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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday April 4, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 56)

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Rather Raised Money for Democrats; Katie Couric's Ten Years of Liberalism; Sheen Changed Tune on Bush; "That's My Bush!" to Debut

1) "Please join us for an evening with DAN RATHER," read the invitation to a Democratic fundraiser in Austin. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz wrote that Rather adopted Al Gore's Buddhist temple excuse, claiming "he hadn't realized beforehand that the event was a fundraiser." But Rather "stopped short" of "saying he would not have attended had he known in advance that he was being used to raise money." (This item includes links to the MRC's compilations of Rather quotes.)

2) Media Reality Check. "Perky Katie's Decade of Loving Liberalism: According to Couric, Reagan Was 'An Airhead' While Dictator Castro Was a 'Charismatic Leader.'" Plus, to mark her tenth anniversary on April 5, the MRC has created a Web page with over 40 examples of Couric's liberal advocacy.

3) In February the President on NBC's The West Wing, Martin Sheen, denounced George Bush as a "moron," but Tuesday night on the Tonight Show he insisted: "I support whoever is in that office." Hotline reported that Sheen's show will soon incorporate into a plot a plug for the liberal idea of a tax rebate.

4) "That's My Bush!," a new sit-com in which actors play real life people in the Bush White House, premieres tonight on Comedy Central. In a clip shown on the Tonight Show, the Laura Bush character told George Bush: "You are the best, even if you are a clueless bastard sometimes."

Two weeks ago Dan Rather was the featured guest at a fundraiser in Austin, Texas for a local Democratic Party committee, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz revealed in a front page story on Wednesday. "Please join us for an evening with DAN RATHER. Mayor Kirk Watson & Other Honored Guests," announced the invitation. Kurtz reported that the March 21 appearance "generated about $20,000 for the Travis County Democratic Party -- and will undoubtedly provide ammunition to critics who have long accused Rather of leaning to the left."

     Indeed it will since it confirms not only his preference for Democrats but that Democrats think he will attract donors to an event.

Web Update: New MRC Web page devoted to Dan Rather's Liberal Bias with a look back at 20 years of his on-air advocacy. Plus his denials of any bias, video clips and "Ratherisms."

     Kurtz wrote that Rather adopted Al Gore's Buddhist temple excuse since he maintained "he hadn't realized beforehand that the event was a fundraiser. 'I didn't ask the question, and I should have,' he said in an interview. 'I take full responsibility for it. I'm responsible and I'm accountable.'" But, Kurtz pointed out, "the Texas native stopped short of calling his appearance a mistake or saying he would not have attended had he known in advance that he was being used to raise money."

    Just last week, as noted in CyberAlert, on the March 29 CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer described soft money, the kind Rather helped raise, as "unregulated, unrestricted backdoor contributions to political parties."

    An excerpt from Kurtz's April 4 Washington Post story:

Dan Rather, the longest-serving and most outspoken of the major network news anchors, recently served as the star attraction at a Democratic Party fundraiser.

Donors paid as much as $1,000 for a private evening in Austin with the CBS newsman, according to an invitation obtained by The Washington Post. Rather's appearance at the March 21 gathering generated about $20,000 for the Travis County Democratic Party -- and will undoubtedly provide ammunition to critics who have long accused Rather of leaning to the left.

Rather said yesterday that he hadn't realized beforehand that the event was a fundraiser. "I didn't ask the question, and I should have," he said in an interview. "I take full responsibility for it. I'm responsible and I'm accountable."

But the Texas native stopped short of calling his appearance a mistake or saying he would not have attended had he known in advance that he was being used to raise money.

Acknowledging that he didn't want to sound like Al Gore at a Buddhist temple, Rather said: "When I got there, I was very aware that it was a fundraising event. I'm not going to say I had no idea what was going on....If someone wants to fault me for that, I wouldn't blame them."

Rather said he agreed to discuss election coverage at the invitation of an old friend, Austin City Council member Will Wynn, who drew 150 people to the event in his back yard. He was not paid for his appearance. Other hosts included Scott Ozmun, the county Democratic chairman, and Robin Rather, the anchor's daughter and a Texas environmentalist and marketing executive....

