Russert & Williams Easy on Dems, Tough on Bush;
Condemning Elian Supporters
1) As debate moderator, Tim Russert hit Republicans from
the left, but his bias really came through in comparing the agenda of his
post-debate questions to Democrats Wednesday versus Republicans Thursday.
Brian Williams did not tag Democrats, but wondered if the GOP "is
viewed as too far to the right?"
2) When Alan Keyes noted how the Declaration of
Independence proclaims "all men are created equal," the reporter
from New Hampshire Public Television shouted: "And women!"
3) Of the broadcast evening shows, only CBS noted Gore
campaign manager Donna Brazile’s racist attack on Colin Powell. On Elian
Gonzalez, Peter Jennings talked about how Cuban-Americans want to keep him
"away from his father" instead of away from Castro.
4) CBS’s Eric Engberg highlighted a campaign finance
"reform" group’s look at donors to presidential hopefuls:
"Unlike outright bribery this cozying up to government officials is
both legal and pervasive."
5) Letterman’s "Top Ten Ways the White House is
Different Now That Hillary Has Moved Out."
>>> Now online, the MRC’s Special Report
by Geoffrey Dickens: "Outgunned: How The Network News Media Are
Spinning the Gun Control Debate." Key points in the study of ABC,
CBS, CNN and NBC from July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1999: Evening News Shows
Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 8 to 1; Morning News Shows Favored the
Anti-Gun Position by 13 to 1; News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Use
Anti-Gun Soundbites; News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Feature Anti-Gun
Guests; Pro-Gun Themes Were Barely Covered. To read the executive summary
and the full report, go to:
moderating Thursday night’s debate amongst Republican presidential
candidates in New Hampshire NBC’s Tim Russert was more aggressive in
demanding the participants respond to his points from the left than was
ABC’s Peter Jennings as moderator the night before in pressing the
Democrats about anything, never
mind from the right.
Thursday night to George W. Bush an exasperated
Russert brooded about how "even in the case of a prolonged world war
with the United States involved you would not consider raising
taxes?" He later told Bush that there are "fifteen million
atheists in this country, five million Jews, five million Muslims,
millions more Buddhists and Hindus, should they feel excluded from George
W. Bush because of his allegiance to Jesus." And demanded:
"Would you take an expression like ‘What would Jesus do?’ into
the Oval Office?"
Since different people moderated each night it’s
not possible to assess different approaches to each party by the same
moderator. Russert might have been just as tough on the Democrats had he
moderated that debate, but Russert and Brian Williams certainly did
display tremendous bias in the contrast in how they approached candidates
for each party during MSNBC’s post-debate shows.
After Wednesday night’s Democratic confab Tim
Russert simply stuck to asking Al Gore and Bill Bradley about style points
the other had made and how they felt Pentagon officials would feel about
their insistence on allowing gays to openly serve. But Thursday night he
argued with Bush about the size of his tax cut, again pushed Bush, as he
did during the debate, to say he’d drop the tax cut if bad times hit,
and again pressed Bush about his supposed religious intolerance. Russert
also insisted he’s "a registered independent."
Wednesday night, after Russert interviewed Vice
President Al Gore, anchor Brian Williams did not label Gore’s position
on gays in the military as too far left, and instead worried about how at
debates Gore’s title is dropped: "Does he think the office demands
more respect than ‘Al’?" But after Russert wrapped up his
interview Thursday night with Bush, Williams ruminated about the religious
talk during the debate, asking an analyst: "Do you think there are
concerns that this is viewed as too far to the right?"
(Each of the debates, sponsored by New Hampshire
Public Television, New England Cable News and The Union Leader, aired live
nationally from 7 to 8pm ET on MSNBC and C-SPAN. Afterward each night
MSNBC ran a one-hour analysis show from 8 to 9pm ET anchored by Brian
Williams with Tim Russert providing live interviews from the debate
Below are some examples of Tim Russert inserting
himself into Thursday’s Republican debate followed by examples of
contrasting types of questions posed by him afterward each night.
