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The 1,348th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday September 24, 2002 (Vol. Seven; No. 147)

 
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Rather Bucks Up Gore Credibility in Denouncing Bush on Iraq; NBC Recalls Bush Promise of More Tax Cuts; ABC& CBS Celebrate New California Family Leave Mandate; The View Takes FX's 'Candidate' Seriously; Al Neuharth's Diapers; Terrorism on JAG

1) ABC, CBS and NBC all ran short items Monday night on Al Gore's speech denouncing President Bush's policy toward Iraq, but CBS's Dan Rather tried to make Gore seem more credible: "Gore has always supported overthrowing Saddam and was among the few Senate Democrats who voted for the 1991 Gulf War resolution. After that war, Gore said he felt betrayed by the first President Bush's, quote, 'hasty withdrawal from the battlefield.'"

2) Bush's promise of more tax cuts remembered by one network reporter, though in the context of how Bush is using the war to obscure economic trouble. NBC's Campbell Brown recalled how "last month, when the country was focused on the corporate scandals, the President hosted an economic forum in Texas and days later said he'd be introducing new initiatives in early September, like higher contributions to 401-k plans and lower taxes on profits from stock sales."

3) ABC and CBS championed the "landmark" new law in California which imposes a tax on employees to fund a mandate on employers to pay their workers when they don't work. Peter Jennings celebrated: "A groundbreaking plan for family leave. For the first time, fathers as well as mothers will be able to stay home with a newborn baby and be paid for it." ABC's Judy Muller lamented how "the United States is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn't offer workers paid family leave" but, she trumpeted, "proponents hope the California example will lead the way."

4) Adding the winner of the FX cable network's American Candidate reality series to the real presidential debates in 2004 would give the debates "some legitimacy," Lisa Ling seriously contended Monday on ABC's daytime show created by Barbara Walters, The View. Joy Behar demanded that half the contestants be women since "the system" means women are "shut out" of the political process.

5) TMI: Too Much Information? USA Today founder Al Neuharth devoted his weekly USA Today column on Friday to how he needs to buy diapers for himself.

6) The real-life battle against terrorism is at the center of tonight's season premiere of JAG on CBS.


1

ABC, CBS and NBC all ran short items Monday night on Al Gore's speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco denouncing President Bush's policy toward Iraq, but CBS's Dan Rather went another step in order to make Gore seem more credible. Rather added: "Gore has always supported overthrowing Saddam and was among the few Senate Democrats who voted for the 1991 Gulf War resolution. After that war, Gore said he felt betrayed by the first President Bush's, quote, 'hasty withdrawal from the battlefield.'"

     NBC's Tom Brokaw, in contrast, followed a Gore soundbite with the White House's dismissal: "The White House responded to Gore's remarks by calling him irrelevant and out of step with his party."

     The three September 23 stories in full:

     -- Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight: "In San Francisco today there was pretty strong criticism of the Bush administration from the former Vice President Al Gore. Mr. Gore told an audience that the administration's campaign against Saddam Hussein would damage the U.S.'s ability to win the war against terrorism."

     -- Tom Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News: "It was Iraq, not the economy, that prompted former Vice President Al Gore to speak out today. Gore, who lost to the President two years ago, was harshly critical of the administration's strategy on Iraq in a speak in San Francisco today. Gore supported the war against Iraq in 1990, but he warned that a precipitous attack now could wreck the international coalition America needs to fight the war on terror, which is not finished."
     Gore: "Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another. We should remain focused on the war against terrorism."
     Brokaw: "The White House responded to Gore's remarks by calling him irrelevant and out of step with his party."

     -- Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News: "Former Vice President Al Gore delivered his first speech on the Iraq situation today in San Francisco, and he strongly questioned -- in fact, harshly criticized -- President Bush's push for a first strike war at this time. Gore said that after September 11th the U.S. had the world's support, but no more."
     Gore: "That has been squandered in a year's time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world, not primarily about what the terrorist networks are gonna do, but about what we're gonna do."
     Rather: "Gore said if other nations follow President Bush's lead in their relations with the world, quote, 'The rule of law will quickly be replaced by the reign of fear,' unquote. Gore has always supported overthrowing Saddam and was among the few Senate Democrats who voted for the 1991 Gulf War resolution. After that war, Gore said he felt betrayed by the first President Bush's, quote, 'hasty withdrawal from the battlefield.'"

     And just how easy is it to write TV news copy? Well, compare Rather's last two sentences to this paragraph I stumbled across on Yahoo! in the AP story on Gore's speech by Ian Stewart in San Francisco:
     "Gore always has supported overthrowing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and was one of the few Senate Democrats who voted in favor of the Gulf War resolution after Iraq attacked Kuwait. He said he felt betrayed by the first President George Bush's 'hasty withdrawal from the battlefield.'"

