Al Gore III's Speeding Ignored; Networks Pounced on Citations to Bush Daughters; Dan Rather Able to "Understand" Clinton's Lie
1) Last summer, when Al Gore's son was charged with
reckless driving, the networks ignored it. But with the exception of CBS,
the networks have pounced on the alcohol incident involving the Bush
daughters. "Double trouble in Texas" announced NBC's Matt
Lauer at the top of Today. Before a segment on it, GMA's Elizabeth
Vargas mused: "The question this morning is, is this really anyone's
2) The media's double standard on the Bush daughters
compared to Al Gore's kids was noted by the panel on FNC's Special
Report with Brit Hume, though they cited incidents other than the Albert
Gore III speeding/reckless driving.
3) "Insofar as it's humanly possible," Dan
Rather insisted, he tries to "drain my own biases, whatever they may
be, out of it." Rather charged that those who think he's biased to
the left have the view that "you either report the news the way we
want you to report it, or we're going to punish you" and defended
his assertion that Bill Clinton is "an honest man" as he said
he's able to "understand" why Clinton lied.
fascination with the initial investigation of Jenna Bush for using another
person's ID to buy an alcoholic drink at an Austin restaurant Tuesday
night contrasts with how the networks last summer ignored the speeding and
reckless driving citations issued to Albert Gore III for going 97 mph in a
55 mph zone. While Gore was 17 at the time of his offense on an August
weekend before the Democratic convention, and so still a minor, and
Bush's daughters are now 19, the media-applied standard has been that
offspring are only off-limits until they make "the police
Wednesday night on MSNBC's The News with
Brian Williams, for instance, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noted that
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter explained: "I actually think it's a
fairly simple issue. There is a zone of privacy which should be respected
as it was for Chelsea Clinton and should be for the Bush twins as, as
their father suggested, when it does not involve a brush with the law. But
the minute somebody in your family has any kind of connection to law
enforcement, not just now but forever in American history. Franklin
Roosevelt's children, if they had had a brush with the law, you can bet
that it would have been in the newspapers. I think any reasonable person
can say that's a fair dividing line."
The Gore and Bush offenses are also at a
similar level of seriousness. As USA Today reporter Tom Kenworthy noted in
a May 31 story, obtaining alcohol at an underage "is typically
treated as a minor offense similar to a ticket for a traffic
On Thursday, Jenna Bush was cited by Austin
police for using a false ID to obtain alcohol and sister Barbara was cited
for consuming an alcoholic drink.
Unlike the case with Al Gore's son, in which
the North Carolina state police officer had no idea who was driving the
speeding car before he pulled it over, the Bush daughters were caught
because restaurant employees recognized Jenna -- which means she was
pretty foolish to think she wouldn't be recognized but also that she was
treated differently than the average 19-year-old in a bar in Austin. Pete
Slover reported in the May 31 Dallas Morning News:
"According to a police statement and
interviews, officers were called after a manager at Chuy's restaurant in
south Austin dialed 911 to notify police that Jenna Bush, who was with her
twin sister Barbara, offered another person's ID to try to buy a drink.
She was not served, police said.
"'In this instance, I think they
(restaurant workers) recognized who they (the Bushes) were, which may have
prompted the call,' said Capt. David Ball of the Texas Alcoholic
Beverage Commission, which was consulting with Austin police."
Last summer the Washington Post and New York
Times held themselves to one edited AP dispatch on the incident a week
after it occurred. The Washington Post reported in full on page A6 on
Sunday, August 20, three days after the Democratic convention:
Gore Son Faces Charges in N.C. Speeding Case
CURRITUCK, N.C., Aug. 19: Vice President Gore's son has a court date in
North Carolina next month to face charges of speeding and reckless driving
Albert Gore III, 17, was arrested and charged Aug. 12 with driving 97
mph in a 55 mph zone and reckless driving, said 1st Sgt. A.C. Joyner of
the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Joyner said Gore was cooperative during
He was driving on a state highway in a rural, sparsely populated area
along the Outer Banks just south of Norfolk, authorities said.
Camille Johnston, a spokeswoman for Tipper Gore, said today that the
teenager was alone at the time and was heading home to Washington after a
The Gore family vacationed on Figure Eight Island farther south in
"The Gores are dealing with this as a family matter,"
A court hearing was scheduled for Sept. 13. Possible punishment would
be a fine and loss of driving privileges in North Carolina.
