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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday January 12, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 7)

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Harris "Completely Inflexible"; Norton's States' Rights Distorted; Ashcroft "Opposed by Every Group"; Pro-Ashcroft Groups Labeled

1) Diane Sawyer demanded of Katherine Harris: "Do you think you won this election for George Bush?" On Primetime Thursday Sawyer portrayed her as an impediment to the truth: "She seemed completely inflexible, insisting on the narrow letter of the law ...enforced strict deadlines....tried to block the hand recount."

2) Without quoting a single word she said, ABC's Terry Moran claimed Gale Norton "defended the states' rights arguments of the Confederacy during the Civil War and characterized the battle over slavery and states rights in a way some found racially insensitive."

3) ABC's Linda Douglass insisted the "very conservative" Senator Ashcroft is "opposed by every group." Every? Douglass also claimed Gale Norton's states' rights "remarks are likely to be seen, at best, as insensitive to African-Americans."

4) Thursday night CBS and NBC made sure viewers realized pro-Ashcroft groups were "conservative," but when liberal groups had denounced him on Tuesday the two network evening shows avoided applying any ideological tags.

5) NBC's Today devoted 13 minutes to Senator Jean Carnahan as Katie Couric praised her qualifications. When Carnahan refused to denounce Ashcroft, Couric fired back: "Do you have some concerns though...given some of the things you know about his record on civil rights, on abortion and on gun control?"

6) Margaret Zwisler, the neighbor who squealed on Linda Chavez, is "the sister of ABC News correspondent Terry Moran," FNC's Brit Hume disclosed.

7) The latest edition of MediaNomics: "Shriveling Network News Shows Shocked By Shrinking Snack Chip Bags!"; "Media Spin Bush Tax Cut as Huge and Ineffective" and "Journalists Blame 'Deregulation' for California Shortages, But Electricity Rules Are Plentiful"


Katherine Harris, an inflexible Bush hack. In her Primetime Thursday interview with the Florida Secretary of State, ABC's Diane Sawyer pressed her: "Is it possible that Al Gore did win this election?" Sawyer complained: "From Day One she seemed completely inflexible, insisting on the narrow letter of the law. She enforced strict deadlines even when one county asked for just two hours more."

    The top of the January 11 show started with Sawyer suggesting: "Do you think you won this election for George Bush?"

    Sawyer soon portrayed Harris as the impediment to the truth: "As everyone knows, George Bush was ahead by only a few hundred votes. At the request of Al Gore some counties were launching hand recounts which were gaining votes for him. So what did she do? Well from Day One she seemed completely inflexible, insisting on the narrow letter of the law. She enforced strict deadlines even when one county asked for just two hours more. And she tried to block the hand recount of those punched but disputed ballots. The Bush team was thrilled, the Gore team was outraged."

    Sawyer presented the Gore case: "Did it worry you that for two hours it would look like an extremely rigid thing you were doing." Harris explained that the county, apparently Palm Beach but never said, took not two hours but days more to determine its final count.

    Returning to her original theme, Sawyer soon tried again to get Harris to admit Gore really won: "But given the uncertainties is it possible that Al Gore did win this election?"
    Harris: "You know I can't speculate. I have no idea."
    Sawyer: "Is it possible? Possible?"
    Harris: "Anything's possible in this. I can't say it is or not. I mean there's simply no way I can know. Many times there were statisticians on both sides. One said that based on their early counts of the precincts in highly Democratic areas, at the end of the day Al Gore would not have won..."

    Sawyer then reminded viewers of how the Florida Supreme Court overruled Harris and Sawyer asked Harris to defend herself against their finding that she had "summarily disenfranchised innocent electors."

    Moving on to ridicule of her, Sawyer noted how Democratic partisans like Paul Begala called her "Cruella de Vil" and showed some clips of Jay Leno and David Letterman making fun of her heavy make-up.

