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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Tuesday December 12, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 265) |

Court Swayed by Media Hostility?; Showing "True Political Colors?"; Scalia on Court's "Sharp Right Edge"; White Men's Rules

1) Dan Rather referred to the Supreme Court's "surprising, some say astonishing, 5-4 order." CBS legal analyst Jonathan Turley predicted such hostile reaction to how "partisanship not principles" guided their decision would impact their ruling.

2) ABC's Charlie Gibson declared: "Perhaps no one decision has sparked more anger and more division than Saturday's Supreme Court stay." CBS's Jane Clayson asked: Is the court "showing its true political colors?" Bryant Gumbel proposed the court "has shown its political stripes."

3) CBS and NBC on Monday night looked at the two most likely "swing votes" on the Supreme Court. NBC's Andrea Mitchell contrasted O'Connor and Kennedy, who are "squarely in the court's center," with Antonin Scalia on "the court's sharp right edge."

4) ABC noted how a Florida Democrat backed naming Bush electors, but CBS's Jim Axelrod charged Republicans hope "the high court can give them political cover and spare them looking like legislative bullies ram-rodding their choice into the Oval Office."

5) ABC's Terry Moran in an ABCNews.com piece: "At bottom, this has been a struggle of 'rules' vs. 'fairness.'... It is no accident that the biggest champions of rules in general are white men. We wrote them, after all."

6) Audience member featured on ABC's GMA: "What gives the Supreme Court the right to say that the votes shouldn't be counted? This is a democracy. We don't have any kings and queens in this country, so our votes should be counted."

7) By ten points the public now favors Bush for President, according to a CBS News poll.

     >>> Now online, the December 11 edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. Amongst the quote headings in the issue posted by the MRC's Andy Szul and Kristina Sewell: "Hillary, You Are Our Hero"; "General Gore on Horseback"; "Rather Rallies for Gore"; "Whining Over Palm Beach"; "The Shi'ite 'Fix' Is In"; "Anchors Salve Gore's Wounds"; "Gore = Impartiality, Honesty"; "Alter, the Sorest Sore Loser" and "Post-Election Bias Admitted." To read the issue, go to:
    To view the issue as an Adobe Acrobat PDF, go to:
http://archive.mrc.org/notablequotables/2000/pdf/dec112000nq.pdf <<<

    +++ Special weekend CyberAlerts now online. For Sunday's:
    For Saturday's:


Minutes after Dan Rather on Monday night referred to the U.S. Supreme Court's "surprising, some say astonishing, 5-4 order stopping a counting of votes ordered by Florida's Supreme Court," CBS legal analyst Jonathan Turley affirmed such hostile media reaction to how "partisanship not principles" guided their decision "had an affect" on "the possible outcome."

    "Journalists who had shrugged over the Florida Supreme Court playing the political game," syndicated columnist Bob Novak reported in his Monday column about reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court stay order, "now were outraged because it had been slapped down." Indeed, the December 10 and 11 CyberAlerts quoted such media reaction from Evan Thomas, Nina Totenberg, Steve Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson. For a compilation of these quotes all on one page, check out a Media Reality Check fax report compiled Monday by the MRC's Tim Graham titled, "In Lockstep, Reporters Flay Supreme Court Stay." Go to:

    Rather opened the December 11 CBS Evening News:
    "Good evening. For the candidates it is the agony of the wait. The wait is underway for a decision from the United States Supreme Court, a decision that could keep alive Al Gore's presidential hopes or kill them outright and hand the presidency to George Bush in what would be the first presidential election ever decided by the court. Here's the latest: During 90 minutes of oral arguments the justices questioned lawyers for Bush and Gore intensely about whether, and if so how, to allow hand counts of thousands of Florida votes. The justices seemed as divided as they were Saturday in their surprising, some say astonishing, 5-4 order stopping a counting of votes ordered by Florida's Supreme Court. In Florida, the Republican-dominated state legislature is biding its time, still ready to ensure the state's decisive electoral votes for Bush if necessary, but hoping the Supreme Court, in effect, does it for them."

    After a story on the oral arguments, Rather proposed to legal analyst Jonathan Turley of George Washington University: "What about the justices themselves. There were headlines over the weekend and this morning indicating well, depending on what they decide, they could tank the next President and also tank the court. Are justices affected by that kind of reaction to their sudden move on Saturday to shut the counting down?"
    Turley confirmed: "I honestly think that was the most significant factor today. Believe it or not these justices watch TV and read newspapers, and they saw the criticism and they saw the potential for a lasting damage to the Supreme Court. The stay on a 5-4 basis really caused a torrent of criticism and a suspicion that it was partisanship not principles guiding their decision. I think that had an affect of the tenor and the possible outcome today."


