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The 1,962nd CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
11:10am EDT, Thursday April 28, 2005 (Vol. Ten; No. 75)

 
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1. CBS & NBC Trumpet "Setback" for DeLay, Things "Worse" for Hammer
CBS and NBC seemed to delight Wednesday night in Tom DeLay's troubles, treating the House GOP's decision to change House ethics committee rules back to what they were before House Democrats protested, as a setback for DeLay, when it will allow a probe of him to go forward which may well clear him and/or show how his practices were common amongst House members. Indeed, the night before, ABC's Brian Ross reported that members of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's "staff took 41 free trips over the last three years, 12 of them not properly disclosed in violation of House rules." Bob Schieffer teased Wednesday's CBS Evening News: "A real setback for embattled House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, as fellow Republicans set the stage to investigate him." Schieffer echoed Democratic talking points in asserting that "Democrats said" the previous changes "made it much harder to investigate DeLay." NBC anchor Brian Williams trumpeted how "the Republicans have given in, and this now means things may have gotten worse for the man they call the 'Hammer,' the former exterminator from Texas, Tom DeLay."

2. Recalling Goldwater, Olbermann Warns "Extremism" Will Doom GOP
Crocodile tears for the GOP from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann? After arguing that "it seems as if Republican leadership is not just shifting to the far right, but leaping there," on Wednesday's Countdown, Olbermann recalled Barry Goldwater's famous statement that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit if justice is no virtue," and then reminded viewers how "three and a half months after he made those remarks, Mr. Goldwater lost the presidential election to Lyndon Johnson by 23 percent of the popular vote." Olbermann contended that "extremism" is "isn't as much of a crowd pleaser as it inevitably first seems" and "now that lesson may have just begun" for the Bush White House. In a taped story, NBC reporter David Gregory then warned that "the White House appears out of step with Republican moderates" who have the power to determine the success of Bush's proposals.

3. WashPost Editors Defend Wording of Anti-GOP Poll on Filibuster
In a Wednesday online chat session, Washington Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz defended Washington Post/ABC News poll questions which CyberAlert and others argued had wording which inevitably led to the finding that an overwhelming majority oppose blocking Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees when other polls have found the opposite. "Filibuster Rule Change Opposed," declared the April 26 Washington Post lead front page headline even though the questions did not mention filibusters. Abramowitz maintained that the Post's polling chief, Rich Morin, "is scrupulously fair." Abramowitz asserted: "I thought the questions in this case were fine." Morin defended himself: "I believe the question does not plant biases that would unfairly favor Democrats or disadvantage Bush or the Republicans."

4. On Florida Self-Defense Law: "Wild West" and "License to Kill"
A new Florida law simply allows citizens to "meet force with force" if they "reasonably believe it is necessary to do so to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm." But on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the self-defense law prompted the networks to fire off ridiculously-exaggerated cliches. With "Wild West?" on screen, Good Morning America's Jeffrey Kofman asserted that "critics of the new law say it is going to turn Florida into a tropical version of the Wild West. They warn that if someone punches you in Florida, you will now have the right to shoot and kill them." Earlier, Diane Sawyer asked whether "if someone shoves you, that legally you can turn a gun on them?" She too wanted to know: "Is it turning Florida into the Wild West?" Over on CNN's American Morning, Bill Hemmer referred to the "shoot first, ask questions later" bill as a big on-screen graphic announced: "Florida's €˜Shoot First' Law." With "License to Kill?" on screen, the night before Aaron Brown had framed the story: "Is it a law promoting self-defense or a license to kill?" CBS's Bob Schieffer fretted that if during a backyard argument with a neighbor "I have a feeling that he's getting ready to shoot me," I can "pull out a gun and shoot him. And that's OK under this law?"

5. CBS Reporter Sells "Never Used!" CBS News Standards at Yard Sale
Holding his own yard sale for a 60 Minutes/Wednesday piece on yard sales, Steve Hartman put out "some boring personnel manuals," including a "CBS News Standards" booklet, which he assured a potential buyer, was a book that's "never been used." The camera zoomed in on handwriting on a post-it note slapped on it: "Never used!" and below that, "$.50."