Said National Review Editor Rich Lowry: "He is perceived as the most buffoonishly biased of any of the anchors, as far as conservatives are concerned. He's the favorite media pinata for people on the right. He arouses their ire. This, obviously, will just increase that. This will enter the lore about Dan Rather."...

The fundraising invitation, 1,000 of which were sent out, says: "Please join us for an evening with DAN RATHER. Mayor Kirk Watson & Other Honored Guests. 'Power Shifts & Aftershocks.' An Insider View on Politics & Power."

The RSVP form -- which asks that checks be made payable to the county Democratic Party -- says a donor can be a "host" for $1,000, which buys tickets for "four guests for private reception & evening event." A "sponsor" gets two tickets for $500. A "guest" gets one or two tickets (for $150 and $250, respectively) but doesn't get into the private reception.

Wynn, describing himself as a close friend of Robin Rather, said that "it wouldn't surprise me at all if Dan wasn't aware that technically this was a fundraiser. I'm sorry if somehow there might have been some miscommunication....His comments were completely nonpartisan."

    Suspend Excerpt to allow time for laughter.

    Resume excerpt:

....Rather, who maintains a home in the Austin area, noted that the night before he sat with Texas Gov. Rick Perry at an arts dinner and posed for a picture with the Republican.

"This is part of what I do -- I circulate among politicians," he said. "Over a long period of time, I've met with political groups large and small, Democratic and Republican, Green Party, mugwumps, you name it, because that's what reporters do."

Rather said he "wouldn't be surprised" if critics use the incident to call him a closet Democrat. "I'm going to get that criticism whether I deserve it or not."

     END Excerpt

     To read the entire Kurtz story, go to:

     To see for yourself if Rather deserves the "criticism" that he's a "closet Democrat," check out the MRC's compilations of Rather quotes from the past decade or so gathered a few weeks ago on the occasion of his 20th anniversary as anchor of the CBS Evening News. I think you'll find that they prove he's quite an open liberal.

    -- Media Reality Check with videos:
"20 Years of Liberal Spin From Gunga Dan"

    -- More quotes in CyberAlert, plus a video clip of the infamous Dan Rather attack on George H. W. Bush in 1988:

    -- And a whole bunch more Rather quotes in another CyberAlert:

     -- CyberAlert's collection of wacky Ratherisms:

    -- Column by MRC President Brent Bozell:
"Dan Rather's Anniversary Quiz"

    -- Another column by MRC President Brent Bozell:
"Remembering the Ratherisms"

    Today in a press release MRC President Brent Bozell suggested that Rather apologize on the air tonight: "How many times have Rather and his colleagues throughout the establishment media railed at so-called 'partisan politics?' Without a genuine and sincere apology to the viewing public, Rather's lips will forever drip with hypocrisy." To read the press release, go to: http://archive.mrc.org/press/2001/press20010404.asp

    I have another idea. Rather can't equal things out by volunteering to headline a GOP fundraiser since no Republican would be attracted to such a guest, so if he's really interested in playing fair he should write a check to the Travis County Republican group for the same amount he helped their rivals raise.


Tomorrow, April 5, marks another anniversary for a network star: Katie Couric's tenth year as co-host of NBC's Today. This morning the MRC distributed by fax a Media Reality Check fax report listing eight examples of Couric using her network platform to promote liberals or castigate conservatives.

     The MRC has also posted a Web page featuring more than 30 additional quotes from Couric. Created by MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey, the page offers some RealPlayer video clips of some of her liberal reasoning as well as an "on the bright side" section which recounts how last year she actually pressed Rosie O'Donnell from the right on gun control. For "Katie's Liberal Bias: Today and Yesterday," go to:

    Now to the April 4 Media Reality Check compiled by the MRC's Rich Noyes, titled, "Perky Katie's Decade of Loving Liberalism: According to Couric, Reagan Was 'An Airhead' While Dictator Castro Was a 'Charismatic Leader.'"