     I trust CBS News is a subscriber to AP.

     If Gore "has always supported overthrowing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein," shouldn't he be for it now? Isn't now part of "always"?

2

President Bush's promise of more tax cuts remembered by one network reporter, though in the context of how Bush is using the war to obscure economic trouble.

     Conservatives believe they way to revive the economy and help people to recover from stock market losses would be to increase the amount they are allowed to put into tax deferred retirement accounts and by reducing the taxes on dividends, which are taxed more than once. But with a liberal media more interested in rescinding Bush's already-passed tax cuts, there's little pressure on the White House or Congress to follow through on the ideas discussed during President Bush's economic summit it Waco last month.

     Ironically, given NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert's obsession with getting the tax cuts rescinded, it was one of his reporters who raised the subject of Bush's promise to offer more tax cuts. (For examples of Russert repeatedly pressing guests to agree that the already-passed tax cuts should be repealed, see these previous CyberAlerts and Media Reality Check: http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020923.asp#1
http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020904.asp#3 
http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020805.asp#1
http://archive.mrc.org/realitycheck/2002/fax20020730.asp)

     Prompted by another plummet in the Dow and Nasdaq, Monday's NBC's Nightly News led with how the economy is impacting President Bush. Reporter Campbell Brown relayed how Bush has made clear he is not satisfied with the current economy. With an on-screen graphic headed "Bush-Cheney First 20 Months," Brown reminded viewers of how since Bush came to office the Dow Jones has fallen 26 percent, unemployment has gone up from 4.2 percent to 5.7 percent with 1.6 million jobs lost and the federal budget has gone from a $281 billion surplus to a $157 billion deficit.

     After noting how a Republican pollster says the economy is being trumped by talk of war, Brown reported: "White House officials insist this is not political strategy. Yet last month, when the country was focused on the corporate scandals, the President hosted an economic forum in Texas and days later said he'd be introducing new initiatives in early September, like higher contributions to 401-k plans and lower taxes on profits from stock sales. So where do these proposals stand? White House officials say they're, quote, 'still under review' and fault Congress for not passing legislation already on the table." 
     Brown concluded: "While the subject may be Iraq now, analysts say that could change come mid-October. That's when many people receive their third quarter reports on the status of their retirement plans and will likely have to face more bleak news."

     But I bet that few in the media will then push Bush to follow through on his tax cutting-based policy initiatives.

3

"A groundbreaking plan for family leave. For the first time, fathers as well as mothers will be able to stay home with a newborn baby and be paid for it," Peter Jennings teased at the top of Monday's World News Tonight as he celebrated a new California law which imposes a tax on employees to fund a mandate on employers to pay their workers when they don't work.

     ABC and CBS focused on victims, who were unable to care for a family member. CBS's Sandra Hughes regretted: "It will be the first of its kind nationwide, but California's paid family leave law comes too late for Jeff and Patricia Norvet."

    Both networks championed the expansion of government regulation over business in order to solve the supposed problem, giving only token time to any detractors. "A landmark law for families," ABC's Elizabeth Vargas declared before Judy Muller lamented how "the United States is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn't offer workers paid family leave. The federal government has enacted unpaid leave, but that doesn't really help families who have no way to pay the bills....Proponents hope the California example will lead the way."
Judy Muller
ABC championed California's family leave mandate as Judy Muller lamented how the U.S. "is one of the few industrialized nations" without it

      For the September 23 World News Tonight, Peter Jennings anchored from Boston, turning most of the show over to Elizabeth Vargas in New York. She plugged the upcoming family leave story:
     "When we come back, the new report that warns about the state of the country's national parks. Some of them are in danger. And the first law that allows working parents to take time off with pay to care for a family member. We'll take a closer look."
     Man: "I don't care who you are. If you have any type of family -- wife, kid, father, mother -- you're gonna face these types of situations."

     Before another ad break, Vargas trumpeted: "When we come back, a chance for fathers to take care of the children and get paid for it. We'll take A Closer Look."

     Vargas introduced the eventual story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: 
     "We're going to take 'A Closer Look' tonight at a landmark law for families. In California today Governor Gray Davis signed the first legislation which allows workers time off to take care of a newborn child or family member who was sick while still getting at least some pay. Many businesses say the law is an unfair burden. Those who support the legislation see it as a model for the nation. Here's ABC's Judy Muller."