 

CBS & NBC Trumpet "Setback" for DeLay,
Things "Worse" for Hammer

     CBS and NBC seemed to delight Wednesday night in Tom DeLay's troubles, treating the House GOP's decision to change House ethics committee rules back to what they were before House Democrats protested, as a setback for DeLay, when it will allow a probe of him to go forward which may well clear him and/or show how his practices were common amongst House members. Indeed, the night before, ABC's Brian Ross reported that members of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's "staff took 41 free trips over the last three years, 12 of them not properly disclosed in violation of House rules." Bob Schieffer teased Wednesday's CBS Evening News: "A real setback for embattled House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, as fellow Republicans set the stage to investigate him." Schieffer echoed Democratic talking points in asserting that "Democrats said" the previous changes "made it much harder to investigate DeLay." NBC anchor Brian Williams trumpeted how "the Republicans have given in, and this now means things may have gotten worse for the man they call the 'Hammer,' the former exterminator from Texas, Tom DeLay."

     ABC's World News Tonight on Wednesday limited coverage to a brief item read by anchor Charles Gibson.

     Schieffer teased the lead on the April 27 CBS Evening News: "Good evening. I'm Bob Schieffer. A real setback for embattled House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, as fellow Republicans set the stage to investigate him. We start there, then we'll have these stories."

     Schieffer opened his April 27 newscast, as the MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the close-captioning against the video:
     "After the House ethics committee admonished Republican Leader Tom DeLay three times on ethics matters involving his financial relationship with lobbyists, his Republican colleagues dismissed the committee chairman and changed the committee rules, changes that Democrats said made it much harder to investigate DeLay. Well, today, after a lot of criticism, the House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, reversed himself and said he's willing to go back to the old way of doing things, which clears the way for an investigation of DeLay. Here's Gloria Borger now at the Capitol. Gloria?

     Gloria Borger: "This is something you don't see very often on Capitol Hill: A full reversal by the House Republican leadership in order to investigate one of its own. For House Speaker Dennis Hastert, it was a stunning moment."
     Dennis Hastert, House Speaker: "I'm willing to step back."
     Borger: "A total about-face from his earlier proposal that would have made it tougher to investigate House members for ethics violations."
     Hastert: "I think that there's a member, especially on our side, that needs to have the process move forward so he can clear his name."
     Borger: "That name is Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader. He's been under fire for months about possible campaign finance irregularities and whether lobbyists improperly paid for his travel."
     Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, walking in hallway: "You guys better get out of my way."
     Borger: "Today's action clears the way for the House Ethics Committee to open its own investigation, something DeLay says he welcomes. Quote, 'We will give them everything we have, and we will ask the Ethics Committee to look at it and make a judgment.' DeLay says he has done nothing wrong."
     DeLay in audio from the Tony Snow Show last week: "I have broken no laws. I have broken no House rules even under the serious scrutiny that they've put on me."
     Borger: "House Republicans pushed for today's action because they worry that DeLay has become a distraction from their agenda, and his problems a gift to the Democrats."
     Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY): "-that should have an opportunity now to see whether the accusations have any validity, and we'll find out now exactly what Mr. Delay has been up to."
     Borger: "And now that the ethics committee is back in business, Bob, the Republicans are warning the Democrats that they're fair game, too."
     Schieffer asked Borger: "So why do you think they did this, Gloria? Was he just becoming too much of a load for the other members to have to defend and carry?"
     Borger: "I think privately what members are telling me, Republicans are saying this was a PR disaster for them, Bob. One member said to me, 'In our effort to be fair to Tom DeLay, we weren't very smart about ourselves,' and they've decided this was getting in the way of everything else they want to talk about, and they had to just send it to the ethics committee."

     Brian Williams teased the NBC Nightly News: "Ethics and Congress: An investigation of Tom DeLay is now likely. House Republicans back down in the fierce fight over ethics that was becoming a big political problem for their party."

     Williams opened his show: "Good evening. For months, the Democrats have been complaining that the Republicans in Congress changed the rules. The rules have to do with ethics and the committee of the same name that looks into charges against members of Congress. Well, tonight the Republicans have given in, and this now means things may have gotten worse for the man they call the 'Hammer,' the former exterminator from Texas, Tom DeLay. We begin tonight on Capitol Hill with NBC's Chip Reid. Chip, good evening."

