Nets Pounced on Anti-Tax Cut Poll; Tax Cut "Favors" Wealthy; NBC's Today Pushed "Trigger" Idea; Helen Thomas's Liberal Views
1) The ABC and NBC morning
shows jumped on an ABC News poll which found most want a smaller tax cut
and only 22 percent think a tax cut should be the top priority for the
surplus. GMA and Today both cited the numbers in three separate stories,
with ABC's Terry Moran tagging it a "handicap" for Bush.
2) CBS's Jane Clayson this morning suggested "many
Americans would prefer a smaller tax cut for lower and middle income
Americans" and she asked Karen Hughes to agree: "But doesn't the
tax cut really favor mostly wealthy Americans?"
3) Today's Katie Couric asked Karen Hughes
"what's wrong" with imposing a "trigger" to stop tax
cuts. Matt Lauer pressed Dick Gephardt: "Wouldn't it make you very
comfortable if this trigger system were put into effect?" Couric
highlighted how ABC's poll found "nearly a half of the
people...thought the plan will benefit mainly the wealthy."
4) The New York Post's MediaWatch column: "As the
Media Research Center has documented, [Helen] Thomas saves her venom only
for Republicans like Bush. Liberals, on the other hand, can do no
networks don't cite polls done by their competitors, but NBC made an
exception this morning for an ABC News poll which found 53 percent prefer
a "smaller, more targeted" tax cut and only 22 percent think a
tax cut should be the "highest priority" for the surplus. Today
news reader Ann Curry highlighted the finding in two hourly news updates
and Katie Couric raised the 22 percent number in an interview with White
House counselor Karen Hughes. (See item #3 below for Couric's question.)
Of course, on the
morning before President Bush's address to Congress in which he'll
make the case for his tax cut plan, ABC also emphasized their own poll.
Here's a rundown of how ABC's Good Morning
America and NBC's Today made sure viewers realized how unenthusiastic
Americans supposedly are about Bush's tax cut.
> Good Morning America. MRC analyst Jessica
Anderson caught three instances:
-- White House reporter Terry Moran during the 7am
news update: "The President needs to connect with the public tonight
as he tackles the first big fights of his administration: Selling his $1.6
trillion tax cut and his tight budget. He starts with a handicap. An ABC
News/Washington Post poll shows only 22 percent of Americans think cutting
taxes should be the top priority for using the surplus. Mr. Bush's allies
say that doesn't matter....But to pay for that broad tax cut, President
Bush has proposed a leaner budget than Congress had been used to under the
Clinton administration, one that calls for actual cuts in some programs.
White House officials acknowledge they've got a tough selling job ahead of
Yes, a tough job to overcome the onslaught of media
-- Antonio Mora at 7:30am: "President Bush has
some selling to do as he brings his tax and spending plan to the American
people tonight. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53 percent
of Americans favor a smaller, more targeted tax cut than Mr. Bush's $1.6
-- Moran at 8am: "He comes to making this
speech tonight, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, with a 55
percent approval rating. That sounds pretty good and it is, but not as
good as other Presidents this early in their term and he has a handicap as
well. Our poll shows that only 22 percent of Americans that we polled say
that the tax cut is the highest priority in using the surplus, so he has a
selling job ahead of him."
> Today. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens picked up
-- News reader Ann Curry at 8am: "President
George W. Bush will address a joint session of Congress tonight. He will
outline his budget and try to convince Congress and the American people
that his $1.6 trillion tax cut plan is a good idea. But a new poll found
that most Americans prefer a smaller tax cut targeted to middle and lower
-- Curry at 9am: "President Bush takes his
budget plan to Congress tonight in a speech to be carried on national
television. His $1.9 trillion budget proposal calls for lower spending and
massive tax cuts. But according to a new poll most Americans don't agree
with his across the board tax cut. The poll found that most people favor a
smaller tax cut aimed at lower and middle income people."
