CNN Legitimized Sharpton; Bush Too Far Right; McCain Can Still Win!
1) CNN opened its Gore-Bradley debate Monday night by
showcasing Al Sharpton, whom Bernard Shaw credited with "an instrumental
role in bringing about this dialogue." Last week writer Michael Kelly
recounted Sharpton’s career as an "inciter of race-violence."
2) "The conservative with compassion turned hard right
down South," asserted CBS’s Bill Whitaker as ABC and NBC stressed Al
Gore’s attack on Bush on race, but ABC ignored Gore’s ties to Sharpton and
NBC only gave it a clause. McCain’s "warrior spirit."
3) CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Charles Rangel about Sharpton,
but disassociated himself from the question.
4) GMA’s Charles Gibson argued Monday morning that the
Sharpton situation is somehow different because "when Democrats go visit
Al Sharpton a lot of Republicans criticize them."
5) Media mantra: "Did [Bush] run too far to the right to
hurt himself in Michigan now?" ABC’s George Stephanopoulos called him
"the kamikaze conservative" for proposing a tax cut.
6) CNN hit victor Bush with hostile questions, such as this
from Jeff Greenfield: "Are you at all concerned that the tenor of this
campaign has, as one Gore aide told me, maybe marginalized you?"
7) "If he can just get himself back on the high road, I
still think he can win," Evan Thomas aspired for McCain. Today’s Matt
Lauer urged McCain to fight back against Bush. Dan Rather actually claimed
Bush has the media on his side.
8) "First?!?!" Bryant Gumbel reacted with disgust
when a colleague guessed historians ranked Reagan as the best President.
"Reagan wasn’t even in the top ten." Clinton’s low ranking
by George W. Bush’s surprise win in South Carolina on Saturday, CNN and Time
decided to jointly produce a last minute debate Monday night between John
McCain and Bush. Sponsored by the United Baptists of European Ancestry, CNN
broadcast the debate featuring a panel of Time reporters interspersed with
questions from the audience. Showcased up front by CNN’s cameras: David
Duke, who got the first question of the night after moderator Bernard Shaw
credited him with having "played an instrumental role in bringing about
Just kidding. I made up the facts in the paragraph
above. But, sadly, the following paragraph is accurate:
After the major media spent all weekend pounding away at
George W. Bush for his racial insensitivity, Monday night under the banner of
a "Time magazine and CNN Election 2000 Special Report," CNN featured
Al Sharpton as the first questioner in its 90-minute broadcast of a debate
between Al Gore and Bill Bradley from Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Moderator
Bernard Shaw prefaced the 9pm ET debate by offering "a very special thank
you to the sponsor of tonight's debate in this historic setting, the United
Missionary Baptist Association, led by the Reverend Nelson C. Dukes,
moderator, and the Reverend Reginald Williams, chair."
After explaining how "each candidate will have one
minute to respond and 30 seconds for a rebuttal" to each question, Shaw
introduced the first questioner in the audience: "The Host Committee has
agreed to have the Reverend Al Sharpton to ask the first question. He has
played an instrumental role in bringing about this dialogue in Harlem."
Following some applause, Sharpton queried:
"Tonight, we know on March 7 there will be a primary in New York and
California. With the case of police scandal in California, the Diallo case and
Louima case in New York, and many cases all between, many in our community
have to live in fear of both the cops and the robbers. We are asking you what
concrete steps would you make if you were elected President to deal with
police brutality and racial profiling without increasing crime? How would you
keep crime down but at the same time confront the problem of police brutality
and racial profiling?"
In a column run in last in Wednesday’s Washington
Post, National Journal Editor-in-Chief Michael Kelly pointed out Democratic
Party hypocrisy -- though it’s also an example of media hypocrisy -- in
condemning Bush for associating with Bob Jones University and refusing to
condemn the Confederate flag while ignoring how close Gore and Bradley are to
Sharpton, who Kelly showed is "a career inciter of race-violence."