     Reid checked in: "Good evening, Brian. The House of Representatives is expected to pave the way tonight for an ethics investigation of House Republican Leader Tom DeLay. It was a dramatic step by House Republicans. Democrats called it a full retreat."
     Dennis Hastert, House Speaker: "I'm willing to step back."
     Reid: "Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert agreeing to Democratic demands to end a long running standoff over the House Ethics Committee."
     Hastert: "I think that there's a member especially on our side that needs to have the process move forward so he can clear his name."
     Reid: "His name is Tom DeLay, House Republican Leader. For months, allegations have swirled around him about who paid for some of his foreign travel and his ties to lobbyists who are under federal investigation -- a man so important to his party, Democrats say, that the Republicans changed the rules of the ethics committee to protect him. Under the traditional rule, if the ethics committee's five Republicans and five Democrats deadlocked on whether to begin an investigation, it would automatically go forward. But in January, the Republicans changed the rule to require a majority vote, which meant at least one Republican would have had to cross party lines for an ethics investigation to proceed. Democrats say no Republican on the committee would do that, thereby shielding DeLay from investigation. Today, after Republicans agreed to return to the traditional rule, Democrats accused them of caving only because of the political repercussions."
     Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): "We're here because this leadership got caught with its hand in the cookie jar."
     Reid: "But today DeLay told reporters he now favors going back to the traditional rule and looks forward to a 'fair process' that will give him the 'opportunity to set the record straight.' Some Democrats caution this is only step one in breaking the ethics log jam, that the committee must also get back to its tradition of using nonpartisan staff members. But both sides seem confident the committee will soon be back at work, giving Tom DeLay every opportunity to tell his side of the story. Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol."

     On Tuesday night, ABC's World News Tonight looked at how the misdeeds DeLay is accused of may be commonplace in the House. Anchor Charles Gibson set up the April 26 piece: "In Washington, there was a study released today on a subject that members of Congress would rather not discuss -- the trips they take. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been tangled in controversy over who has paid for trips he's taken. It is illegal for lobbyists to pay for trips. Anyone else can. But there's a fine line when it comes to companies or organizations with business before Congress sponsoring trips. But whoever pays, it seems, everyone's traveling. 600 members of Congress took 5,400 privately-financed trips since the year 2000. So here's our chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross."

     Ross explained over matching vide: "From the boulevards of Paris, to the beaches of Puerto Rico, members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats -- have taken more than $16 million in trips paid by private sources in the last five years. A frequent traveler king in terms of dollars spent, Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a Republican: $167,000."
     Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21: "Some of them serve a legitimate purpose. Too many of them are simply excuses for people to take vacation-type trips."
     Ross: "Among those whose trips are now being scrutinized, House ethics committee member Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Democrat from Ohio. According to House disclosure forms Jones filed after a free trip she took with her husband to Puerto Rico four years ago, a Washington lobbying firm paid the $3,300 bill, a violation of the House ethics rules. Late last week, Jones quietly changed her disclosure report, removing the name of the lobbying firm and replacing it with the lobbyist client, a nonprofit group in Puerto Rico. That made it legal. Congresswoman Jones called it a human error but refused to be interviewed. The Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, has described it as a Republican issue."
     Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader: "Mr. DeLay has proven himself to be ethically unfit to lead the party."
     Ross: "But documents obtained by ABC News reveal problems in Pelosi's office as well. Members of her staff took 41 free trips over the last three years, 12 of them not properly disclosed in violation of House rules."
     Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC): "The Democrats are engaged in the pot calling the kettle black. They call their own failure to disclose travel a mere oversight, but when Republicans do it, they call it an ethical scandal."
     Ross: "Congress changed its ethics rules for travel 10 years ago following a series of ABC News reports which found lobbyists and Congressmen partying together in Barbados and elsewhere. But reformers say more changes are needed now."
     Wertheimer: "Ethics rules were strengthened in the 1990s, but they left loopholes for travel. Those legal loopholes have been exploited."
     Ross: "At least seven members of Congress, or their staff, have recently amended their disclosure forms, including the office of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He remains the lightning rod on this issue. And, Charlie, tonight he and his staff are said to be going over every disclosure form they ever filed for any trip they ever took."

 

Recalling Goldwater, Olbermann Warns
"Extremism" Will Doom GOP

     Crocodile tears for the GOP from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann? After arguing that "it seems as if Republican leadership is not just shifting to the far right, but leaping there," on Wednesday's Countdown, Olbermann recalled Barry Goldwater's famous statement that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the pursuit if justice is no virtue," and then reminded viewers how "three and a half months after he made those remarks, Mr. Goldwater lost the presidential election to Lyndon Johnson by 23 percent of the popular vote." Olbermann contended that "extremism" is "isn't as much of a crowd pleaser as it inevitably first seems" and "now that lesson may have just begun" for the Bush White House. In a taped story, NBC reporter David Gregory then warned that "the White House appears out of step with Republican moderates" who have the power to determine the success of Bush's proposals.

