Sauls Made It "Difficult"; Politics-Free FSC?; Florida GOP "Gamesmanship"; Geraldo: "Screw You!"; Fox Too Biased for Gore
1) "How difficult do you
think that the lower court judge has made it for the Supreme Court?" So
asked ABC's Peter Jennings in seeming to suggest Sanders Sauls ruled the
2) Media Reality Check. "ABC Still Selling Florida Court
as Pack of Moderates: Jack Ford Finds It 'Difficult' to See Politics in Florida Supremes."
3) CBS's Byron Pitts: "They really went after Al
Gore's man -- early and often." NBC's David Bloom: "The seven
Justices appeared divided and skeptical over what role, if any, they should
4) CBS focused on how Tallahassee reporters "are
listening to Republicans call the session," to name electors,
"statesmanship, not gamesmanship. Listening, if not quite
5) Geraldo Rivera on the Florida House and Senate: "What
they are doing is throwing dirt in the face of everyone concerned with the
validity of the Florida ballot. They are saying to everyone, 'screw
6) Gore's team impressed ABC's Jami Floyd: "A James
Bond moment. Even before it stops moving, Gore aides leap from the car. Their
mission: to deliver documents here, the Florida Supreme Court." Actually,
the minivan had come to a complete stop.
7) "I believe that most people in their hearts are
Democrats," insisted Virginia state Senator Emily Couric. Does that
include her younger sister Katie?
8) Al Gore refused to do an interview last week with Fox News.
"I think Fox's coverage during the campaign has been decidedly
one-sided," declared impeachment spinner Mark Fabiani.
9) Dan Rather's "Danisms" were based on
life-experiences: "'Bush has run through Dixie like a big wheel through
a cotton field.' 'I picked cotton by hand when I was a child. If you've
ever seen a cotton-picking machine, it has big wheels.'"
10) Bill Clinton, Dan Rather noted, wants to repeal the
presidential term limit. President Bill Clinton in 2004?
only Judge Sanders Sauls had ruled the other way. Peter Jennings posed a
question to Jack Ford on ABC's World News Tonight Thursday night which
assumed Sauls' sweeping ruling, on both the law and evidence, against a
recount for Gore has made it "difficult" for the Florida Supreme
Court to do the right thing and order a recount.
The first question Jennings posed to Ford after a story
on the Florida Supreme Court's hearing on the appeal of the Sauls decision:
"How difficult do you think that the lower court judge has made it for
the Supreme Court?"
Ford's lengthy answer: "It's made it difficult
for a number of reasons, Peter. First of all, obviously it's made it an up
hill battle for the Gore team, not just because they lost, but because the
standard of appellate review is so difficult for them. It's not enough for
the justices here to say, 'well you know what if I were sitting in the lower
court I would have resolved this differently.' They are told that they have
to accept Judge Sauls' conclusions of law unless they can show that there
was no reasonable basis for what he did. And you can see that's a very tough
standard, so that makes it difficult for them. But his opinion did build in
something that they are now wrestling with -- the justices -- and may be a
benefit for the Gore team. The standards in a statute, grounds for contesting
elections shows that if you can show enough legal votes were tossed out that
it placed the election in doubt, then you can be okay. But in his opinion
Judge Sauls said well I think they have to show there's a reasonable
probability that you could have changed the election. So the justices today
said is that the same thing -- a reasonable probability as opposed to placing
it in doubt -- and that's what they seem to be, what they're struggling
Of course, if they agreed with Sauls' ruling it would
not be "difficult" to just uphold it.
Campaign 2000 Media Reality
Check "Quick Take" distributed by fax Thursday afternoon:
"ABC Still Selling Florida Court as Pack of Moderates; Jack Ford Finds It
'Difficult' to See Politics in Florida Supremes."
To view the fax online as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, go
Now the text of the fax put together by the MRC's Tim
Graham based on quotes from the December 7 Good Morning America observed by
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
Before the Florida Supreme Court baldly ordered more time for recounts in
selected Democratic counties and stretched the legal deadline
for certification by 12 days, ABC anchor Peter Jennings insisted the court was
"moderate to conservative." Today on ABC's Good
Morning America, legal analyst Jack Ford asked everyone to forget that, and
the unanimous vacation of their ruling this week by
the U.S. Supreme Court as baffling in its reasoning. He insisted these seven
Democratic appointees are not acting like political appointees:
"I think people who have looked at this court have said this is a
pretty steady, well-intentioned and probably more importantly, not just
political-appointed court. They've got an interesting selection process down
there. It's not like some other states where the governor says, 'You know
what? You were my highest contributor or you've been with me since I've been
in high school. Bang! You're the Supreme Court justice here.' In Florida
there's a commission that gives the Governor a list of three to five
candidates, and that commission is based upon somebody from the Governor's
office and people from the bar association...So there's a major merit
selection process that goes on here."
Substitute co-host Nancy Snyderman added: "And the Chief [Justice] is
a relatively conservative man, is he not?"
