"
    -- "But let's say you get a judge to allow those some 10,000 ballots to be looked at by hand. Say you pull ahead in the, in the overall tally in Florida and eventually and eventually, when, when certification don't you think that much of the country would look at that and say, 'That's not a legitimate result either because the Gore campaign has essentially cherry-picked throughout Florida finding counties that are heavily Democratic to rack up those votes and that's not a fair representation of the vote either.'"
    -- "Do you think it's reasonable if a canvassing board is already looking at those ballots and trying to determine to the best of their ability whether dimpled chads should count or not and indeed counting some of them. Do you think it's reasonable then to ask a judge to step in and say we think all of those dimples should count? Isn't there any discretion allowed the local officials there in determining what is a vote?"
    -- "That's what's so hard to determine though, a clear mark. And everybody has a very different opinion about what's clear. A lot of states don't count dimpled chads."
    -- "Tell us a little bit about this kind of presidential limbo that you're in. What that's like. You've worked so hard to be President and this must feel like some kind of divine torture. What is it like everyday?"
    -- "I imagine that you must, some nights, lie awake plagued thinking, 'What if I had just spent one more day in Florida? What if there wasn't a butterfly ballot? What if I had just won my home state of Tennessee? Florida wouldn't even be an issue?"
    -- "But you are in a race against the clock down there. I mean you have got to get a lot accomplished by what many people including the Florida Supreme Court think are some reasonable deadlines. For example, December 12th."
    -- "Have you given any thought to what you might do if you don't ultimately win this election?"
    -- "But again if, if, if you don't win but you feel that the process has been unfair that you don't get the votes counted as you want, and I know that's a hypothetical-"
    -- "And I know you don't want to answer it, but can you, can you imagine healing that sort of, of bitterness?"
    -- "Some of your advisors say that in fact you believe that the Bush campaign and Governor Bush are trying to steal this election."
    -- "How does it feel to be called a sore loser?"
    -- "Have you given any thought to the idea that the real victor in this contest may be the man who walks away."
    -- "Do you think public support for what you are doing right now matters?"
    -- "But then again I still don't understand. Don't you think that if you get votes counted in part of Florida but not other parts of Florida but not other parts of Florida where there are also ballots that were undercounted and sitting there, that, that will also be viewed as an illegitimate-"
    -- "Is there any comfort in knowing that whatever happens, whatever the outcome of this is, that you had been part of something historic."
    -- "So, so you're not reveling in being part of this part of history?"

    Shipman wrapped up: "And we also asked the Vice President a question a lot of people had been wondering about. If he doesn't prevail now would he do it all over again in 2004. He said no comment, he wants to get the 2000 election over with first."


Tuesday morning Today hit both VP candidates with devil's advocate points on vote counting, though Katie Couric argued a bit with Dick Cheney about the vote counting standard in Texas.

    On the November 28 show Couric asked Republican Dick Cheney about the transition and his health, but took a few minutes to press him with the Democratic case on counting: "Let me play devil's advocate for a moment. The Democrats say how can we explain to schoolchildren that every vote counts if we don't count every vote. What is the harm in taking, Mr. Secretary, those 10,700 votes in Miami-Dade County that the machine didn't register and looking at them by hand to see if in fact someone voted? What's, what's the harm?"

    Couric followed up, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "But with, with such a close margin of victory, 500 plus votes, why not give an opportunity and you said they've been counted by machine but these votes have never been looked at by hand. These 10,700 votes with a 500 plus vote margin and 10,700 votes even Governor Bush supported a law in Texas that said manual recounts were a good idea."
    Cheney answered: "There's a big difference. The law in Texas specifies standards by which those ballots would be evaluated if in fact they were hand counted."
    Couric countered: "Some say it's even looser standards than those being used in Florida."

    Couric later suggested: "Are you worried about legitimacy Secretary Cheney? You know many people have said, whoever wins, there will be, it will be questionable. Does that concern you?"

    During the 8am half hour Matt Lauer talked to Joe Lieberman and asked him to respond to Cheney: "Dick Cheney was on the program talking to Katie in the first half hour and he said the process by which you are asking the Florida courts to now overturn the certified vote totals in that state he called them inappropriate and unfair. What's your comment on that?"