The concerns on Monday's morning shows corresponded with how journalists were upset over the weekend by the U.S. Supreme Court decision. On ABC's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Charlie Gibson declared: "This is a case that has given legal scholars, voters and even the candidates whiplash. Perhaps no one decision has sparked more anger and more division than Saturday's Supreme Court stay of the recounts that were in progress in Florida."

    Anger in the media at least.

    Two other assessments built into December 11 morning show questions: How the high court showed its "true political colors" and doubts about the "fairness" of blocking a count now when a future count done officially or unofficially will demonstrate Gore really received more votes. Examples:

    -- CBS's The Early Show, as observed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd. Jane Clayson to the Hotline's Craig Crawford: "Would you say the U.S. Supreme Court is showing its true political colors right now?"

    Clayson to former Rehnquist clerk Maureen Mahoney: "But do you smell any political motivation here by the U.S. Supreme Court?"

    Bryant Gumbel to D.C. congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton: "By granting this stay you do not think the court has shown its political stripes?"

    Gumbel to Governor Mark Racicot: "Lawyers have said those votes will be counted either now or later, does the idea of a count showing Gore the winner after the fact not disturb your sense of fairness?"

    -- NBC's Today, as noticed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens. Matt Lauer to Burt Neuborne of NYU Law School and Carter Phillips, a former Supreme Court Clerk: "Take me down the road a month or so. And I'll start with you, Mr. Neuborne on this. The Inaugural is taking place and somebody is raising his hand and swearing to the Bible, being sworn in as the 43rd President and about that time, keeping in mind the credibility of the Court here, about that time some newspaper releases the results of the counts they've conducted and it shows that hey Al Gore received more votes in Florida."


CBS and NBC on Monday night looked at the two most likely "swing votes" on the Supreme Court, Justices O'Connor and Kennedy. CBS's John Roberts wondered if the usual state's rights adherents "will bring the federal hammer down on Florida's Supreme Court?" NBC's Andrea Mitchell contrasted O'Connor and Kennedy, who are "squarely in the court's center," with Antonin Scalia, whom Mitchell placed on "the court's sharp right edge." Naturally, she didn't see anyone on "the far left edge."

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather introduced the story: "The Supreme Court, of course, is made up of nine justices, seven of these justices were appointed by Republican Presidents. Two appointed by President Reagan -- that would be Justice O'Connor and Justice Kennedy -- are considered possible swing votes, possible swing votes."

    John Roberts decided the two "generally vote conservative but occasionally join with the liberal wing of the court." After offering a couple of examples, Roberts concluded: "For both Justices Kennedy and O'Connor this case goes to the very heart of their judicial philosophies. Will they side with their life-long deference to state's rights, or is there such a compelling constitutional issue here that they will bring the federal hammer down on Florida's Supreme Court?"

    -- NBC Nightly News. Andrea Mitchell handled NBC's look at the two justices as she compared them to Scalia: "In sharp contrast to O'Connor and Kennedy squarely in the court's center, Antonin Scalia, say observers, is the court's sharp right edge, passionate and opinionated, driving this case and a big topic in the campaign."
    George Bush, November 21, 1999: "He's witty, he's interesting, he's firm."
    Al Gore, April 10: "I think it's fair to say the most far right member."
    Mitchell: "But behind the scenes some surprising facts about Scalia. His son works for Bush lawyer Ted Olson, but his closest friend on the court: liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They even celebrate New Year's Eve together."


Florida's legislature: bi-partisan or "ram-rodding bullies"?

In a Monday World News Tonight story ABC's Erin Hayes reported "the mostly Republican legislature is likely to agree" with the proposal to name a slate of Bush electors, "especially considering one of the committee members approving it today is a Democrat."
    State Rep. Dwight Stansel, a Democrat: "I'm going to support this resolution, Mr. Chairman."

    But Stansel didn't make an appearance on the CBS Evening News. Jim Axelrod instead asserted: "Tonight, Republicans know that the high court can give them political cover and spare them looking like legislative bullies ram-rodding their choice into the Oval Office."