"Massive" tax cuts? They are far smaller
than the amount federal spending has been growing in recent years.
For a rundown of the major findings of the ABC
News/Washington Post poll, go to:
Early Show brought aboard White House counselor Karen Hughes to promote
Bush's budget ideas, but CBS didn't balance her with a Democratic
guest. It soon became clear, however, that they didn't need to as
co-host Jane Clayson forwarded the Democratic spin. Clayson suggested
"many Americans would prefer a smaller tax cut for lower and middle
income Americans" and she asked Hughes to agree with her view:
"But doesn't the tax cut really favor mostly wealthy Americans?"
And, without explaining what it is, she raised the liberal idea of a
"trigger" to restore higher tax rates if the surplus does not
MRC analyst Brian Boyd transcribed Clayson's
questions to Hughes:
-- "As we just
heard in Bill Plante's piece the President has proposed an 11 percent
increase on education spending, a 7 percent increase on defense spending,
13 percent increase on medical research. To increase spending in these
areas and still cut taxes by more than $1 trillion won't the President
have to cut other areas of the budget?"
-- "If those are the priorities where are the
cuts? There have to be some cuts."
-- "Let's talk for a moment, Karen, about the
tax cut because a lot of people are interested in that. Instead of an
across the board tax cut it seems many Americans would prefer a smaller
tax cut for lower and middle income Americans. Would the President be
opposed to that?"
-- "But doesn't the tax cut really favor mostly
-- "The tax cut relies heavily on a surplus and
hoping that there is a surplus over the next ten years. If there is not a
surplus, would you be opposed to this idea of a trigger concept?"
-- "You've been at this, Karen, for about a
month now, how's life at the White House?"
mania on today's Today. Katie Couric hit Karen Hughes with the liberal
idea, asking her "what's wrong" with imposing a
"trigger" to stop tax cuts if the surplus is smaller than
Minutes later, after first suggesting Bush's
overall plan "sounds pretty good," Couric's colleague Matt
Lauer decided to not challenge Democrat Dick Gephardt from the right by
asking about the economic rationale for a trigger to raise taxes during an
economic downturn. Nor did he suggest a "trigger" to reduce
spending. Instead, Lauer pressed Gephardt about how imposing a
"trigger" on tax cuts should allay his concerns: "Wouldn't
it make you very comfortable if this trigger system were put into
effect?" And: "If President Bush will agree to the trigger would
you agree" with the $1.6 trillion tax cut?
Couric also brought up a competing network's poll
as she told Hughes "a Washington Post/ABC News poll out today showed
that only 22 percent of those responding favored a tax cut as a top
priority. They want a targeted tax cut for low and middle income people,
not across the board. And nearly a half of the people who responded
thought the plan will benefit mainly the wealthy."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down the questions
posed this morning in the 7am half hour to Hughes and then to Gephardt.
First, Couric to Hughes:
-- "So what is President Bush's goal tonight
and to whom will he be speaking?"
-- "Well you say there's gonna be bigger money
and of course the Bush administration is relying on a $5.6 trillion
surplus over the next ten years. But there is no guarantee of that. And
some people, including, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan
have suggested a trigger. So if that money, you know, for some reason
isn't there and the debt isn't being paid down that the tax cut would be
put on hold. What's wrong with that notion?"
-- Couric: "Well if he's asking for an 11
percent increase in education spending, 5 percent increase in defense
spending, 14 percent increase in medical research spending, how can he
enact such a huge tax cut and fund all these federal programs? Does that
mean some departments will get no increase, not even the four percent to
account, account for inflation? Or they, in fact, their budgets might be
reduced, for example the Department of Energy?"
-- "Yeah this may not face such smooth sailing
as you well know in Congress. And in fact a Washington Post/ABC News poll
out today showed that only 22 percent of those responding favored a tax
cut as a top priority. They want a targeted tax cut for low and middle
income people, not across the board. And nearly a half of the people who
responded thought the plan will benefit mainly the wealthy. How will
President Bush convince the American people when they feel that way that
this is the right thing to do and the fair thing to do?"