     On the April 27 Countdown, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed, Olbermann proposed to Republican Congressman Christopher Shays:
     "There have been times in the last few months -- with Mr. Delay's pursuit of the Terri Schiavo legislation and just Sunday with Senator Frist's involvement with the religious broadcast €" where it seems as if Republican leadership is not just shifting to the far right, but leaping there. Is that your sense? Are you worried about the future of moderation in your own party?"

     A few minutes later, Olbermann set up a taped piece: "That question I asked Congressman Shays a little while ago was not something clever or new, the one about moderation in the Republican Party. It was the man he invoked, Barry Goldwater, who famously said that 'extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,' and a moment later added, 'moderation in the pursuit if justice is no virtue.' Colorful and enduring words. Not as frequently remembered: that three and a half months after he made those remarks, Mr. Goldwater lost the presidential election to Lyndon Johnson by 23 percent of the popular vote, by 38 states, and by a margin of 431 electoral votes. He was 'George McGovern' before George McGovern was 'George McGovern.' It seems as if every generation, one or both parties learns that while extremism in the defense of liberty may not be a vice, it also isn't as much of a crowd pleaser as it inevitably first seems. As our White House correspondent, David Gregory, reports, now that lesson may have just begun for the current occupants there."

     Gregory began his story, which had also aired on the NBC Nightly News a bit earlier in the night: "As the President is learning, the hard part about second-term politics is not your enemies but your friends. And lately it's moderate Republicans giving the President the hardest time. New Hampshire Republican Charlie Bass:"
     Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH): "I think the Republicans are more polarized than they ever have been."
     Gregory: "From the fight over Social Security to the battle over John Bolton's nomination to the U.N. to the prospect of ending filibusters for judicial nominees and the GOP-led drive to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, the White House appears out of step with Republican moderates. Marshall Whitman once worked for Republican Senator John McCain and is now a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council."
     Marshall Whitman, Democratic Leadership Council: "Many of the moderates feel that the party has moved too far to the right and that the conservatives have too much influence within the high councils of the party."
     Gregory: "Mr. Bush's first term was marked by unprecedented party unity because of 9/11 and the party's determination to retain the White House. Now some liberal analysts argue moderates facing their own reelection are hearing concerns from their constituents."
     E.J. Dionne, identified on-screen as with the Brookings Institution, but who is also a former New York Times and Washington Post reporter who now pens a column for the Post: "They see these arguments about what they see as, kind of, as weirdly ideological issues, and they ask, 'Why is Washington obsessed with these things and not the things that I care about?'"
     Gregory: "For the President, the consequences of these Republican defections are serious. On issues like Social Security, where there is unanimous Democratic opposition, Republican moderates hold the balance of power."
     Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME): "The Republicans in Congress want to assist the President. We might not agree with him on every issue, but by forging compromises we can help him advance his agenda."
     Frank Luntz, Republican consultant: "If the rhetoric were a little bit less heated, if there were a little bit less anger articulated, in some ways, by the Republican leadership-"
     Gregory concluded: "Such friction is nothing new in a second term. Indeed, President Clinton went through the same thing. Still, if it keeps going on this way, all of the political capital Mr. Bush talked about after his reelection may have to give way to compromise. David Gregory, NBC News, the White House."

 

WashPost Editors Defend Wording of Anti-GOP
Poll on Filibuster

     In a Wednesday online chat session, Washington Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz defended Washington Post/ABC News poll questions which CyberAlert and others argued had wording which inevitably led to the finding that an overwhelming majority oppose blocking Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees when other polls have found the opposite. "Filibuster Rule Change Opposed," declared the April 26 Washington Post lead front page headline even though the questions did not mention filibusters. Abramowitz maintained that the Post's polling chief, Rich Morin, "is scrupulously fair." Abramowitz asserted: "I thought the questions in this case were fine." Morin defended himself: "I believe the question does not plant biases that would unfairly favor Democrats or disadvantage Bush or the Republicans."

     As the April 26 CyberAlert noted in reporting how the Post and ABC's World News Tonight touted the poll, which found 66 percent supposedly opposed to GOP efforts to end the Senate Democratic filibuster threat, the questions failed to point out the unprecedented use of a filibuster to block nominees who have majority support while they forwarded the Democratic talking point that "the Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush" and painted rules changes as an effort "to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees," not as a way to overcome Democratic obstructionism. For details, see: www.mediaresearch.org

     How the Washington Post/ABC News poll questions were formulated:

     -- "The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block these nominations?" Right: 48 percent; wrong: 36 percent.

     -- "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?" Support: 26 percent; oppose: 66 percent.