Dimmest dimwitted commentary of the season? National Review's e-mailed Washington Bulletin on Monday highlighted a bit of left-wing sophistry promoted last week on ABCNews.com by reporter Terry Moran. Here's an excerpt from the December 11 item by NR's John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru:

There has been some incredibly dimwitted punditry over the last five weeks, but we may have a candidate for the dimmest of them all: ABC's Terry Moran, in an online commentary posted last week. He begins portentously: "It is the unacknowledged story in the Florida court battles over the presidential election: Race."

Unacknowledged? Hasn't this man been listening to Jesse Jackson? Or Kweisi Mfume? Or just about any member of the Congressional Black Caucus?

It gets worse: "At bottom, this has been a struggle of 'rules' vs. 'fairness.'... It is no accident that the biggest champions of rules in general are white men. We wrote them, after all. For centuries, we were the only ones allowed to write them. So rulemaking is something white guys have been very comfortable with and very good at throughout our history."

You know, like that law in Florida about certifying election results within seven days. It's something only white guys could possibly be comfortable with.

Of course, Moran's understanding of the split between rules (favored by conservatives) and fairness (favored by liberals) is superficial. He fails to comprehend what all conservatives intuitively know: Fairness can be achieved only through rules agreed upon beforehand. Otherwise, fairness becomes merely what we think it ought to be right now -- an arbitrary standard that is a slave to fleeting sentiment. Our flawed human institutions can hope to achieve something close to procedural fairness, though they often fail even at this.

They are certainly not equipped to secure transcendental fairness. That's for another world, which is also something conservatives tend to believe in. Liberals, on the other hand, want to build heaven on earth.

But enough of this white-man talk. Moran has covered the Supreme Court and the Gore campaign for ABC News, and he is capable of writing a loaded sentence like this one: "Most Republicans and conservatives have argued that the only way to ensure legitimacy in this election is to stick to the pre-established rules, while Democrats and liberals say the only fair thing to do is make sure every single citizen's vote has been scrupulously counted, regardless of what the rules might say, in order to vindicate the overarching moral principles of democratic self-government."

Ah, yes. The Republicans: worried about legitimacy and rules. How cold, lawyerly -- and inhumane. The Democrats: champions of moral principles and democratic self-government. Count every vote because every vote counts!

     END Excerpt

     To read the December 6-posted piece by Moran, who is now assigned to cover Gore for ABC News, go to:

     For National Review Online, go to:


Good Morning America's liberal and naive audience. Monday morning the ABC morning show brought some audience members from the street level up into their Times Square studio. But as MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, the four women who got to pose questions on the air to ABC's Jack Ford and George Stephanopoulos hardly represented a diversity of views. One seriously demanded: "What gives the Supreme Court the right to say that the votes shouldn't be counted? This is a democracy. We don't have any kings and queens in this country, so our votes should be counted."

   Diane Sawyer set up the segment in the 8:30am half hour of the December 11 show: "As we head into these climatic days of the presidential election, we discover all the time that those of you out there have questions that we haven't been asking. Sometimes we get immersed in detail, and you have far better and stronger questions about what's really going on overall. So we thought this morning we'd bring some members of the audience up and give them a chance to have at it at our own Jack Ford and political analyst George Stephanopoulos."

   The questions:

   -- First woman: "I've heard that if the Court goes against Gore today, or sort of when this is over, that he has a choice between conceding or simply withdrawing. And I was wondering if you could sort of explain that and also comment on which you think would be politically more savvy for him."

    -- Second woman: "I do feel that the American people have the right to know how many votes were cast and for whom. My question is, why isn't every vote counted? What gives the Supreme Court the right to say that the votes shouldn't be counted? This is a democracy. We don't have any kings and queens in this country, so our votes should be counted."

   Jack Ford tried to clue her in: "I think what you just said is the argument that the Supreme Court is going to hear this morning. But technically the answer to your question is that the Supreme Court gets its power through the Constitution and through the Congress, and they have been made the final arbiter of what's called cases and controversies...."

   -- Third woman, referring to Florida Supreme Court: "James Baker was quoted saying, 'This is a sad day for democracy.' My question is, is this not what's supposed to happen in a democracy and what is this a reflection of for the Republicans?"

   -- Fourth woman: "My question was that, the logic behind stopping the vote count seemed to have been that it would cause George Bush irreparable harm. And my question is wouldn't finding out that the count actually favored Gore after he was elected cause him, also, irreparable harm, in a way?"

No surprise that Gore won big with women.


The women featured on GMA may still be pulling for Gore, but on Monday's CBS Evening News Dan Rather relayed how a new CBS News survey determined that the general public now prefer Bush over Gore by 51 to 41 percent.

     Probably not the result a poll of newsrooms would find. -- Brent Baker


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