The January 6 Republican debate: John DiStaso of The
Union Leader posed the first question and he asked George W. Bush about
whether he would follow through on a tax cut if a recession hit. Not
satisfied with Bush’s answer that he would, Russert jumped in:
"Governor, so we’re clear, even in the case of a
prolonged world war with the United States involved you would not consider
Russert later engaged in this personal debate with
"Governor Bush, in the last debate when you talked
about Jesus being the most philosopher thinker that you respected, many
people applauded you, others said what role would religion have in the
Oval Office with George W. Bush. Fifteen million atheists in this country,
five million Jews, five million Muslims, millions more Buddhists and
Hindus. Should they feel excluded from George W. Bush because of his
allegiance to Jesus."
When Bush answered that it’s "my life, it’s
part of me," Russert came back: "Would you take an expression
like ‘What would Jesus do?’ into the Oval Office?"
Bush joked: "I would take an expression into the
Oval Office of ‘Dear God help me.’"
Russert pressed ahead with his intolerance theme:
"In 1993 you suggested that unless you accepted Jesus Christ as your
Lord and savior, you couldn’t go to heaven."
Bush insisted all he said was that his religion says
you must accept Christ go to heaven and God decides who goes, not him.
Russert demanded: "Even non-Christians?"
Now to the contrasting post-debate shows on MSNBC.
First, Russert’s questions Thursday night to John McCain and George W.
To John McCain:
-- "David Bloom was reporting earlier that it’s
unusual that the challenger in a Republican race, like you, is criticizing
the frontrunner for having too big a tax cut. Do you believe you can win a
Republican primary in New Hampshire by advocating a smaller tax cut?"
-- "You’ve been under the gun the last couple
days, in the spotlight, because a contributor to your campaign went to the
FCC, got a favorable decision, you urged the FCC to make a decision. You
canceled a fundraiser with the same gentleman, Mr. Paxson, Friday. The
appearance of Mr. Reformer being a pawn of special interest money, has it
hurt your campaign?"
-- To Cindy McCain: "Mrs. McCain, what’s it like
to see your husband in the klieg lights, taking a lot of hits for a
decision he made about helping out a contributor?"
-- "What would be your top priority as First
-- Back to John McCain: "Senator McCain, the
Democrats last night, as I mentioned, all said, both said they would not
appoint anyone to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military unless they
would support opening allowing gays to serve in the military. Will that be
a lethal issue against the Democrats in the fall?"
To George W. Bush:
-- "Governor, John McCain just said that his tax
cut is better than yours because it takes care of lower and middle class
people and that 60 percent, 60 percent of your tax cut goes to the ten
percent richest in the country."
-- Russert then engaged in this argument as he
insisted on making Bush’s tax cut seem as large as possible: "But
if you cut taxes $800 billion dollars."
Bush: "No, $483 billion."
Russert: "$800 over ten years."
Bush: "No, no, $483 billion over five years."
Russert: "$800 billion over ten years. And we hit
the tough times and there are no surpluses and Social Security and
Medicare go toward bankrupt, you can’t do everything. Why can’t you
tell people you have to make some tough choices? Plus you have a $5.7
trillion dollar debt. You can’t do it all."
-- Bush answered that taxes are now the highest ever
and Congress will spend the surplus, adding: "But you know as well as
I, even a good Democrat like you knows, in times of a recession."
Russert shot back: "Independent. Registered
Bush: "I know you are."
Russert lectured: "And the swing voters of this
state are independent, so be careful. You were coasting along to this
nomination to the view of many and you suddenly seemed to have hit a bump
here in New Hampshire. What happened?"
-- "If John McCain beats you in New Hampshire
would you be willing to debate him one on one?"
-- "Both Democrats last night on this stage said
they would insist that any Joint Chiefs of Staff appointees would be for
gays openly serving in the military. Is that an issue that will be used
against the Democrats in the fall?"
-- To Laura Bush: "What would be your top
priority as First Lady?"
-- Following a brief discussion about shielding
their teenage daughters from the campaign, Russert asked anchor Brian
Williams if he had a question. Williams delivered this one: "Is he
concerned at all about his answer to your question Tim tonight on
religion, the reliance on Christ as one figure, Christianity as one
religion above all, in this nation especially."
Russert relayed the question to Bush: "Brian asked
about the whole issue of Jesus Christ being introduced in the Republican
Party and into the country at-large. Is it an issue that you think could
hurt you in the general election where non-Christians begin to think
there’s something mysterious going on here?"