    After a rundown of her family background and political career, Sawyer wondered about pressure from Austin and the Bush camp. Harris denied any, but Sawyer wasn't satisfied: "Jeb Bush recused himself. Do you think that maybe there should be some rule by which, in a situation like this, somebody completely from the outside is brought in?"
    Harris: "Absolutely not. The people of Florida elected me to serve as their chief elections officer."
    Sawyer: "But even if you are Gandhi himself, you've got to be worried at some level that this thing is starting to roll toward Gore."
    Harris: "If you're Diane Sawyer or Mahatma Gandhi you have to follow the law. You can have your preferences, but you're not going to do something illegal or go around the law."

    Sawyer next brought up how Harris received death threats and had to deal with very negative attacks on her, such as a Saturday Night Live skit. Harris recalled a particularly vicious attack: "Perhaps the most difficult moment was when one person said they were disappointed the Ryder truck, that everyone was watching on TV, that OJ Simpson hadn't murdered me, or something like that."
    ABC played a brief clip of Bill Maher: "And for a few brief moments, America held the hope that O.J. Simpson had murdered Katherine Harris."
    Harris commented: "That was not pleasant...."

    The MRC at the time publicized the "joke" aired on the November 30 Politically Incorrect on ABC, the very same network with which Harris chose to favor with the exclusive interview. The joke in full: "Now earlier today, a rental truck carried a half a million ballots from Palm Beach to the Florida Supreme Court there in Tallahassee. CNN had live helicopter coverage from the truck making its way up the Florida highway, and for a few brief moments, America held the hope that O.J. Simpson had murdered Katherine Harris."

    Back to ABC's Primetime Thursday, Sawyer wrapped up on the up side by showing how Harris got many positive e-mails and deliveries of flowers and on November 21 she also earned a standing ovation from both parties at a State House ceremony.


ABC's Terry Moran picked up on a weakly premised front page Washington Post story about a speech Interior Secretary Gale Norton gave several years ago and turned it into something nefarious. Without quoting a single word she said, on ABC's World News Tonight on Thursday Moran claimed "she defended the states' rights arguments of the Confederacy during the Civil War and characterized the battle over slavery and states rights in a way some found racially insensitive."

    Earlier in the day, at President-elect Bush's announcement of a new Labor Secretary pick and his first choice for U.S. Trade Representative, Moran challenged Bush: "Your Secretary of the Interior designate Gale Norton made a speech a few years ago in which she lamented the loss in the Civil War by the Confederacy because she said 'too much was lost,' referring to states' rights. What do you say to citizens who might hear that and are concerned that your nominee defending the states' rights position of the Confederacy may mean a retreat from federal protections through federal power of minority rights?"

    After outlining on World News Tonight Bush's two new picks, Moran warned: "There are other storm clouds over Interior Secretary designate Gail Norton, already opposed by environmentalists who discovered a speech she gave in 1996 in which she defended the states' rights arguments of the Confederacy during the Civil War and characterized the battle over slavery and states' rights in a way some found racially insensitive. Bush blasted those critics."
    Bush at the nominee announcement: "I'd say that's just a ridiculous interpretation of what's in her heart. She in no way, shape or form was talking about any value to slavery."

    On CNN's Inside Politics Jonathan Karl explained how two liberal groups worked to plant the anti-Norton hit in the Washington Post, but even a reading of the hyped-up Post story reveals she was simply regretting how much power the federal government has over states and how the 10th amendment is not properly followed. Here's an excerpt from the January 11 Washington Post story by John Mintz:

In a 1996 speech to a conservative group, Interior Secretary-designate Gale A. Norton likened her struggle to preserve states' rights to the cause of the Confederacy, saying, "We lost too much" when the South was defeated in the Civil War.

Norton, then Colorado's attorney general, described slavery as the kind of "bad facts" that can undermine an otherwise powerful legal case. She made the speech to the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank in Denver on whose board of directors she has served.

Norton did not endorse slavery, but rather used the comparison to the Confederacy to make a more fundamental point -- endorsed by a number of conservative legal activists and scholars -- about the importance of states' rights against the federal government. Norton spoke of being on the receiving end of what she considered intrusive orders from the federal government as state attorney general.

