ABC to Bush: Most Dislike Policies; MRC's Report Card on the Networks: An F for CBS News
1) ABC's Charles Gibson pressed President Bush about how
most say of him, "Nice guy, but we don't like his politics or his
policies" and was appalled that Bush had not yet asked Bill Clinton
for advice. CBS's Jane Clayson took on Bush from the right, raising with
him how an aide had said that eliminating abortion "is not a policy
priority." NBC's Matt Lauer demanded to know that if gas hits $3.00,
how can he "reassure people sitting out there right now who are
afraid they are gonna have to park their cars by the side of the road and
go home and sit in the dark?"
2) Media Reality Check. "Grading TV Coverage of
Bush's 100 Days: Worst Spin Came From CBS's Four Horsemen of Liberal Bias
-- Rather, Gumbel, Schieffer and Roberts." An F to CBS and John
Roberts, a C- to ABC and a B- to NBC.
interviews with President Bush taped Tuesday at the White House and aired
Wednesday morning, the three broadcast network morning show co-hosts posed
some easy questions and allowed Bush to make his case for his successes.
But, with the exception of one question about abortion from CBS's Jane
Clayson, each came at him from the left on specific policies.
ABC's Charles Gibson pressed Bush about how
most say of him, "Nice guy, but we don't like his politics or his
policies," argued that most want more spending over tax cuts, seemed
appalled that Bush had yet to ask former President Clinton for advice and
pushed him repeatedly about his lack of public presence at Whidbey Island
or after the Cincinnati rioting.
CBS's Jane Clayson uniquely took on Bush from
the right, raising with him how an aide had "said that while
eliminating abortion is a moral priority it is not a policy priority, why
not?" But she also hit Bush from the left on the environment,
mentioning arsenic in the drinking water before inquiring: "Is there
a particular problem with the environment and your administration's stand
on the environment?"
NBC's Matt Lauer scolded Bush for talking down
the economy, telling him "you may have created a sense of panic
almost among people and investors and, and made matters worse." Lauer
offered up the most bizarre question: "Maybe these are alarmist, that
are saying gas prices could reach $3.00 at some point during this summer.
How can you reassure people sitting out there right now who are afraid
they are gonna have to park their cars by the side of the road and go home
and sit in the dark?"
Now, to fill in the details, some excerpts
from the interviews aired on April 25:
> ABC's Charles Gibson on Good Morning
America, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
-- Don't understand real needs:
"ABC/Washington Post poll, most recent one, very high approval
rating, up at 63 percent -- a little lower than your dad had in his first
hundred days, but a good approval rating -- and yet less than half the
people in the poll say that they approve of policies or feel that you
understand their needs, which can be interpreted as saying, 'Nice guy, but
we don't like his politics or his policies.'"
President Bush: "Well, you know, for
example, the signature piece of legislation is going to be the tax relief
plan. I think when it's all said and done, most Americans will appreciate
Gibson: "And yet the poll would indicate
only a third of them would prefer that; two-thirds say they'd rather be
spending the money to meet people's needs."
-- Why haven't you consulted Bill Clinton?
"Have you ever -- it just occurred to me -- have you ever, in the
first hundred days, consulted or called former President Clinton?"
President Bush: "No, I haven't."
Gibson: "To talk to him?"
President Bush: "No, I have not."
Gibson: "Don't feel the need?"
-- Why aren't you showing empathy like
Clinton? "Let me talk to you a little bit about the sense of the
presidency that you have. Your predecessor would use the presidency as a
bully pulpit a lot on a number of issues to make what points he wanted to
do. In things like the school shootings that we've had since you were
President and things like the unfortunate situations in Cincinnati, your
statements were relatively short or perfunctory. Doesn't the President
have an obligation to speak out -- particularly on school shootings,
racial situations -- because that defines what we are as a society."
President Bush: "Of course the President
does, and there are some times when the President's presence can make an
enormous difference and some times where it might make the situation
worse...but if I think my presence is going to complicate a situation or
try to hog the limelight from somebody who deserves credit, you won't find
Gibson: "Is that why you didn't go to
Whidbey Island? Your predecessor would have been there. I suspect
President Reagan, I suspect even your dad would have been there."
President Bush: "I chose not to go because I
wanted the moment to be between the troops and their families."
Gibson: "Some columnists have talked about
that as a, sort of, return to modesty in the presidency. Some have talked
about it as, 'Well, he just doesn't get it on some issues.'"
> CBS's Jane Clayson on The Early Show, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd.
-- From the left on the environment: "Let
me ask you about the environment, about your so-called reversal on some
issues: arsenic in drinking water, carbon dioxide emissions. Is there a
particular problem with the environment and your administration's stand on
"What about the perception that there is
a flip-flop on some of these issues especially among suburban women and
-- From the right on abortion: "Abortion,
in the campaign you pledged to promote a culture of life and yet last week
your Chief of Staff, Andy Card, said that while eliminating abortion is a
moral priority it is not a policy priority, why not?"
-- Then back to the usual take from the left:
"Is abortion going to be a litmus test for a Supreme Court
> NBC's Matt Lauer on Today, as taken down
by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens.
-- Bush created the downturn: "You got
some criticism though. As you went out trying to sell your tax relief plan
a lot of people said, you know what, in doing so you talked down this
economy. And you may have created a sense of panic almost among people and
investors and, and made matters worse. How do you answer that
-- Bush harangued for not following the
liberal line on the environment: "If you're gonna get close to what
you ask for in the campaign in terms of taxes there's an issue of the
environment. Where you promise during the campaign that you were going to
reduce or support the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from power
plants. Shortly after taking office you backed away from that pledge. Why
should environmentalists trust you on this subject?"
