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CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Monday February 14, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 26) |
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CBS Plugged New Fortunate Son; Never Turn on McCain?; Clueless Schieffer

1) Eleanor Clift suggested the anti-McCain push poll tale isn't so solid; Tim Russert hit George Bush with how his BJU host once called his father the "devil"; NBC's Dracula interviewing style.

2) Lesley Stahl asked on 60 Minutes about the book charging the Bush family with a cocaine cover-up: "How did a respectable publishing house...go ahead with the book when the author couldn't offer proof?" But CBS also gave a nice plug for a new edition.

3) Friday night ABC castigated Bush and McCain for not denouncing the Confederate flag, CBS celebrated the role of independents in hurting the parties, NBC promoted the cause of a group pushing the GOP to the left.

4) Newsweek's Evan Thomas submitted that the media may never turn on McCain. Friday's GMA focused again on the supposed "push poll" and Jack Ford mildly pressed McCain for proof before joking with him about a food fight between McCain staff and reporters.

5) After Al Gore told Jay Leno that Bill Clinton "is my friend, we're close friends," actor Jimmy Smits praised Gore. Actor Walter Matthau hailed Bill Bradley, saying he "reminds me" of Lincoln.

6) CBS: Clueless Bob Schieffer. He doesn't comprehend a basic argument Bush has made against campaign finance reform and he found it surprising comparing your opponent to Bill Clinton is considered negative.

7) Linda Tripp now works in the same building as a left-wing feminist group which has protected Bill Clinton.


     >>> The latest Media Reality Check fax report is now online. "Rather's Anchorman Amnesia Over Hillary: Much Like Tom Brokaw's Amnesia With Gore, CBS Anchor Cites Hillary Gaffes He Hasn't Aired." The MRC's Tim Graham began the report: "Call it anchorman amnesia. When the top TV titans put on their pundit hats, they suddenly recall every inconvenient story they've left out of their newscasts for the benefit of their liberal friends." For a rundown of examples of what network anchors never reported, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2000/20000211.html <<<

     >>> "Media Love McCain," a piece by the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, Tim Graham, appears in the February 19 World magazine. Graham writes: "A dramatic win can lead to dramatic coverage, but the media's recent pedal-to-the-metal promotion is just the latest swoon in a long-brewing love affair between Mr. McCain and reporters." You can read the article online, just go to: http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/02-19-99/cover_2.asp <<<

1

We'll start today with a bunch of interesting items picked up from shows aired over the weekend: Eleanor Clift suggested that maybe the anti-McCain push poll tale isn't so solid; NBC's Tim Russert hit George Bush with how his Bob Jones University host once called his father the "devil" and Reagan a "traitor"; Dracula-like interviewing on NBC Nightly News and communism as the "good old days" in China.

     -- Eleanor Clift more discerning than network reporters? As detailed in the February 11 CyberAlert, on Thursday night all the networks highlighted a woman in South Carolina complaining about an anti-McCain "push poll" her 14-year-old son supposedly received.

     On the McLaughlin Group over the weekend, run from Friday night through Sunday depending on where you live, Newsweek's Clift submitted: "I'd like to point out that this was one phone call. If this was a pattern that was going on wouldn't other people be stepping up and making the same claim? That hasn't happened."

     -- Leave it to NBC's Tim Russert to come up with the most novel question to really get a guest. He flew down to Austin to interview George Bush for the entirety of Sunday's Meet the Press. As you would expect from Russert, he pressed Bush about the size of his tax cut and how much of the surplus he would allocate to Social Security.

     He soon asserted that "a lot of eyebrows were raised when you made an appearance at Bob Jones University" and asked Bush about the school's racist dating policy and anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon bigotry. But, over video of Bush at the school on February 2, he also hit Bush with this revelation:
     "Let me show you a picture of Governor George W. Bush, the gentleman there to your right, on the left of the screen, is Bob Jones III. Let me show you what he said about your Dad, which I think is rather chilling and I'll put this on the screen for you and our viewers."
     Russert then read a quote from the March 2, 1982 Washington Post: "I believe that Mr. Reagan came to office with good intentions, but he broke his promise to us when he took on Mr. George Bush, a devil, for his Vice President....Mr. Reagan has become a traitor to God's people." [ellipses as on-screen]
     Russert asked Bush: "How could you sit with the man who called your Dad 'a devil'?"
     Bush: "Each of us change in life and now he doesn't believe George Bush is a devil."
     Russert: "Did he tell you that?"
     Bush: "No, he would have told me that I presume...."

