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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday July 27, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 118)

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Dems Not Chided for Breaking NAFTA; No Watermelon in Watermelon Roll-Ups!; CBS Hit Laura Bush from Left on Spending

1) The networks which chastised President Bush for not ensuring U.S. compliance with international treaties on Thursday night failed to rebuke Senate Democrats for fighting Bush's effort to adhere to NAFTA by fighting Democratic-led efforts to impose special rules on Mexican trucks. And while CBS and NBC last week were upset by the House's procedural maneuver which denied a vote on McCain's campaign finance, on Thursday night neither was disturbed by the vote cutting off McCain.

2) Another bombshell from NBC's Brian Williams: "The folks from Science in the Public Interest, who blew the lid off things like high-calorie movie theater popcorn, have a new target in their sights tonight: misleading food labels that aren't really what they advertise." No watermelon in "Watermelon Roll-Ups"!

3) CBS's Diana Olick pressed First Lady Laura Bush and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson from the left on Thursday's The Early Show. Olick lectured Thompson on Head Start: "In an editorial in the New York Times just this week...it says that 'President Bush wants to cut funding for 2002 by two percent.'" She demanded of Mrs. Bush: "Do you feel that this administration is really putting its money where its mouth is?"

4) When former NBC News President Andy Lack, now COO of all of NBC, left behind in his DC hotel room his BlackBerry palm-sized device, NBC dispatched an intern to buy a full-fare plane ticket to fly it to him in Los Angeles.

5) Letterman's "Top Ten George W. Bush Observations About Europe."

A network double standard on President Bush's adherence to international treaties and as to when the networks portray Senator John McCain as a martyr for a great cause.

     The broadcast networks, after having castigated Bush repeatedly for not upholding international treaties, failed to point out how he's battling against every Senate Democrat in trying to enforce the U.S. obligation under NAFTA to treat trucks entering the U.S. from Mexico the same as those entering from Canada. Last week CBS and NBC showed their displeasure with how House Republicans used a procedural maneuver to deny a vote to McCain on campaign finance reform, but neither network cared Thursday night after the Senate voted to shut down a McCain-led filibuster to not abrogate NAFTA.

     On Monday night CBS's Dan Rather highlighted how Bush earned "an international tongue lashing over global warming." Two nights later, on Wednesday night, ABC's Peter Jennings introduced a story: "The Bush administration has today refused to support yet another international agreement. And that is five times since Mr. Bush took office. Today it was an agreement on germ warfare that was being negotiated in Switzerland, and a lot of people are asking what's going on here?"

     The common network theme: Bush is out of step because he's not following or pursuing U.S. compliance with international treaties. But when every Senate Democrat on Thursday (and 19 Republicans) voted to block a filibuster to defend Bush's plan to adhere to NAFTA by not imposing tougher rules on trucks entering the U.S. from Mexico than those entering from Canada, CBS did not castigate the Democratic position and ABC ran a story which presented the arguments of both sides without mentioning how tougher rules on Mexican trucks would contravene NAFTA.

    As Washington Post reporter Helen Dewar noted in a July 25 story: "NAFTA allows U.S. and Mexican trucks to operate across the border so long as they comply with each country's safety standards. The Clinton administration limited Mexican trucks to a 20-mile border zone. But a NAFTA arbitration panel held that this violated the trade pact, and Bush wants to open the border to long-haul trucks in January."

    Thursday night FNC's Brian Wilson picked up on that perspective on Special Report with Brit Hume: "The President has repeatedly argued that he's against tough new safety standards for Mexican trucks because the measure would impose regulations more stringent than the U.S. requires of truckers from Canada."

    The Senate effort to block the tougher rules was led by Republican Senators Phil Gramm and John McCain, but neither ABC or CBS even uttered his name on Thursday night even though he was on the losing side of a procedural vote -- quite a contrast to how just last week CBS and NBC portrayed him as a victim of an unfair procedural vote when the House decided to not allow a vote on the House version of his bill, Shays-Meehan.

