ABC & NBC Skipped "Vacated" Order; Gore Urged to Fight On; Reporters a Sounding Board for Boies; Toobin's "Whack"
1) On Monday night all three
broadcast networks led by stressing setbacks for Gore, but only Tom
Brokaw incorporated finality into his lead as he suggested Judge Sanders
Sauls "may have finally settled the presidential election."
NBC's David Bloom still tagged Katherine Harris as the "Republican
Secretary of State."
2) The U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that "the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is
therefore vacated," but of the broadcast network evening shows,
only CBS mentioned the "vacate" order. ABC and CBS stressed a
request for clarification. NBC's Pete Williams emphasized how the court
ruled the decision "incomplete."
3) Dan Rather warned about
the intent of "Florida's Republican-controlled state legislature to
name its own slate of 25 electors to vote for Bush and deliver the
presidency to him no matter what."
4) Time's Tamala Edwards
urged Gore to fight on: "If you really believe that you won and it
comes down to taking another month, another six weeks...I think any of
us, if we were in his shoes, would probably fight that battle."
5) David Boies uses
reporters at a Tallahassee bar as a sounding board for his arguments, a
nugget noticed by FNC Brit Hume in a Washington Post story.
6) CNN's Gary Tuchman fed
lines to David Boies: "Republicans came back and said, 'Send all
1.1 million ballots.' Now they don't want anything counted?....Let me
try to say it. Do you think they're trying to make this more
7) ABC's Jeffrey Toobin gave
a guy who tried to cut into line in front of him a "whack"
and, the Weekly Standard recalled, Toobin has an "underreported
connection" with David Boies who "was Toobin's personal lawyer
in the early 1990s when Toobin sued Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence
8) Ted Turner's solution:
Hold a national run-off and then amend the Constitution to allow
automatic run-offs in the future.
9) While President of CNN in
March, Newsweek disclosed, Rick Kaplan participated in a Gore campaign
debate rehearsal session.
very bad day for Al Gore" declared ABC's Peter Jennings as on Monday
night all three broadcast networks led by stressing setbacks for Gore. Dan
Rather delivered the least negative spin for Gore. Only Tom Brokaw
incorporated finality into his lead as he suggested Judge Sanders Sauls
"may have finally settled the presidential election."
Here's a rundown
of how ABC, CBS and NBC opened their December 4 evening newscasts:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings: "It was a very bad day for Al Gore and
late this afternoon his lawyer put it as clearly as can be, 'we lost, they
won.' It is not necessarily the end of the road, but after two days of
exhaustive and exhausting testimony the judge in this case, brought by Mr.
Gore to continue recounting votes in Florida, has gone all Mr. Bush's
Aaron Brown began
the lead story on the Sauls ruling: "Stripped of all its legal
jargon, Judge Sanders Sauls' ruling comes down to one simple sentence: On
election night George W. Bush won the state of Florida -- that's the
evidence -- Al Gore did not."
-- CBS Evening
News. Dan Rather: "In the battle today there was at least one major
court setback for Vice President Al Gore, there was one clear big boost
for Texas Governor George Bush and possibly two."
started the show's first report: "Lawyers for Al Gore came to court
today in need of a win in the worst way, but they lost and they lost big.
One of his lawyers told me after court quote, 'Don't use my name, but we
just got our clock cleaned.'" The judge, Pitts later added, said
"no to every single argument made by Al Gore and his army of
CBS News legal
analyst Andrew Cohen still held out hope for Gore as he offered a rare
partisan description of the members of Florida's highest court: "He
has a chance before the Florida Supreme Court. Remember, that court, which
is all Democrats, helped him a couple weeks ago."
-- NBC Nightly
News. Tom Brokaw: "A Florida state judge, little-known outside his
courtroom until last week, may have finally settled the presidential
election almost one month after voters went to the polls. Judge Sanders
Sauls turned back every argument made by Vice President Al Gore's legal
team in its contesting of the election. This on a day when the U.S.
Supreme Court sent back to the Florida state Supreme Court its earlier
ruling extending the deadline for accepting disputed ballots. And the Gore
team now hopes to take Judge Sauls' decision to the Florida Supreme Court.