     -- Trapped and forced to talk to a TV reporter! On Sunday's NBC Nightly News Anne Thompson focused on how South Carolina voters are supposedly tired of negative campaigning. Her expert witnesses: People laying back in chairs with blood pouring from their arms as they donated blood after a church service. Talk about a captive audience.

     -- The same show featured a piece from NBC reporter Chris Billing in Beijing on how hard it is for young people to find a job in China. One sentence from his story: "In the good old days the Communist Party found a job for everybody, now young people have to fend for themselves."

2

Unlike how their Web site plug for Sunday's piece implied, 60 Minutes did not devote its story on Fortunate Son author J.H. Hatfield to letting him voice his claims. While Lesley Stahl did allow him to defend his integrity and honesty, the thrust of the piece was a look at how it could be that the original publisher did not know about Hatfield's criminal background and how the publisher did not check any facts.

      Despite the skeptical approach to the book, CBS still delivered a bonanza of publicity for a another company which is just now releasing the book again as well as a chance for Hatfield to try to repair his image, to say nothing of repeating the baseless Bush drug charge.

     As outlined in the February 12 CyberAlert, the 60 Minutes Web site plug began: "Just because he lied to his editors about being a convicted felon isn't a good enough reason for those editors to doubt his book, in which he uses anonymous sources to accuse George W. Bush of covering up an arrest for cocaine when he was a young man. That's what J.H. Hatfield, author of Fortunate Son, a book its initial publisher pulled from the shelves for lack of credibility, tells 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl in his first interview on Sunday, Feb. 13.
     "St. Martin's Press 'pulled the book because I have a criminal background and that doesn't have anything to do with the price of eggs in China,' Hatfield tells Stahl. He admits hiring a man to kill a woman for him, committing burglary, writing bad checks, embezzling and taking kickbacks."

     In fact, Stahl opened her February 13 report:
     "How did a biography of George W. Bush containing the explosive charge that not only had he been arrested for cocaine possession, but that his father had pulled strings with a Republican judge to get him off, how did that book, entitled Fortunate Son, get published? How did a respectable publishing house like St. Martin's Press go ahead with the book when the author couldn't offer proof that the charge was true?"

     Stahl proceeded to recount many of the same facts noted in the February 12 CyberAlert about Hatfield's history. She reported that he has no direct witness and that there were no Republican judges in Texas at the time. She showed how Hatfield denied hiring anyone to commit murder when first confronted by Dallas Morning News reporter Pete Slover.

     Then this odd exchange took place, with Hatfield displaying some Clinton-like reasoning:
     Stahl: "As a teenager you were arrested for writing bad checks."
     Hatfield: "That's not true."
     Stahl: "Not true?"
     Hatfield: "What is the definition of 'teenager'?"
     Stahl: "Oh, so were you arrested as a young man?"
     Hatfield: "Yes I was."
     Stahl: "How old were you?"
     Hatfield: "Probably, ah, 19."  

     So, 19, as in nineTEEN, does not make you a TEENager?

     Stahl relayed that original publisher St. Martin's Press didn't know about Hatfield's criminal background until the Dallas Morning News publicized it last October, prompting them to recall the book. Literary agent Jim Fitzgerald told Stahl they didn't care about checking out the author because they got the rights cheap and had hoped to make money quick by cashing in on interest in Bush.

