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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday December 27, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 275) |

"A Sop...To Buy Off the Wing Nuts"; "Dangerously Big Tax Cut"; Bush Won, So ABC's Salinger Leaves U.S.; Awards Issue Runners-Up

1) On Ashcroft, Newsweek's Evan Thomas whined and impugned: "Why can't they buy off the right wing with unimportant jobs? I mean, this is a sop...to buy off the wing nuts." ABC's Linda Douglass decided that while "Bush's rhetoric is very inclusive," the "fact is he's proposed no federal programs for minorities."

2) Evan Thomas and Al Hunt denounced Bush for warning of an economic downturn and suggesting a tax cut might be an antidote. Thomas claimed "we don't really need" a tax cut which "is a bad idea." Hunt called it a "dangerously big tax cut."

3) Dan Rather: "That ruling by the predominantly Republican U.S. Supreme Court in effect made George Bush the President-elect, but it does not necessarily mean he got the most votes in Florida."

4) "If Bush wins, I'm going to leave the country and spend the rest of my life in France," promised former ABC News correspondent Pierre Salinger. The Washington Post determined he has followed through will spend the rest of his life in France.

5) A fresh MediaNomics now online: "News Media Advise Bush To Ditch 'Big' Tax Cut" and "Conservative Economists Could Have Helped the Broadcast Networks Get the Story Right in 2000."

6) The first runners-up quotes in the MRC's "The Best Notable Quotables of 2000: The Thirteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

     >>> CyberAlert Countdown Calendar to the 1,000th edition. Today's is the 996th numbered issue, so 4 more to go. <<<


Ashcroft assault. Bush's nomination of Senator John Ashcroft generated media anger and angst over the weekend on the talk and interview shows. Newsweek's Evan Thomas denigrated anyone pleased by the pick as a "wing nut" as he whined that "Attorney General is actually an important job. Why can't they buy off the right wing with unimportant jobs? I mean, this is a sop, I assume, to buy off the wing nuts." The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt ruled that Ashcroft was a bad choice because he "has been mean-spirited." Unlike Al Hunt?

    Holiday weekends present an opportunity to hear the real views of reporters who normally don't get a chance to sound off and ABC didn't disappoint in bringing Linda Douglass aboard This Week. She proved again that she sees the world through a liberal prism. Douglass revealed she's afraid the Ashcroft nomination shows that Bush "is indeed a very conservative President," and measuring Bush against a liberal standard, she decided that while "Bush's rhetoric is very inclusive," the "fact is he's proposed no federal programs for minorities. He hasn't talked about using the federal government to broaden the safety net."

    Here are the quotes in full from the three liberal reporters, with the ones from Thomas and Douglass tracked down and transcribed on Tuesday by the MRC's holiday week on duty analyst, Jessica Anderson:

    -- Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas on Inside Washington over the weekend: "Well, you know, Attorney General is actually an important job. Why can't they buy off the right wing with unimportant jobs? I mean, this is a sop, I assume, to buy off the wing nuts, but it's like giving, I mean, the Attorney General counts, it matters."

    -- Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt on CNN's December 23 Capital Gang: "I would quickly say that John Ashcroft across the board, I think, Kate [O'Beirne] -- I know we disagree on this -- has been mean-spirited. He's a guy who led fights against special education funds. It went well beyond Ronnie White, and I think Frank Keating, who I would have disagreed with strongly, would have brought charm."

    -- ABC News reporter Linda Douglass on problems Ashcroft might face in his confirmation by the Senate, December 24 This Week roundtable: "There's going to be a lot of opposition, though, and what is fascinating about this is this choice by George W. Bush to pick a candidate for a position this sensitive which will inflame African-Americans who are already angry at him and who already voted against him nine to one. The African-American leaders are enraged at Ashcroft because of the Ronnie White confirmation that we've already heard about from Senator Leahy because of his opposition to affirmative action, and they see this as a stick in the eye. But it does underscore the fact that George W. Bush is indeed a very conservative President...."

    "Well, and George W. Bush's rhetoric is very inclusive. He means to be inclusive, and he's used very soft rhetoric in trying to reach out to minorities. But the fact is he's proposed no federal programs for minorities. He hasn't talked about using the federal government to broaden the safety net."


A tax cut bashed too by Evan Thomas and Al Hunt over the weekend. Both Washington reporters denounced Bush for warning of an economic downturn and suggesting a tax cut might be an antidote.

    On Inside Washington Newsweek's Thomas argued: "Well, that's what's pernicious here, is seizing on this as a way to get a tax cut. I mean, he doesn't, I don't think anybody really knows where the economy's going, but he's going to try to, he could create something self-fulfilling, talk down the economy because he wants to use that as a tool to get a tax cut that we don't really need and is a bad idea."

