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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Monday December 4, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 257) |

"Shiite" Florida House; Bush "Scared" & Scolded for Recession Talk; Race Card Raised; Felon Voting Ignored; Gore Goaded to Hit Harris

1) Margaret Carlson on the Florida legislature picking electors: A Newt Gingrich-like "Shiite move."

2) Veteran reporters over the weekend questioned George Bush's readiness. Steve Roberts argued: "It's almost as if he's scared to be President." David Shribman wondered whether Cheney is "going to be the President." Alan Murray piped in the joke that "when Mr. Cheney went into the hospital...Governor Bush was just a heartbeat away from the presidency."

3) Bush scolded for daring to suggest an economic downturn is underway. CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "Could this kind of be a self-fulfilling prophesy if they're talking so gloomily?" ABC's Cokie Roberts chastised: "Is it dangerous for him to be talking about something like this in his position?"

4) "There is growing evidence that" black "ballots were far more likely to be discounted than those of white voters," declared ABC's Carole Simpson. ABC and NBC each focused on a victim as ABC's Jami Floyd claimed "some cite intimidation by police."

5) The broadcast networks ignored a Friday Miami Herald story about how at least 445 felons, 75 percent of whom were registered Democrats, voted, but on Sunday ABC jumped on a Herald piece which speculated about how one professor guessed Gore would have won a flawless Florida election by 23,000 votes.

6) "Results-Oriented Journalism: Distinguished or narrow-minded?" In a National Review Online piece the MRC's Tim Graham showed how a Time reporter described conservative Supreme Court justices as anti-individual rights but liberal justices as independent, individualistic, and sensitive to the needs of real people.

7) Lesley Stahl goaded Al Gore on 60 Minutes: "You have to be angry at what's happening. I mean you do think you won the election don't you?...C'mon. What about Katherine Harris. Weren't you angry at her?" The New York Post reported some media outlets are trying to dig up dirt on Harris.


"It's a Shiite move down there" which is "like Newt Gingrich revisited," Time's Margaret Carlson declared in denouncing the proposal of the Florida legislature to ensure its state has electors. On CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday Carlson asserted:
    "You know, it's like Newt Gingrich revisited. Why they would want to go out and before they need to, to cast a vote to disenfranchise people in their own state is beyond me. It's a Shiite move down there, really."

    Bob Novak soon lectured her: "I'm disappointed, Margaret, that you just called it Shiite, that you didn't call it Bolshevik, Nazi, Fascist, whatever you want to call it. If you want to read the Constitution, which I try to read every morning -- right on my dresser, and you will find that the Constitution does give the legislature the power to name the electors."


Veteran Washington reporters suggested over the weekend that by delegating public duties to Dick Cheney, George Bush has shown he may not be ready to be President. On CNN"s Late Edition Steve Roberts argued: "It's almost as if he's scared to be President." David Shribman, on PBS's Washington Week in Review, contended by staying in Crawford Bush had raised the question whether he "is going to be President or whether the Vice President's going to be the President." Alan Murray piped in the joke that "when Mr. Cheney went into the hospital that Governor Bush was just a heartbeat away from the presidency."

    -- Steve Roberts of U.S. News & World Report on CNN's December 3 Late Edition sandwiched into a break in the Gore contest hearing in Tallahassee:
    "Every time he's [Gore] come out I think he's reminded a lot of people why they don't like him. You know, he can be awfully pedantic and awfully insufferable. But I don't think George Bush has done very well either. I think he's come across as weak, this sort of incredibly shrinking candidacy. It raises again these questions -- is this guy really ready? It's almost as if he's scared to be President."

    -- PBS's Washington Week in Review on Friday night. Boston Globe Washington Bureau Chief David Shribman suggested:
    "Haven't they themselves raised the possibility, with the Governor himself in Crawford on the ranch, and the presumptive Vice President running things. It's raised the question around here a little bit about who actually is in charge and whether the Governor is going to be President or whether the Vice President's going to be the President."
    Michael Duffy of Time: "I do think we're kind of ready to call Dick Cheney the President-elect, the Vice President-elect even if we're not ready-"
    Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief Alan Murray cut in: "Someone made the joke when Mr. Cheney went into the hospital that Governor Bush was just a heartbeat away from the presidency at that point."


George Bush may be overwhelmed by the presidency according to some reporters, but others assigned him tremendous power to influence the economy, so they scolded him for daring to suggest, while Clinton-Gore are still in office, that an economic downturn may have already begun.

    On CNN's Late Edition on Sunday Wolf Blitzer asked his roundtable: "One thing that Dick Cheney did say earlier today on Meet the Press, and Andy Card said it on a couple of shows, is that the country seems to be heading towards a recession, an economic turndown. As if in effect they're saying well this would be Bill Clinton's recession. There have been some negative economic indicators, including the markets which have not been good lately, but could this kind of be a self-fulfilling prophesy if they're talking so gloomily about that right now?"