     Rather set up a July 12 CBS Evening News piece: "On Capitol Hill tonight the push for serious campaign finance reform got to the brink, but not the goal. Opponents were able to block it with a fight over procedures. Supporters of an outright ban on unlimited campaign contributions -- so-called soft money -- said the procedures were meant to kill the bill. Still unclear is whether campaign finance reform is dead. But as CBS's Bob Schieffer reports tonight, the blame game is already in full swing."

     Thursday night this week NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams ignored the defeat for McCain along procedural lines, but last Thursday night, July 12, he highlighted McCain's complaint bout how "scoundrels" were responsible: "There is a dead end to report tonight for campaign finance reform, one of the highest profile issues on the agenda in Congress and in the last election. The issue has been derailed tonight by a procedural vote on ground rules that the Republican leadership in the House had for debating the measure. The bill won't have a chance to come up again until fall now, if even then. John McCain, one of the bill's sponsors, called the procedural block quote, 'the last refuge of scoundrels.' GOP Whip Tom DeLay said the measure's supporters simply don't have the votes to pass it."

     Now, fast forward to last night, Thursday, July 26. Rather simply announced: "A political defeat appears to be looming for the Bush White House on the hotly-debated issue of regulating Mexican trucks entering this country. With 19 Republicans joining in, the Senate ignored a presidential veto threat and voted to stop a Republican filibuster and back tougher safety regulations for the Mexican trucks than President Bush wants."

     On ABC's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings suddenly didn't care about adherence to an international treaty as ABC looked at what concerns those who don't want to follow the agreement: "The Senate is embroiled today in a traditional battle over free trade with all of the rhetoric associated with such a battle. At issue is the right of Mexican trucks to move freely throughout the country. Today the Senate ignored a veto threat from the Bush administration and moved closer to approving rules for tighter inspection of Mexican trucks and drivers."

     Linda Douglass began by noting how Democrats are slowing implementation, but she didn't rebuke them: "It is ground zero in the battle over free trade. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, the United States promised to open its border to Mexican trucks by the end of this year, but Democrats are demanding elaborate safety inspections that could slow that process for years."
     Senator Patty Murray, D-WA: "Under our bill, when you're driving on the highway behind a Mexican truck, you can feel safe."
     Douglass: "Five years ago, after inspecting many Mexican trucks, the Clinton administration decided not to allow them to travel beyond the narrow border area to which they are now restricted."
     Mickey Kantor, Former U.S. Trade Representative: "One, Mexican trucks had significant and serious safety problems at a great rate, and number two, we could not certify the qualification of Mexican drivers in a way that would make us all comfortable."
     Douglass: "This year, a Department of Transportation inspection found 37 percent of Mexican trucks had serious safety violations, but that's an improvement over four years ago. Business groups say Democrats are promoting negative stereotypes about Mexican drivers."
     Edward Emmett, National Industrial Transportation League: "That is what racial profiling is all about. I'm sorry, there's no way around that."
     Douglass: "Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott has piled on, calling Democrats' concerns 'anti-Mexican, anti-Hispanic.'"
     Senator Tom Daschle, Majority Leader: "Frankly, I'm baffled and very deeply troubled by accusations of that kind."
     Douglass: "Democrats say Republicans are trying to help their business friends at the expense of American safety. Republicans counter that Democrats are fronting for their friends, the Teamsters, who are worried about losing jobs."
     James Hoffa, Teamsters Union President: "They're gonna hire Mexican truckers that work at one-fifth of what American truckers work at, and they're gonna lay off the Americans and hire the Mexicans. That's the name of the game."
     Douglass concluded: "With powerful interests on both sides, no one is giving ground."