    Lauer outlined the Republican case: "Here's what appears to bother some people Sen. Lieberman, and I know you understand this. The Democrats keep saying, 'we want to count every vote. We just want every vote to count.' Yet you've chosen to go back and manually recount votes in predominately Democratic counties. And I know the offer was made at one point to go to all the counties, but, but basically you've been spending all your time, meaning the Democrats, in these four heavily Democratic counties. That doesn't seem fair."


Before getting too carried away with Today's flirtation with balance the last few days, let's go back to Monday morning when Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter used his Today air time to argue that Al Gore has a good grievance over how counties counted ballots.

    Katie Couric asked on the November 27 broadcast:: "Jonathan, do you think the Gore camp does have some legitimate grievances about the way this whole thing was carried through? The fact that Miami Dade sort of stopped its recount midstream, actually before they got to the halfway mark? The fact that the Palm Beach County manual recount was not even included in the state's final tally?"
    Alter: "I do. There were three counties that they wanted recounted. And they only got one, Broward, completed. If Gore were smart he might say, 'Look this is not about dimples and pimples. It's about the kind of ballot where there actually has been a perforation. Where somebody has tried to vote. Punched all the way through but for whatever reason the machine didn't read it. And there are ballots like that."
    Couric: "But the Republicans, but the Republicans will argue, 'Well hey that happens in every election. There are a lot of Republican ballots that were not registered by the machine. And that's just the way it goes.'"
    Alter: "Well I think the Gore people's response to that will be, 'We called for a statewide hand count. The Republicans didn't want to do it in the counties that favored them.' So it has come down to these other counties. As a matter of fact Miami Dade is about 50/50. It's not an overwhelmingly Democratic county. But it, it comes down for the Democrats to the principle of should every vote count? Republicans are saying, 'We've counted every vote!'"


Hillary hype and hugs. ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today gave Hillary Clinton significant air time Tuesday morning for interviews live from the White House tied to the release of a new book, carrying her name as the author, about White House parties.

    Neither ABC's Robin Roberts or NBC's Katie Couric posed a single tough question to the Senator-elect.

    Roberts wondered "What was the moment like...when you knew you had won?" and whether Bill Clinton would attend Senate spouse meetings.

    Couric wanted to know "What are you most looking forward to?" in the Senate, "obviously getting to work. But when you think of the array of possibilities before you." She raised Trent Lott's comment that Hillary "will be one of a hundred and we won't let her forget it." Couric empathized: "Didn't sound as if he was putting out the welcome mat for you did he?"

    Another of her empathetic offerings: "You obviously enjoyed the domestic aspects of your role as First Lady but wasn't it hard to balance being an activist First Lady and the responsibilities of a more traditional First Lady?"

    Charles Gibson set up the November 28 GMA segment, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Well, as everyone knows, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first First Lady to win an elected office, but there are human moments going on in her life right now. She's packing her bags, leaving the White House, her home of eight years, to go onto the Senate. She's written a book about all this with some marvelous pictures -- I have it right here in my hand. It's called An Invitation to the White House, and she is joined in the state dining room of the White House this morning by our own Robin Roberts to talk about that and other things."

    Roberts gushed: "Good morning, Charlie, and yes, it is a great book, as he was talking about. Mrs. Clinton, good morning."

    Amongst the questions posed by Roberts:
    -- "What was the moment like, Mrs. Clinton, when you knew you had won?"
    -- "Well, there was a report in the New York Post this morning that you might not be the only family member working in New York. They are saying that your husband, President Clinton, may become the next mayor of New York city."
    -- "I understand that as a new Senator, there's a spouse meeting coming up. Will he be there?"
    -- "As Charlie was saying, you made history -- first First Lady to be elected to office -- but that kind of got buried in other things that are going on with the election. Do you agree with Vice President Gore in challenging this election?"
    -- "You have said that one of the first things that you would do as Senator is to help with a bill to abolish the Electoral College. Why is that such a priority with you?"
    -- "Well, a lot of people love to come together here at the White House. What was the first time that you actually saw the White House?"
    -- "Well, lots of heads of state have been in this very room, around this table. What's your favorite dinner that you hosted in this room?"
    -- "Well, you -- please take us on a little bit of a tour. You really were very active in this room, in particular, and what are you most proud of?"