    On ABC's This Week, Cokie Roberts reprimanded chief-of-staff designate Andy Card: "We heard in this little clip of Governor Bush that we just saw, him talking about a possible economic slowdown. Is that something he's foreseeing and is it dangerous for him to be talking about something like this in his position?"


Raising the race card. ABC and NBC provided a preview over the weekend of the next round of litigation liberals will use to undermine the legitimacy of a Bush presidency. Both networks dedicated stories to charges that though voting by blacks was up 65 percent in Florida from 1996, blacks were more likely to be disenfranchised than whites through clerical errors, which left them off voting rolls, or more insidious problems. Without citing any evidence, ABC's Jami Floyd claimed "some cite intimidation by police."

    Neither story explored the rationale for any such discrimination given that most blacks live in jurisdictions controlled by Democrats who want their votes and, if there were problems, wouldn't Democratic officials be responsible for most of them, often black Democratic officials?

    ABC anchor Carole Simpson introduced a Sunday, December 3, World News Tonight story: "Tonight the Justice Department is gathering information about alleged voting irregularities in Florida. Last month African-American voters turned out in record numbers at Florida's polls, but tonight there is growing evidence that their ballots were far more likely to be discounted than those of white voters."

    Reporter Jami Floyd opened with some clips from Jesse Jackson in Florida, including one in which Jackson argued: "Mostly in black precincts you will find people in long lines and the polls close on them."

    Floyd explained that affidavits are being collected from minorities who were denied the ability to vote. Floyd highlighted a victim: "Voters like Janice Kelly, a former Army Sergeant, who was turned away from three different polling places because a local board of elections did not tell her where to vote."
    Kelly: "When we got there it was one person inside voting in the church and we were advised that it was too late, that they had already shut the machines off so we couldn't vote there either. We were basically out of luck."

    Maybe she should have taken the personal responsibility to figure it out in advance.

    Floyd noted how there was a 65 percent increase in black voting this year over 1996 in Florida, with 90 percent voting for Gore, before she continued with her anecdotes: "A number of African-Americans say they were turned away at the polls, their names were not found on the voting rolls and some cite intimidation by police. In addition, a report in today's Washington Post finds that African-American neighborhoods in Florida lost many more presidential votes than other areas because of outmoded voting machines, and rampant confusion about ballots. But according to the report, as many as one in three ballots in black sections of Jacksonville did not count in the election."

    She allowed a local canvassing member to insist all voters were treated equally before she raised the great civil rights struggle: "It was not that long ago that the right to vote was a galvanizing issue for blacks in the civil rights movement protesting poll taxes and literacy tests. Congressman John Lewis was a part of that movement."

    Viewers heard from Lewis as well as Shelby Steele, who maintained there's no evidence of a pattern of racial discrimination. Floyd concluded by countering Steele: "But under the law it's not intent but a discriminatory effect that matters and many black voters are saying it's clear that disproportionate number of black Floridians were not able to vote."

    The night before, on Saturday's NBC Nightly News, Kerry Sanders highlighted his own black victim: "Denise DeSouza is a lawyer accustomed to complicated legal nuances. By any comparison voting a simple process for her. But when she went to vote three weeks ago, even with the voter registration card in her hand, she says she was told she was not registered and could not vote."

    Sanders cited claims that there were "hundreds of disenfranchised voters" as "the NAACP says its analyzed the problem and found a disturbing trend."
    Victor Curry, Dade County NAACP: "All of them have just one thing in common: mostly black precincts. Accident? I don't think so."

    Sanders reported that most of the problems were related to names not on registration lists, but he noted it also occurred in non-minority areas such as Orlando where the motor vehicle bureau did not properly pass along those it registered to vote.


The broadcast networks ignored a Friday Miami Herald front page story about how at least 445 felons, 75 percent of whom were registered Democrats, voted on November 7, but on Sunday ABC jumped on another Herald front page piece which speculated about how, if the election were flawless, one professor guessed Gore would have won Florida by 23,000 votes.

    Friday night FNC's Brit Hume picked up on the December 1 Miami Herald story by David Kidwell, Phil Long and Geoff Dougherty. An excerpt:

At least 445 Florida felons voted illegally on Nov. 7, casting another cloud over a disputed presidential election already mired in legal challenges, a Herald investigation has found.

The tainted votes -- found in a review of nearly half a million votes cast in 12 Florida counties -- provide evidence that the presidential race was influenced by thousands of ineligible voters. Nearly six million voters in Florida's 67 counties cast ballots.