Bush explained that he was asked about my personal
faith, not the faith of others. He asserted: "It’s my foundation
and if it costs me votes to have answered the question that way, so be
To which Russert warned: "I think people watching,
some want to hear your God is Jesus Christ, they don’t have a God, or
they have Yahweh or they have Allah. They want to know it’s okay."
That ended the interview and so Williams turned to
guest analyst Laura Ingraham:
"Laura, interesting exchange and an interesting
single issue to take out of all of this. Both parties, when they go back
to the locker room after these debates and they realize that the
television audience isn’t just limited to their faithful. Of course
it’s Americans of both parties are free to watch this, part of the
process. The Democrats may have worries about the military topic last
night, gays in the military, is this a similar issue for the Republicans.
Do you think there are concerns that this is viewed as too far to the
Wednesday night, however, Williams never suggested
that gays in the military put the Democrats too far to the left. In fact,
through several guest segments, such as with spokesmen for Gore and
Bradley, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and a segment with Paul Begala and
Oliver North, Williams never raised the subject and when he asked Russert
what he considered the two most important highlights Russert had MSNBC
play exchanges about Bradley accusing Gore of living in a "Washington
bunker" and arguing over Gore’s gimmick of banning campaign ads.
But after finishing with Bush Thursday night Russert
wasn’t done with his effort to push the GOP away from religion, later
telling Gary Bauer:
"Every Republican debate seems to have discussion
about abortion, gay rights, Jesus Christ. Fairly or unfairly are you
concerned that many people in the country are watching that exchange and
saying, ‘you know, that’s a little bit more about religion than it is
about politics and that concerns me.’?"
Bauer’s retort: "Well Tim, in all due fairness,
you guys brought those issues up."
Compare the loaded approach above, in which Russert
made Bush and Bauer respond to Liberal/Democratic agenda arguments, with
how Russert greeted the two Democrats in the 8pm ET hour on January 5:
To Bill Bradley:
-- "How would you size up the debate? What did you
try to accomplish and did you succeed?"
-- "When you talk about Vice President Gore in
‘the Washington bunker,’ that’s a very deliberate attempt to say
you’re Mr. Inside, I’m Mr. Outside."
-- "After any big game, big interview, big debate
your mind is swirling. What should I have said. Is there anything you wish
you had said you didn’t say?"
-- Brian Williams asked how long can the two candidates
keep the campaign "clean."
-- Instead of suggesting Bradley turned off anyone with
his extreme stand on gays in the military, Russert simply asked about
Pentagon reaction: "When both of you gentlemen said that the Joint
Chiefs of Staff would, in effect, have to go along with your policy on
allowing gays to serve openly in the military, what do you think the
reaction was at the Pentagon tonight?"
-- Russert then got as close as he ever did to
suggesting Bradley’s view was liberal, but he didn’t actually say it:
"In a general election, Democratic candidate Bradley, assuming he’s
the nominee, talking about gays in the military, talking about registering
and licensing guns, how’s that going to play in areas of the country,
particularly the South?"
To Al Gore:
-- "First of all, how is Tipper Gore, your
-- "Will she be back on the campaign trail
-- "The debate tonight: Senator Bradley made a
deliberate attempt to talk about Al Gore inside the Washington bunker, Al
Gore stayed too long, you too much. I said to Senator Bradley was this a
conscience attempt to say Al Gore’s the Insider you’re the Outsider,
he said ‘yes, of course.’"
-- "Are you concerned in a Democratic primary, as
he talks about national health care, registering and licensing guns, big
idealistic and noble goals, people see him as someone who’s an idealist
and you’re a more cautious politician."
-- "What do you think the reaction in the Pentagon
was tonight when both candidates for the Democratic nomination said they
would insist that the Joint Chiefs of Staff support their policy of gays
openly serving in the military?"
-- "Is the next step in terms of civil rights
toward gays allowing gay marriage?"
-- "Do you think this campaign will get negative?
Will there be negative television advertising saying ‘Bradley says this,
I say this, vote for me’?"
-- Brian Williams then posed this toughie: "At the
conclusion of this interview you will likely call him Mr. Vice President.
He gets called that all day long, except when he shows up at these debates
he is called Al. Does he chalk that up to tactics, does he think the
office demands more respect than ‘Al’?"