In the situation of the Confederacy, "we certainly had bad facts in that case where we were defending state sovereignty by defending slavery," she said in the speech. "But we lost too much. We lost the idea that the states were to stand against the federal government gaining too much power over our lives."....

    END Excerpt

    To read he entire news story, go to:


It's not just unlabeled liberal groups which oppose the awful Ashcroft pick, Thursday morning on GMA, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, ABC's Linda Douglass insisted the "very conservative" Senator is "opposed by every group." Douglass made her preposterous over-generalization after highlighting the same attack on Gale Norton detailed in item #2 above as Douglass asserted the "remarks are likely to be seen, at best, as insensitive to African-Americans."

    On the January 11 Good Morning America Douglass reported on Norton: "She is very much opposed by the environmental groups. Gale Norton is a passionate believer in the right of states to govern themselves with as little interference as possible by the federal government. Environmental groups worry that'll lead to more mining, drilling and logging in pristine areas, but now it's been reported that in 1996, she made a speech to a conservative group in which she lamented the fact that states lost a lot of their power to govern themselves when the Confederacy lost the battle to have slavery be legal in Confederate states. So she said that, she called slavery a set of 'bad facts,' hard to defend in that case, and she said, 'We lost too much,' meaning that the states lost too much power to govern themselves. These remarks are likely to be seen, at best, as insensitive to African-Americans."

    News reader Antonio Mora asked: "Now, could this balloon into a bigger problem?"
    Douglass then brought up Ashcroft and how "every group" opposes him: "Well, absolutely, because this comes in the midst of the battle over the Attorney General nominee, John Ashcroft, a former Senator who's very conservative, opposed by every group, especially civil rights groups. Civil rights groups say he's opposed to affirmative action, he tried to block the nomination of a black judge, and they appoint, they point to an interview that he gave to a pro-Confederacy magazine in which he praised Confederate generals as heroes and said it was wrong to see their agenda as perverted. So there's a lot of controversy over all of these and Mr. Bush is having trouble making the case to African-Americans that he does want to be inclusive."

    No thanks to this kind of distorted reporting. Which party was the segregationist one which controlled the South for about 110 years after the Civil War?


Anti-Ashcroft efforts unlabeled, pro-Ashcroft groups immediately tagged. Thursday night CBS's John Roberts noted how "conservative groups today launched a counter-attack" on behalf of Ashcroft and NBC's David Gregory stressed how "Ashcroft's conservative supporters, worried that opposition from liberal activists is taking a toll, fan out across Washington to defend his record."

    But on Tuesday night, there wasn't a liberal in sight as the two networks described a press conference by a "Stop Ashcroft" coalition. CBS's Phil Jones referred to "groups who've been on the front lines for years fighting over civil and human rights, the environment, gun control and, especially, women's rights." NBC's Lisa Myers saw "an unprecedented coalition of some 45 interest groups representing women, gays, minorities, labor -- all condemning Ashcroft as too extreme." For details, see the January 10 CyberAlert, which noted how neither network applied any labels until much later in their January 9 stories: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010110.asp#3

    (ABC's World News Tonight remained consistent as it ignored both the liberal groups on Tuesday night and the conservative ones on Thursday night.)

    On the Thursday night, January 11, CBS Evening News reporter John Roberts noted the pick of Elaine Chao for Labor, but soon moved on to Ashcroft's situation: "With as many as 30 Democratic Senators prepared to vote Ashcroft down, conservative groups today launched a counter-attack. On Capitol Hill victims of violent crime lined up in support."
    A woman unidentified by CBS but who was Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America: "We are the mainstream of America."
    Roberts picked up on LaHaye's event: "At the same time a coalition of women's groups rushed to Ashcroft's defense. They praised his passionate stand against abortion, underlined by this scene of Ashcroft displaying a sonogram of his grandchild."
    Ashcroft, January 30, 1998, at CPAC: "If the Supreme Court saw this picture 25 years ago would they have allowed this life to be taken?"
    Roberts, applying a label two days late, continued: "And in sharp contrast to liberal groups they applauded his record on civil rights."
    Karen Miller, American Legislative Exchange Council: "Senator Ashcroft has done more to champion equality, diversity and racial harmony than Jesse Jackson, Kweisi Mfume and Louis Farakhan combined."
    Roberts concluded with another swipe at Ashcroft: "But Democrats aren't giving up on allegations that Ashcroft has been racially insensitive. The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee today demanded a videotape of a 1999 speech that Ashcroft gave at Bob Jones University which at the time had a policy against inter-racial dating."