    To view it as fax recipients saw it, as an Adobe Acrobat PDF, go to the document posted by MRC Webmaster Andy Szul: http://archive.mrc.org/realitycheck/2001/pdf/fax0404.pdf

    First, the pull-out box in the middle of the faxed page:

Katie's Demand For More Gun Control

Katie Couric: "Getting back to kids and guns, if you will indulge me for a moment. You cannot think of any other position the NRA could take in terms of trying to decrease the number of school shootings? You feel like this is not your bailiwick, this is not your problem?"
Charlton Heston: "Not at all. As I told you, the NRA spends more money, more time..."
Couric, cutting him off: "Other than education."
Heston: "Well, what would you suppose? What would you suggest?"
Couric: "I don't know, perhaps greater restrictions."
-- Exchange on Today, June 8, 1998.

    Now the text of the Media Reality Check:

On Thursday, April 5, NBC will commemorate Katie Couric's tenth anniversary as co-host of NBC's top-rated Today show, where she has become nearly as much of a mouthpiece for liberal beliefs as her one-time sidekick, Bryant Gumbel, now at the helm of CBS's floundering Early Show. Over her years on Today, Couric has accused Republican pro-lifers of being "rigid" or "narrow-minded," described Fidel Castro "one of the most charismatic leaders of the 20th century," and asked that NRA President Charlton Heston drop his support of the Second Amendment. A brief review of some of her most left-wing comments:

-- Poor Bill Clinton: "With the exception of the pardon of Marc Rich and some other moves that probably were somewhat questionable, would you concede this morning that it's gotten to the point where there is a bit of piling on going on here? I mean, it seems to me that he has done some things that other Presidents have done in the past." (Question to MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Mike Barnicle, February 20, 2001.)

-- The public wants campaign reform that will make the media more powerful: "But it's so ridiculous, you know. People watching this just think that reform is so necessary. They can't understand why you guys can't get your acts together!" (Statement to Senators Arlen Specter and Robert Torricelli, October 8, 1997.)

-- Dick Cheney kept Mandela in jail: "Do you have any problems with the fact that he [Cheney] did vote against Head Start - because you care so deeply about education - and against a resolution that would have allowed Nelson Mandela to be released from prison?" (Question to Colin Powell, August 1, 2000.)

-- Reviving the ketchup canard: "Since the states won't have to adhere to any federal guidelines and they can basically go do their own thing, aren't you worried that we're going to go back to the days when Ronald Reagan suggested that ketchup and relish be designated as vegetables?" (Question to Rep. Duke Cunningham, Feb. 22, 1995. Reagan never suggested that.)

-- Of course. Another government program: "It sounds like a no-brainer. Seniors spend billions of dollars on prescription drugs every year, often putting them in terrible financial situations. So what's wrong with this plan [to create a Medicare prescription drug entitlement]?" (Question to pharmaceutical industry spokesman Alan Holmer, June 29, 1999.)

-- Conservative intolerance killed Shepard: "The tragic beating of the college student has some activists in this country saying there is a climate of anti-gay hate that's been fostered by a provocative advertising campaign by the political right in this country." (October 13, 1998 show.)

-- Clinton never got enough credit: "Why do you think that he doesn't get the credit for the good news that's going on? And, if Reagan was the Teflon President, it seems like Bill Clinton is the Velcro President - every piece of bad news just sticks to him." (Question to the DNC's Tony Coehlo, August 18, 1994.)

-- Ronald Reagan was an airhead: "Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead! That's one of the conclusions of a new biography of Ronald Reagan that's drawing a tremendous amount of interest and attention today, Monday, September 27, 1999." (Introduction to show.)

    END Reprint of Media Reality Check


A change in tune for actor Martin Sheen whose show on which he plays the President, The West Wing, returns tonight with a new episode on NBC. In February he called President George Bush a "moron," but Tuesday night on the Tonight Show, while he conceded Gore's loss was "real hard" on him, he insisted: "I support whoever is in that office."

     Sheen's latest comment came just a day after Hotline reported that the West Wing will soon be put into liberal service by incorporating into an upcoming plot a plug for the Democratic tax rebate idea.