Demonstrating the lack of media interest in
the case, I could find nothing in Nexis about the disposition of it during
the September 13 hearing or since.
On Thursday the New York Times remained
consistent and confined the Bush story to an wire dispatch at the bottom
of an inside page. The Washington Post, however, increased its attention
on the Bush daughters with a story on the front page of the
"Style" section on Thursday and another inside today, plus a
"Style" front page piece today by media reporter Howard Kurtz
about the media's focus on the incident.
Last year the broadcast networks and prime
time newscasts on the cable networks all ignored the case involving the
son of the sitting Vice President who was running for President, as later
noted in a National Review Online piece by Tim Graham, then with the MRC: http://www.mediaresearch.org/oped/news/nro20001105.html
This year, on Wednesday night all the cable
networks pounced on the story as both ABC's World News Tonight and the
NBC Nightly News ran brief items. (See the May 31 CyberAlert for
transcripts of the ABC and NBC items.) Thursday night ABC ran a brief
update while NBC made the event its hook for an "In Depth"
segment on the behavior of presidential sons and daughters. (See below for
The CBS Evening News has remained consistent,
with the Ed Bradley-anchored show not touching the Bush daughter's story
either Wednesday or Thursday night. Thursday morning, MRC analyst Brian
Boyd noted, CBS's The Early Show held itself to a couple of briefs
during news updates.
But the ABC and NBC morning shows devoted
entire segments to the Bush daughters on Thursday morning with Today
opening the May 31 broadcast with their troubles. At he top of a Good
Morning America segment on what happened at the bar, ABC's Elizabeth
Vargas ruminated: "Jenna Bush's story is moving beyond the tabloids
into mainstream media. The question this morning is, is this really
Details about Thursday May 31 evening and
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
read this short item: "In Texas today the Austin police issued
citations to both of President Bush's teenage daughters. Barbara is
charged with alcohol possession and Jenna is charged with using someone
else's ID to order alcohol."
-- NBC Nightly News used the event for an
"In Depth" segment on life in White House spotlight. Andrea
Mitchell began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"Nineteen-year-old Jenna Bush, along with
her twin sister Barbara, exposed to the full tabloid treatment for
allegedly using a fake ID to order Margaritas at this Tex Mex restaurant
Tuesday night. This after Jenna pleaded no contest only two weeks ago to
possessing alcohol as a minor. Paid court costs, did community service,
attended alcohol awareness classes...A second offense for Jenna could mean
a suspended driver's license, a $500 fine, and more community service
and alcohol awareness classes-and more embarrassment. [clip from
Saturday Night Live] A stern father called Jenna, but the White House
insisted that's a private matter and suggested the Secret Service has a
more important job than keeping presidential kids out of trouble....The
President, as a candidate, pleaded for his daughters' privacy."
George W. Bush in May of 2000: "I'm asking
you again to just be respectful of these two little girls."
Mitchell: "In fact, Secret Service agents
say they deliberately hang back, try to let presidential teenagers be
normal adolescents, even if it means illegal drinking. What about other
first children? Susan Ford Bales, only 17, a high school senior when her
father unexpectedly became President, says her agents did not, quote,
'get in her face.'...
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Elizabeth
Vargas set up the May 31 segment, as observed by MRC analyst Jessica
Anderson: "For the second time in two months, President and Mrs. Bush
are dealing with a problem many parents know all too well: a teenager,
their daughter, in a brush with the law involving alcohol. With this
second incident, Jenna Bush's story is moving beyond the tabloids into
mainstream media. The question this morning is, is this really anyone's
Vargas added: "The White House had no
comment, calling it a family matter. but Jenna's new brush with the law
raises new questions: Is it an alcohol problem? Is it teenage rebellion?
More importantly, is it anybody's business?...Wayne, I'd like to start
with you, if I may. You say that Jenna's brushes with the law is the
public's business. Why?"
Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News:
"Absolutely, it is. Pretty much during the course of the governor's
tenure in office as the governor, we paid little attention to the
daughters. But when you have the daughter of the President of the United
States in an incident in which the police are involved, that's news.
That's not a federal offense, it's not the end of the world, and people
who read this or watch this on television are smart and understand that
it's the kind of thing that many normal teenagers do. But that doesn't
mean it's not news -- it is news."