    Over on the NBC Nightly News, David Gregory ran a clip of Bush insisting Ashcroft would enforce all laws. Gregory labeled the liberals, but only after first applying a conservative tag: "Today, Ashcroft's conservative supporters, worried that opposition from liberal activists is taking a toll, fan out across Washington to defend his record."
    Janet Parshall, Family Research Council: "We're about to go back to the rule of law where right is right and wrong is wrong and we're not going to raise a moistened finger in the air, check the polls and find out how we're playing in Peoria."

    That 18 seconds was it for the conservative case as Gregory moved on to updating his Wednesday night claim about how five GOP Senators were possible no votes on Ashcroft. He reported that the five -- Chafee, Jeffords, DeWine, Snowe and Specter -- are behind Ashcroft and he ran supporting soundbites from Senators Specter and DeWine before concluding, as had Roberts, by noting the request for the Bob Jones University video.


NBC's Today on Thursday morning devoted an incredible 13 minutes to appointed Senator Jean Carnahan whom Katie Couric praised as fully qualified: "You've worked very hard on child immunizations in the state of Missouri....you worked very hard for schools....So is it safe to say issues involving children and education will be high on your agenda?"

    Couric also pressed Carnahan to denounce Ashcroft, the Senator her dead husband beat, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed. Couric inquired: "Is it safe to say that Senator Ashcroft will not be getting your vote?" When Carnahan said she wanted to give Ashcroft the benefit of a hearing, Couric fired back: "Do you have some concerns though, Senator Carnahan, given some of the things you know about his record on civil rights, on abortion and on gun control?"

    Couric set up the January 11 segment which consumed most of the 7am half hour: "On Close Up this morning Senator Jean Carnahan. Being sworn in as one of a record 13 women in the Senate is not how she expected to be welcoming in this new year. But out of her own personal tragedy Jean Carnahan found the strength to fulfill the dream of her late husband Mel, the former Governor of Missouri."

    After a taped piece by Joe Johns on how Carnahan ended up in the Senate, Couric introduced the live interview:
    "Senator Jean Carnahan. Good morning it's so nice to meet you. Thanks so much for coming up to New York. You know in recent months I have to tell you I have just marveled at your stoicism and grace under the worst possible and saddest circumstances. And I'm just curious where you have found such incredible strength to conduct yourself in this way?"

    Couric proceeded to pose a series of questions about how she dealt with and learned of her husband's death in a plane crash. Couric then walked Carnahan through her decision to accept the appointment: "As you were, were wrestling with this one thing that must have been extremely helpful was the fact that the entire state of Missouri really reached out to you. It was quite extraordinary the reaction to your husband and your son's death. I mean little children waving flags. 10,000 letters. What did some of those letters say and how were they hopeful to you?"

    Without ever even raising the point that at least some think it was inappropriate for her to take political advantage of her husband's death to become a Senator when she has absolutely no qualifications, Couric argued she was well qualified: "You know you did a lot, I mean, as the person in the piece said, that Joe Johns did it's not as if these women are staying at home and knitting and doing nothing. You were a defacto campaign manager for your husband, you wrote speeches, I mean you're pretty self-effacing when you say the only office you ever had was your dining room table because you have been quite active. You've worked very hard on child immunizations in the state of Missouri. Bringing Missouri from 49th to 10th in that area. As you mentioned you worked very hard for schools. You did a, lobbied for the Outstanding Schools Acts, Act, rather. That created smaller classrooms and more computers. So is it safe to say issues involving children and education will be high on your agenda?"