They also point out the failure of Florida's multimillion-dollar effort to prevent election fraud by eliminating dead and illegal voters from the registration rolls....

The majority of the illegal votes -- 330 -- were cast in Palm Beach and Duval counties, which decided not to participate in the statewide effort this year to purge felons, dead people and double registrants from the rolls.

Elections supervisors in those counties argue the state database compiled by the Florida Division of Elections, at a price of $4 million, was peppered with errors and mismatches....

The lapses in Palm Beach and Duval counties could become significant if Democrats win any of their legal challenges and take the narrow lead away from Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Nearly 75 percent of the illegal ballots discovered by The Herald were cast by registered Democrats....

Since 1868, it has been illegal for felons to cast ballots in Florida, one of 14 states with an arduous paperwork process for felons to have their rights restored. The provision has prompted a federal lawsuit by civil rights groups who allege it is discriminatory against blacks.

The Herald found 62 robbers, 56 drug dealers, 45 killers, 16 rapists and seven kidnappers who cast ballots. At least two who voted are pictured on the state's online registry of sexual offenders....

    END Excerpt of Miami Herald story

    To read the whole story, go to:

    Having skipped that story, on Sunday night ABC's World News Tonight highlighted another Herald front page story. Anchor Carole Simpson explained: "With that clock running, a story that ran in the Miami Herald today has added fuel to the debate. The story asserts that Al Gore would have won the presidency by 23,000 votes if -- and it is a major if -- all of the uncounted votes in Florida followed the same trend as the votes that have been counted."

    Bill Redeker showed clips of the story being raised on Meet the Press and Face the Nation before he outlined the speculation: "The hypothetical results, reported by Florida's biggest daily, give Gore the victory here if every one of 185,000 uncounted votes were counted. No hanging chads, no double-punches or failed punches."

    He ran soundbites from Doug Hattaway of the Gore team and Bush's Tucker Eskew as Redeker noted how exit polls nationally showed one million voted for on purpose for neither Bush or Gore. Redeker discounted that: "Still, the professor who crunched the numbers for the story says, even if 90 percent of voters whose ballots were discarded actually intended to skip the race, Gore still would have won by 1400 votes."
    Stephen Doig, Arizona State University: "The reason why it was tilted towards Gore in the uncounted is there's clearly a higher incidence of uncounted ballots among precincts that tended to favor the Vice President."
    Redeker concluded: "While some statisticians question the premise of the study, others say the end result appears to be perfectly reasonable. But there is no such thing as a perfect election. As one political analyst put it, in our system would of, could of, should of, doesn't count."

    But it seems to count to the news media.

    To read the Sunday Miami Herald story, "If the Vote Were Flawless," go to:


"Results-Oriented Journalism: Distinguished or narrow-minded?" That's the title of a new posting on National Review Online by Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis at the MRC, about how the media apply labels to Supreme Court justices. To read the piece online, go to:

    Here's an excerpt from Graham's piece, joined in progress:

In reporting on Friday's Supreme Court arguments, readers can find two methods of court labeling. Either the Court is a distinguished body of balancing ideological views, or it's a frightening contrast of narrow-minded ultraconservatives and centrist individualists. For the objective way to do this, a reader could consult U.S. News & World Report this week, where Ted Gest's descriptive capsules reasonably balanced a conservative bloc on the court with a liberal bloc. But Gest also correctly noted that the conservative "advocates limiting federal powers" generally, while the liberals disappoint conservatives "by consistently backing federal powers." Gest could inspire quibbles for protesting that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is "not an automatic liberal vote" (which conservative is "automatic" in a crude political sense?), and that Stephen Breyer "stakes out centrist positions on many issues" (really?), but overall, he's fair and adequately precise.

For a more traditional, more prejudiced method of court labeling see Time.com, where reporter Jessica Reaves found a rigid, constipated conservative bloc, which doesn't much like individual rights:
-- "Rehnquist is a strict constructionist (he interprets the Constitution in very narrow terms) who leans conservative."
-- "Scalia favors a very strict reading of the Constitution and has attempted repeatedly to strike down Roe v. Wade."
-- "Thomas has earned a reputation as a conservative, in part for his very narrow reading of individual rights under the Constitution. He opposes affirmative action and Roe v. Wade, supports limited power for the Supreme Court and opposes the view that the Constitution is designed 'to address all of the ills in our society.'"

