CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday February 18, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 29) |
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ABC to McCain: "Okay" Being Seen as Hero?; Clinton Disbarment Dismissed

1) ABC approvingly showcased John McCain’s positive campaign in which he’s trying to prove "he can rise above politics as usual," but castigated Bush for his "relentless attacks" on McCain and how he’s gone "so far" right that he’ll alienate moderates. ABC and NBC highlighted how Bush refused to condemn the Confederate flag.

2) A South Carolina newspaper scolded the networks for distorting the Confederate flag issue.

3) From McCain’s bus ABC’s Jack Ford gushed: "You offer much more candor and access to reporters than perhaps any other candidate in recent memory." Ford delivered the payoff, fawning about how young people "view you as a true hero. Are you okay with that?"

4) NBC’s Today added to alleged "heat over yet another controversial death penalty case" in Texas involving "a 62 year-old great grandmother." A great grandmother who shot her husbands.

5) Amazingly, two CBS News reporters asked Bill Clinton Wednesday about official moves in Arkansas to act on ethics complaints which would lead to his disbarment. Naturally, the ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC evening shows ignored the story which only FNC has explored.

6) "Judge Judy" less enamored of Hillary than the press. She called her candidacy a "travesty," asserting: "I don’t know what Hillary’s done."

     >>> The latest MagazineWatch, about the February 21 editions of the three weekly news magazines, is now up on the MRC Web site thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul. Topics covered in the issue compiled by the MRC’s Geoffrey Dickens:
1. In a rare tip-toe toward scrutiny, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas noted John McCain’s idea of senatorial courtesy is repeatedly calling Sen. Pete Domenici an "a--hole." U.S. News writer Franklin Foer reported McCain called Domenici "chickens---." But Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Howard Fineman argued McCain is "scrappy" while Bush is "increasingly vitriolic." Time claimed "Bush tore into McCain like a pit bull let loose in a slaughterhouse."
2. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and U.S. News owner Mortimer Zuckerman railed against tax cuts. Alter cheered McCain’s campaign for causing "the end of tax cuts as a panacea." Zuckerman’s article was summarized: "The GOP’s tax-cut plans would risk all our economic gains for a rerun of the recessionary 1980s."
3. Time’s Eric Pooley gave George W. Bush a mixed review on his "reformer with results" slogan, but complained on "poverty and hunger, the death penalty, gun violence, health insurance for the poor, pollution -- Bush has shown little willingness to lead or even think deeply."
    To read MagazineWatch, go to: <<<


John McCain set out Thursday to "reassure voters who want to believe that he can rise above politics as usual," announced ABC’s Linda Douglass. In the very next story on World News Tonight colleague Dean Reynolds delivered a more dour look at the Bush campaign, stressing his "relentless attacks" on McCain.

    Reynolds warned that Bush has put himself "so far" to the right that "some supporters worry he could lose moderate votes here and elsewhere." An example: "His reluctance to offer his personal views on flying the Confederate flag atop the state Capitol." NBC’s David Bloom also focused on the flag issue and how Bush "bristles at the suggestion" he’s sent "the wrong message for a candidate who preaches racial harmony."

    CBS’s Phil Jones noted how "the Republican establishment is really nervous" about Bush’s future. Jones raised Bush’s charge that Democrats are causing "mischief" by voting for McCain because they think he’s the weaker candidate, but discredited the idea via one McCain backer.

    Here’s a rundown of how the three broadcast networks on Thursday night, February 17, handled the South Carolina primary:

    -- ABC’s World News Tonight. Linda Douglass provided an upbeat story on the McCain campaign, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson. Douglass began:
    "Today John McCain was determined to seem good-natured, to reassure voters who want to believe that he can rise above politics as usual."
    After a soundbite from McCain, she continued: "McCain fears the sniping between himself and George Bush has turned voters off and he needs a higher than normal turnout to win. He is aggressively courting independents and Democrats. In McCain's entourage are people who can touch every base. Gary Bauer helping with interviews on Christian radio. Congressman Lindsey Graham, a hugely popular home-state conservative. McCain's fellow POWs come to rallies to remind voters that he is a hero. And the campaign has organized veterans and college kids to get out the vote. To appeal to all of them, he is openly comparing himself to Ronald Reagan."
    Clip of McCain TV ad: "The courage to fight for it. A Republican like Ronald Reagan who can win."
    Douglass concluded: "McCain must have used Reagan's name a dozen times today as he promised to bring new people into the Republican Party. That's because he knows it is unlikely he will win here with traditional Republicans."
    Next, Dean Reynolds delivered a more critical take on Bush’s campaign strategy, starting: "The Bush campaign may look different these days -- bigger crowds, more energy on the stump, even greater access for reporters. But they are all secondary to the most significant change: the relentless attacks on John McCain. It apparently doesn't matter that McCain pulled his TV commercials questioning Bush's character last Friday. Almost a week later, Bush is claiming that even McCain's criticism of his policy positions amounts to negative and unacceptable attacks."
    Bush: "He can't take the high horse and then claim the low road."
    Reynolds: "The suggestion is that McCain is a hypocrite."
    Bush: "If you feel like saying those words, please use them."
    Reynolds countered: "And yet, that message is often derailed by Bush's decision to position himself well to the right of McCain in South Carolina; so far that some supporters worry he could lose moderate votes here and elsewhere. For example, he was put off stride again today by questions about his reluctance to offer his personal views on flying the Confederate flag atop the state Capitol."
    Bush: "Don't judge my heart based upon a position as to who ought to be flying what flag over what capitol. Do not judge my heart."
    Reynolds concluded: "But judgment day is two days away, and while no campaign official is willing to predict the outcome, the candidate is. He says he's going to win."

    Rounding out ABC’s coverage, Jim Wooten contributed a third piece on why Democrats in South Carolina plan to vote for McCain.

    -- CBS Evening News. Phil Jones revealed: "The Republican establishment is really nervous. Privately, one of the big GOP givers over the years, has told CBS News quote, ‘if George Bush loses South Carolina on Saturday then I’d expect him to lose Michigan on Tuesday, and then it would be over for Bush.’"

    Jones noted how McCain is courting non-Republicans and then discredited Bush’s complaint: "Democrats, who are showing up at McCain rallies, deny charges from the Bush camp that they are up to mischief by voting for the Republican who’ll be the weakest in November."
    Jones to woman: "You’re not mischief makers? Are you sure about this?"
    Elrae Poucher, identified on-screen as "Democrat for McCain," maintained: "Yes I’m positive and I don’t think that most of the crossover vote is a mischief maker. I think that this man has inspired us, it has united us."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the program by emphasizing the importance of South Carolina:
    "Good evening. Well, now it’s one more full day of campaigning in South Carolina, and John McCain is talking about going all the way to the Republican nomination if he wins this one. Governor George W. Bush continues to lead in all the polls, the first choice of South Carolina’s Republicans, but independents and even Democrats can vote in the GOP contest on Saturday, and that is expected to be the difference."

    Reporter Anne Thompson filed a story from the McCain camp on how he "can smell victory" as he delivers a positive message. Turnout, Thompson, relayed, will be the key to who wins.

    Up next, David Bloom checked in from the Bush campaign, noting how he complained about the non-Republicans McCain is relying upon. After reporting how the voices of various Republican leaders are being used in phone calls from the Bush campaign to voters, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, Bloom suggested Bush’s downfall could be linked to going too far to the right:
    "Bush bristles at the suggestion that his earlier appearance at Bob Jones University, which bans interracial dating, and his refusal to take a stand on the flying of the Confederate flag over South Carolina’s state Capitol, sends the wrong message for a candidate who preaches racial harmony."
    George W. Bush: "Don’t judge my heart based upon a position as to who ought to be flying what flag over what capitol. Do not judge my heart based upon an issue that this state ought to solve. I got nearly fifty percent of the Hispanic vote and 27 percent of the Afri-, people in my state know where my heart is. Let me finish, please, would you please?"
    Bloom concluded: "If Bush is occasionally testy now, it’s because this conservative southern state was supposed to be his firewall. For months, Bush aides insisted that John McCain could not win here. Now those same aides worry privately that if Bush doesn’t win South Carolina, Republicans may abandon him in droves."