    Today dedicated nearly a half hour to Couric with Hillary Clinton. Couric gushed: "We're going to talk lots about your book. But first of all we have to say congratulations on your victory in New York."

    Amongst Couric's questions, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
    -- "What are you most looking forward to? Obviously getting to work. But when you think of the array of possibilities before you?"
    -- "Do you think your agenda will be different than your husbands or very similar to or?"
    -- "Let me ask you, you talk about keeping on. So I have to ask your, your view about Al Gore's current fight to, to contest the election in the state of Florida. What do you think about that?"
    -- "I just spoke with Secretary, former Secretary of Defense and George W. Bush's Vice Presidential running mate Dick Cheney in our first half hour. And he insisted that the votes had been counted, counted and counted again, recounted. And that this was essentially quite damaging to the country to draw this thing out. Are you worried about the effect it might have on the nation, not, sort of moving on with the next administration?"
    -- "Should the Electoral College be abolished in your view?"
    -- "Let me ask you, for your reaction to a statement Trent Lott made recently. Because it was quite interesting. He said, 'I'll tell you one thing when this Hillary gets to the Senate... she'll be one of a hundred and we won't let her forget it.' Didn't sound as if he was putting out the welcome mat for you did he?"
    -- "Quickly to a more practical matter and then we'll talk the book. Have, have you found a place to live in Washington?"
    -- "Let's walk over because that's a good transition to this book. Is that what prompted you Mrs. Clinton to write this book, An Invitation to the White House, At Home with History, looking very much like the hostess with the mostest on the cover?"
    -- You did a lot of work in this room. Because it hadn't been renovated since Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis, during the Kennedy administration. And because it gets so much sunlight it needed a lot of work. So can you show me what sort of things you did in here?"
    -- "You obviously enjoyed the domestic aspects of your role as First Lady but wasn't it hard to balance being an activist First Lady and the responsibilities of a more traditional First Lady?"

    The trilogy is complete. The network stars loved Hillary before she ran for the Senate, during her campaign and now after she's won.


MSNBC anchor Ashleigh Banfield analogized looking forward to seeing Gore talk on a phone to awaiting a call asking for a date in high school and ABC's George Stephanopoulos compared Gore to a General on horseback commanding his troops.

    Both quotes were featured in a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check "Quick Take" compiled this afternoon by the MRC's Rich Noyes. To view the fax online as an Adobe Acrobat document, go to:

    The text of the Media Reality Check Quick Take:


On Wednesday's Good Morning America, ABC's George Stephanopoulos tempted his audience to picture Al Gore as a general on horseback leading the charge. Really.

Stephanopoulos told Diane Sawyer: "You know, last week, the first couple of weeks of election day, Al Gore stayed mostly in the command center of the U.S. Naval Observatory....huddled behind his computer console, e-mailing members of Congress, reporters, really directing his legal fight from behind the scenes. But now the General's decided to go out on horseback and really lead the charge himself."

It is unclear whether Stephonopoulos was trying to get viewers to picture Gore as a latter day General Washington, or a General George Custer.

Silly as it was, Stephanopoulos's image-making was no match for MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield. On Monday, awaiting a public conference call between Gore, Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle (sort of a photo-op with no photos), Banfield cracked to correspondent Norah O'Donnell: "The last time I was this excited about a two-minute warning for a telephone call was when I was waiting for my prom date to call and invite me to the prom - and I'm not going to tell you how many years ago that was."

Teenage girls who get a thrill out of eavesdropping while middle-aged Democrats repeat talking points to each other might want to think about a post-prom career with MSNBC.

    END Reprint of Media Reality Check Quick Take

    To watch a RealPlayer clip of the Banfield boast, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/realitycheck/2000/20001129.asp -- Brent Baker


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