     In February, a BBC Web site quoted Sheen as charging: "George W. Bush is like a bad comic working the crowd, a moron, if you'll pardon the expression." For more on the story, go to:

     Tuesday night, April 3, on NBC's Tonight Show, host Jay Leno reminded Sheen of how he'd seemed "very antagonistic" toward the new President. Sheen denied it: "I'm not antagonistic. I'll tell you frankly, it was a real hard loss I mean for us that had worked for Mr. Gore and had been, you know, so active with Mr. Clinton and that administration."
     Leno: "But do you get behind the new President?"
     Sheen: "Listen, you know, to be President of the United States, there is no more difficult job. Look what's going on right now. I wouldn't want the job and I support whoever is in that office. I support the office, but it's still difficult to let go of what we had."

     Meanwhile, Monday's Hotline relayed: "When the Congressional Progressive Caucus' 'American People's Dividend' -- a $300 rebate for all working Americans -- failed to gain traction in Congress, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) suggested floating the idea in an episode of the West Wing. Lee pitched the idea to Lawrence O'Donnell, former staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, and the show's executive producer and hit pay dirt: according to a spokeswoman for the NBC drama, 'in an upcoming scene, the progressives get a nod.'"

     Actually, I don't think Lawrence O'Donnell, who frequently appears on MSNBC and takes a liberal chair some weeks on the McLaughlin Group, is the show's "Executive Producer" in the tradition sense of running the show. I think he's one of several producers.

    NBC's The West Wing airs at 9pm EDT/PDT, 8pm CDT/MDT on Wednesday nights.


Tonight Comedy Central premieres a new sit-com from the creators of South Park called "That's My Bush!" It's not an animated cartoon show like South Park, but a program with real actors playing actual White House staffers, including characters using the names "George Bush" and "Laura Bush."

     The creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, insist their show is not designed to make fun of the actual President Bush since it's really a parody of old time sit-coms. One scene played Tuesday night on the Tonight Show, however, proves it certainly will also play off stereotypes of Bush as a dork. The Tonight Show ran this scene inspired by the Honeymooners:

     George Bush look-alike character: "We're going to have the best night since we came to D.C."
     Laura Bush: "Oh, thank you George, you are the best, even if you are a clueless bastard sometimes."
     George, forming a fist: "Oh, one of these days Laura I'm going to punch you in the face!"

     Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales today previewed some political content in the show:
     "The most tasteless thing in the premiere? Portraying the leader of an antiabortion group as a tough-talking, malformed, blind fetus who had almost been aborted himself. Before he appears, the adviser explains his condition and notes to Bush, 'He hates to be canceled on.' Unfortunately, the creature talks with a South Park kind of voice, making some of his dialogue unintelligible.
     "To attempt political balance and perhaps discourage the kind of hate mail that only antiabortionists can write, the producers make the leader of the pro-abortion group a harsh caricature as well. Bush is trying to bring the two opposing camps together but naturally that effort ends in violent chaos.
     "In the second episode, airing April 11 (written, like the premiere, by Parker and directed by Jeff Melman), bad taste is used to a greater satiric advantage. To entertain boozy visiting fraternity brothers from his Yale days, Bush presides over what he thinks is a phony execution -- staged, he believes, as a prank by actors.
     "But then, gosh darn it, wires get crossed and what Bush thinks is fake turns out to be real. After serving so many times as defacto executioner in Texas, Laura notes, Dubya finally gets to whack some poor soul himself. To make matters worse, he does a 'gas chamber' flatulence joke prior to the lethal injection, and sings 'Another One Bites the Dust' after the prisoner expires -- much to the shock of the proverbial horrified onlookers."

     That's My Bush! will run twice nightly on Wednesdays on Comedy Central at 10:30pm EDT/PDT, 9:30pm CDT and again at 1am EDT/PDT, 12am CDT. Not sure how MDT works with this network.

    For Comedy Central's page on their new program, go to http://www.comedycentral.com/bush/.

  --Brent Baker

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