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
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."
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
To read MagazineWatch, go to:
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
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
Clip of McCain TV ad:
"The courage to fight for it. A Republican like Ronald Reagan who can
"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."
suggestion is that McCain is a hypocrite."
Bush: "If you feel
like saying those words, please use them."
"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
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."
"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
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?"
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:
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
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?"
"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
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
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
Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC’s Free Market Project,
alerted me to a February 13 editorial in The Post & Courier. Here’s an
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 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
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
Such clarifying details rarely survive the media's feeding frenzy on the
To read the whole editorial, go to:
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
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
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
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?"
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
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
"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....
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
"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
"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.
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
"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?"
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
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:
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."
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
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
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: http://www.mrc.org