So, there are legal moves that are left, but this certainly appeared to be
a giant step toward the White House for Texas Governor George W.
asserted that for Gore "to pull this out now will require the legal
equivalent of a Hail Mary pass."
described the Sauls decision as "a sweeping defeat" for Gore,
but he still managed to get in a partisan label for Katherine Harris as he
introduced a soundbite: "Joe Klock represents Florida's Republican
Secretary of State who eight days ago certified the election
Wrapping up NBC's
election stories Monday night, Tim Russert told Tom Brokaw what he'd
learned about weak support for Gore among elected Democrats: "I've
spoken to numerous Democrats and they are pretty much resigned to the fact
that Al Gore will not be elected President of the United States. One said,
however, 'it's the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two strikes, we
owe it to support him, to let him take his last swing' and that's the
Florida Supreme Court. If he loses there, he must get out according to
every Democrat I spoke to."
Burying the lead. The networks were clear that Gore lost in the Leon
County courtroom of Judge Sanders Sauls, but viewers of ABC and NBC would
have been hard pressed to know who won or lost the U.S. Supreme Court
decision announced Monday. The court ruled that "the judgment of the
Supreme Court of Florida is therefore vacated," but of the broadcast
network evening shows, only the CBS Evening News mentioned the
ABC and CBS
stressed how the high court justices asked the Florida court to clarify
its ruling allowing more time for recounts and which delayed
certification. NBC's Pete Williams emphasized how the high court resisted
"the urge to grade the Florida Supreme Court ruling as either pass or
fail and instead label it incomplete."
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings introduced the Supreme Court story: "Mr.
Gore was also somewhat disappointed today by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a
unanimous decision the court said it would not rule on whether the Florida
Supreme Court was right when it extended the deadline for votes to be
recounted in the first place. This was not, by the way, necessarily a
victory for Mr. Bush. His campaign had brought the case."
Jackie Judd began
her subsequent piece: "The Supreme Court's historic hearing ended
with a less than historic decision. The Justices said it was 'unclear' why
Florida's Supreme Court had decided to extend the election certification
deadline. So unclear they were not sure if the Constitution or federal law
had been violated. The justices told the state court to clarify its
audio clips from the Friday oral arguments to show how the justices were
divided, Judd acknowledged the implication of the ruling without using the
word "vacate": "The ruling today essentially rolls the
clock back to before the Florida court made its decision to extend the
-- NBC Nightly
News. Tom Brokaw avoided the bottom line and spun the ruling as one that
no one won or lost: "Earlier today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its
eagerly awaited judgment and that one was not such an open and shut
never uttered the word "vacate" as he explained:
72 hours after hearing the case, the justices announced their remarkably
fast decision and, bridging the apparent differences among the court,
apparently deep differences, they resist the urge to grade the Florida
Supreme Court ruling as either pass or fail and instead label it
Though he called
it a judgment of "incomplete," Williams did soon acknowledge
that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling "cancels out" the Florida
-- CBS Evening
News. Dan Rather, in contrast, up front delivered the bottom line:
"The Supreme Court justices unanimously set aside the Florida Supreme
Court's decision to delay the final tally to include some hand
explained how the U.S. Supreme Court "set aside" the Florida
ruling as he quoted how the court concluded: "The judgment of the
Supreme Court of Florida is therefore vacated" and returned "for
Dan Rather again on Monday night portrayed the idea of the Florida
legislature naming a slate of electors as antithetical to democracy.
Monday night: "Today's court ruling intensified the fight over moves
by Florida's Republican-controlled state legislature to name its own slate
of 25 electors to vote for Bush and deliver the presidency to him no
In the subsequent
story reporter Bobbi Harley highlighted this calm assessment from former
Senator Howard Metzenbaum: "If they go forward with their plan to
call for a special session they are undermining the very democracy our
Founding Fathers fought and died for."
At least one reporter is holding out hope and urging Gore to continue the
fight. During a panel segment at about 7:40pm ET Monday nighty on MSNBC,
with "Is it over?" as the on-screen graphic, Tamala Edwards of
Time argued to Brian Williams:
"To say that
this is purely craven, I think that's not looking at it quite the right
way. When you think about what both of these men have been through,
campaigning for 18 months is an awfully hard job and if you really believe
that you won and it comes down to taking another month, another six weeks
to say let me fight out this case. I think any of us, if we were in his
shoes, would probably fight that battle."
If even the liberal media won't buy it then David Boies knows he's gone
too far. Boies uses reporters at a bar as a sounding board for his
arguments, a Washington Post story revealed. FNC's Brit Hume, Monday night
on his Special Report with Brit Hume, highlighted the nugget buried deep
within the December 4 front page story headlined: "Gore's Legal Eagle
Has Daunting Task."
way through their piece, Post reporters James V. Grimaldi and Ceci
Connolly related how Boies uses as a sounding board the reporters covering
the Tallahassee action:
nights before filing the election-contest lawsuit in Leon County, Boies
tested one position, whether to join the case filed against the Seminole
County Canvassing Board. In the case, an election official is accused of
permitting a GOP official to change errors on 4,700 Republican
absentee-ballot applications and a Florida lawyer has sued, saying that
all 15,000 of the ballots should be tossed out in the GOP-leaning county.
