"Nastier" & "Uglier" Thanks to Bush Push Polling; McCain "Not a Hypocrite"
1) ABC, CBS and NBC jumped on a charge from a woman about an
anti-McCain "push polling" call her son got. Blaming Bush, Dan
Rather grumbled that the campaign "just got a lot nastier." NBC’s
David Bloom stated the "race is getting uglier than anyone
2) ABC News, in alliance with Common Cause, countered Bush’s
charge that McCain is a hypocrite on fundraising. Barry Serafin argued that
"a campaign watchdog group...says McCain is not a hypocrite" and his
Web-raised donations are "the cleanest money."
3) More media admissions and explanations for the pro-McCain
bias. Steven Brill
relayed how reporters accept McCain since they don’t think he really
believes the conservative position he espouses.
4) Did Democrats support or oppose the effort to reduce the
marriage penalty? Depends if you believe ABC or NBC.
>>> Now online,
the February 8 edition of MagazineWatch about the February 14 editions of the
news weeklies. Topics covered in this edition compiled by MRC analyst Geoffrey
1. John McCain’s wooing of the press paid off in New Hampshire and in the
magazines. Newsweek praised McCain’s media politicking. U.S. News proclaimed
McCain’s victory shows Reaganism is "hopelessly outdated." Time
declared tax-cut politics are dead.
2. Newsweek published its delayed second excerpt of its own reporter Bill
Turque’s book, including testimony from Gore friends John Warnecke and Andy
Schlesinger that Gore’s post-Vietnam toking was more than "once or
3. Newsweek’s Debra Rosenberg claimed Hillary Clinton’s advocacy for
"the children" was "largely ignored by the press." But she
never mentioned the ‘activist’ role Hillary took in firing the White House
To read these items, go
getting two sources for a damaging allegation. Or even having any idea if the
charge is really accurate. Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all featured full
stories about John McCain’s indignation over "push polling" by the
Bush campaign -- based solely on the second-hand recitation by a mother about
a phone call her 14-year-old son supposedly received tagging McCain a
"fraud" and a "liar."
While all the stories included denials from the Bush
campaign that they made any such calls, by making the allegation the basis of
their campaign story of the night, only ABC ran a second story on another
subject (see item #2 below), the networks served the agenda of the McCain
campaign. Targeting Bush, Dan Rather intoned: "The
Republican presidential campaign has just got a lot nastier."
NBC’s David Bloom assumed the charge to be accurate,
calling it a "sign that this Republican race is getting uglier than
anyone imagined." CBS’s Bill Whitaker passed along two examples of what
he labeled "clearly misleading questions." One offered this actually
well within reason spin on McCain’s campaign finance regulation proposal:
"Do you agree with McCain’s plan to give more power to the media and
unions to pick the President?"
Here’s a rundown of how the broadcast networks on
Thursday night, February 10, covered the woman’s claims about a phone call
her son received.
-- ABC’s World News Tonight. Linda Douglass got right
to the soundbite of Donna Duren at a town hall meeting held by McCain:
"But he was so
upset when he came upstairs and he said ‘Mom, someone told me that Senator
McCain is a cheat and a liar and a fraud.’ And he was almost in tears. I’m
so mad, I was so livid last night I couldn’t sleep."
After playing a clip of
McCain claiming "What you just told me has had a very profound effect on
me," Douglass piled on: "It was a political windfall and campaign
aides made the most of it. Mrs. Duren said she had no idea who made the phone
call, but McCain pointed his finger at the Bush campaign."
McCain demanded that Bush "stop this now. He comes
from better family" and Douglass played a soundbite of Bush denying the
campaign made any such calls. Douglass concluded by noting that phone call
scripts provided by the Bush campaign don’t use the words like
"fraud" or "liar" and "there is no definitive proof
this call came from the Bush campaign, but nine days before the primary McCain
forced Bush to spend one more precious day on the defensive."
Thanks to the media making a standard campaign practice
into a major controversy.
-- CBS Evening News.