    Over on CNN's Capital Gang, in a quote I got from the CNN transcript page and have not been able to check against the actual videotape, Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal proclaimed: "The economy is going south more quickly than most experts thought, and the Bush people are going try to use this as an excuse to peddle the dangerously big tax cut. More important, however, is cooperation with the Federal Reserve and that's why Paul O'Neill is such a splendid choice. He's too conservative for my tastes, but he's a man of capacity. he's a man who understands governance and if Bush had picked one of those Wall Street types, there would have been the inevitable unfavorable comparison to Bob Rubin."

    A tax raising advocate whom conservatives don't consider one of their own is "too conservative" for Hunt? Where does that place him?


Dan Rather has added "Republican Supreme Court" to his lexicon which had long featured the phrase "Republican prosecutor Ken Starr."

    Last Friday night, December 22, Rather read an item about how the Florida Supreme Court had ruled that the state legislature and not judges should set recount standards. Rather noted the ruling was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ending the hand counts because there were no uniform ground rules. Rather gratuitously added: "That ruling by the predominantly Republican U.S. Supreme Court in effect made George Bush the President-elect, but it does not necessarily mean he got the most votes in Florida."

    In the subsequent CBS Evening News story reporter Bobbi Harley looked at how media outlets are selectively counting 60,000 of 6 million votes cast, the so-called "under-votes." After pointing out how the Orlando Sentinel found a net gain of 130 Gore votes in Lake County, she concluded: "The winning side seems to be more interested in this process, with the Republican Party staffing these reviews with observers and lawyers, while the Democrats seem to be leaving this count to someone else."

    Why wouldn't the Democrats get out of the way since the media are furthering their partisan cause for them?


One gone, how many more to go? Several celebrities promised to flee the United States if George W. Bush won, but so far it appears only former ABC News chief foreign correspondent Pierre Salinger, who has long spent much of the year in France anyway, is following through. As reported in the November 6 CyberAlert, in the November 3 Washington Post "The Reliable Source" columnists Lloyd Grove and Beth Berselli relayed a comment to a DC neighborhood weekly: "'I don't want any more Bush Presidents,' the 75-year-old Salinger writes in the new Georgetowner newspaper. 'If Bush wins, I'm going to leave the country and spend the rest of my life in France.'"

    Grove and Berselli followed up and ran this item on December 22:

Good as his word, Kennedy White House press secretary and former ABC News correspondent Pierre Salinger has fled the country in the wake of George W. Bush's successful campaign for the presidency. A week before the election, the 75-year-old Salinger wrote in the Georgetowner newspaper: "If Bush wins, I'm going to leave the country and spend the rest of my life in France."

Yesterday we found Salinger in the southern French town of Le Thor, where his fourth wife, Nicole, runs a bed-and- breakfast called La Bastide Rose. "I'm going to come back to Washington in January to dispose of my apartment in Georgetown," he told us, "but otherwise I'll come back here to live for the rest of my life."

As for actor Alec Baldwin and director Robert Altman -- who still haven't kept their promises to get out of Dodge if Bush took the White House -- Salinger said: "I don't know them very well, but if they come here they'll be very welcome. And if you want to come here, it would be very wonderful for us to be together and talk about things." Very tempting.

    END excerpt


Now online for your Christmas break reading, a fresh edition of MediaNomics by Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project. The two new articles posted late last week:

    -- News Media Advise Bush To Ditch "Big" Tax Cut.
    Finally, Republicans, Democrats and the news media agree that George W. Bush will be the next President of the United States. But during the first weekend news cycle since Al Gore conceded the election, some liberal journalists suggested Bush should discard his plan for across-the-board tax relief and other conservative positions, and switch to a more Democratic posture on the issues....

    For the rest of the story, go to:

    -- Conservative Economists Could Have Helped the Broadcast Networks Get the Story Right in 2000.
    The media applauded last May when the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by half a percentage point, the sixth and final act in a campaign to stamp out perceived inflation. "Good for the economy, good for Wall Street," NBC's Mike Jensen cheered. But the past seven months have offered considerable evidence that the Fed's May rate hike may have been the straw which finally broke the economy's back, a point of view that the networks could have offered audiences back in the spring if they had relayed the views of free market economists such as Larry Kudlow....