    NBC then ran a piece on how character is trumping any issues as South Carolina voters want an end to the Clinton era. Brokaw set up the story:
    "In South Carolina, however, and throughout this campaign, for all the talk about tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and abortion, the real issue seems to be simply ‘character.’ By and large, voters feel good about the economy and the direction of the country. Now they want to feel good about their President."


As ABC and NBC did Thursday night to Bush, the networks continue to scold Republican presidential candidates for refusing to take the media-preferred position against allowing the Confederate flag to fly over the South Carolina State Capitol building, without bothering to mention how a Democratic Party-controlled state hoisted the flag in 1962 under Governor Ernest Hollings, but last Sunday a Charleston paper scolded the networks for distorting the issue.

    Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC’s Free Market Project, alerted me to a February 13 editorial in The Post & Courier. Here’s an excerpt:

Hours after Sen. John McCain's victory in New Hampshire, Ted Koppel went straight to the Confederate flag, expressing surprise that the candidate believed there was any other issue to consider in his South Carolina campaign.

In the inane observations expressed in his interview with Sen. McCain, the host of ABC's "Nightline" revealed a faulty premise unfortunately shared by millions of Americans. It has created a heavy burden indeed for South Carolina's abused reputation.

National perceptions are forged, in large part, by network news. And what America has been seeing on the network news is an unflattering, stereotypical presentation of South Carolina....

Superficial reporting and commentary routinely cast South Carolina as a relentlessly stubborn foe of racial progress -- and routinely perpetuate the erroneous concept that the state is still digging in its heels against moving the flag.

The major media invariably overlook this highly pertinent reality: South Carolina has changed its mind about the flag. A solid majority of the state's citizens did long resist removing it, and as recently as last October, only 51 percent favored taking it down. But as of three weeks ago, more than two-thirds of South Carolinians told pollsters that they want the flag moved....

How many Americans know about South Carolina's decisive public-opinion switch on the flag? How many Americans know that this supposedly spiteful state, before making that attitude shift (and before the NAACP's flag boycott), commissioned an African-American History Monument for the Statehouse grounds?

Such clarifying details rarely survive the media's feeding frenzy on the flag fight....

    END Excerpt

    To read the whole editorial, go to:


Good Morning America didn’t splurge for helicopters to enable a live broadcast from John McCain’s bus as NBC’s Today did on Tuesday (see the February 16 CyberAlert), but Thursday morning ABC viewers were treated to a lengthy taped piece from Jack Ford celebrating the rise of the McCain "phenomenon."

    ABC’s Jack Ford gushed: "You have probably the most open, free-wheeling approach. You offer much more candor and access to reporters than perhaps any other candidate in recent memory. Why are you doing it that way?" Minutes later Ford "asked" McCain about how "young people...view you as a true hero. Are you okay with that?" Answer to first question: So he gets that kind of sycophantic coverage.

    Recounting his day with the McCain campaign, Ford interspersed reporting with clips of his interview with McCain in which he posed no challenging questions. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson transcribed much of the segment aired on the February 17 Good Morning America.

    Ford began: "From the beginning, the McCain camp has said that it's a battle of David versus Goliath. George W. Bush, the Goliath who has already spent a record-setting $50 million, filling the airwaves with campaign advertising. And John McCain, the David who has spent roughly half that amount. McCain knows he can't hope to outspend his rival."

    To McCain, Ford asked: "When you look at the money that the Bush campaign has spent and the position they're in right now in terms of polls and successes, do you think there's a message there?"

    After McCain’s answer Ford picked up his story: "In the run-up to Saturday's critical South Carolina primary, he's traveled from town to town aboard his now legendary bus, holding town meetings, shaking hands, attending rallies, even signing copies of his book -- meeting every potential voter he can find, all in just one very typical day. Each of these days starts on his bus, the Straight Talk Express, packed with reporters."