Ford replied: "Yeah, he is, and in terms of their politics, it's
difficult to see how that weaves into their political, into their legal
decisions here. But just in terms of a bench and what you expect from a bench,
these are very talented and experienced lawyers who became judges, four of
whom, as I mentioned, had experience on appellate courts before they moved up
to the Supreme Court."
Ford did not explain that the counsel to Gov. Lawton Chiles, who made most
of these appointments, was Dexter Douglass, one of Gore's
Florida lawyers, or explain the liberal slant of the state bar association.
While networks cast aspersions on Republican elected
officials, Democrat-appointed judges are praised as non-political and highly
END Reprint of Media Reality Check
night the networks provided pretty straight rundowns of the proceedings before
the Florida Supreme Court, but each offered their own assessment of which way
the court may be leaning.
ABC's Erin Hayes withheld personal judgment and on
World News Tonight said only that "at the end of the day neither side
seemed convinced of a win."
Byron Pitts began his CBS Evening News piece: "The
justices have headed home for the night having fired tough questions at both
sides, but they really went after Al Gore's man -- early and often."
Pitts added of Bush lawyer Barry Richard: "He too was worked over by the
On the NBC Nightly News David Bloom observed:
"During 70 minutes of arguments today the seven justices appeared divided
and skeptical over what role, if any, they should play."
Dan Abrams later provided an evaluation of each justice:
"Justices asked tough questions of both sides, but it seemed Justices
Wells, Harding and Lewis were more skeptical of parts of the Gore argument,
while Justices Anstead, Pariente and Shaw tougher on Bush. The seventh
Justice, Quince, tough to call."
national reporters following the lead of local reporters in believing
Florida's Republican legislators are pursuing "gamesmanship" not
"statesmanship" in moving ahead to name a slate of electors?
In a Thursday CBS Evening News piece, CBS report Jim
Axelrod relayed: "Tonight, long-time Capitol reporters like Lucy Morgan
are listening to Republicans call the session statesmanship, not gamesmanship.
Listening, if not quite believing."
Lucy Morgan, St.
Petersburg Times: "We're in the midst of the world's biggest
political game. I mean this is for all the marbles."
those clearly not believing in Republican statesmanship: Geraldo Rivera,
who denounced the Florida House and Senate: "They are saying to
everyone, 'screw you!'"
On his CNBC show Wednesday night, MRC analyst
Geoffrey Dickens observed, Rivera complained:
already a certified slate of Bush electors as far as I know. He's
already been the certified winner. They don't have, what they are doing
is throwing dirt in the face of everyone concerned with the validity of
the Florida ballot. They are saying to everyone, 'screw you! You can
play your game, you can exercise your constitutional rights in court, you
can jerk everybody's chain. It doesn't matter! Because we are
determined that it's gonna be our way!' And their way is going to put
such a taint or at least a bad taste that it will fuel the most incredibly
malignant voter cynicism, I think, that we've seen in many years."
Of course, all they are really doing is fulfilling
their constitutional responsibility.
Jami Floyd is easy to impress, at least if you're working hard for Gore.
In a December 7 story previewing the Florida Supreme Court hearing, Floyd
offered this dramatic description from Tallahassee during the 7am news
update on Good Morning America, over supposedly matching video:
could be the last stop in a very long process, a process filled with lots
of legal motions, late night preparation, drama in the courtroom and even
theatrics like this. A James Bond moment. Even before it stops moving,
Gore aides leap from the car. Their mission: to deliver documents here,
the Florida Supreme Court, the one court in Tallahassee with a sympathetic
ear for Al Gore."
As MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, the video
actually showed a minivan pull up to a curb, come to a complete stop, and
then the doors opened and men with briefcases and boxes hopped out as a
that include her younger sister? "I believe that most people in their
hearts are Democrats," insisted Virginia state Senator Emily Couric
(D-Charlottesville) who at Saturday's meeting of Virginia Democrats was
named "General Chairwoman" of the party. Emily Couric dropped
out of the 2001 race for Lieutenant Governor earlier this year in order to
battle pancreatic cancer.
In October, Emily Couric starred in an
anti-Republican Senate candidate George Allen ad from Voters for Choice TV
ad in support of Democratic Senator Chuck Robb. To see a picture of her
and for the text of the liberal ad, go to:
Her quote about how most people "in their
hearts are Democrats" was reported in the last paragraph of a
December 3 Washington Post story by Craig Timberg, who proceeded it by
relaying: "Democrats also gave a standing ovation to Couric. The
sister of Today show co-host Katie Couric said she hopes to lead the party
back from a decade of declining fortunes by returning to the basics of
grass-roots organizing and delivering a message of opportunity."
week Al Gore refused to sit for an interview with the Fox News Channel
because of their supposed bias against him, the New York Observer reported
this week. Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/)
highlighted the story in the December 6 New York Observer. Here's an
excerpt from the piece by Jason Gay:
If George W. Bush wraps up this presidential deal soon -- as most
people expected him to do earlier this week -- that will be good news for
the Fox News Channel. Because unlike Al Gore, Mr. Bush will sit down for
an interview with Fox.