    To read the entire piece, go to:


Yesterday the winning quotes, today the first runner-up in the MRC's "The Best Notable Quotables of 2000: The Thirteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." The annual end of the year special 8-page edition of NQ is based upon the votes of 46 judges -- radio talk show hosts, columnists, editorial writers, magazine editors and media observers -- who evaluated and ranked quotes in 18 award categories. See item #3 in the December 26 CyberAlert for the list of judges: http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20001226.asp#3

    To view all the winning quotes as well as the two or three top runners-up and, thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul, RealPlayer video clips for two dozen of the quotes from TV shows, go to: http://archive.mrc.org/bestofnq2000.html

    To see the 8-page issue typeset as snail mail subscribers saw the newsletter, access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version. Go to:

    Below are the first runners-up quotes. Point totals are in brackets after each quote. First place picks by the 46 judges were assigned three points, second place choices were given two points and third place selections were allocated one point. Here are the results, starting with the "Quote of the Year" runner-up which earned just one less point than the winner in the category:

Quote of the Year, first runner-up

"But should you be using the national airwaves to promote your opinions?"
-- Diane Sawyer to Fox News Channel show host Bill O'Reilly, October 10 Good Morning America. [67 points]

Aiding & Abetting in an Election Theft Award, first runner-up

"If it turns out that Al Gore wins the popular vote nationally, there will be intense pressure in this country to have him become the President. Most people think the guy with the most votes wins. Recounts are as much an art as a science. You have experts, consultants, who go around the country doing recounts. If the recount came out on behalf of Bush and Bush had lost the popular vote nationally they would go to court, there'd be another recount. It would become endless. And the political pressure would mount very quickly to, to certify Al Gore as, as the winner. Especially since you have a potential conflict of interest here with the Governor of the state that is handling the recount being the brother of Governor Bush."
-- Newsweek's Jonathan Alter on NBC in the early morning hours after election night, November 8. [50]

Kiss Me, Too, Al Award (for Gore Gushing), first runner-up

"Let's talk about what they are now calling, Mr. Vice President, 'The Kiss'. You heard about 'The Catch' in that football game, this is 'The Kiss.' You really planted one on Mrs. Gore at the beginning of your speech there. What were you thinking?"

"Were you trying to tell the American people that you're really a kind of emotional guy?"

"Well, after watching that kiss I know how you survived 30 years, Mr. Vice President. Way to go! It's nice talking to you."
-- NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer to Al Gore, August 21. [39]

Kosher Kiss-Up Award (for Lauding Lieberman), first runner-up

"Labor might not be happy. He is a conservative Democrat and they probably don't agree with everything he supports, but, you know, Gore is a pretty conservative Democrat."
-- NBC's Claire Shipman on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, August 7. [60]

I Am Woman Award (for Hillary Rodham Worshiping), first runner-up

"It was hard in the summer of 1992 for a young woman to stay objective and not become enchanted by the promise of Hillary. I had spent my formative professional years undercover in the dark age of Reagan-Bush. Those were the days when women were not allowed to wear pants in the White House. Anita Hill had just been whomped. Anti-abortion judges were packing the Supreme Court. And here was a woman who had kept her own name!....I'll be voting for her just to make sure Trent Lott doesn't get another foot soldier for his holy war."
-- Former Time reporter Nina Burleigh, who once said she would give Bill Clinton oral sex for keeping abortion legal, in the February 14 New York Observer. [90]

Carve Clinton into Mount Rushmore Award, first runner-up

"President Clinton, surviving impeachment and remains a colossus on the world stage as witnessed by his prosecution of the war in Kosovo, plus the peace accord in Northern Ireland, and peace with negotiations in the Middle East, which wouldn't have happened without his prodding."
-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on her pick for the "Biggest Winner of the Year," December 25, 1999 McLaughlin Group. [59]

Media Hero Award, first runner-up

"The Children's Defense Fund will release its annual report today, and the figures in it are shocking and disturbing. They say one in five American children live in poverty. 13.5 million kids in this country are poor. Marian Wright Edelman, the incredible head of that organization, will be here to tell us today what can be done about it. And she firmly believes that mothers, in particular, across the country can get involved in this fight and should get involved because everybody's children are all of our children....It's a call to arms really for America's mothers to get involved in the gun debate. Silence the NRA. Get involved. You say it is all of our fights!"
-- Maria Shriver plugging Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman's appearance, followed by one of Shriver's questions, March 24 Today. [53]

The Real Reagan Legacy Award, first runner-up

"His presidency ended more than a decade ago, but politicians, Democrat and Republican, still talk about Ronald Reagan. Al Gore has an ad noting that in Congress he opposed the Reagan budget cuts. He says that because Bill Bradley was one of 36 Democratic Senators who voted for the cuts. Gore doesn't point out that Bradley also voted against the popular Reagan tax cuts and that it was the tax cuts that piled up those enormous deficits, a snowballing national debt."
-- Bruce Morton on CNN's Late Edition, February 6. [75]

Flirting with Disaster Award (for Proximity to Conservatives), first runner-up

Dan Rather: "One issue that is sure to come up in the fall campaign that has already surfaced is Bush cozying up to the self-described religious right, including the Reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell."