By contrast, Reaves suggested the liberal bloc of the court cannot be dismissed as predictably liberal, but are independent, individualistic, and sensitive to the needs of real people, as opposed to "hypertechnical" legal arcana:
-- "A true independent, Stevens can be unpredictable in his opinions, but he always considers the effects of a ruling on society. Tends to defer to Congress as a decision-making body, and downplays the authority of the courts."
-- "Souter has emerged as the Court's most influential moderate, often working with Sandra Day O'Connor to establish a centrist opinion."
-- "Ginsburg is well known for her commitment to striking down laws that treat men and women differently; Clinton called her 'the Thurgood Marshall of gender equity law.' She shares Justice Breyer's conviction that law should serve the individual."
-- "Breyer is seen as a pragmatist who often takes issue with Justices Scalia and Thomas's narrow view of constitutional rights, preferring to consider the impact of law on the lives of everyday people. Rose to prominence and gained respect of congressional Republicans after deconstructing extremely complex deregulation guidelines for the airline industry."

Granted, Reaves at least acknowledged the existence of a liberal bloc on the court, but you wouldn't seem too concerned about their judicial activism from these sentences, as opposed to those "very strict" judges that sound like they'd rule to ruin all your fun.

Reaves is solidly in the mainstream of court reporting, which from NPR's Nina Totenberg to USA Today's Joan Biskupic to Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times, clearly favors the "people-oriented vision" of Joseph Brennan's heirs to the Borkian sourpusses of strict constructionism. But if journalists are concerned with accuracy more than partisanship, they should ask: Is it accurate to suggest that the conservatives are statists who are usually hostile to individual rights while liberals are more broadly libertarian?

The Constitution was designed not to limit individual rights, but to protect them against encroachments by the state. Justice Thomas does not have a "very narrow reading of individual rights under the Constitution." He has a very narrow reading of government's power under the Constitution, which leads to a broad reading of individual rights. Reporters won't say the court's liberal bloc has a "very expansive" view of the Constitution as a "living document" which can change based on the latest poll. But conservatives' claim to defend individual liberty is treated with skepticism. In her Scalia paragraph, Reaves puts Scalia's reverence for liberty in quotes: he "often argues that the law's primary role is to protect 'the liberties of the people' from the unchecked powers of any of the three branches."

Liberal media bias suggests that only some liberties matter. Property rights are much less important than abortion rights, the rights of religious conservatives are much less important than the rights of gay-left activists, and the rights of crime victims mean less than the rights of criminal defendants. Liberals prefer results-oriented jurisprudence, and what the public gets from the media is results-oriented journalism -- that sees the justices' love of liberty based on how favorably they rule on abortion, homosexuality, and capital punishment.

No veteran court watcher wants to lay down the Benjamins on how the court will rule on the Florida supreme court's crackling smackdown of Katherine Harris, but one variable at the Supreme Court is an easy bet. Reporters will continue to suggest that the liberal bloc of the court is less partisan, less ideological, less activist, less statist (!), and more compassionate.

    END Excerpt


Lesley Stahl goaded Al Gore on 60 Minutes Sunday night: "You have to be angry, you have to be angry at what's happening. I mean you do think you won the election don't you?" She suggested someone he should be mad at: "C'mon. What about Katherine Harris. Weren't you angry at her?"

    Stahl's solicitation of an attack on Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris came two days after the New York Post's "Page Six" reported several media outlets are trying to dig up dirt on Harris.

    An excerpt from the December 1 item, "Media Gang Out to Smear Harris," by Richard Johnson with Paula Froelich and Chris Wilson:

Reporters at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek and CNN are scrambling frantically to find something -- anything -- they can use against Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who certified the state's voting tally in favor of George W. Bush. But they are coming up empty.

Harris, who has been attacked over her lipstick and make-up, was said to be prepared for what she views as Democratic dirty tricks aimed at demonizing her.

The Al Gore camp denies it is behind the bogus rumors about Harris....

An investigative reporter for a news weekly said, "These rumors, fueled by interested partisans, have been flying for weeks. I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't look into them, but there is nothing there."

Harris, 43, has been happily married since 1996 to wealthy Swedish-born businessman Anders Ebbeson, 55.

"They did the same thing to Linda Tripp," said Lucianne Goldberg, publisher of lucianne.com. "If you can't find anything on a woman, make fun of the way she looks. If that doesn't stick, start a phony sex rumor because it's like fog.

"You can't make it go away. You can't prove a negative. They are ganging up on her even though there isn't one bit of evidence."

The media "investigations" of Harris have conservative women up in arms.

Laura Ingraham, the comely author of "The Hillary Trap: Looking for Power in all the Wrong Places" (Hyperion), said, "Now let me get this straight, the left-leaning deep thinkers in the media are now in favor of the politics of personal destruction?

"They, just like sensitive Al, only applaud a certain type of girl power -- the kind exercised by women who agree with them. Katherine Harris is an attractive, rich, and gutsy Republican who isn't impressed by the sanctimonious jabs of the media -- so, of course, the press is out to get her."

    END Excerpt

    For the whole item, go to:
http://www.nypost.com/12012000/gossip/pagesix.htm -- Brent Baker


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