Lauer to Gephardt:
-- "House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt is
one of the Democrats who will respond to President Bush's speech tonight.
Congressman good to see you. Sounds pretty good. He's got money to pay
down the debt. Education, military, community healthcare and he's gonna
offer a $1.6 trillion tax cut. How can you vote against that?"
-- "Alright, so wouldn't it make you very
comfortable if this trigger system were put into effect? Because that
would say to you. Alright, look if the numbers don't add up and the
surpluses don't add up we put this tax cut on hold and we don't risk the
-- "But as someone whose been in the House for
as long as you have you know there's gotta be an area for negotiation.
Isn't the trigger that area? I mean if, if President Bush will agree to
the trigger would you agree to $1.6 trillion, million, uh trillion
-- "But clearly it sounds as if the Democrats
are saying that President Bush is more right than wrong. I mean if you
talk about $900 billion or a trillion dollars that's almost double what Al
Gore proposed in the campaign. So you are definitely moving in President
-- "You got a lot you want to accomplish as
Democrats in Congress. How much sidetrack, or how much have you been
sidetracked by the attention being paid to former President Clinton right
now? Obviously that's not the story you want on the front page of the
-- "Has Bill Clinton, though, alienated members
of the Democratic party by his last minute actions?"
York Post today picked up on the February 23 CyberAlert item about the
lecture Helen Thomas delivered to President Bush about separating church
and state. The Post editorial page staff dug into the MRC's archives to
demonstrate how "Thomas saves her venom only for Republicans like
Bush. Liberals, on the other hand, can do no wrong."
Here's an excerpt of the February 27 "MediaWatch"
column about liberal pontificating by Thomas, now a columnist for Hearst
....Bush was confronted by an angry and sarcastic Thomas, who demanded,
"Why do you refuse to respect the wall between the church and
state?" -- adding that "the mixing of religion and government
for centuries has led to slaughter."
When the President tried to answer, saying that he "strongly" respects the separation of church and state,
Thomas quickly interrupted him:
"You wouldn't have a religious office in the White
House if you did."...
This isn't the first time that Thomas -- who resigned, to the cheers
of her colleagues, as White House correspondent of UPI just one after the
wire service was bought by the owners of the conservative Washington Times
-- has made her feelings about the new administration known.
Last month, at a White House press briefing, she made light of Bush
transition spokesman Ari Fleischer's statement that his office had
received 42,000 resumes. "He said he got 42,000 resumes," Thomas
told Clinton spokesman Jake Siewart. "He could count them but he
couldn't count the votes?"
But surely that's just Helen Thomas being Helen Thomas, right? Wrong.
As the Media Research Center has documented, Thomas saves her venom only
for Republicans like Bush. Liberals, on the other hand, can do no wrong.
So Thomas refuses to suggest that Bill Clinton might have cheapened
the Oval Office by his personal conduct. "I don't say that," she
told MSNBC's Brian Williams. "I think he is a man of peace....I feel
that his heart was in the right place."
Compare that to her evaluation of Ronald Reagan: "I'm not so
certain he was nice....I think he left an uncaring society." Or of
George W. Bush and John McCain: "About as far right as you can get
without dropping off the edge." John McCain?
In fact, even when she was an "objective" reporter, Thomas
made her political feelings well known. Rejecting claims of a liberal bias
in the news media, Thomas admitted to C-SPAN her own personal left-wing
Liberalism, she said, is "everything that's good in life, that we do care. And also for the solutions; we seek
solutions and we do think we are responsible for what happens in this
To read the whole MediaWatch article, go to:
I hope to get another CyberAlert out early tomorrow
morning with analysis of coverage of President Bush's address to
Congress scheduled for 9pm ET tonight. -- Brent Baker
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