Richard Schlesinger: "....Pollsters and pundits and politicians like to describe the primary season as a search for the soul of a party. Now the question is: Did George Bush sell his soul to the wrong group?"
-- March 13 CBS Evening News. [53]

The Galloping Ghost of Gingrich Award (for Chiding Cheney), first runner-up

"This week we learned that citizen Dick Cheney didn't vote in 14 of the last 16 state elections in Texas. His excuse? He was, quote, 'focused on global concerns.' Was part of his concern Halliburton's policy abroad of segregating bathrooms for Americans only? Halliburton's excuse was they were providing for, quote, 'cultural needs.' Didn't they say something like that in Mississippi in defense of whites-only toilets?"
-- Time columnist Margaret Carlson's "Outrage of the Week" on CNN's Capital Gang, September 9. [40]

W is for Woeful Award (for Bashing Bush), first runner-up

"When he picked a running mate, he picked a running mate who was straight out of the red meat, right-wing part of the party. When he was asked about who he wants, everybody's talking about how he's not making a litmus test about abortion for Supreme Court nominees, but he says his two favorite Supreme Court nominees are Scalia and Clarence Thomas, hardly people that most blacks or Hispanics think are ideal candidates for the court. There's still some kind of a disconnect between this wonderful public face, comfortable with Hispanics or whatever, and the decisions this guy has actually made."
-- Time's Jack White on Inside Washington, Aug. 5. [40]

If He Didn't Sink, Send Him Back to the Clink Award (for Portraying a Cuban Paradise Awaiting Elian), first runner-up

"Elian might expect a nurturing life in Cuba, sheltered from the crime and social breakdown that would be part of his upbringing in Miami. Because Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, works as a cashier in a tourist resort, the family already belonged to the nation's well-off stratum, who has access to American dollars. The boy's relatives in Miami can offer further support: Cuba now even has ATMs that dispense dollars from foreign banks. The education and health-care systems, both built since the revolution, are among the best in the Americas, despite chronic shortages of supplies...
"The boy will nestle again in a more peaceable society that treasures its children. But his life will oscillate to the contrary rhythms of this central Cuban paradox. As a shining symbol of the communist state, he will have access to the corrupting fruits of the new economy. He'll enjoy the best Cuba has to offer, the things only dollars can buy."
-- Brook Larmer and John Leland, Apr. 17 Newsweek. [46]

Little Havana Banana Republic Award, first runner-up

"The 'banana republic' label sticking to Miami in the final throes of the Elian Gonzalez crisis is a source of snide humor for most Americans. But many younger Cuban Americans are getting tired of the hard-line anti-Castro operatives who have helped manufacture that stereotype -- especially the privileged, imperious elite who set themselves up as a pueblo sufrido, a suffering people, as martyred as black slaves and Holocaust Jews, but ever ready to jump on expensive speedboats to reclaim huge family estates the moment the old communist dictator stops breathing."
-- Time Miami reporter Tim Padgett, April 17 issue. [59]

Semper Fidel Award (for Jim Avila's Admiration of Fidel Castro), first runner-up

"The one thing that most, that I've learned about Cubans in the many times that I have visited here in the last few years, is that it is mostly a nationalistic country, not primarily a communist country."
-- NBC News reporter Jim Avila on MSNBC's simulcast of Imus in the Morning, April 26. [65]

Bring Back the Iron Curtain Award (for Admiring Communism), first runner-up

"Like these young dancers, Carlos [Acosta] benefited from Cuba's communist system because it not only recognizes physical talent, it nurtures it, whether it's baseball, boxing, or ballet."
-- CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Christiane Amanpour on a star of London's Royal Ballet, May 21. [44]

Damn Those Conservatives Award, first runner-up

"George W. is one thing, but as long as the Republican Party -- you noted some of them -- is populated by the Pat Buchanans, the Jesse Helmses, the Jerry Falwells, the Bob Barrs, don't blacks have a right to be suspicious?"
-- CBS's Bryant Gumbel to a panel of black men, August 2 The Early Show. [33], first runner-up

Good Morning Morons Award, first runner-up

"I ask the question because this ticket has put a premium on what's called 'family values,' which for a long time, as you know, was a code word for intolerance. Need people be concerned about a hard turn to the social right in the Democratic Party?"
-- Gumbel asking Hadassah Lieberman if she agrees with her husband's Hollywood critiques, August 16 Early Show during the Democratic convention. [70]

Politics of Meaninglessness Award (for the Silliest Analysis), first runner-up

"I have an analogy. This came to me the night I saw this. The death penalty is like Viagra in middle-aged men. Texas uses the death penalty to remember what it was like in those good old cowboy days. If you want to send me your hate mail, go ahead, 'cause that's the way I see it. This thing is insane!"
-- Geraldo Rivera wrapping up the June 26 Rivera Live on CNBC. [50]

    END list of first runners-up in the MRC's "The Best Notable Quotables of 2000: The Thirteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

    On Thursday: The second runners-up. -- Brent Baker


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