Here’s an excerpt from the February 16 column:
....In the genteel press, Sharpton is carefully referred to by euphemism --
community leader, activist. Actually, he is a professional monger of racial
hatred, a career inciter of race-violence.
Sharpton first came to national attention during the 1988 Tawana Brawley
hoax, in which he enthusiastically spread the incendiary lie that a black
teenage girl had been assaulted, smeared with feces and raped by a group of
white law enforcement officers in upper New York state. That he libeled
innocent men and fostered racial enmity seems never to have bothered Sharpton.
In 1991, Sharpton helped stoke the outrage of the black community of
Brooklyn's Crown Heights, following the accidental killing of a black child
there by a car in the motorcade of the orthodox Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. The
days of violence that followed culminated in the street mob-murder of Yankel
In 1995, Sharpton supported a racist and obviously explosive street protest
against a Jewish-owned Harlem clothing store, Freddy's, which was accused of
attempting to drive a black record store out of business. In a rally broadcast
on his weekly radio program, Sharpton spoke thusly: "We will not stand by
and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand
his business on 125th Street."....
On Dec. 8, after two months of rhetorical violence, protestor Roland Smith
entered the store armed with a pistol. Screaming, "It's on now, all
blacks out," Smith opened fire. He set the store ablaze, and then shot
himself. Smith killed seven store employees, most of them minorities.
Afterward, Sharpton said he had only been seeking to mediate.
In pursuit of black votes, Bill Bradley, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore have
all wooed Sharpton. Bradley and Clinton have been open and enthusiastic about
Gore long hesitated, but last weekend he finally paid obeisance to Sharpton.
Being Gore, he did it dishonestly. As the New York Times reported, Gore's
meeting with Sharpton "was hidden from public view...in the apartment of
Karenna Gore Schiff, Mr. Gore's oldest daughter." Meanwhile, naturally,
Gore's aides lied. From the Times account: "The press corps that normally
follows Mr. Gore were told by his aides that the meeting with Mr. Sharpton was
not happening and that his visit to his daughter's apartment was strictly
There has been much press attention to the pandering of various Republicans
over such race-related issues as the flying of the Confederate flag over the
capitol in South Carolina. And some of the Republican behavior has been
revolting. But nothing the Republicans have done comes anywhere close -- for
partisan irresponsibility, for a cynical and really dangerous disregard of the
national good, for sheer revulsion factor -- to the Democratic pursuit of the
love of Al Sharpton.
END of Excerpt
the broadcast networks highlighted Al Gore’s attack on George W. Bush for
lacking "the guts to take on bigotry’ and for being "morally
blind" on race, but only NBC’s Tim Russert, as an afterthought in an
NBC Nightly News conversation with Tom Brokaw later in the show, bothered to
raise Al Gore’s association with race-baiter Al Sharpton. And Russert’s
brief mention did not detail, as Kelly did above, how just eight days before
Gore had snuck off to meet Sharpton.
On ABC’s February 21 World News Tonight, reporter Dean
Reynolds relayed from the Bush campaign in Michigan: "Today his target
was Al Gore because yesterday, in a clear reference to Bush, the Vice
President said this."
Vice President Gore:
"There are those who have 20-20 vision, who are morally blind. You know,
some of these individuals just left the state of South Carolina."
Bush: "Yeah, shame
on him. Shame on him."
has been attacking Bush for, among other things, giving a speech to the
arch-conservative Bob Jones University during the South Carolina primary. The
school bans interracial dating and is hostile to the Catholic religion. Though
he's criticized the school's positions, Bush's appearance has dogged him for
weeks as insensitive and politically motivated."
Over on the CBS Evening
News, reporter Bill Whitaker did not specifically cite Gore but did outline
his argument: "You might confuse Bush, this year’s comeback kid, with a
quick change artist. The conservative with compassion turned hard right down
South and stood uncritically at Bob Jones University, which has been
criticized for anti-black and anti-Catholic views. But whistling Dixie may not
work in Michigan, a big, diverse, urban state."