Vargas: "But you just said, it's the kind of
thing that many normal teenagers do. I'm sure she's not the only college
student in America drinking underage. She is, however, the only college
student getting on the front pages of newspapers for doing so. Shouldn't
we have compassion for a young woman who, after all, didn't elect to be in
this position herself?"
Slater: "Not only did she not elect to be in
this position, both she and her sister asked their father not to run for
President early on. They didn't want to be in this kind of position, in
the spotlight, but they are. They're the daughters of the President of the
United States, and as long as the episodes are treated fairly and in some
kind of context -- look, this is not the end of the world, but it is
something that people talk about, that people ought to know about and the
mainstream media ought to deal with it and deal with it accurately, fairly
and, frankly, not make that big a deal about it."
Vargas turned to former Hillary Clinton aide
Lisa Caputo: "The President has made it clear that he expects the
press to respect the privacy of his daughters. Should that include
incidents like this where it is involving breaking the law?"
Vargas soon raised George W. Bush's history:
"However, it has become a bit of an issue only because President Bush
himself has admitted that he had a drinking problem as a man, quit
drinking when he was 40, was in fact arrested for driving under the
That was even too much of a stretch for Caputo:
"I think that's an apples to orange issue. What I would say here is
that, you know, First Kids, the First Family, they didn't elect to be in
office. They're not elected officials and really the question here is, is
where do you draw the line in terms of who is a public figure and who
isn't? This is not the President of the United States violating the law,
allegedly. These are his kids and I just think that there should be a zone
of privacy. They are under 21. They're in college..."
-- NBC's Today. Matt Lauer opened the
broadcast: "Good morning. Double trouble in Texas. President Bush's
19 year old daughter, Jenna, brought her twin sister Barbara along when
she allegedly tried to buy a drink at a local restaurant. Her second brush
with the law. She's under investigation for underage drinking today,
Thursday May 31st, 2001."
Katie Couric, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens
noticed, chimed in: "Geesh. You can only imagine the phone
conversations going on between the White House and the two Bush daughters.
And this, what, just two weeks ago Jenna pleaded no contest to other
charges about underage drinking."
Lauer: "That's right and the judge who
presided in that case ordered her to undergo alcohol counseling and
perform some community service. Now she could be facing more of the same.
We're gonna get details on what happened in Austin in just a moment. We'll
find out how students at Jenna's school, the University of Texas, feel
about all this."
Today made the case its "Close Up"
segment, starting with a full report from reporter Jim Cummins who
recalled: "There was another incident involving Jenna back in
February. The sheriff in Ft. Worth, Texas claimed Secret Service agents in
a black Chevy Suburban came to the county jail late one night to pick up
this man, 18 year old William Bridges, who was under arrest for public
intoxication. Deputies say Bridges claimed to be Jenna's boyfriend and
they were told she was in the black Suburban."
Next, Matt Lauer talked with Marshall Maher,
Editor of The Daily Texan at the University of Texas in Austin. Lauer's
questions, which included raising the possibility that Jenna had been
-- "Your newspaper has decided not to give
any special coverage to these incidents, why?"
-- "So in this situation with incidents
involving underage drinking I guess you would not cover underage drinking
were it happening with other students."
-- "The drinking age in Texas is 21,
Marshall, is that correct?"
-- "So, so are there sweeps done in the
local bars? I know it's not uncommon to find students who are under the
age of 21 in the local bars in Austin. Are there sweeps conducted in those
bars to try to prevent that?"
-- "Yeah in this case I understand the
manager of the bar actually called the police. Do you think in some ways
the President's daughter was singled out?"
-- "Perhaps a tough question for you to
answer, answer Marshall. But she has Secret Service protection there. And
yet where was the Secret Service during these two incidents?"
But Today wasn't done as it used the Bush
daughters as a hook for one more segment. Katie Couric set it up:
"The most recent investigation of President Bush's 19 year-old
daughter Jenna for allegedly trying to buy alcohol illegally has brought
even more attention to underage drinking. That combined with the results
of University of Michigan survey that has found in the past two weeks
almost one third of twelfth graders have had five or more drinks in a row.
Well that all makes it a good time for parents to talk with their kids
about drinking. Here with some help is psychologist Dale Atkins."
media's double standard on the Bush daughters compared to Al Gore's
kids was noted by the panel on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume,
though they cited incidents other than the Albert Gore III
speeding/reckless driving. The discussion, however, is what prompted me to
recall the speeding incident.