Dan Rather declared: "The Republican presidential campaign has just got a
lot nastier. One of the dirtiest secrets of political attack strategies hit
the spotlight today, something called push polling. Push polling involves
political pollsters who are not seeking voter opinions, but trying to sway
them under the guise of polling. In this case it’s reportedly a pro-Bush
line of attack aimed at John McCain in South Carolina."
Bill Whitaker played a soundbite from Donna Duren as had
ABC, but CBS dropped three words: "But he was so upset when he came
upstairs and he said ‘Mom, someone told me that Senator McCain is a cheat
and a liar and a fraud.’ And he was almost in tears. I was so livid last
night I couldn’t sleep."
CBS then showed McCain’s reaction: "What you just
told me has had a very profound effect on me. I promise you I have never and
will never have anything to do with that kind of political tactic."
Whitaker led into a Bush soundbite by noting that the
Bush campaign "denied any knowledge of such underhanded tactics."
Whitaker then passed along some ammunition for McCain’s complaint,
"The brouhaha is
over something called push polling, where a pollster for one candidate calls
supporters of an opponent and attempts to sway opinions with distorted
questions. In fact, McCain claims Bush pollsters called around earlier this
week with clearly misleading questions like this: ‘Do you know the McCain
tax plan does not give a significant tax cut to average working
families?’‘Do you agree with McCain’s plan to give more power to the
media and unions to pick the President?’
"Clearly misleading?" Less than much CBS News
reporting. McCain backers may disagree with the interpretations, but they are
certainly within the norms of political dialogue.
-- NBC Nightly News.
David Bloom opened his piece: "At a McCain town hall meeting this
morning, one more sign that this Republican race is getting uglier than anyone
imagined. A Spartanburg South Carolina woman, Donna Duren, describes how her
son idealized the former Navy pilot and POW until the 14-year-old Boy Scout
took a phone call last night, allegedly from a Bush pollster."
Following the same soundbites from Duren and McCain as
played by ABC, Bloom showcased McCain’s case: "Afterward the two meet,
shake hands and hug and McCain steps outside, his voice filled with
calling on my good friend George Bush to stop this now. He comes from a better
family, he knows better than this and he should stop it. I’ll pull down
every negative ad I have. Let’s treat the voters of South Carolina with some
Bloom ended by acknowledging that Bush denied the
charge, but admitted his campaign placed "advocacy phone calls."
story on the woman and her son, ABC’s World News Tonight aired a second
campaign story, one that initially appeared to balance the anti-Bush story
with an anti-McCain piece. But, in fact, ABC delivered a second pro-McCain
Pegged to McCain’s fundraiser Thursday night at a
Washington, DC hotel, ABC’s Barry Serafin took up Bush’s charge that
McCain is a hypocrite for accepting money from lobbyists while he denounces
the campaign finance system. After summarizing Bush’s case, Serafin
countered it by relaying how Common Cause decided "McCain is not a
hypocrite," reporting that Bush received more money from special
interests than McCain, and again treating Common Cause as some kind of
impartial authority in highlighting how they consider McCain’s Web
fundraising to have gathered "the cleanest money."
Serafin opened his piece by explaining how McCain was
scheduled to hold a fundraiser at a Washington DC hotel Thursday night with
lobbyists and that he’s accepted donations from industries with matters
before the Senate committee he chairs. Serafin played a soundbite from Bush
accusing McCain of hypocrisy.
Serafin then spent the remainder of his story making
McCain’s case, supported by a left-wing group headed by Scott Harshbarger,
the former Democratic Attorney General of Massachusetts, but Serafin failed to
note the ideology of the group or of its chief or even that it is a backer of
McCain’s campaign finance regulation proposal.
"McCain says he has to work within the system to change it. A campaign
watchdog group agrees and says McCain is not a hypocrite."
President of Common Cause: "Senator McCain has been among the first to
say that it’s the system that’s corrupt and taints everyone in it. We’ve
never asked anybody to unilaterally disarm."
fact, the Center for Responsive Politics says Bush has raised far more money
than McCain from a number of special interests. Fifteen times as much from
lawyers, nearly twenty times as much from the banking industry, and 58 times
more than McCain from the oil and gas industry."