     If only ABC delivered such a balanced presentation of the arguments on both sides of the treaties Bush wants to abrogate or not sign. Compare Douglass's story above to the polemic against Bush's decisions on treaties delivered by Martha Radditz the night before, which she began: "From germ warfare to global warming, the Bush administration finds itself virtually alone against the world." Go to the July 26 CyberAlert:


Liberals speak, networks jump. A liberal group which wants more regulation of food container labeling earned full stories Thursday night on ABC and NBC just for holding a press conference to complain about how the pictures on food packages sometimes don't match the actual ingredients.

     Naturally, the group was never accurately tagged as liberal, or even as an "anti-business" or "pro-regulation" group. Instead, it was described as "an independent, non-profit research organization" and "a group which advocates for food safety." Yes, the "safety" of not eating pear juice when the box has a picture of a watermelon.

     NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams promoted the credibility of the group by citing a previous PR gimmick which impressed him: "The folks from Science in the Public Interest, who blew the lid off things like high-calorie movie theater popcorn, have a new target in their sights tonight: misleading food labels that aren't really what they advertise."

     Wow, they "blew the lid off" Moviepopcorngate! How soon we forget how that was bigger than Watergate or any scandal involving Clinton.

     NBC's Jim Avila began his quite serious July 26 dispatch: "When are blueberries and strawberries not berries at all? When they're in oatmeal made with figs dyed blue and apples dyed red. Label watchdogs claim Americans are being tricked by process food maker selling cheaper flavors....The Center for Science in the Public Interest, self-described food police, an independent, non-profit research organization, today petitioned the federal government to crack down on what it calls deceptive advertising -- bold front panel sales pitches about flavor with actual ingredients listed only in the fine print, like watermelon 'Fruit Roll-Ups' made with pears but no watermelon."

     At least Avila gave a few seconds to a spokeswoman from the National Food Processors Association to point out that product names and pictures on containers are just sales tools to tell consumers the flavor since taste is what leads to purchases.

     But not ABC. Jackie Judd delivered a one-sided story with no contrary views. Peter Jennings set up her World News Tonight piece: "A group which advocates for food safety said today that American consumers are still being deceived by the labels. Six years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the government to regulate the labeling on food products more strictly. Nothing happened. Now the consumer advocates have gone back to the grocery stores and nothing has happened."

     Imagine, America has been forced to survive for six years with consumers having to read the ingredients label to learn that watermelon-flavored Fruit Roll-Ups don't actually contain any real watermelon. How much longer can we endure?


CBS's Diana Olick quizzed First Lady Laura Bush from the left in a taped interview aired on Thursday's The Early Show, pressing her about how her husband's administration isn't spending enough on Head Start, MRC analyst Brian Boyd observed.

     Mrs. Bush appeared with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Secretary of Education Rod Paige to promote a First Lady-led conference later that day on early childhood development. Olick lectured Thompson on Head Start: "In an editorial in the New York Times just this week, and I'm quoting here, it says that 'President Bush wants to cut funding for 2002 by two percent.'" Assuming more spending equals better results, she demanded of Mrs. Bush: "Do you feel that this administration is really putting its money where its mouth is?"

     Here are all of Olick's questions posed on the July 26 Early Show:

     -- To Laura Bush: "What do you expect to learn from this summit that you don't already know?"

     -- To Tommy Thompson: "This summit centers directly on early childhood development and nothing represents that better of course than the Head Start program. But in an editorial in the New York Times just this week, and I'm quoting here, it says that 'President Bush wants to cut funding for 2002 by two percent' and 'any enhancement of education will have to be done at the expense of valuable health and social assistance.' How do you respond to that?"

     -- When Thompson countered that more money is being put into early childhood programs as President Bush proposed a $125 spending hike for Head Start, Olick countered: "Well, the argument goes that it's $125 million, which is a two percent increase, but in fact that doesn't account for inflation and so it is in essence a cut per child."