     Muller began with a tale of woe: "Vincent Constantino's wife Lynette recently had spinal surgery and was confined to bed for weeks. He had to take time off from his job as a bus driver to care for her."
     Vincent Constantino: "It's a double whammy, having to take care of the wife and the kid. Then there's also the loss of income."
     Muller: "The legislation signed today is aimed at solving that problem."
     Governor Gray Davis (D-CA): "This will make it easier for Californians to help a loved one get through a difficult medical time without going broke in the process."
     Muller heralded: "The bill allows workers to take six weeks off to care for a newborn or a newly-adopted baby or a sick family member. During that time, they are paid 55 percent of their wages. The program is funded through payroll deductions averaging $26 per worker per year."
     State Senator Sheila Kuehl, sponsor of California's family leave bill: "I think most working people would say this is one of the best deals around. I mean, you can't get a better bang for the buck."
     Muller finally gave a few seconds to the other side: "Even though employers are not paying for the program, the business community has fiercely opposed it because training replacement workers, especially skilled labor, can be costly."
     Bill Nelson, shop owner: "The meat of this issue is that it's going to put California small business at a competitive disadvantage to businesses in other states."
     Muller countered: "But advocates say employers have cried wolf in the past."
     Judith Lichtman, National Partnership for Women and Families: "They were opposed to Social Security, they're opposed to the minimum wage, and they always decry and assume horrible things are going to happen to the nation and then they never do."

     Without allowing anyone from business to react to that claim, Muller proceeded to lament how the U.S. is out of step with France: "The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn't offer workers paid family leave. The federal government has enacted unpaid leave, but that doesn't really help families who have no way to pay the bills. As of now, 28 states are considering some form of family leave legislation. Proponents hope the California example will lead the way."
     Constantino: "I don't care who you are. If you have any type of family -- wife, kid, father, mother -- you're gonna face these types of situations."
     Muller concluded: "The program will take effect in 2004. Judy Muller, ABC News, Los Angeles."

     The Vargas intro and Muller story consumed 2:25. Total time for those opposed to the expansion of government control over people's lives: 20 seconds.

     Muller stressed how "the program is funded through payroll deductions averaging $26 per worker per year," but as Los Angeles Times reporter Greg Jones noted in a September 23 story, for those eligible, which are "only workers who pay into the state disability insurance system," payroll deductions with the new tax will "range up to $70 a year for people earning more than $72,000 a year."

     So another tax paid by many to benefit a few. And with only 55 percent of salary covered, how long do you think it will be before the tax is raised in order to fund more pay outs to the non-working?

     For the LA Times story on the regulatory scheme:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-family23sep23004434(0,3128369).
story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia

     As for Muller, her politics are on the left. The Web site for the left-wing Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting features her endorsement of their efforts to counter "the myriad of media critics on the far right." I guess she means the MRC. Muller's quote in full with ellipses as they appear on the FAIR page:
     "I believe the work of FAIR is, indeed, extremely fair. Not only is the work of this fine organization well-researched and articulated, but it is necessary. I say this as an ABC correspondent (based in Los Angeles for 'World News Tonight' and 'Nightline') whose network is often skewered by this organization. Often (too often!) I agree with their criticism. 
     "Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting stands alone in countering the myriad media critics on the far right....Now and then, their criticisms are on target, as well, but I strongly believe we need a counterbalance. FAIR provides that."
     "-- Judy Muller"

     For this page: http://www.fair.org/endorsements.html

     Back to Monday night, the CBS Evening News delivered a less impassioned, but still slanted, story about the "landmark law." Dan Rather set it up: "Many states are considering it, but California today did it -- enacted a landmark law that requires paid -- paid -- family leave for workers. CBS's Sandra Hughes has more about the impact this could have at home and for business."

     Like ABC's Muller, Hughes began with victims: "It will be the first of its kind nationwide, but California's paid family leave law comes too late for Jeff and Patricia Norvet."
     Jeff Norvet: "She told me she couldn't breathe, and so I just called 911."
     Hughes: "The couple's life fell apart after Patricia had a life-threatening illness."
     Norvet: "I just remember driving behind that ambulance on the way Los Robles (sp?) Medical Center thinking, okay, well, my life just changed a whole lot."
     Hughes: "And it did. Jeff had to stop working while he took care of Patricia. The bills started to mount and they lost their home. That's just what California's new family leave law is aimed at preventing. It's a model program that allows employees of any sized company to be paid for six weeks while caring for a new child, adopted child, or sick family member. While California is the first, 27 other states have similar programs in the works.
     "Supporters contend the entire program can be paid for by a monthly contribution of no more than six dollars per employee to a state workers compensation fund. The payout would be limited to a maximum of $728 a week. This idea goes beyond the federal medical leave act which only provides unpaid leave to people who work for companies with 50 or more people. But small business owners like Nita Casar, who owns West Hollywood Picture Framing and employs only three people, says losing just one could be devastating."
     Nita Casar, small business owner: "We can't, we couldn't do that. We wouldn't survive. That's what is so scary about it."
     Hughes concluded: "Casar isn't opposed to the idea of paid family leave but worries the reality could put her out of business. Sandra Hughes, CBS News, Los Angeles."