     Hatfield contended his book is accurate since St. Martin's Press lawyers vetted it, leading Stahl to question what that meant:
     Stahl: "While St. Martin's never claimed the book was fact-checked, they did put out a press release saying it was 'scrupulously corroborated and sourced.'"
     Stahl to Hatfield: "What kind of proof did they ask for to confirm/verify the cocaine charges in the book?"
     Hatfield: "Nothing actually. We discussed who they [sources] were, not their identities. Even the lawyer didn't ask me who they were and I started to offer to her, because I knew we would have attorney-client confidentiality, she said 'I don't want to know.'"

     Stahl ended the piece by promoting Hatfield's just-released new edition of the book published by another company:
     "Hatfield was devastated at losing his publisher, but within days he had a new one, an outfit called Soft Skull Press."

     Viewers saw a bit of video of a party with loud rap music as a man sporting a mohawk hairdo boasted: "We are printing 45,000 and we will not be silent in the face of injustice. Alright. Whoa."

     Stahl soon identified him as Sander Hicks, the head of Soft Skull Press, a business he started at Kinkos. He admitted to Stahl that he had not checked the assertions made in the book because St. Martin's lawyers had already approved the text.

     Stahl wrapped up: "Hatfield says he stands by what he wrote and, incredible as it seems, can't understand why he's not more in demand."
     Hatfield: "I've lost two contracts recently because of all this. I guess you could say I'm blacklisted. I'm just kind of dead meat."
     Stahl: "Well, not exactly. Tomorrow he starts a book tour."

     If any publicity is good publicity, then despite CBS's dismissal of the actual allegations against Bush, the network gave Hatfield a Valentine's Eve gift of publicity, to say nothing of the shot for book sales for Soft Skull Press. Who ever heard of them before?

     And unlike the tracking of conservative ties a network story would surely include on a book featuring wild allegations against a liberal, Stahl did not spend any time tracking down links to liberal groups or political operatives out to hurt Bush.

     +++ See a bit of this 60 Minutes story, with video of the rap party celebrating the new release of Fortunate Son, and Stahl talking with the Soft Skull publisher. On Monday the MRC's Eric Pairel will post a video clip in RealPlayer format. 
Go to: http://www.mrc.org

3

Three liberal agenda campaign stories Friday night on the broadcast network evening shows: ABC looked at the Confederate flag issue, portraying Bush and McCain as cowards for not demanding it be taken from atop the South Carolina state Capitol building. "In the raucous debate over this old flag," ABC's Jim Wooten asserted "the Republican front-runners have chosen the course of least political resistance." CBS's Eric Engberg celebrated the role of independents in McCain's success: "People who are just people are elbowing their way into the nominating process." NBC's Claire Shipmam promoted the cause of Orange County businessmen who are pushing the GOP to the left.

     -- On ABC's February 11 World News Tonight Jim Wooten showed how Bush and McCain take stands on many issues, but refuse to take one on the Confederate flag, meaning they refuse to condemn flying it. He played a clip of McCain, for instance, saying: "I understand both sides. Some view it as a symbol of slavery. Others view it as a symbol of heritage."

     Wooten countered: "But Dr. Lonnie Randolph, a local civil rights activist, says it's not an issue you can straddle."

     Following a soundbite from Randolph, Wooten continued: "It's a measure of just how overwhelmingly important South Carolina is to Bush and McCain that both would risk their good records on race to cater to white voters who want that flag to fly forever, and it could be the difference between winning and losing the primary here, and maybe the nomination. They yearn for the Southern yesterdays when nobody seemed to care if anybody was offended by the Confederate flag. Black voters are such a microscopic minority in Republican primaries here, the party doesn't even open polls in some mainly black precincts. So, practically, for McCain and Bush, it doesn't much matter what blacks think about the flag."

     Wooten challenged Bush: "But isn't it about more than this flag?"
     Bush: "No. A flag flying on top of somebody's Capitol is about as local an issue as you get, as far as I'm concerned."

     ABC viewers then heard from Hastings Wyman, Editor of the Southern Political Report:" And I don't think either candidate would gain by saying we ought to take it down. I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but it would take an act of great statesmanship."

     A disappointed Wooten concluded: "In the politics of this primary, that probably isn't in the cards."