David Bloom, on the NBC Nightly News, asserted:
"Gore, over the weekend, accuses Bush of lacking quote ‘the guts to
take on bigotry’ because Bush refused to take a stand on the flying of the
Confederate flag in South Carolina and spoke at Bob Jones University there,
which critics call segregationist and anti-Catholic."
Bush: "Shame on
him, shame on him."
Bloom: "Today Bush
Bush: "And I look
forward to debating Vice President Gore. And I look forward to challenging
this kind of politics that’s so stale and so negative."
Bloom then concluded
his story: "Tonight, if you listen to Governor Bush, it’s as if his
loss in New Hampshire and his sharp turn to the right in South Carolina never
happened, as if McCain no longer poses any threat at all. But it’s worth
remembering that on the night before his 19 point drubbing in New Hampshire,
the Bush campaign was equally confident of victory."
Only after several other stories aired did NBC return to
the campaign and mention Sharpton. Following an "In Depth" piece by
Lisa Myers on Michigan Governor John Engler’s influence, anchor Tom Brokaw
talked with Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert. Referring to Bush, Brokaw
"He did leave
behind a lot of scorched earth. He took some pretty controversial positions.
Is that going to hurt him in the fall?"
"George Bush wanted to win this nomination viewed as the compassionate
conservative without having to tilt right. The difficulty is, and you can hear
it with the exchanges with Al Gore already, that when he associates himself
with Pat Robertson or Bob Jones University or refuses to say the flag should
come down from the Capitol of South Carolina, blacks and woman and Catholics
get upset. He realizes he has to bring them back into a broad centrist
coalition to be elected President. Al Gore has his problems too, associations
with Al Sharpton, the minister up in Harlem, or support of so-called
Gee, I don’t recall any network reporters raising
concerns after New Hampshire about Gore’s ties to Sharpton or about how
he’s gone too far left on abortion.
(Following Bloom’s NBC Nightly News story NBC ran a
piece by Anne Thompson on how McCain is angry ant Bush’s tactics,
"accusing Governor Bush of running a sleaze campaign." Anchor Tom
Brokaw introduced the story by delivering some positive spin on McCain’s
cause: "Senator McCain is maintaining his warrior spirit....")
believe it myself, the Republicans made that point. Interviewing Gore
supporter Charles Rangel Monday night on CNN’s The World Today, anchor Wolf
Blitzer raised the equivalence between Bush going to Bob Jones University and
Al Gore visiting Al Sharpton, but quickly disassociated himself from the
Blitzer told Rangel: "You know, many Republicans in
the last few days, Congressman Rangel, have said that George W. Bush's
decision to go to Bob Jones University in South Carolina is really no
different than Bill Bradley or Al Gore's decision to meet with Al Sharpton,
the controversial minister in New York City. Is there a significant difference
there, or is there an analogy?"
"I didn't hear the full question, but I can tell you this: If you are
comparing Al Sharpton to the racism and anti- Semitism that exists in Bob
Jones in South Carolina, I think that you're making quite a stretch, and I
think America knows better than that."
A chastened Blitzer
backed off: "I wasn't making the comparison, I was reporting that many
Republicans were making that comparison, saying this Bob Jones University for
the Republicans may be like Al Sharpton for the Democrats."
America co-host Charles Gibson argued Monday morning with George W. Bush and
Michigan Governor John Engler about how Bush wrapped himself "so tightly
in the Republican Right" that it might "kill" him. Defending
Bush’s trip to Bob Jones University, Engler suggested that "when
Democrats go see Al Sharpton, I assume they're not buying his line." To
that, Gibson bizarrely countered that’s somehow different because "a
lot of Republicans criticize them."
On the February 21 show, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson
noticed, Gibson proposed: "You started this campaign knowing that the
Republican Party would have to broaden its base in order to win in November.
You were emphasizing compassion. Then you get in political trouble after New
Hampshire, and you wrap yourself so tightly in the Republican Right that it
may kill you in November."
