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October 20, 2000
Katie Wright (703) 683-5004, ext. 132

David Letterman Fails The Oprah Test
Letterman Asks Gore About “Moments of Joy” But Bush about Executions and Pollution

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     Last night, David Letterman flunked the Media Research Center's "Oprah Test" by failing to treat Al Gore and George W. Bush equally as guests on his program.

     On September 19, 2000 the Media Research Center (MRC) praised Oprah Winfrey for treating guests Al Gore and George W. Bush in the same manner, and suggested Dan Rather could take a lesson from the daytime talk show host when it comes to fairness.

     Today, MRC Chairman Brent Bozell lambasted CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman for asking last night's guest, George W. Bush, four times as many hostile questions as it did of Al Gore during his September 14 appearance on the show.

     On the highly-rated comedy show, both candidates were allowed to read "Top Ten" lists that left largely favorable impressions, were asked by host David Letterman about New York Times reporter Adam Clymer and about a current issue of the day. But the similarities ended there.

     During Al Gore's September 14 appearance, Letterman asked only one question about his record - and a softball at that: "From the first inauguration to this moment just give me one or two things that really, when they happened you went home and you said to yourself I'm so proud and happy to be doing what I'm doing. There must have been moments that filled you with great joy."

     In sharp contrast, during George W. Bush's October 19 appearance, Letterman asked four questions about the Bush record:

  1. Whether running for President while Governor "is some kind of breach of confidence between the candidate and the voters?"
  2. "...is there a circumstance that you can imagine...that might change your view of capital punishment?"
  3. "I heard something a few weeks ago coming out of your campaign and I just thought 'well this is not true, he's not really going to do that.' Talking about wilderness lands up in Alaska or Arctic Circle, you're going to take trucks up there and drill for oil.
  4. "Don't you have bad air pollution down in Texas?"

     These non-traditional venues for campaign appearances are increasingly high profile for the candidates and are becoming more important for voters seeking information. A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey found that 28% of the public and 47% of Americans under age 30 rely on late night comedy shows for campaign information.

     According to the MRC's Tim Graham: "If late-night comedians are going to play Meet the Press, they need to ask tough questions of both candidates or of neither. That's the test of fairness, and David Letterman flunked with flying colors."


Media Interviews
To schedule an interview with Mr. Bozell or MRC Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham contact Katie Wright at (703) 683-5004, ext. 132.



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