Over a shot of the glaring front page covers
of the New York Daily News and New York Post, Hume asked on the May 31
"Let's turn to another piece of New York
journalism from this day, which is the headlines in the two best-read New
York tabloids. This, of course, is the story of Jenna and Barbara Bush,
who, as of this moment, stand accused of misdemeanor charges relating to
their attempts to get a couple of alcoholic beverages in a restaurant in
Texas. This, of course, the second tour around a similar track by Jenna
Bush in recent weeks. The media have had a field day with this. Should the
media have had a field day with this? Jeff?"
Jeff Birnbaum of Fortune replied, as taken
down my MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "I don't think so. I covered the
Clinton White House for the Wall Street Journal and went, from the very
beginning, and we were asked, all the press were asked to lay off Chelsea
Clinton, and the same thing was thought of the Gore children, as well. And
we did, for the most part, and I think that's admirable. I mean, these
are children, they did not run for office, and they do not deserve this
kind of scrutiny."
Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard suggested
the media should not touch the lives of offspring unless their name
"gets on the police blotter."
That prompted Hume to cryptically recall:
"Now, there was an incident, and we didn't report it at the time,
and I'm not going to go into any detail about it here, involving a
member of one of the first families of the land in recent years, who was
in serious trouble at school, it involved drugs, it was a serious matter.
Nobody reported it. Now, I don't know whether the police were involved,
but it certainly involved an alleged offense. Question: Is a different
standard applied then than is being applied now?"
Roll Call's Morton Kondracke answered:
"Well, I'm not exactly sure what the, in one case, and both of
these stories, by the way, there were two of Al Gore's children did get
in trouble, and each case, there was a story. One in the Washingtonian
magazine, way down buried."
Hume: "The media didn't pick it up."
Kondracke: "Well, it did not get picked up.
Barely touched. And the other was an AP story that actually ran in the
Washington Times about one of Al Gore's daughters being cited for
carrying around an open can of beer."
Birnbaum: "Barely touched."
Kondracke: "Barely touched. Not the same
Fred Barnes: "There were no legal
Kondracke: "Cited. No, she was cited, and it
ran as a story, and it was not blown up, but it was not a second offense,
and it was not-"
Birnbaum: "The answer is, there is a double
Kondracke: "Well, it's was the
President's daughter, too."
I don't know about the Daily News, but I'm
pretty sure the New York Post put Albert Gore III on its cover last
up with an interview with Dan Rather, last week on FNC's The Edge with
Paula Zahn he maintained that "I try to be an honest broker of
information" since, "insofar as it's humanly possible,"
he tries to "drain my own biases, whatever they may be, out of
it." Rather charged that those who think he's biased to the left
have the view that "you either report the news the way we want you to
report it, or we're going to punish you, Dan Rather," and defended
his assertion made the week before that Bill Clinton is "an honest
man" as he said he's able to "understand" why Clinton
Pressed about that assessment, Rather oddly
argued that because he and others lie it would be wrong to describe
Clinton as a liar: "I certainly didn't approve of Bill Clinton
lying. I think it was very serious. But I'm not going to be hypocritical
and say I've never lied in my life." He affirmed that "my own
belief is, yes, you can be an honest person and still sometime in your
life, maybe several sometimes in your life, have lied about
For background, see two previous CyberAlert
-- Dan Rather on Bill Clinton: "I think
he's an honest man....I think at core he's an honest person....I think
you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things." Go
-- Dan Rather sees himself as a martyr for
telling the truth about Watergate and Vietnam. Rejecting any
responsibility for being seen as liberal, Rather told Geraldo Rivera the
liberal bias charge is made by those who "subscribe to the idea
either you report the news the way we want you to report it, or we're
gonna tag some...negative sign on you." Go to: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010522.asp
Now to the May 22 The Edge with Paula Zahn on
Paula Zahn: "Peter Jennings in an
interview suggested back in March, that quote, 'There are not enough
conservative voices in mainstream broadcasting.' What's your response
Rather: "Well, Peter speaks for himself.