Later, Gibson inquired: "Governor Engler, does the
campaign of Governor Bush in South Carolina stand him well in Michigan?"
"The campaign run in South Carolina emphasized some fundamental values
that are very important to a lot of Michigan voters and a record of reform --
cutting taxes, reforming welfare. Those are the kinds of things that matter to
our constituents and voters."
Gibson shot back:
"Many Catholic voters, many Jewish voters, many black voters in Michigan.
Governor Bush goes to Bob Jones University, he does not take a position
against the Confederate flag flying over the Capitol -- that does well in
Engler argued: "I
don't think that when Governor Bush or any other candidate goes to a place to
make a speech to talk about what they're for, that means they're implicitly
somehow ramifying whatever might have happened at that institution. Ronald
Reagan went to the same place. The Democratic governor of South Carolina went
there, and when Democrats go see Al Sharpton, I assume they're not buying his
Gibson oddly replied:
"Well, except that when Democrats go visit Al Sharpton, a lot of
Republicans criticize them for doing that. But let me put that aside for just
Engler replied, as both
he and Bush laughed: "Well, Democrats weren't sparing in their criticism
Democrats are criticizing Bush on BJU. The difference is
that the media eagerly adopt that complaint as their own.
As alluded to in the Kelly column in item #1 above, on
February 13 Gore snuck off to visit Al Sharpton, but though both the New York
Times and Washington Post both ran stories on it on February 14, ABC ignored
it that Monday as did the other networks.
of the Weekend: Bush went too far right in South Carolina. Most conservatives
hardly consider George W. Bush to one of their own and worry that he’s much
more moderate than conservative, but the networks consider him too
conservative, even portraying his tax cut as somehow an example of how
"he's now the kamikaze conservative." Of course, Al Gore and Bill
Bradley aren’t under a similar media barrage portraying them as having gone
too far left to satisfy Democratic Party constituencies.
-- CBS’s Face the Nation February 20. Bob Schieffer to
question that Governor Bush aimed his campaign in South Carolina to the right,
and he appealed to those Christian conservatives, which form one-third of the
electorate, as I understand it, down there in South Carolina. But someone was
also saying last night you can't run as the 'Dixiecrat' in Michigan. Did he
run too far to the right to hurt himself in Michigan now?"
-- ABC’s This Week, February 20. Cokie Roberts to
Bush, as transcribed by the MRC’s Jessica Anderson:
when you were in Texas, you did not have to do, and you had hoped not to have
to do in this election, what you have had to do in South Carolina, which was
move more to the right in order to get those Republicans and those
conservatives behind you."
"But one of the
things that's similar between here and Iowa that is not similar in New
Hampshire and will not be similar in Michigan, for instance, is that you do
have a larger body of conservatives here and people who identify themselves as
Religious Right, for instance. You're not going to have that all down the road
and you're not going to have it in the general election. Have you queered
[that’s what she said] yourself with some of the people in the middle by
running this kind of campaign here?"
George Stephanopoulos, the analyst who unlike George
Will also serves as a correspondent, during the roundtable: "Democrats
are pretty happy right now. They would have liked if John McCain did a little
bit better yesterday, but they had decided they would rather run against
George W. Bush, especially because he's had to move so far to the right. You
know, he's now the kamikaze conservative, with all the positions he's had to
take here in South Carolina -- against choice, going to Bob Jones University,
really locking himself in on that huge tax cut."
-- MSNBC’s live coverage of the South Carolina primary
Saturday night. At about 8:48pm Brian Williams interviewed Bush. His first
"We are already,
thanks to the speech John McCain just made, we are already privy it sounds
like, to his talking points in the next campaign of Michigan and it sounds to
us like he’s going to go after you on the politics of ‘exclusion,’ his
word not ours, things like your visit to Bob Jones University, is that day,
that one event going to turn out to be the event that haunts you for the
length and duration of this campaign?"
A few minutes later with
McCain, Williams urged him on:
"Are you going to
go after this man, the Governor of Texas, on this exclusion point, are you
going to be hammering the Bob Jones visit for example?"