All style over substance with the liberal Democrats.
Russert didn’t ask McCain or Bush such softballs as "Is there
anything you wish you had said you didn’t say?" Despite Bradley and
Gore both advocating huge new and/or expanded health care entitlement
programs, Russert didn’t press either about whether they’d cancel
their plans in the face of war or a recession. And other than the vague
question to Bradley about reaction in the South, Russert did not paint
their gays in the military view as something which will offend many as he
did in pushing Bush to back off his comments about Jesus.
There’s another GOP debate tonight, Friday January
7, on MSNBC at 8pm ET from South Carolina. Brian Williams will serve as
is liberal everywhere, even in New Hampshire. In the middle of an answer
at Thursday’s Republican debate from Alan Keyes about how the
Declaration of Independence proclaims "all men are created
equal," the reporter from New Hampshire Public Television shouted:
About twenty minutes into the January 6 debate,
Jenny Attiyeh demanded of Keyes: "What does the term separation of
church and state mean to you?"
When he didn’t give the answer she wanted, she
followed-up: "Are you for or against the separation of church and
state? Are you willing to abide by it?"
Keyes replied: "You are trying to force me to
speak in terms that are not relevant to American life. The Declaration of
Independence states very clearly that the foundation of all our rights is
what? We do remember this right? All men are created equal and endowed by
Attiyeh jumped in, exclaiming over Keyes: "And
Keyes: "...with certain inalienable rights. Now
what does that mean? It means the source of our rights is the creator
flu outbreak topped the CBS and NBC evening shows Thursday night, with ABC
starting with the decline in tech stocks. The CBS Evening News provided
the only mention of Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile’s race-mongering
attack on Colin Powell and J.C. Watts, though CBS only mentioned Powell.
Only NBC Nightly News ran a full story on the McCain letter to the FCC
controversy, though CBS mentioned it in a larger story about Bush-McCain
jabs over tax policy. The controversy was also the focus of Wednesday
Items on ABC and CBS Thursday night, and NBC
Thursday morning, painted those opposed to the INS decision on Elian
Gonzalez as the unreasonable ones. CBS’s Byron Pitts warned "there
is fear" that the Cuban-American community’s interest "has
become a choke hold."
-- On the January 6 CBS Evening News Dan Rather read
this 44-second item about a subject not touched by ABC or NBC:
"An early and nasty dimension tonight in
presidential campaign 2000. CBS News has obtained a letter, written by
retired U.S. General Republican Colin Powell, to Vice President Al Gore.
In it Powell accuses Gore’s campaign manager, Donna Brazile, of quote,
‘playing the polarizing race card.’ This follows a Washington Times
story quoting the Gore campaign manager, who is African-American, as
saying among other things, and I quote [text on screen]: ‘Republicans
bring out Colin Powell...because they have no program , no
policy...They’d rather take pictures with black children than feed
them.’ Tonight Vice President Gore responded with praise for General
Colin Powell. But Gore said the Republican Party quote ‘has no agenda
for African-Americans,’ unquote."
The full quote from Brazile, as cited by Greg Pierce
in his Washington Times "Inside Politics" column on January 5,
in recounting what she told Paul Alexander of Bloomberg.com:
"‘We now discuss race in terms of how to give
people the opportunity of all Americans,’ she said. ‘On the other
hand, the Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts because they
have no program, no policy. They play that game because they have no other
game. They have no love and no joy. They’d rather take pictures with
black children than feed them.’"
-- Elian Gonzalez. Introducing a January 6 story on
protests in Miami over the INS decision to return him to Cuba, World News
Tonight anchor Peter Jennings said Cuban-Americans want to keep him from
his father, instead of saying they want to keep him from Fidel Castro’s
"In Miami today, Cuban-American street power.
Limited but calculated. There are some Cuban-Americans who will not give
up their fight to keep the six-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez in the
United States and away from his father in Cuba."
Over on the CBS Evening News, reporter Byron Pitts
concluded his story by putting the burden for harming Gonzalez on those
who wish for him to stay in Florida: "Six weeks ago this community
embraced a boy who had watched his mother die at sea. Tonight there is
fear that embrace has become a choke hold."