     The April 27 CyberAlert recounted: FNC's Brit Hume on Tuesday night pointed out how the wording of a Washington Post/ABC News poll led to its finding of overwhelming opposition to blocking Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees, an observation made in Tuesday's CyberAlert, and Hume noted how differently-worded polls led to opposite results. "If you doubt whether the framing of a poll question can influence the outcome," Hume asked, "consider this. When a Republican poll said quote, 'Even if they disagree with a judge, Senate Democrats should at least allow he President's nominations to be voted on,' 81 percent said they agreed." In addition, a Rasmussen survey found that when asked "should the Senate rules should be changed so that a vote must be taken on every person that the President nominates to become a judge?", 56 percent responded affirmatively. See: www.mediaresearch.org

     The first question to Abramowitz in the April 27 "Ask the Post" session:
     "Washington, D.C.: You chose a very badly worded poll question to highlight as a front page headline yesterday. Why in the world would you do this? Everyone makes mistakes in designing polls, but it should be your job as editor to ensure that polls are interpreted correctly. Giving so much play to an obviously misleading poll result suggests that you are more interested in creating catchy" [posting cuts off]
    
     Michael Abramowitz answered: "I am getting a number of questions about our poll yesterday, which indicated substantial opposition to GOP efforts to end filibusters of judicial nominees in the Senate. Let me make a general point about our polling operation, which is run by Rich Morin, one of the best in the business. He is scrupulously fair, and he goes over these questions in depth with other editors and reporters. I thought the questions in this case were fine. We always get a lot of questions about our sampling. A few public polls regularly adjust their data to meet some fixed party ID targets, but most don't. Our pollsters believe the main problem with doing so: we just don't know what the 'right' distribution is, as there is no official national count of Republicans and Democrats.
     "Also I would like to quote Rich directly on the question of biased questions, which has come up a bit on blogs in the last day or two. Here is what he said: 'The debate over judicial selection currently raging is political and it is deeply partisan. It is a fact that Republicans are trying to change the filibuster rule to make it easier to get a vote on the contested Bush nominees -- that is the context of the current standoff. To omit that information about the partisan cast of the debate would bias the result by completely removing the issue from its context. Also, I believe the question does not plant biases that would unfairly favor Democrats or disadvantage Bush or the Republicans. Yes, the question does state the obvious by reminding Democrats about the partisan nature of the debate and what the immediately effect of making a change would be. But the language also would be expected, appropriately so, to cue Bush supporters, Republicans and religious conservatives in a positive way. The fact that the question attempts to sort out Democrats and Republicans, Bush supporters and Bush opponents, in a way consistent with their interests is an advantage, not a disadvantage.'"

     For the chat session in its entirety: www.washingtonpost.com

 

On Florida Self-Defense Law: "Wild West"
and "License to Kill"

     A new Florida law simply allows citizens to "meet force with force" if they "reasonably believe it is necessary to do so to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm." But on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the self-defense law prompted the networks to fire off ridiculously-exaggerated cliches. With "Wild West?" on screen, Good Morning America's Jeffrey Kofman asserted that "critics of the new law say it is going to turn Florida into a tropical version of the Wild West. They warn that if someone punches you in Florida, you will now have the right to shoot and kill them." Earlier, Diane Sawyer asked whether "if someone shoves you, that legally you can turn a gun on them?" She too wanted to know: "Is it turning Florida into the Wild West?" Over on CNN's American Morning, Bill Hemmer referred to the "shoot first, ask questions later" bill as a big on-screen graphic announced: "Florida's €˜Shoot First' Law." With "License to Kill?" on screen, the night before Aaron Brown had framed the story: "Is it a law promoting self-defense or a license to kill?"

     CBS's Jim Acosta commiserated with an opponent about how "dead men don't talk" and Bob Schieffer fretted that if during a backyard argument with a neighbor "I have a feeling that he's getting ready to shoot me," I can "pull out a gun and shoot him. And that's OK under this law?"

     On NewsNight, CNN's Brown pressed an NRA official about why instead of using force a crime victim shouldn't just get "the heck out of there" and run away?

     How the April 27 New York Times summarized the new law: "The measure codifies in state law what many courts have already ruled in Florida: that a citizen need not try to escape an intruder in his home or workplace before using deadly force in self-defense.
     "The measure also goes a step further, letting 'a person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be' use deadly force without first trying to flee."

     Complete rundowns of the stories quoted above, in time sequence:

     -- CBS Evening News, April 26. Anchor Bob Schieffer announced: "To another subject entirely now, the idea of using a gun in self-defense is fairly well-established across the country. But a new law today in Florida gives self-defense in that state a whole new meaning. Here's Jim Acosta now with that story."