     -- Thompson cited a ten 10 percent increase in early childhood block grants, leading Olick to inquire of Mrs. Bush: "Do you feel that this administration is really putting its money where its mouth is?"

     Mrs. Bush answered yes but actually dared to hint there is life and power beyond government as she suggested people outside of government programs can help children.

     -- Olick moved on to Paige: "If we could talk for just a moment about testing. The controversy of course over this is that perhaps you're pigeon-holing certain students or schools by these tests that aren't necessarily conclusive, do you agree with that?"

     -- When he answered no, she followed-up: "And you don't believe that any under privileged children might get lost within such a testing system?"

     -- Olick switched subjects again: "Given the rare opportunity of having the three of you together for this, and you all of course have the President's ear on this issue as do you do on many other issues and that's why I'd like to bring up one of those important issues, stem cell research. What kind of counsel, Secretary Thompson, have you given the President on your views on stem cell research?"

     -- Olick wrapped up by pressing Mrs. Bush repeatedly as she demurred: "Well, you're obviously very close to him, closer than anyone else around here. I imagine that he's agonizing over this....And what is your view on it?....But you haven't come to any decision of your own?"


No expense spared to please Andy Lack, the COO of NBC who until earlier this year was President of NBC News. But on the up side, a DC intern got a free cross-country plane trip.

     In a Wednesday item in his "The Reliable Source" column in the Washington Post, Lloyd Grove recounted how when Lack left his Blackberry behind at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, instead of FedExing it to him in LA for under $30, a minion dispatched an intern to buy a last-minute plane ticket to fly it out to him.

     An excerpt of Grove's July 25 item:

Our friend Andy Lack, the recently named president and chief operating officer of NBC, is very attached to his BlackBerry....as he was being driven to Dulles Airport to catch a flight to Los Angeles...he discovered that his beloved BlackBerry was missing.

Reaching an assistant in New York by phone, the distressed Lack asked the underling to put out an APB. Then he boarded his flight. As the jet winged westward (where last Friday in Pasadena, Lack presided over the unveiling of the network's fall schedule), the BlackBerry was located in his former room at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Lack must have been pretty upset, because instead of overnighting the 5.3-ounce mini-computer to Pasadena, we hear that his assistant ordered that a summer intern from the Washington bureau board the next flight to LAX, BlackBerry in hand, and bring it to Lack directly. An emotional reunion took place in due course.

Let's review: An undiscounted round-trip coach fare between Washington and Los Angeles comes in at nearly $2,500 -- five times the cost of your average BlackBerry palm-sized model (not counting the $40 monthly Internet fee). A priority overnight FedEx costs around $30. NBC, like the other networks, has been forced to tighten its belt in the softening economy, including laying off nearly 600 employees when NBC absorbed its Internet portal NBCi....

Yesterday NBC spokesman Corey Shields told us: "An assistant made the decision to send the intern without Andy's knowledge. At the time, Andy was on a plane....Obviously this is not the standard practice. And the assistant feels that it was an error in judgment."

     END Excerpt

     For a photo of Lack and the rest of this item, go to:

     For the daily content of Grove's The Reliable Source column:

     As recent experience show, worse things can happen to a DC intern than making a plane trip. But if you're paying Katie Couric $7 million a year what's another $2,500.


From the July 25 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten George W. Bush Observations About Europe." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Europeans speak worse English than I do
9. That Eiffel Tower would make one mother of an oil well
8. Austria looks nothing like it looked on "Survivor"
7. The time difference screws up your nap schedule
6. British beef not only tasty, it gave me a buzz I haven't felt since college
5. The Polish people tell some great "Bush is dumb" jokes
4. In France, you don't have to say, "French fries," you can just say "fries"
3. Due to the metric system, my ten-gallon hat is a whopping 37.84 liters
2. The Irish drive on the left side of the road, like I used to
1. One of these countries is where my dad urped on the king

     I guess "urped" is some sort of New York slang for vomit. -- Brent Baker

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