    Couric soon pressed her to denounce Ashcroft: "Let's talk about the upcoming confirmation hearing of your former adversary Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri for Attorney General. Is it safe to say that Senator Ashcroft will not be getting your vote?"
    Carnahan: "I want Senator Ashcroft to have the benefit of a full and fair hearing. He deserves that..."
    Couric pleaded: "Do you have some concerns though, Senator Carnahan, given some of the things you know about his record on civil rights, on abortion and on gun control?"
    Carnahan: "Of course. A lot of people have concerns. But that's why this process, the confirmation process, is so important, because it gives him a chance to address those and we should do that. That's the fair thing to do."

    Couric finally asked one tough question: "Republicans have accused your campaign staff of supplying research to opponents of Ashcroft's nomination. What's your response to this criticism?" Carnahan said she had nothing to do with it as it involved a former campaign worker.


George Stephanopoulos may not be the ABC News connection to the Chavez hit. Another ABC News reporter, the same one whose biased reporting against another Bush nominee was detailed in item #2 above today, just happens to be the brother of the former neighbor who probably betrayed Chavez, FNC's Brit Hume revealed Thursday night. Hume explained during the "Political Grapevine" segment on the January 11 Special Report with Brit Hume:
    "ABC News broke the story of Linda Chavez's sheltering an illegal immigrant for two years a decade ago, a story that led to her withdrawing as the Bush nominee for Labor Secretary. Some have detected the fine hands of former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, now with ABC News, and former Clinton White House lawyer Neil Eggleston, who represents a Chavez neighbor named Margaret Zwisler, for whom the immigrant worked. Zwisler, a Democrat and a trial lawyer, is thought to be the likely source of the Chavez story. And it turns out that Zwisler is also the sister of ABC News correspondent Terry Moran."

    It really is a small world.


The January 11 edition of MediaNomics, from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP), is now online. The three new articles by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

    -- Shriveling Network News Shows Shocked By Shrinking Snack Chip Bags!
    It's not exactly arms to the Ayatollah or nuclear secrets to the Chinese, but all of the broadcast networks pounced on a January 2, 2001 New York Times story revealing that some manufacturers, faced with increased production costs, have switched to smaller packages as an alternative to direct price hikes. Network correspondents indignantly branded the downsizing of the snack food containers as duplicitous, but those same networks have been quietly trimming the news content of their own evening news programs for years, with more and more valuable seconds of airtime devoted to advertising and promotion....

     -- Media Spin Bush Tax Cut as Huge and Ineffective
    After the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee cut rates by a half percent on January 3, ABC, CBS and NBC refused to call it vindication of George W. Bush's warnings of a weak economy. Instead, journalists pushed the idea that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan had acted to undermine the pitch for Bush's tax reduction program and that tax relief wouldn't matter in the current economic climate. At the same time, the networks continued to represent the proposed tax cut as either "big" or "huge" - an insupportable statement if the tax cut is placed in its proper context....

    For the remainder of the story, go to:

    -- Journalists Blame "Deregulation" for California Shortages, But Electricity Rules Are Plentiful
    As winter has settled over the nation, it has become a media mantra: the current crisis in California is the result of the state's deregulation of the electric power industry. The implication, of course, is that the powerful and uncaring forces of the free market have been loosed to wreak havoc on citizens who now lack government's "protection." And, with many other states at various stages of deregulation, some journalists seem to think that what is now a regional crisis could soon be a national one. After blaming deregulation "in part" for California's troubles, Dan Rather warned viewers of the January 4 CBS Evening News that "residents of many other states could be next."...

    For the rest of this analysis, go to:

    This last piece is especially timely as Dan Rather opened Thursday's CBS Evening News: "Millions of Californians face rolling power blackouts tonight after a powerful storm piled natural disaster on top of the state's manmade deregulation disaster."

    As the MediaNomics article shows, the only disaster is the accuracy of CBS News reporting.

  -- Brent Baker

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