     So maybe it isn't such a great idea, but that's not a burden the networks want to pursue since it would mar their celebration of the expansion of government control over business.

4

Adding the winner of the FX cable network's American Candidate reality series to the real presidential debates in the fall of 2004 would give the debates "some legitimacy," Lisa Ling seriously contended Monday on ABC's daytime show created by Barbara Walters, The View.

     American Candidate is a show modeled after American Idol and Survivor which FX plans to debut in January 2004. The show's producer will pick 100 contestants who will then be featured in competitions each week with some voted off until the show is down to one candidate. Anyone who meets the requirements of the U.S. Constitution (U.S. citizen, 35 or older) and has 50 people sign a petition can apply to be one of the 100 contestants. The winner will be dubbed "The People's Candidate."

     But instead of dismissing the show as a cheesy reality show aimed at attracting people to a little-watched cable network that is part of the Murdoch empire, and which could not possibly produce a credible candidate, The View crew took it seriously as Joy Behar demanded that half the contestants be women since "the system" means women are "shut out" of the political process.

     The relevant portion of the discussion on the September 23 edition of The View:

     Former NBC News reporter Star Jones: "Would you want the person who is 'The People's Candidate' who won on FX to participate in the debates?"
     Lisa Ling: "Yeah. Why not? It's a two party monopoly in this country. Why not, you know, this would actually give it some legitimacy I think."
     Former Good Morning America contributor Joy Behar: "I want it to be 50-50 male-female too. That's one they definitely should make sure to do. If it's one hundred people, 50 should be women, 50 should be men."
     Former CBS News reporter Meredith Vieira: "Why?"
     Behar: "Why not. How about the women for a change. Well let's have 50 of each gender."
     Vieira: "Sure, if you've got 50 that are good, why not, but-" 
     Behar: "There will be, in this country of how many millions of people there are 50 women." 
     Jones: "We have not seen 50 percent women running for President."
     Behar: "Well, because of the system. It's the system. It violates the natural bent. I mean the women could be more in politics if they were not shut out."
     Vieira: "Then you go run."

     For a look at the cast of The View with pictures of them all and links to their bios: http://abc.abcnews.go.com/theview/hosts/hosts.html

5

TMI: Too Much Information. I deferred from getting near this item yesterday, but the more I think about it the odder the topic choice seems to me for USA Today founder Al Neuharth. He devoted his weekly USA Today column on Friday to how he needs to buy diapers for himself.

     USA Today headlined his September 20 column: "4-year-old truth-teller: 'Diapers are dad's!'"

     An excerpt:

Most little kids inherently are honest. In telling the total truth, they sometimes give away embarrassing adult secrets....

Our 4 -year-old Andre may have had the topper this week. It was his turn, among our six young ones, to go shopping at the supermarket with me. He helped unload the cart at checkout. As he put one big package on the counter, he announced loudly to the clerk and all nearby:

"Those diapers are my dad's! I don't wear diapers anymore."

Silence. Then snickers all around. A gracious clerk saved my day. Smiling at Andre and me, she said: "That's OK. Lots of grownups buy diapers nowadays."

Indeed they do. Curious about her reassurance, I did some research. Adult diapers are one of the fastest-growing sales items in supermarkets and drugstores....

It's not that so many more of us are experiencing "incontinence" problems. Just that we're doing something about it.

"Incontinence" generally means leaking urine....

When I travel, I've usually hidden a clean diaper or two at the bottom of my briefcase. Now that Andre has "outed" me, I can stop playing hideaway and keep one handy in my pocket.

     END of Excerpt

     The entire column is online at:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/columnist/neuharth/2002-09-19-
neuharth_x.htm

     Yes, no need to hide your diaper once you've announced in a national newspaper how you must use one.

     I'm sure many must, but did Neuharth really have to share what should be such a private and personal matter?

6

The real-life battle against terrorism is again at the center of CBS's JAG, a drama revolving around members of the Navy's Judge Advocate Corps, when its new season of shows debuts tonight.

     The plot outline for the September 24 episode as listed on CBS's Web page for the show (http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jag/):
     "Harm, Mac and Sturgis unite aboard an aircraft carrier following their successful thwarting of a terrorist plot, only to receive word of Bud's accident. While they rush to the shipboard hospital, back at home, the Admiral breaks the news to Bud's wife, Harriet. Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Navy is accused of mishandling the terrorist threat by letting JAG officers lead the investigation and faces serious disciplinary action."

     JAG airs at 8pm EDT/PDT, 7pm CDT/MDT.

     JAG was a pro-military show before being pro-military became cool. -- Brent Baker

 


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