    Ford gushed to McCain: "You have probably the most open, free-wheeling approach. You offer much more candor and access to reporters than perhaps any other candidate in recent memory. Why are you doing it that way?"
    Ford soon continued: "On this day, McCain's battle against what he calls the establishment candidate took him to Furman University, where before a group of supporters that included veterans, former prisoners of war and college students, he received the endorsement of former rival Gary Bauer. Young people, most of whom were not yet born when McCain was a prisoner in North Vietnam, are present at many of his events."

    Ford then really sucked up, telling McCain: "I've spoken to a lot of the young people at your rallies, and one of the answers I've gotten frequently from them has been not that they're plugged into your policies or issues, but they view you as a true hero. Are you okay with that?"

    Wrapping up the piece, Ford asked McCain if he thinks he must win South Carolina and "Looking back, three or four months from now, are you surprised at where you are and where your campaign is here on the eve of the South Carolina primary?"


While ABC viewers Thursday morning saw a piece reflecting great admiration for McCain, those watching NBC’s Today saw a story picked up from the agenda of some liberal groups questioning why Bush isn’t doing anything to stop the execution of "a 62 year-old great grandmother." A great grandmother convicted of shooting her husbands and burying them.    

    Katie Couric set up the February 17 piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "The state of Texas and its Governor and presidential candidate George W. Bush are feeling some heat over yet another controversial death penalty case. One week from today Texas is scheduled to execute a 62 year-old great grandmother convicted of murder."

    With ellipses marking where soundbites aired in order to save space, here’s a nearly complete transcript of Jim Cummins’ story, which began: "62 year-old great grandmother Betty Lou Beets insists she's innocent and should not be executed by the state of Texas....
    "This sordid tale began in the long hot summer of 1983 when Dallas firefighter Jimmy Don Beets disappeared. Jimmy Don was Betty Lou's fifth husband. She said he vanished while boating on this lake near Gun Barrel City, Texas. Almost immediately Jimmy Don's son from a previous marriage became suspicious of Betty Lou's story....
    "And for almost two years Jimmy Don Beets was almost nowhere to be found. Betty Lou Beets lived on a trailer in this lot. Police got their first break in the case with a tip that she had buried her fifth husband, Jimmy Don underneath the wishing well about 30 feet from her front door. They recovered his body and to their amazement found another body underneath this shed. It was her fourth husband, Doyle Wayne Barker. Both had been murdered. Shot in the back of the head execution style. Betty Lou was charged with both murders and convicted of killing Jimmy Don after one of her sons testified he helped her bury him under the wishing well. She denied it....
    "She was sentenced to die because she tried to collect money from Jimmy Don's murder. Forging his signature on an application for life insurance 6 months before his death....
    "Betty Lou blames her lawyer E. Ray Andrews....
    "Jim Goodson was editor of the local newspaper at the time of Betty Lou's trial....
    "Beets attorney, Andrews, has since been disbarred and jailed for corruption. But an appeals court has ruled she got a fair trial. Now Amnesty International and various women's rights groups are urging Governor Bush to give Beets a stay of execution because the fact that she was a lifelong victim of abuse by men was ignored at her trial. Beets claims she was trapped in abusive relationships....
    "In his political biography Bush writes, 'I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own, unless there are new facts or evidence of which a jury was unaware.' That might be true in this case. Although the victim's families deny it....
    "Betty Lou Beets is scheduled to die a week from today."

    But after that I’m sure there will be another scheduled execution for the networks to showcase.


At President Clinton’s Wednesday afternoon press conference, John Roberts of CBS News surprisingly asked Clinton about proceedings in Arkansas to disbar him. But none of the networks mentioned the exchange, which generated a follow-up question, on that night’s evening newscasts, not even the CBS Evening News. FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume and CNN’s Inside Politics did give it a brief citation in larger stories about the press conference. So far, only the Fox News Channel has pursued the story.

    During the February 16 press conference John Roberts asked:
    "Mr. President, as you're well aware, the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct has initiated an investigation into a compliant regarding statements that you made in testimony before Judge Susan Webber Wright, action that could include disciplinary action up to and including disbarment. My question, sir, is would you be willing to surrender your law license to avoid such a hearing? Or will you fight it up to, and including, availing yourself of a public hearing as you are entitled to under the regulations?"