"In an ad
hoc session with reporters at Andrew's Bar & Grill, a hangout near the
courthouses and Capitol dome, Boies discussed filing a separate lawsuit
over the Seminole ballots. He suggested asking the court to determine
which voters properly filled out the absentee-ballot applications and
allowing those voters to vote again.
around the table looked at him incredulously.
guys don't buy it, I'm not sure it's going to get very far,' Boies
Must not have been
any network producers at the bar.
Sometimes reporters in Tallahassee are indeed friends to Boies. Just check
out how CNN's Gary Tuchman last Thursday fed Boies anti-Republican
arguments when he resisted making them himself. Prompted by an e-mail
comment the MRC's Bonnie Langborgh received, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth
went back and found the live November 30 interview between Tuchman and
Boies at about 2:12pm ET.
have filed an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court to have those ballots
counted immediately. What is the status of that right now?"
you're a lawyer who deals with lots of complicated issues, but this seems
pretty clear cut. If these ballots aren't counted, you don't have a chance
of winning, correct?"
you have 10,500 undercounts in Miami-Dade county that you think would put
your candidate over?"
"Here's one of the most interesting issues here. You asked for 14,000
ballots to come here, disputed ballots you think you need counted.
Republicans came back and said, 'Send all 1.1 million ballots.' Now they
don't want anything counted? What do you think the reason behind that
"Well, I don't want to try to analyze-"
"All right, let me try to say it. Do you think they're trying to make
this more time-consuming?"
Of course, Tuchman
was correct, but it shouldn't be his role to feed arguments to an
ABC's Jeffrey Toobin gave a guy who tried to cut into line in front of him
the Tuesday before Thanksgiving a "whack" and, it turns out, the
Weekly Standard recalled how Toobin has an "underreported
connection" with David Boies who "was Toobin's personal lawyer
in the early 1990s when Toobin sued Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh
over the publication of Toobin's first book."
The MRC's Tim
Graham alerted me to a piece exploring both these issues posted on The
Weekly Standard's special election coverage page. The magazine first
reprinted a November 30 story about Toobin recounted by "a colleague
on Jim Romenesko's Media News site." Then the magazine added its own
information. You can read all this by going to:
Or, read on below.
First, from www.poynter.org/medianews:
From DOUGLAS McCOLLAM, The American Lawyer:
In this week's New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin writes about Florida Litigator
Bruce Rogow under the title "As Nasty As They Gotta Be." The
title might also apply to Toobin himself in an incident that occurred one
night last week in front of the Florida State Supreme Court. It was about
9:30 p.m. on Tuesday and we had been standing in sub-freezing cold for
hours waiting for the court's decision on whether hand recounts could
continue. Without warning, a court marshall appeared and directed the
assembled media throng to line up single file to get the opinion. By the
time the announcement came, many reporters had grown tired of the cold and
returned to their Bedouin tents or RVs to warm up and get something to
eat. When they got the word and came rushing back, the line was already a
hundred deep. One distraught network runner then tried to ease into line
in front of Toobin. Mistake. Deftly shifting his cell phone from left hand
to right, the bespectacled ABC legal analyst and author gave the
interloper a mighty whap, turning him away. "Hey!" the stung man
screamed. "I don't give a shit who you are -- you don't touch
Toobin showed him his back, not even
bothering to get off his cell. The guy hung around for a moment trying to
look tough before shuffling off toward the back of the line. Later that
night I passed Toobin as he finished a stand-up shot for ABC. "Pretty
rough in there tonight," I said. "Yeah!" he agreed. Then he
stopped, turned, and did a little Ali-shuffle, raising his hands in
triumph: "Legal Analyst by day; Street Fighter by night!"
END reprint of
Standard's online version of its "Scrapbook" page then
elaborated, as reprinted below:
Toobin has an interesting, underreported
connection with one of the major players in the Florida drama. David Boies,
now Al Gore's lead counsel, was Toobin's personal lawyer in the early
1990s when Toobin sued Iran-Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh over the
publication of Toobin's first book, Opening Arguments. Walsh thought
Toobin (who had been one of Walsh's staff lawyers) had used privileged
grand-jury information in the book and tried to stop its publication.