Fox staffers were irate last week after the Vice President, in a marathon stretch of television appearances on
Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 29 and 30,
purposely blew off the Rupert Murdoch-owned news channel. Trying to
bolster support for his re-count challenges, Mr. Gore appeared for a
string of interviews on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, but passed on Fox's offer
to appear on its airwaves.
Mr. Gore's decision wasn't business; it was personal. Mr. Gore's
campaign staff has been miffed at Fox News for what they consider to be a
bias against the V.P. "I think Fox's coverage during the campaign
has been decidedly one-sided," Mr. Gore's campaign spokesman, Mark
Fabiani, told The Observer....
"You can get your message out without covering every single
broadcast outlet, and given the fact that Fox's coverage has been
decidedly negative, if you are going to economize, they're the place you
economize," Mr. Fabiani said.
So the Vice President left Fox News out in the cold. Mr. Gore's
decision prompted Fox News' Washington bureau chief, Kim Hume, to issue
a strongly worded letter to Mr. Gore's campaign. "We have been told
that it's obvious why we are being excluded," read one passage of
Ms. Hume's letter. "It's not obvious to us. Our coverage of Vice
President Gore has been even-handed....
Even though Mr. Gore's decision was politically calculated, it did
put Fox News in a frustrating, somewhat embarrassing situation. The
4-year-old network has made significant gains in the ratings recently, to
the point that it regularly nips at the heels of CNN. But not getting Mr.
Gore on any day when the desperate Vice President appeared on nearly every
channel except the Food Network was a potential blow to Fox's efforts to
achieve status as a straightforward, legitimate news outfit, particularly
since the network has been plagued by accusations of conservative bias.
Ms. Hume didn't see it that way. "Our reporters do fair and
balanced reports," said Ms. Hume, who is married to Fox chief
Washington correspondent Brit Hume. "[Mr. Gore] has the opportunity
to come on and basically give one side of the story. If
they decline to do that, that's their problem."....
To read the entire story while it remains up for a
few days, go to: http://www.observer.com/pages/nytv.asp
When Mark Fabiani, a veteran of defending
Clinton's interpretation of the words "is" and
"sex," calls you "one-sided" it probably means
you're really "fair and balanced."
Rather defended his election night "Ratherisms" or, as they
apparently call them inside CBS News, "Danisms," as the product
of his actual life experiences. Or so he insisted to Philadelphia Inquirer
TV reporter Gail Shister in an interview about how he's signed a deal
with CBS News that does not guarantee that he remain anchor of the CBS
Evening News. Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/)
listed her Tuesday piece.
An excerpt from Shister's December 5 article:
For the first time since he took over CBS Evening News from Walter
Cronkite in March 1981, Rather's contract does not guarantee him the
anchor slot for the length of the deal.
According to Rather's $10-million-a-year contract, the date ensuring
his anchordom -- March --- has already passed, he says. Until the deal
expires in late 2002, both he and CBS News boss Andrew Heyward have the
option to change anchors.
The clause was Rather's idea, he says, "because CBS has been fair
to me and I wanted to be fair with them. I'm very comfortable with
[CBS News President] Andrew [Heyward]....I don't want anybody to be forced
to do anything....
Either way, Rather will continue anchoring 48 Hours and reporting for
60 Minutes II, he says. Besides, the ongoing George W. Bush-Al
Gore election saga has energized him.
"This story is constant fuel for me," says Rather, who's been
working 12- to 15-hour days. "I may be dumb as wallpaper about a lot of things, but I do know this is a great
As for those bizarre "Danisms" (as they are called within
CBS), the proud Texan says he grew up around people who used colorful
metaphors. "My father used to say, 'His chances were slim to none,
and slim just left town.'"
Most of Rather's Election Night nuggets are based on his life
experiences, he says.
Some examples: "Governor Bush will be madder than a rained-on
rooster" if he loses Florida. "My grandmother's farm had a lot of roosters, and when they get rained on, you
don't want to be around them."
"Bush has run through Dixie like a big wheel through a cotton
field." "I picked cotton by hand when I was a child. If you've
ever seen a cotton-picking machine, it has big wheels."
"These returns are running faster than a squirrel in a cage."
"I grew up hunting with my father. Squirrels are wild, and they go
crazy in a cage."
"This race is tighter than the lug-nuts on a '55 Ford." You
guessed it -- Rather owned one.
For the record, Rather talks the same way off camera. Not long after
this reporter left CBS headquarters, he asked an assistant to bring him a
cup of coffee "strong enough to float horseshoes."....
To read Shister's piece in full, go to:
Maybe Dan can swap farming tales with Al Gore.
Clinton in 2004? On Thursday's CBS Evening News Dan Rather took a few
seconds to pass along how Bill Clinton told a magazine interviewer that if
he could have he would have run for and won a third term. Rather added:
"President Clinton also told Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner that as
life expectancy rises the term limit should perhaps be changed to two
consecutive terms so a President who served eight straight years could run
again after a four year break."
President Bill Clinton in 2004? Or 2008? Or 2012? We
wouldn't be safe for decades. -- Brent Baker
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