     Too bad Wooten didn't find time to note that Democrats controlled the state when the flag went up in 1962 under then Governor Ernest Hollings or that a Democrat is now the Governor of the state and yet the flag remains a part of the Capitol building. So why is it the fault of Republican presidential candidates?

     -- Over on the Friday CBS Evening News, Eric Engberg provided a "Reality Check" on what happened to the Bush trip to the nomination. Engberg found he ran into independents who prefer McCain. He concluded by approving of their influence:
     "Parties used to nominate in smoke-filled rooms. Then came closed primaries where only party members could vote. What appears to be happening now is something many pols view with dread. People who are just people are elbowing their way into the nominating process."

     If members of a party don't get to pick their nominees then why even have parties?

     -- NBC Nightly News focused on Orange County, California, which reporter Claire Shipman noted, was "the money machine behind the Reagan Revolution," where a group is now pushing the Republican Party to abandon conservative ideology. Shipman explained:
     "Orange County today, thanks to these local Republican business titans, has now become the center of another revolution to redefine the Republican Party."
     Thomas Tucker, New Majority Committee: "People have given up on the Republican Party. They feel it's too narrow."
     Shipman: "They say in the eight years Bill Clinton has been preaching a more moderate Democratic message, the GOP has become increasingly strident, alienating its own constituents."

     They want no more "litmus tests" on abortion or gun control, Shipman added.

4

Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas suggested that the media are so enamored with John McCain that they might just violate a journalistic norm and not ever turn on him and on Good Morning America ABC's Jack Ford joked with McCain about a food fight between his staff and reporters covering him.

     On Inside Washington over the weekend Thomas proposed: "The absolute cardinal rule is the press will always turn on you because they need to make it a better story, but I think that McCain may test that."

     Later, when panelist Charles Krauthammer argued that reporters overwhelming favor Democrats and will turn on McCain when he threatens to end Democratic rule of the White House, Thomas insisted there is no liberal media presence on the campaign trail: "The press as a whole may be liberal but the traveling press, the national political correspondents, are all in a high enough income bracket that a lot of them turned into Republicans, plus their editors, a lot of them are Republicans."

     Note that he didn't contend they are conservatives.

     Friday morning on Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson documented, ABC pursued the "push poll" story and Jack Ford later joked with McCain about food fights. Ford set up the February 11 segment:
     "The race for the Republican presidential nomination is getting a little bit nastier, with new charges of so-called push polling. That is the practice of calling up voters, pretending to conduct an ordinary poll, but the actual aim is to spread negative information about the other candidate. For days now, the McCain campaign had accused the Bush campaign of using that tactic...this issue came to a head yesterday during a McCain rally in South Carolina."

     Following a report by Linda Douglass on the incident, Ford interviewed McCain and began with a mild challenge: "Senator, do you have any real proof that the Bush campaign was responsible for that telephone call?"

     Ford then raised a complaint better lodged at the media and his own show: "There are skeptics out there that are looking at what took place in the town meeting yesterday, and not questioning the veracity of the young man or his mother at all, but they're saying, well, maybe this was sort of too good to be true, that the McCain campaign took this and ran with it farther than they should have, to have made more out of it than they should have. What do you think of that criticism?"

     Ford also pressed McCain about one of his ads: "Governor Bush has complained about one of your ads, where it says that he, Governor Bush, twists the truth like President Clinton does, and he says that that is inappropriately negative and way too personal."

     Finally, viewers heard this lighthearted exchange: "You mention that you're having fun. As we wrap up here this morning, I understand there was actually a literal food fight on your bus just recently between some of the campaign folks and some of the media folks."
     McCain: "Yes, you know, these reporters are such low-lifes, I'll tell ya, you know."
     Ford, laughing: "That's 'Mr. Low Life,' that's 'Mr. Low Life' to you, sir."
     McCain: "I'm sure that my campaign had nothing -- my campaign people are, even though they're usually off work release programs, they're very fine people and they don't associate with that."
     Ford, still laughing: "Senator, always a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for joining us this morning. You take care. We'll see you again."
     McCain: "Thanks, Jack."