     Acosta began: "In the gun control debate, it was a shot heard 'round the nation. Today, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed a law that broadens the rights of armed citizens to fire their weapons in self-defense. Before, Florida residents outside their homes had a so-called duty to retreat when confronted with the potential for violence. Now they can meet force with force."
     Governor Jeb Bush: "When there's a life-threatening situation, to have to retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position, you know, defies common sense."
     Andrew Cohen, CBS News legal analyst): It says to people, 'You can stand your ground, and if you feel reasonably threatened that harm is going to come to you, you can fire away."
     Acosta: "At the governor's side was the former president of the National Rifle Association. The gun lobby is aiming to rush the measure through state capitals, as it did so effectively with laws to allow people to carry concealed weapons."
     Ms. Marion Hammer, former NRA President: "It means that now the law and their government is on the side of law-abiding people and victims rather than on the side of criminals."
     Acosta: "Some in Miami's law enforcement community fear the law is 'shoot first, ask questions later' and could turn the state into the Wild West."
     Chief John Timoney, Miami Police Chief: "It gives somebody who has a gripe with his neighbor, right, all of a sudden a reason now to get even."
     Katie Phang, former prosecutor: "You could be on the street, you could be in your car-"
     Acosta touted his second opponent, versus the just one proponent he featured: "Former Miami prosecutor Katie Phang wonders how the legal system would sort out a bar fight that escalates into a firefight."
     Phang: "Who's going to start claiming self-defense? Who's going to start saying what was reasonable? What wasn't? There used to be a time when the jury would decide that, but now? Now it's going to be who has the better aim, in my opinion."
     Acosta chipped in: "Dead men don't talk."
     Phang: ""I guess not."
     Acosta: "This law shifts the gun control debate from owning firearms to when you can use them. The real key is that prosecutors have to presume innocence; that you were afraid if you pulled the trigger. Bob."

     Schieffer came up with a pretty weak concern given the law says you must have a "reasonable" concern for your life: "So I want to make sure we're reporting this story correctly here, Jim. I get in an argument with my neighbor across the fence in the back yard, and I have a feeling that he's getting ready to shoot me or something, so I pull out a gun and shoot him. And that's OK under this law?"
     Acosta: "That's about it. If you feel like your life is in jeopardy, what this law says is that you are presumed innocent if you pull the trigger and shoot this person in 'self-defense.' Now, of course, the state's attorney's office, the local prosecutor's office will have to take a look at this and find out if there's any evidence that says otherwise. But from the get-go, you are presumed innocent. Bob."
     A befuddled Schieffer remarked: "Okay. Well, that really changes things. There's no question about that."

    
    
-- CNN's NewsNight, April 26, as watched by the MRC's Ken Shepherd. Aaron Brown teased: "Just ahead on the program tonight, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signs a law redefining how Floridians can legally use a gun. Is it a law promoting self-defense or a license to kill?"

     With "License to Kill?" on screen, Brown introduced the subsequent story: "This story deals with the basics: fight or flight, protecting what's dear, deadly force. It also deals with the law, which is anything but simple. In some localities, you can shoot a burglar climbing in through a window, but not out, of the same window. In many but not all places you have a duty to retreat from danger if you can before pulling the trigger. In Florida today a new law went into effect that essentially means a person can open fire anywhere, any time he or she simply feels threatened. Simple and not so simple. Here's CNN's John Zarrella."

     In fact, the law will not go into effect until October 1.