-- CNN’s live coverage Saturday night of the primary.
At about 7:08pm ET tri-anchor Jeff Greenfield opined:
"In talking to
some of the senior officials in the Bush campaign today, they were at pains to
say that George Bush united the economic and social conservatives. I think as
they head into Michigan, to places like California and New York, if they have
to go there, they certainly don't want Governor Bush to be seen as the
candidate of the religious right, because it's a much less potent force in
Judy Woodruff chimed
in: "But it's going to be difficult, because there were statements that
Governor Bush made, not only about abortion, but about other issues that
matter to the religious right. They are going to have to think about how they
get the Governor back to the center."
During a Capital Gang segment that began at 7:20pm ET
Time’s Margaret Carlson contended:
"Bob [Novak] is
right when he says that Bush painted John McCain as less than a Republican,
but to do so he painted himself into a corner, where he is now a bedrock
conservative Republican who could be President of South Carolina. That's hard
to take with you to the other states, particularly to Michigan. It's not going
to work there among Reagan Democrats and moderate Republicans to be the
Republican that George Bush was here, not a uniter, but a divider, and
painting John McCain sometimes falsely, given his voting record, as not
conservative enough when his voting record is quite conservative. And the mail
drops that he did in South Carolina bordered on being totally false and
but you suck. That seemed to be CNN’s attitude Saturday night toward George
Bush’s victory in South Carolina as they interviewed him live at 7:55pm ET.
He was hit with a series of hostile questions by tri-anchors Bernard Shaw,
Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield which undercut the legitimacy of his
victory. Shaw posed the first question, but didn’t even congratulate Bush,
leading Woodruff and Greenfield to go out of their way to do it. The first
three questions Bush heard:
Bernard Shaw: "Hi there. Good to have you on, sir.
Let's take a deep breath and step back from the confetti and the cheering, and
explain to us, one, we knew you had to win, you did win. Tell us how you did
"Governor, it's Judy Woodruff -- and congratulations. Let me just ask
you, at the same time you had to run -- you ran in South Carolina, one of the
nation's most conservative states, a very conservative campaign, there was
talk of your position on abortion. You just mentioned cutting taxes. Doesn't
that make it harder for you to now to move back and appeal
to the center, which you must do to win this nomination and the
Jeff Greenfield: "It's Jeff Greenfield, Governor.
Let me add my congratulations. To follow up on what Judy was asking you, one
of the silver linings the McCain campaign claims from the exit polls is that
while you won big amongst self-described conservative Republicans, you lost to
McCain among moderate and liberal Republicans. And in South Carolina there's
an extraordinary number of conservatives. As you go into a place like Michigan
or New York, if that battle becomes necessary, are you at all concerned that
the tenor of this campaign has, as one Gore aide told me, maybe marginalized
you, made you less able to reach out with the kind of message you had for
those many months before the campaign began about inclusion?"
palpable sense of grief could be felt Saturday among liberal journalists, who
had improbably adopted McCain as their candidate," reported Robert Novak
in his February 21 column. Indeed, some media figures had trouble accepting
McCain’s South Carolina loss and offered hopeful advice on how he could
-- Brian Williams to Tim Russert on MSNBC at 7:10pm ET
Saturday, referring to Michigan: "Tim, the following dynamic, true or
false, will there be the feeling there, among let’s say auto assembly
workers, Reagan Democrats, some moderate Republicans, let’s help this guy
out. A, we want a race of this, we don’t want it to be over. B, you know we
just like McCain, we don’t want to vote for the machine candidate?"
Williams soon pleaded:
"Tim, what happened as you look at the McCain campaign?"
-- At about 8:36pm ET Williams tried to spin the McCain
loss in McCain’s favor, reporting: "All evening long we have been
saying things like ‘a margin of ten to 11 percent.’ There comes late word
to us, as they say, that this is tightening as the numbers come in as we get
around toward the nine o’clock hour in the east that maybe this is not a
double digit victory at all and maybe this is closer to a six percent
In fact, in the end it was an 11 point gap.