Bush: "Well, let me, let me first say that
we are gonna work to reduce CO2. I just wasn't for mandatory caps like
those imbedded in the Kyoto Treaty. Because I, one, I didn't think they
were achievable without wrecking our economy. And secondly I think there's
a better way to do it. I think we need more technologies. We can use more
market oriented solutions to reduce-"
Lauer: "But is that the way you said it
during the campaign?"
-- Having castigated Bush for daring to put
economic interests ahead of environmentalism, Lauer then demanded to know
what Bush would do to make sure gasoline prices don't rise: "A lot of
your environmental policy deals with energy. Finding new sources of
energy. You've got some big problems in the next couple of months. People
are worried about the power being shut off in certain regions of the
country. They are looking at gas prices Mr. President and there are some
reports, and maybe these are alarmist, that are saying gas prices could
reach $3.00 at some point during this summer. How can you reassure people
sitting out there right now who are afraid they are gonna have to park
their cars by the side of the road and go home and sit in the dark?"
If that scenario were to occur, Matt Lauer and
others in the media who have put environmental extremism and distortion
ahead of reasonable policy debate about environmental issues, would bare
much of the responsibility.
networks are grading President Bush as he approaches 100 days in office,
so the MRC decided to grade the big three broadcast networks. Below is the
text of a Media Reality Check distributed by fax this morning, titled,
"Grading TV Coverage of Bush's 100 Days: Worst Spin Came From CBS's
Four Horsemen of Liberal Bias -- Rather, Gumbel, Schieffer and
Roberts." Rich Noyes, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, put
together the report with the assistance of MRC Communications Director Liz
The pull-out box in the center of the faxed
page gave our evaluations:
Grading the Networks, First 100 Days
Best White House Reporter: David Gregory
Worst White House Reporter: John Roberts
Now the text of the April 26 Media Reality
Television's self-styled experts on everything are busily producing
flashy retrospectives of the first 100 days of George W. Bush's presidency
-- Nightline has a four-night mini-series this week -- but how good a job
have the networks done? MRC analysts went back to the videotape,
identifying the best and worst coverage from ABC, CBS and NBC from the
past three months:
-- Biased CBS Gets an F: As Dan Rather might say, you'd find more
liberal spin on CBS than blackberries at a bake-off in Altoona. Rather
himself frequently denigrated Bush's policies, calling his tax program a
"gamble" and a "cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax cut
plan." Early Show host Bryant Gumbel tried in vain to convince a
market expert that "the Bush White House has done very little about
this [stock market decline] with the exception of seemingly adding fuel to
the fire with talk of a worsening economy." Instead of holding
liberals equally accountable, Bob Schieffer's "Real Deal"
segments typically blandly relayed only the anti-Bush complaints of
partisans like Tom Daschle as on March 21: "The President reversed a
campaign promise to require power plants to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions and delayed a ban on logging and road building on a third of
federal lands. But Daschle says the canceling of the protections for
drinking water is the worst of all."
-- CBS's John Roberts was the most biased White House correspondent of
the first 100 days. Uniquely, he sought out a liberal activist to show how
bad Bush's policies would be: "Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax
Justice can't forget the last time Congress went on a tax cut spree in
1981; America is still paying the bill." Roberts also showcased two
tax cut critics from Omaha to illustrate negative public reaction to
Bush's budget speech in late February -- despite CBS's own post-speech
poll showing wide support. The Evening News never reported the pro-Bush
findings of that poll.
-- ABC Ekes Out a C-minus: This network had plenty of biased moments,
too. Peter Jennings wondered aloud whether the Bush administration's
"very militant" rhetoric had worsened the early April stand-off
with China. Reporter Linda Douglass blamed Bush's allegedly tough tactics
for ruining Washington's tone (always so pleasant during the Clinton
years): "So much for bi-partisanship," she griped on World News
Tonight. White House correspondent Terry Moran oddly complained about
Bush's use of the phrase "energy crisis," although ABC used
those exact words the next night in a promo for an upcoming story. But
Moran was at least fair-minded enough to report on February 8 that the
liberal spin that Bush's tax cut favored the rich was only true using one
set of statistics; presented another way, the tax cut gave more benefits
to lower- and middle-income earners.
-- B-minus for NBC: In an interview shown Wednesday morning, Today's
Matt Lauer demanded Bush "look me in the eye and say that you are a
President committed to cleaning up the environment." Lauer's power
trip notwithstanding, NBC was actually fairer than either ABC or CBS. Meet
the Press host Tim Russert, for example, challenged California's
Democratic governor, a Bush critic: "If you don't cut taxes, Governor
Davis, won't Congress spend the money?"
-- By process of elimination, NBC White House reporter David Gregory
was least imbalanced -- although that's a lot like saying Kermit is the
cutest frog in the swamp. Compared to Moran and Roberts, he took fewer
liberal swipes, and he even defended Bush's tax cut on February 5, sort
of: "What about the charge that the plan mostly benefits the rich?
Not so, say some experts."
The networks weren't just being tough: they complained only about
conservative aspects of Bush's program and didn't haze the freshman
President on any of his new spending or regulation plans. During Bush's
first 100 days, the networks were cops who mainly patrolled just the left
side of the street.
END reprint of Media Reality Check
For more complete descriptions of each
network, go to
"Report Card on
the Networks," at http://www.mrc.org
-- Brent Baker
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