     How chummy.

5

Journalists may be enamored of McCain, but Hollywood stars are sticking with liberal Democrats. Thursday night one praised Al Gore while another advocated Bill Bradley, claiming he "reminds" him of Abraham Lincoln.

     -- On the Tonight Show Thursday night February 10, guest Al Gore assured Jay Leno that he considered Bill Clinton to be a friend: "He is my friend, we're close friends. He made a mistake, I was critical of that mistake like most everybody else. I've had the chance to work alongside him on behalf of the American people. We've gotten a lot done. The economy's better. A lot of other things are better. I'm running for President on my own with my own vision."
     Gore added: "You know what I'm hearing out there is that people are really tired of hearing about it and tired of talking about it and they want to move on."

     When the interview ended the camera followed him backstage where the upcoming guest, actor Jimmy Smits, hugged him. Leno later asked Smits, once a star of LA Law and NYPD Blue and now out promoting a new movie, if he supports Gore. Smits answered:
     "I'd like to think that we've been partners for the last eight years. He's been very interested in terms of diversity in education, he supported the foundation. I have sat at his desk in the Capitol. I was giving some congressional awards out to young kids."

     Apparently "foundation" was a reference to some Hispanic group with which Smits is involved.

     -- In the midst of a February 10 appearance on CNN's Larry King Live with actress Diane Keaton, actor Walter Matthau blurted out his presidential endorsement: "I like the basketball guy, the guy who is running for President, the basketball-"
     Larry King: "Bill Bradley."
     Diane Keaton: "Bill Bradley, yes."
     King: "The basketball guy, see, you threw me."
     Matthau: "He, the basketball guy, reminds me of Abraham Lincoln."

     I didn't realize Matthau was that old.

6

CBS should stand for Clueless Bob Schieffer. Two examples today: He revealed he doesn't comprehend a basic argument Bush has made against McCain on campaign finance reform and he found it surprising that South Carolina Republicans would consider it "negative campaigning" to compare your opponent to Bill Clinton.

      -- Schieffer appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources to discuss McCain's coverage. Schieffer denied any bias, attributing his good press to interest "in a good story." At one point on the program shown on February 12 and 13, host Howard Kurtz raised a Bush argument: "Bob Schieffer, the Bush campaign has a radio ad up now which says that McCain's election will benefit the liberal media. Is this an effective Republican argument, that is the press likes a candidate he can't be very good?"
     Showing he apparently doesn't understand a key point of contention in a race he is covering, a baffled Schieffer replied:
     "Does that mean -- well, I mean, what does that mean? That our ratings will go up if John McCain is elected?"
     Kurtz had to explain the obvious: "Well, it has to do with campaign finance reform and whether the press will have more power. But it's also an increasing charge made by Bush aides and campaign surrogates that -- raising questions about, they would say, the candidate and the Fourth Estate."
     Schieffer: "Now that sounds a little whiny to me. I'm not sure of what I would make of it."

     No surprise there.

     -- Sunday night Schieffer popped up on the CBS Evening News with an update on the race he understands so well. He concluded his brief item read from CBS's Washington bureau:
     "The interesting thing is what is considered negative campaigning in South Carolina and that is both candidates have tried to compare their opponents to Bill Clinton. Apparently calling someone Clinton-like or like Bill Clinton is the dirtiest thing you can call them in South Carolina."

     I guess in Washington media circles it's befuddling to learn that anyone would be upset by a comparison to Clinton.

7

It really is a small world. A February 11 Washington Post story examined how Linda Tripp is faring as a $98,000 a year public affairs specialist for the Defense Manpower Data Center. She works at an office building in the Rosslyn area of Arlington County, Virginia. Deep within the article I caught this paragraph:
     "Tenants in Tripp's office building include the organization Feminist Majority, but the group's president, Eleanor Smeal, has not bonded with Tripp in the elevator. 'I don't think anyone on the staff has ever had a conversation with her,' said an organization official. 'It was rather ironic that she came to work here.'"

     A delicious irony. -- Brent Baker


 

 


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