     Zarrella began with an extreme example, contending those who knock on the wrong door could now be killed legally, when any homeowner who did so would be a moron unprotected by the law since it would not meet the "reasonable" test: "A year and a half ago, Greg Drewes lost his only son."
     John Drewes, victim's father: "That's him, that's Mark. That's about three weeks before it happened."
     Zarrella: "The man who shot and killed Mark Drewes said he was sorry."
     Jay Levins, defendant: "I want to apologize to the Drewes family for their loss and for the mistake I made that night. And every day I think about your son."
     Zarrella: "The night he died, Mark Drewes and some friends were playing door-knocking pranks. Jay Levens told police he was scared. He had heard sounds outside his door, thought it was a burglar. When he opened the door, Levens said he thought Drewes was armed and turning towards him. He shot Drewes in the back. Levens pleaded guilty to manslaughter. If the incident happened today there might have been no punishment for the man who shot Greg Drewes's son."
     Drewes: "It's a bad joke. It's an unbelievable, bad joke."
     Zarrella: "Under a new Florida law, the state attorney who handled the case says he might not have been able to file criminal charges."
     Barry Krischer, Palm Beach state's attorney: "It was my belief that it was as reasonable for him to have merely shut the door, rather than pull the trigger. Under this law, he has no obligation to shut the door. Under this law, he has a right to stand there and shoot."
     Zarrella pivoted to the other side: "The legislation, signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush, says any person can stand their ground, meet force with force, if he or she believes it's necessary to prevent death or bodily harm. There is no longer a duty to retreat, whether in your house, your car or on the street. Common sense, says the Governor."
     Governor Jeb Bush: "When there's a life-threatening situation, to have to retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position defies common sense."
     Zarrella: "The Florida legislature overwhelmingly supported the bill, which was backed by the National Rifle Association. It's the kind of law the NRA says will reduce crime rates."
     Marion Hammer, NRA lobbyist: "The law is constructed to give law-abiding people the right to protect themselves when they are attacked. I think the message to criminals is going to be -- you break into a home, you run the risk of being shot. You attack people on the street, you run the risk of being shot."
     Zarrella: "Greg Drewes fears some people will simply take advantage of it."
     Drewes: "If you shoot somebody in anger, what are you going to say? I did it -- I made a mistake. I wasn't in danger at all. Take me away? They're all going to lie. They're all going to say, I did it protecting myself. I was in definite fear of my life."
     Zarrella: "Some states already have similar measures. Critics say the laws give people the opportunity to use deadly force even when it isn't necessary. Supporters say law-abiding people can now protect themselves without fear of prosecution. John Zarrella, CNN, Boca Raton, Florida."

     Brown then quizzed NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre with these questions:

     # "Not to sound like the defense attorney cross-examining the witness here, but would you agree that, as a practical matter, people by and large, are not prosecuted in this country if someone breaks into their home and they don't flee, they shoot the person. That's not really -- that doesn't happen very often if at all?"

     # "Let's try and sort through where this gets -- at least to my mind -- a bit less black and white and a bit more gray. It's easy in a carjacking, or it's easy if someone breaks into your home with a gun or a knife. Now, those are easy calls. What's reasonable? Is it reasonable if kids are acting up ringing doorbells, running away, pounding on windows? Does that constitute a reasonable fear for your life?"
     LaPierre: "No, it doesn't. I mean, and the fact is that I think one thing we've learned over the years is, good people make reasonable judgments in situations. What this law simply does is give the crime victim the presumption of innocence. It advantages the crime victim and puts the criminal at a disadvantage."

     # "Good people make reasonably sound judgments, most of the time. But some of the time they don't. And it's that -- it's the 'some of the time' that I think we might disagree with or we need to talk about, what do you do in the 'some of the time,' when you look at a situation where force really isn't appropriate, and does the law go too far here in presuming a threat where none actually existed?"
     LaPierre: "In those crime situations, where a victim has to use force to save their life, the victim shall be given the presumption of innocence. And I think that's appropriate."

     # "Just two more questions. Anything just inherently distasteful to you about being in a situation and, rather than using force, just getting the heck out of there, just running, which is one way the law is generally applied. If you can avoid the violent situation, you should."
     LaPierre: "Well, what the bill says is, there's no legal duty to retreat if you're a crime victim. And, let me give you an example. Let's take a nurse walking home late at night that has a right-to-carry permit. Some criminal attacks her on the street with a knife. Now, going through her mind in a split second is, do I run? Can I run fast enough? Before he catches me and maybe stabs me? This law simply says if she has a firearm, if she uses it or some other object to defend herself, she has the presumption of innocence with her. Hopefully that will give criminals pause before they attack someone and protect a potential victim."


     -- CNN's American Morning, April 27. With "Florida's €˜Shoot First' Law" on a screen beside him, Bill Hemmer set up the same Zarrella piece: "Governor Jeb Bush has signed Florida's so-called €˜Shoot First, Ask Questions Later' gun bill. That measure allows Florida gun owners to use deadly force if they fear their own lives. Supporters say that law will help deter crime in the Sunshine State, but others say it allows police [meant "people"?] to get away with murder. Here's John Zarrella this morning."


     -- ABC's Good Morning America, April 27. Diane Sawyer teased up top: "Guns blazing this morning over a controversial new law in Florida, a gun law. Supporters say it gives people the right to meet force with force. Does that mean if someone shoves you, that legally you can turn a gun on them? We're going to tell you where critics and supporters say you draw the line. And is it turning Florida into the Wild West?"