When Peter speaks, I listen very carefully. I don't think reporters
should see themselves as conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans,
or for that matter, Mugwumps. I think reporters should take the view
'Pull no punches, play no favorites,' that insofar as it's humanly
possible, to be objective reporters. I recognize that there are people in
journalism, and certainly a lot of people in politics, who see this as an
archaic view. But that's my view. I think-"
Zahn: "But of course, there's a whole
blood sport that's come up of they're accusing you of being a
Rather: "Well, of course there's a blood
sport, and I understand that. There's also a blood sport on the other
side of, you know, accusing you of being a tool of corporate America and
therefore a reactionary. They very rarely use the word 'conservative.'
But you know, a lifetime in journalism has taught me that the people --
the public in general, viewers, listeners and readers, don't think in
those terms. They size you up and if you have a political agenda they
recognize it pretty quickly. And they will do one of two things. They will
either get mad at you, or they will discount it and say, 'Well, look, he
made a mistake today, but tomorrow it'll be OK.' I think here's the
important thing. I recognize that some reporters say, 'Look, I want the
world to know I'm a Republican and I'm a conservative,' or however
they want to describe themselves. Others want to say I want the world to
know I'm a Democrat or I'm a liberal. That's fine if they really
feel that way, but however anyone may see me from a distance, I don't
feel that way. I try to be an honest broker of information. I try to --
insofar as it's humanly possible, to be accurate, fair, drain my own
biases, whatever they may be, out of it. Now, no one can do that every day
in every way on every story, but I see it a little -- I don't mean to be
sacrilegious here -- a little like the Ten Commandments. We all know we
should live up to the Ten Commandments, but who among us says we're able
to do it every day? But one test of the character of a person is how often
they try and how often they succeed to live up to the Ten Commandments.
"Now, in journalism, I can't do it
perfectly, but I'm willing to be judged on the basis of how hard do I
try and how often have I succeeded in being simply an honest broker of
information? What I won't do -- and this I what gets me in trouble with
some people. What I won't do is allow someone to tell me how to report
the news. There are people, particularly in politics and people who feel
very strong ideologically, who want to say, 'Listen, you either report
the news the way we want you to report it, or we're going to punish you,
Dan Rather.' And they set out to punish you, not just me, but-"
Zahn: "Do you feel you've been
Rather: "No, I don't really think-"
Zahn: "I mean, what do you make of the -- of
so many charges out there that you're -- you are a lefty?"
Rather: "Well, first of all, I never rule
out the possibility that the other person is right. Some criticism is
justified. I've been doing it a long time, I make mistakes. The
criticism I tend to smile at -- and I am able to smile at it now -- is
that criticism that says, 'Well, because he doesn't report it our way,
we're really going to make him pay a price.' I pay that price happily.
While I think it's intended as punishment I don't see it that
Zahn: "And what -- and how is that doled
Rather: "I wear it as a badge of honor.
Quite frankly, I -- you know, I have a lot of scars, but I'd like to
think, when it comes to this kind of criticism, my wounds are at least
always from the front."
Zahn then raised his Clinton as "an
honest man" assessment made on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor. Rather
"I do remember the conversation with Bill
[O'Reilly], that who among us can say that we have never lied? My point
is, I don't approve of lying. I certainly didn't approve of Bill
Clinton lying. I think it was very serious. But I'm not going to be
hypocritical and say I've never lied in my life. If you or Bill or Sam
can tell me that you've never lied in your life about anything, well, a
tip of the Stetson to you. I do think you can be an honest person. I think
you can be a decent-intending person and sometime in your life tell a lie,
particularly if you tell a lie believing that, 'Well, maybe I'll be
protecting somebody else by telling the lie.'
"But look, I have no argument with anyone
who says 'I have a different view.' Bill Clinton's record stands for
itself, but I would stand -- my own belief is, yes, you can be an honest
person and still sometime in your life, maybe several sometimes in your
life, have lied about something. For example, in -- you're the
interviewer here, and understand it. Are you prepared to tell me -- I
would be very surprised if you were -- that you have never lied about
anything in your entire life? If you say yes to that, I would say, well,
you're one of the rare people on earth who can say it. So it's in that
context that I say -- yeah. Yeah, I'm not one of those, I don't defend
Bill Clinton, but I'm also not going to attack him. My job as a reporter
is to say, 'Alright, what did he do? Let's look at his record.' Now,
the record shows that he lied. He stood up in front -- lied in front of
the country, lied on television. That -- I do not approve of that. I
don't know very many Americans who do. But I do understand it."
Unlike Rather, I am able to
"understand" his bias. -- Brent Baker
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