Toobin and Boies got a federal judge to rule that the book contained no
Walsh, something of a street fighter
himself, struck back six years later in his own book, Firewall, accusing
Toobin of failures as a prosecutor and of walking off with classified
documents (which Toobin denied). Walsh's most piquant anecdote described
those documents as being discovered later in Boies's wine cellar. James
Ledbetter told the tale (the only account The Scrapbook has seen of this
aspect of the Toobin-Boies connection) in his Press Clips column in the
May 20, 1997, Village Voice.
"Toobin's former boss," wrote
Ledbetter, "accuses him of stealing hundreds of government documents,
some classified. 'After various evasions by Toobin,' writes Walsh, 'a
Justice Department security officer found the documents in the wine cellar
of the home of one of Toobin's lawyers.'
"Walsh told the Voice there was no
doubt Toobin did take classified documents off his office's premises,
citing security officials as his source.
"Toobin adamantly denies removing
anything classified: 'In eight years, no government official has ever
suggested that I stole anything. I went to work at the U.S. attorney's
office, which doesn't hire people who've stolen government documents.'
"Toobin insists that Walsh's security
officer reviewed every single document I took out of that office before I
left in 1989 -- an assertion Walsh disputes. (The security officer, Al
Stansbury, now works for the FBI. He did not return phone messages left at
"Toobin does acknowledge, however,
that copies of materials he removed from the special prosecutor's office
did end up in the cellar of his attorney, David Boies. According to Toobin,
several copies were made of materials he took from Walsh's office during
litigation in which Walsh tried to delay publication of Toobin's first
book. When that litigation ended, Toobin says he thought all the copies
were returned to Walsh, 'but copies turned up in David's wine cellar. I
didn't know anything about it,' Toobin said. He offered that his attorney
is disorganized and that Boies had no intention of doing anything with
them. Boies reiterated to the Voice that Toobin didn't steal anything, and
says the file box was in his basement, not his wine cellar. 'I do have a
wine cellar,' Boies said, 'but my wine cellar has wine in it.'"
Amend the Constitution to allow for a national run-off? That's Ted
Turner's idea as quoted in a November 30 Reuters story highlighted by
dateline Reuters dispatch recounted: "CNN founder Ted Turner has a
way to end the political wrangling in Florida -- declare the U.S.
presidential election a tie and hold a national runoff between Republican
George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.
face it. It's a statistical tie. That's what you'd call it if it was a
sporting event,' the television mogul said on Thursday in a speech to the
World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.
we should have a runoff. Neither one got a majority because of the votes
for (Ralph) Nader and (Pat) Buchanan...and I think we ought to amend the
Constitution so this doesn't happen again. Then if we don't have a winner
with a majority, we have another election a few days later.'"
The founder of CNN
who is now the Vice Chairman of Time Warner even got sillier. Reuters
related: "'Maybe we could have co-Presidents. You be President this
week, and I'll be President next week. It's a real hard job, and that
might work pretty well because the President would get plenty of rest that
way,' joked Turner, a philanthropist whose fortune is estimated at over $9
Was former CNN President Rick Kaplan involved in advising the Gore
campaign while he was still running the cable news network? Did he have
special behind-the-scenes access because of his close personal connection
to Bill Clinton? Those questions are raised by an intriguing sentence in
the November 20 Newsweek brought to my attention by the MRC's Rich Noyes.
In early September
Kaplan was let go by CNN, but back in March he was still President of
CNN/USA. Keep that in mind as you read this paragraph from Newsweek's
massive "The Inside Story" treatise on the campaign. This
appeared about 30 pages into the series of articles which listed Eleanor
Clift as the reporter with Gore, on page 65 in "Spring Fever"
after Gore had sewn up the nomination, he kept on robotically attacking
Bradley in primaries that were, for all intents and purposes, meaningless.
At a rehearsal for a California debate on March 1, former CNN President
Rick Kaplan joked, 'Let's do the debate now.' Gore's sparring partner, Tom
Downey, intoned, 'I'm going to kick you're a--.' Without missing a beat or
cracking a smile, Gore mechanically launched into his standard rap,
attacking Bradley's health care plan."
gave CNN access. One night he's staying overnight in the Lincoln bedroom
as Bill Clinton's personal guest, another day he's playing golf with
Clinton and then on another he's in a debate rehearsal session giving Gore
a command -- although maybe Eleanor Clift was there too. But were they
advising or observing? -- Brent Baker
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