     A bit later in the 7am half hour, as tracked by the MRC's Jessica Barnes, Sawyer set up a story: "We want to turn now to the other headline, the one that has the rhetorical guns blazing in Florida, the controversial new law just passed and signed by Governor Jeb Bush. The law goes into effect on October 1st and critics say it sounds like something out of a Clint Eastwood movie. It's known as the Stand Your Ground Bill, and ABC's Jeffrey Kofman is in Miami, he's got the latest. Good morning, Jeffrey."

     Kofman checked in: "Good morning, Diane. What was it Clint Eastwood said? 'Go ahead, make my day'? Well, Florida Governor Jeb Bush has done just that for gun owners here in Florida. It's going to be a lot easier to shoot and kill someone in the name of self-defense. There are half a million registered gun owners in this state. Now they no longer have to hesitate if they feel threatened, thanks to a new law pushed through the Florida legislature by lobbyists from the National Rifle Association."
     Wayne LaPierre: "What this does is it clearly says the citizen, there on the spot making a split-second decision, can do whatever that victim deems right, including deadly force, to save their life." Kofman: "The Florida measure says any person has the right to 'meet force with force,' including deadly force, 'if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.' It applies to any place a person has a right to be, including in your car, on the street, or at work. Under the old law, people had to feel trapped before responding with deadly force -- not anymore. Critics of the new law say it is going to turn Florida into a tropical version of the Wild West. They warn that if someone punches you in Florida, you will now have the right to shoot and kill them."
     Sarah Brady: "This law goes way too far. This is written so broadly that there are absolutely no consequences for somebody who just flew off the handle and made a mistake."
     Kofman: "Now, the NRA says that now the law has been passed in Florida, they will push to make it the law in every state in the nation."

 

CBS Reporter Sells "Never Used!" CBS
News Standards at Yard Sale

    Holding his own yard sale for a 60 Minutes/Wednesday piece on yard sales, Steve Hartman put out "some boring personnel manuals," including a "CBS News Standards" booklet, which he assured a potential buyer, was a book that's "never been used." The camera zoomed in on handwriting on a post-it note slapped on it: "Never used!" and below that, "$.50."


Click to enlarge

     Hartman, provides short, light-hearted stories at the end of the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes. For the April 27 program, he went to an unidentified suburban neighborhood of homes and showed himself browsing through the junk at some yard sales. He bought a golf club and an olive oil bottle.

     Hartman then recounted how that inspired him to hold his own yard sale: "Sellers say it's the next best thing to free money, and I wanted in on this action. So I decided to have my own yard sale [video of Hartman making sign]. I put up signs [video of Hartman putting sign on tree, "60 Minutes/Wednesday YARDSALE 10:00-2:00"], and almost immediately, strangers started peeking in the windows."
     Woman, looking in through garage window: "You're having a sale today, aren't you?"
     Hartman: "Yes, in an hour."
     Woman: "Okay, I'll come back."
     Hartman: "I never had stalkers before. This was exciting. The most overpriced item we have is this autographed picture [of himself]. Two dollars. There'll be some sucker. My yard sale consisted mostly of things I found lying around the office, like a box of macaroni and cheese from the '96 Republican convention [Kraft brand box with "Republicans in '96" printed on it], and some boring personnel manuals. [Video of Hartman pointing at booklet with "CBS News Standards" title running vertically up side, with handwriting on post-it note, "Never used! $.50," as he talked to a woman] 'CBS News Standards.' This is the standards we work by. That book's never been used.
     "Basically, nothing I could ever imagine anyone buying. [To man] Do you have any use for 25 yards of velcro? And yet, it sold. The velcro went to an art teacher. Somebody even bought the autograph. Really, the only thing I couldn't unload was that stupid bottle. [To woman and man] Try to squeeze that. You can't break it."
     Woman: "He's getting desperate now. Pay for your turkey and let's get out of here."
     Hartman concluded: "In total, I made $93. And I'm already working on my next sale."
     The CBSNews.com online version omitted the "never been used" comment on the standards manual: "My yard sale consisted mostly of things I found lying around the office, like a macaroni and cheese box from the '96 Republican Convention, props from old stories and some boring personnel manuals (CBS News Standards). Basically nothing I could ever imagine anyone buying." See: www.cbsnews.com

     For a picture and bio of Hartman: www.cbsnews.com

     An hour from the send time, check the posted version of this CyberAlert item for a still shot of the manual with the "Never Used!" post-it note on it.

     No word from Hartman on whether he sold the CBS News Standards manual to someone who might actually read it.

-- Brent Baker

 


 


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