Serafin went on to highlight how McCain has out-raised
Bush on the Internet via his Web site, but that $5 million is "money that
Common Cause says is not tainted."
is the cleanest money that we’re seeing in the system now."
Serafin concluded with
one more justification for McCain’s practice: "Beyond the Web, whatever
his misgivings, McCain will continue to seek money wherever the system allows
-- just like his opponent."
admissions from media insiders about their profession’s affection for John
McCain to add the couple already cited in the February 7 CyberAlert.
Content magazine founder Steven Brill relayed on CNN how
top reporters told him journalists accept McCain because they don’t think he
really believes the conservative position he espouses on abortion and gun
control. Slate.com’s Jacob Weisberg conceded "journalists don’t want
to punish someone for being candid" so reporters "overlook some
things he says in unguarded moments that maybe don’t represent him in the
best light." A New Republic editor acknowledged that "McCain has a
lot of positions the magazine likes."
-- On the February 8 Crossfire on CNN, in a soundbite
played Wednesday by Rush Limbaugh, Content magazine and Court TV founder
Steven Brill relayed some illuminating inside information from the campaign
"I had a
conversation last week -- actually, two different conversations -- with two of
the more prominent reporters who are covering the campaign and who spent a lot
of time with McCain, and both told me in so many words the same thing. As one
of them put it: ‘You know, we know McCain is pandering on gun control and
abortion, and we know he really doesn't believe that stuff, but he has to say
it. But at least when McCain panders like that, he sort of kind of lets us
know so we know he knows, and he's not that hard-edged and he's really a good
guy.’ To which I responded, well, you know, that seems to be the story. If
Mr. Straight Talk is pandering, isn't that more significant even than whatever
his position is on abortion or gun control or anything else?"
-- On CNBC’s Upfront Tonight the same night, MRC
analyst Geoffrey Dickens picked up these quotes from Slate.com’s Chief
Political Correspondent, Jacob Weisberg: "He jokes with you, kids around,
makes fun of you it’s really I have to say very enjoyable...."
"As a journalists
don’t want to punish someone for being candid and I think there is sometimes
a tendency to overlook some things he says in unguarded moments that maybe
don’t represent him in the best light...."
Weisberg, a former
Newsweek reporter, also suggested: "I do think that there is a sense that
this man sacrificed very, very greatly and that a lot of journalists on the
bus, most of them older than me, found one way or another to get out of
serving in the war, and yes I think they respect that."
-- Simultaneously Tuesday night on Hardball, carried at
7pm ET on MSNBC and 8pm ET on CNBC, Chris Matthews talked about the media and
McCain with New Republic Senior Editor Michelle Cottle.
Matthews asked: "Tell me what your magazine thinks
of John McCain?"
I’m thinking of quitting my job and actually going to work for the McCain
are you gonna decide?"
Cottle: "No, no,
no, no, I’m joking! No, the magazine actually has, I mean McCain has a lot
of positions the magazine likes. Like everyone he’s talking about campaign
finance reform and he’s talking about a lot of issues that we agree
Democrats on Thursday, February 10, opposed to or in support of the idea of
reducing the so-called "marriage penalty"? Depends if you believe
ABC or NBC. Each ran full stories Thursday night, as did CBS, on the House
passage of the GOP-sponsored bill to reduce the impact of getting bumped into
a higher tax bracket. That often occurs when two people marry and then file
jointly instead of separately. But ABC and NBC didn’t agree about where most
-- John Cochran on ABC’s World News Tonight:
"Democrats say the bill passed by House Republicans is too generous, but
Democrats don’t want to be on the wrong side of a popular issue, especially
in an election year."
Minority Leader Richard
Gephardt on the House floor: "Democrats support a marriage penalty tax
cut, but it needs to be a tax cut that fixes the problem."
-- Lisa Myers on NBC Nightly News: "But what
Republicans call a Valentines gift for married families, Democrats complain is
an expensive $200 billion tax cut that mostly helps the rich."
Rangel on the House floor: "I know that the Republicans want to have a
political gimmick for Valentine Day."
Congressman Bob Matsui
on the House floor: "One half of it goes to people that don’t even have
a marriage penalty."
Of course, all three soundbites were uttered. It’s all
in the spin.