-- Over on CNN at about 7:25pm ET Saturday the Wall
Street Journal’s Al Hunt fretted: "McCain has a dilemma now, Mark. I
mean, he is a guy who said he's not going to go negative. He's got a lot of
ammunition going up to Michigan. I mean, those Macomb County voters would
really despise and be threatened by some of the anti-Catholicism of the
fundamentalists Bush supporters in South Carolina, but McCain is going to be
hard-pressed to use that now, isn't he?"
-- Newsweek’s Evan Thomas hoped, on Inside Washington:
"I think Bush’s strategy was short-term smart, but it may be long-term
stupid. I mean, South Carolina has a particular tradition of going negative,
pioneered by the great Lee Atwater. The great Lee Atwater engineered the first
push polls, I think were down there. So this business of demonizing a
candidate to stimulate the Bible Belter vote works in South Carolina, but that
doesn’t mean it’s going to work everywhere. And if McCain can find a way
get back on the high road -- I agree that he really stumbled by running that
negative campaign against Bush. He’d been so nimble the whole campaign, but
that one time he screwed up. If he can just get himself back on the high road,
I still think he can win."
-- Monday morning on NBC’s Today co-host Matt Lauer
empathized with McCain over his loss and urged him to fight back against Bush
in order to rise again. Lauer told McCain, as transcribed by the MRC’s
"I know you said
that your loss in South Carolina felt like taking a punch in the stomach. The
problem is you don’t have a lot of time to recover from that punch. As I
said, only 24 hours ‘til voters in Michigan go to the polls. How can you get
the momentum back in this race?"
"You mention the
high road, and I was going to get to negative ads in just a second. But now
that you agree that Governor Bush is running negative ads against you, not
only in Michigan, but from what I understand, in several other upcoming
primary states. Can you really afford not to change your tactics?"
Later in the interview Lauer suggested: "Governor
Bush did very well with voters on the far right of the Republican Party in
South Carolina; that may have been his margin of victory. Is it necessary for
you now, Senator McCain, to make that a liability for Governor Bush, to
portray him as someone beholden to that wing of the Party?"
Next, Katie Couric talked with Tim Russert. Her first
concern: "What went wrong, basically,
for John McCain in South Carolina?"
Despite the media’s clear favoritism for McCain,
Monday night during a taped interview on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather
proposed to McCain: "It’s common in the press corps, and in some
political circles to say, whatever you think of John McCain he’s destined to
lose because George Bush has him on all three of the Big Three: Money, Media
and Message. You agree?"
Bush certainly does not have the middle M.
Gumbel was none too pleased when his co-host uttered the idea that historians
might have rated Ronald Reagan the best President and he was no more happy
that Bill Clinton came in 21st place.
Monday morning CBS’s The Early Show brought aboard
historian Richard Norman Smith to discuss C-SPAN’s survey in which about 80
historians were asked to rank all the Presidents in ten areas of performance.
Plugging the upcoming interview at 7:21am, Gumbel announced: "Well later
on this morning we’re going to be talking on this President’s Day about
this presidential survey. Who would you think finished first?"
Co-host Jane Clayson
deferred: "Hmmm. Good question."
Gumbel: "Of all
the Presidents when they did first to worst. Oh c’mon, you would know."
Clayson: "Who was
Gumbel chastised her:
"No! Reagan wasn’t even in the top ten. Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you’ve
heard of him."
At 8:30am Gumbel got to Smith, who explained that
Clinton was rated fifth for "economic management" and placed very
last, 41st, in "moral authority." Overall, Clinton ranked 21st. A
displeased Gumbel argued:
"Well, but in part
that’s a sign of the times. I’m mean because he’s a sitting President he
wound up 21st. I mean he would be judged harsher than past Presidents would
be. Would you expect in years from now in this same survey he’d finish a lot
Smith remained unpersuaded by Gumbel’s argument.
Reagan, for the record, finished in 11th place.