    Clinton avoided the issue, claiming: "I don't think I should be spending my time on this. I think I'm working for the American people, and I'm going to do my best to adhere to that. And, as a result, I have refrained from saying a lot of things I would otherwise have said as an American citizen and as a lawyer."

    Later, Roberts’ colleague Mark Knoller, also of CBS News, followed-up: "Mr. President, by your answer earlier to John Roberts, did you mean to say that you or your lawyers would not offer a defense to the committee on professional conduct?"
    Clinton’s terse, non-substantive response: "No, I meant to say I'm not going to discuss it any more than I absolutely have to, because I don't think I should be dealing with it. I should be dealing with my job."

    Not a word about any of this Wednesday night on ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN’s The World Today or NBC Nightly News. CBS aired a full report from John Roberts on Clinton’s announcement at the press conference about fuel aid, but didn’t go into other subjects. On the NBC Nightly News Claire Shipman reviewed several of Clinton’s comments, but not the disbarment issue. She showed him commenting on fuel aid, how he understands why the name the Bill Clinton is a "political punching bag for Republicans," negative campaigning, Al Gore’s truthfulness ("my experience is he’s exceedingly honest and exceedingly straightforward") and his wife’s campaign.

    Back on February 10, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth found, FNC uniquely raised this subject in a story on Special Report with Brit Hume, a shorter version of which ran on the 7pm ET Fox Report the same night. FNC’s Rita Cosby outlined the complaint:
    "President Clinton could soon receive another dubious distinction: The first sitting U.S. President to be disbarred from practicing law in his home state. Fox News has learned that the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, which licenses and disciplines all Arkansas lawyers, is serving the President with two formal legal ethics complaints, one based on allegations raised by Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest law firm, which wants the President disbarred immediately....
    Cosby: "The other ethics complaint stems from the contempt citation issued by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright against President Clinton last April, in which she found the President gave intentionally false testimony during his deposition in the Paula Jones case about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky."


"Judge Judy," the shorthand name for the star of a syndicated TV show of the same name in which Judge Judy Sheindlin resolves disputes, made clear in a Tuesday night Tonight Show appearance that she has little respect for Hillary Clinton’s Senate bid.

    In her February 15 guest shot, to which MRC analyst Mark Drake alerted me, she offered admiration for how Rudy Giuliani has improved New York City while calling it "a shame" that New York ended up with an outsider as a candidate. She added that picking Hillary because of her celebrity is "a travesty" given the many more talented women available.

    Asked about the race by Jay Leno, Sheindlin responded:
    "When I want something made in my house like a cabinet, I hire somebody based upon recommendation. I say, ‘Let me see other cabinets that you made’ and I look at those cabinets, and I say, ‘Ah, that’s the best cabinet. I’m going to hire this person.’ Rudy Giuliani, I think, is a great mayor. I think he took New York and he really turned it around. That’s what people tell me from all over the world I visit. They say, ‘We feel safer in New York. It’s cleaner in New York. The economy is better in New York.’ There’s a different kind of spirit in New York so I think Rudy Giuliani’s a good mayor. Whether you like him as a person or not is an entirely different thing. But I know what he’s done. Quite frankly, A, I don’t know what Hillary’s done. I really don’t know what she’s done. I know she had one major thing she wanted to do. She had one major thing she wanted, universal health care, fell on its derriere, I mean nothing. It didn’t go anywhere. Other than that, what did she do? That’s one. Two, it’s really a shame that a state the size of New York, with as many talented people as there are in New York has to go outside the jurisdiction to find somebody to represent our state."

    She soon added: "This gal has another problem and that is I think there are so many talented women that when you choose someone solely because she has a name that is recognizable, is really a travesty when you’re talking about all the other women who’ve really worked hard, who are good civil servants and deserve that opportunity."

    ++ See Judge Judy’s blast at Hillary Clinton. Friday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip from the Tonight Show. Go to: -- Brent Baker



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