Thursday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey
Dickens noticed, co-host Matt Lauer countered any fears that Gonzalez
would suffer in any way in Cuba. He asked Spencer Eig, lawyer for
Gonzalez’s Florida family: "Do you claim that if Elian returns to
Cuba that he will be persecuted?"
Eig replied: "Absolutely. He'll be horrifyingly
persecuted. He'll be told that his mother, who gave her life so he could
find freedom, was a traitor to the homeland and a criminal. And he'll be
paraded around the country as a trophy by Fidel Castro, of Fidel's victory
over the United States. What horrifying psychological torture that is to
be used as a symbol by the very dictator who drove his own mother to her
Lauer rebutted: "But it appears from everything
we've seen in the tapes coming from Cuba, and again we don't know how much
has been orchestrated by the government, that he will be received with
open arms, that he will be returned as a hero."
Lauer later argued that the family was spoiling and
misleading the kid with trips to Disney World: "You know we've talked
a lot about the life he would have here versus the life he could have in
Cuba. Has he really been living any kind of a normal life in this country?
After all he's been to parties, he's been showered with gifts, he's been
to Disney World. How normal a life is that?"
A lot more "normal" for someone living in
the United States than for someone living
night the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News ran full stories on
Hillary Clinton moving into her house in the Chappaqua area of the town of
New Castle, New York. The CBS Evening News picked up on a report by a
pro-finance reform group about ties between corporate donations and
actions of candidates.
Eric Engberg portrayed the top four candidates as
all equally guilty of something bad. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brian
Boyd, Engberg began: "Whatever they say now, all four frontrunners
for the presidency got this far the old fashioned way: Squeezing big money
from rich special interest groups. The financial histories of Gore,
Bradley, Bush, and McCain, as researched by the nonpartisan Center for
Public Integrity, show how big money interests invest in politicians'
whole careers. Unlike outright bribery this cozying up to government
officials is both legal and pervasive."
Engberg ran through the ties of each candidate:
"Gore's fundraising exploits make him Mr. Insider.
Over his career, lobbyists and insiders have financed his campaigns, led
by Ernst & Young, accountant to corporate giants. And when Gore pushes
for computers in every school and no taxes on Internet business, it makes
his Silicon Valley pals happy. They've given $88,000 to him in just two
years. Bradley's history shows him to be Mr. Wall Street. He's gotten more
than a million dollars from investment companies. In the Senate he backed
many investor friendly tax measures, always claiming contributions had no
affect on him.
"On the Republican side, Bush could be called,
with a Texas twang, ‘The Bidness Guv.’ His top career backers have
included oil and gas companies like Enron and Sanchez and law firms like
Vinson & Elkins with many big business clients. Policies friendly to
these interests like making compliance with the clean air standards
voluntary and not mandatory have had Bush's support. Only one of the
frontrunners, McCain, admits he's ever been influenced by
Engberg concluded: "And the new book [by the
group’s Charles Lewis] shows his money history is typical of a chairman
of a powerful Senate committee. It's loaded with phone companies like U.S.
West and BellSouth and entertainment giants like Viacom. All with
important business pending before McCain's Commerce Committee. What comes
through for all these frontrunners is that politics is a world where
despite past reforms money talks as loudly as ever."
the January 5 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways the
White House is Different Now That Hillary Has Moved Out." Copyright
2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. President no longer sleeping alone
9. Faucets in master bedroom now dispense scented massage oil and gravy.
8. Forget dress down Friday -- now all-nude Friday and pantsless Monday
7. Volumes of Hillary fan mail redirected to new house.
6. Hillary no longer writing volumes of fan mail to herself.
5. No Pressure to cuddle.
4. Token male intern transferred out.
3. Oval office covered with "Vote Giuliani" posters.
2. Women's soccer team no longer has to win World Cup to spend night at
1. Menorah taken off living room mantle.
And, from the Late Show Web site, some of "the
extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten."
-- Bill has to get used to not sleeping alone.
-- Overdue Copy of "Carpetbagger's Guide to New York" returned
-- For first time in years, there's sexual activity in the Clintons' bed.
-- Chelsea's "Aunt Ginger" has started sleeping over again.
To read the latest Top Ten list and see a comedy
clip from the previous night’s show, go to: http://marketing.cbs.com/lateshow/
For the Top Ten list archive going back to 1993, go to: