CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday February 25, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 33) |
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"Far Right Organizations"; Campaign Ad "Poison"; Why Media Like McCain

1) Dan Rather warned that McCain is "going to the right" as CBS’s Eric Engberg blamed Bush’s Michigan loss on a backlash against "far right organizations." Tom Brokaw led with how Bob Dole "has stepped in now to say, ‘enough.’"

2) ABC on Bush: "Last year Governor Bush opposed a bill that would have banned the death penalty for the mentally handicapped and he vetoed a measure to improve the quality of public defenders."

3) Last Friday ABC’s John Stossel argued "the media like [campaign finance] reform so much" because if interest groups are suppressed "it makes us more important." Thursday night colleague John Martin railed against interest group advocacy, calling it "poison."

4) Pressed by CNN’s Jeff Greenfield about why the "liberal media" would like John McCain when he’s "pro-life, against federal aid to the arts and pro-defense buildup," Bob Novak answered: "They don't believe he means it on those things."

5) In Gore-like fashion, NBC’s Tom Brokaw claimed he was like Paul Revere, saying "The Internet is coming, the Internet is coming."

6) Help produce CyberAlerts: Job opening at the MRC for a News Media Analyst.

     >>> The February 24 Media Reality Check fax report, "Al Gore Benefits from the McCain Frenzy: Media Suggest Bush’s S.C. Victory Tilts Him to the Far Right, But Ignore Gore’s Attention from Far Left," is now online. The report begins: "While most media eyes have been misting over at John McCain’s campaign against the Republican ‘Death Star,’ Al Gore has cemented his hold on the Democratic nomination with important solicitations of the party’s hard left. Media outlets came out of Saturday’s South Carolina primary warning that George W. Bush’s dramatic win with help from the ‘far right’ would cost him in the fall. But would reporters pay equal attention to Gore and the far left? No."
    The report, compiled by the MRC’s Tim Graham, runs through how the media have ignored Gore’s affiliations with the Human Rights Campaign, Al Sharpton and NARAL. To read the fax report, go to: <<<

Corrections: The February 22 CyberAlert quoted CNN’s Bernard Shaw as beginning a question to George Bush: "Let's take a deep breathe and step back from the confetti and the cheering..." Breathe should have read breath. The February 24 CyberAlert referred to MRC Webmaster Any Szul. His name is Andy. Not just anyone in his family can post video clips. An item in the same issue about Good Morning America referred to "the 8am half how" instead of hour.


Three networks, three very different campaign news presentations, without overlap, Thursday night. CBS highlighted positive comments from Bill Bennett for John McCain as Dan Rather warned McCain is "going to the right." CBS Eric Engberg blamed Bush’s Michigan loss on a backlash against support from "far right organizations" and concluded the Bush-McCain battle will be decided by who can "appeal to the Republican Party’s long forgotten moderates."

    NBC’s Tom Brokaw led with how Bob Dole, "the grand old man of the Grand Old Party, has stepped in now to say, ‘enough.’" Lisa Myers examined Republican reaction to McCain’s success and found more concern about Bush as she highlighted how "a moderate Bush supporter says he’s alarmed that Bush is now publicly joined at the hip with Pat Robertson and the religious right."

    ABC’s World News Tonight did not run anything about the day’s campaign events, just "A Closer Look" segment on how independent expenditure efforts "poison" the political process. (See item #3 below for details.)

    Stories about the execution in Texas of Betty Lou Beets appeared on all the broadcast network evening shows, but only ABC delivered a politically-charged blast at Governor Bush for not doing more to protect criminals. (See item #2 below for details.)

    Now more on the CBS and NBC evening shows of Thursday, February 24:

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased the broadcast: "Battle of the bandwagons. McCain rides high into California as Bush tries to keep the wheels from falling off."

    Rather subsequently opened the show: "Good evening. There are signs tonight that support for George Bush may be eroding. By how much one cannot accurately assess. The one-time heavily favored frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is back home in Texas trying to figure out where he went wrong. John McCain is in California, going to the right, portraying himself now as a quote ‘Reagan Republican’ and the quote ‘true conservative’ in the race -- opposed to gay marriages and abortion and branding Bush a big spender as Governor."

    Up first, Gloria Borger talked to Rather and told him that the GOP hierarchy is getting nervous about Bush while Bill Bennett said McCain is the "best horse" to beat Gore since "this guy can win."

    Next, CBS ran an Eric Engberg piece on how Bush and McCain are vying for support from moderates. Engberg argued Bush is behind on that count because going to Bob Jones University and his alliance with Pat Robertson have "raised questions." Former RNC Chairman nicely offered as to how Bush is delivering an "exclusionary message" before Engberg asserted:
    "The support of far right organizations ignited Democrats and independents in Michigan who fueled McCain’s win. McCain will try to exploit that...The state’s coming up include several where Bush’s ties to the Christian Right may cost him support."

    Engberg noted that 12 upcoming primaries allow open voting, but that California and New York restrict voting to actual Republicans. After citing no McCain weaknesses, but running a soundbite from McCain on how Bush used to welcome Democratic support, Engberg concluded, apparently referring to New York and California:
    "The outcome in these two states could well hinge on which of these two candidates can appeal to the Republican Party’s long forgotten moderates."

    "Long forgotten moderates"? One could argue that the emergence of Bush and McCain as the Republican finalists is a triumph for Republican moderates. Conservatives may be attaching themselves to Bush, but he’s certainly never been considered part of the conservative movement.

    And I await CBS’s first story on how Al Gore has won "the support of far left organizations."

    Later in the show Rather announced that "the New York U.S. Senate race is now tighter than the A train at rush hour." He briefly listed how a CBS News/New York Times poll put Giuliani at 47 percent over 46 percent for Clinton while 48 percent would like another choice. Rick Lazio, where are you?

    -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the show:
    "Good evening. It’s gotten so bad in the bitter battle for the Republican presidential nomination, the grand old man of the Grand Old Party has stepped in now to say, ‘enough.’ Bob Dole, who saw his own presidential hopes diminished by family feuding in the ‘96 election today urged a truce between John McCain and George W. Bush."

    Lisa Myers provided NBC’s one campaign story of the night. She began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Challenging a shell shocked Republican establishment, John McCain argues that by reshaping the party, bringing in independents and Democrats, he’s Republicans’ best hope to regain the White House..."

    Following a soundbite from a McCain ad declaring he’s a "proud Reagan Republican" and a clip of Senator Fred Thompson claiming he’s the first Republican since Reagan with broad appeal, Myers ran through opposition points:
    "But much of the party establishment says the vision of McCain as their nominee is quote, ‘a nightmare.’ Even some Senators who agree with McCain on most issues complain he’s very difficult to work with."
    Senator Paul Coverdell asserted that most Senators see McCain as confrontational, before Myers moved on to Bush’s problems:
    "But many of those same Republicans are deeply distressed that George W. Bush, expected to reassemble a winning coalition, has performed poorly. A moderate Bush supporter says he’s alarmed that Bush is now publicly joined at the hip with Pat Robertson and the religious right."
    Congressman Fred Upton, holding a compass: "We had a staunch Republican give me this compass, and he said, ‘Give it to George W. the next time you see him because he lost his way.’"
    Myers: "Bush advisers tell NBC News that Robertson has been asked to stop all negative phone calls on Bush’s behalf, told they are not helpful. A former Republican National Chairman says Bush needs to be more inclusive, reach out more to moderates, minorities, even Democrats."
    After Rich Bond’s comment Myers concluded: "Tonight Bob Dole’s call for a truce reflects worries that both candidates may already be damaged for the fall -- McCain alienating the party’s base, Bush hurting himself with moderates and independents any Republican must have to win the White House."


ABC, CBS and NBC all ran pieces Thursday night on husband-killer Betty Lou Beets who was executed in Texas Thursday night. All stressed how her daughters claim she was abused by her husbands and that the abuse was never raised at trial, but only NBC’s Jim Cummins balanced that with a counter claim by the son of a man she murdered: "My dad never beat her. There’s no police reports, no hospital reports of any abuse."

    ABC’s World News Tonight used the event as an opportunity to discredit the whole criminal justice system in Texas and portray Bush as a not very compassionate Governor who favors putting the mentally ill to death and is opposed to giving the condemned better legal counsel.

    As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, ABC’s John Yang began his polemic: "Outside the Texas Death House today, a familiar scene. Inside, officials prepared to execute Betty Lou Beets. Texas leads the nation in executions; 120 while George W. Bush has been Governor."

    After a soundbite from Bush about how all put to death during his tenure were guilty, Yang continued:
    "Bush has intervened in an execution only once. He says in every case, he asks same questions he asked about Betty Lou Beets."
    Bush: "Was she guilty of the crime? Did the jury hear all circumstances? Did the courts and appeal courts hear all circumstances related to her case?"
    Yang contended: "But Beets’ attorney says in her case the courts did not hear all the circumstances. Her trial lawyer never even introduced the story of her husband's brutal abuse."
    Joe Margulies, Beets's attorney: "If George Bush cares about what the jury didn't hear, then this a case that calls out for clemency, because it's what the jury didn't hear and what the lawyer could've given that makes all the difference in this case."

    Yang picked up the argument: "Capital punishment critics say death row in Texas is full of such cases, inmates whose attorneys were inept, even sleeping during trials or using drugs or alcohol."
    Richard Dieter, Death Penalty Information Center: "Texas has a very local system, where the judge who will preside over the case determines who will be the lawyer and how much that lawyer will be paid."
    Yang concluded: "Last year Governor Bush opposed a bill that would have banned the death penalty for the mentally handicapped and he vetoed a measure to improve the quality of public defenders. Bush has toughened the system and insists he has faith in it."

    Somehow I suspect those last two summaries of Bush’s actions are a bit simplified.


Just six days after John Stossel on ABC’s 20/20 offered a rare argument in the media against campaign finance reform, suggesting that "the media like reform so much" because if interest groups are suppressed "it makes us more important," his own network delivered another example of the one-sided, advocacy reporting so common on this subject.

    For "A Closer Look" segment on Thursday’s World News Tonight reporter John Martin looked at how in the primary season so far outside groups have employed phone calls, e-mail and snail mail to deliver their message against a candidate. He listed several groups who have been active in primary states, including Americans for Tax Reform, Human Rights Campaign, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, National Right to Life Committee, though he called it the "National Right to Life Campaign," the Sierra Club, Christian Coalition and the National Smokers Alliance.

    Martin ominously concluded: "What makes this bad for democracy is that most of these tactics fly below the radar of reporters and poison what is supposed to be an open debate of the merits and policies of the candidates."

    As if the media are neutral observers who always deliver uplifting coverage that is never negative or unfair in a way that might "poison" or turn people off from the political process. How preposterous a line of reasoning. Virtually all network coverage of politics assumes politicians are manipulators just out for political advantage.

    On last Friday’s 20/20 ABC’s resident contrarian, John Stossel, offered a refreshing take on how those favoring restrictions on campaign money would trample free speech and empower the media, empower it for more biased reporting like that delivered by Martin.

    For his February 18 "Give me a break!" feature, a short segment at the end of 20/20, Stossel took on campaign finance reform, noting in the midst of several soundbites advocating it: "The press and politicians are in agreement. All the money is awful."

    He played a clip of John McCain asking incredulously: "Is there anybody here that thinks that we need more money in American political campaigns? I don't think so."

    Stossel jumped in: "Well, excuse me. I do. This year, the candidates and parties will spend less on all American elections than we spend on yogurt or bowling. We spend three times as much on amusement parks. Aren't elections more important than this? Remember Gene McCarthy's campaign? He was able to challenge President Johnson only because one rich man bankrolled him. But his campaign would be illegal under today's rules and even more illegal under reform.
     "How come no one's talking about freedom? In America, shouldn't voters be allowed to give as much of their money to whomever they want? The so-called ‘reformers’ keep talking about those sinister ‘special interests.’ But what is a ‘special interest’? Yes, it's the tobacco companies, but it's also any group of like-minded people -- say, the Sierra Club."

    Stossel showed some clips of interest group ads, noting they’d be made "illegal under most of the proposed reforms because they name a candidate. But these ads are useful. They give us information." Stossel asked: "I can see why the politicians don't like these ads, but should they be able to ban them?"

    Stossel continued: "The so-called reforms would also outlaw these voters guides published by seniors groups and religious organizations. This is important political speech. This should be a federal crime? What will they do next?"
    Al Gore: "We're going to have a system of full public financing."
    Stossel: "Public financing means the serious candidates get to spend millions of dollars of your tax money on their ads. And who’s serious? Just them? Or Perot? Buchanan? Keyes? Trump? Howard Stern? Those already elected will decide. These reforms smell a lot like a plot by insiders to keep outsiders out. Money is a fact of life in politics. Outlaw it one place, it sneaks in someplace else. Politicians don't even obey the laws we have now, yet they want more laws?"

    Wrapping up, Stossel pointed out: "In politics, money is speech. If you limit the money, you limit who gets to speak. Maybe that's why the media like reform so much. If the special interests, like the Sierra Club and the gun lobby and the unions and business speak less, it makes us more important. Give me a break!"

    After the taped piece ended an appalled Barbara Walters pleaded the liberal line: "Oh, John, the media has enough opportunity to speak, I mean, they don't need that, but doing away with these big money interest groups is a, is a good thing because you don't have that kind of money from one organization."
    Stossel countered: "But these laws never do it. The big interest groups always find ways around the laws. And when you cut out the bad guys, you cut out the good guys, too."
    Walters pressed ahead: "But maybe with real reform, it will make a difference."
    Stossel answered: "Never has. And Germany has real tough laws and lots of scandal. These things don't work."
    Walters wouldn’t give up: "Just because it never has doesn't mean that it never will."

    For a bulletin board about this story, a full transcript of it, as well as video of the entire story, though sans the post-story talk between Walters and Stossel, go to John Stossel’s Web page:

    ++ Watch an excerpt from Stossel’s story plus his back and forth with Walters. Friday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of it. Go to:


"The media is more liberal than the average conservative out there can dream" and "they like John McCain" because "he is right in tune with them," columnist Bob Novak declared Tuesday night during a live midnight ET edition of CNN’s Larry King Live hosted by Jeff Greenfield. Pressed about why the "liberal media likes a guy who is pro-life, against federal aid to the arts and pro-defense buildup," Novak answered: "They don't believe he means it on those things."

    (That’s the same assessment offered on Crossfire a few weeks ago by Content magazine founder Steve Brill. See the February 11 CyberAlert.)

    On the show aired the night of February 22 after the Michigan primary, Novak, in a transcript checked against the videotape by the MRC’s Paul Smith, confirmed:
    "My brothers and sisters in the news media, I'm not just talking about commentators such as are sitting around this table tonight, but I'm talking about reporters as liberal as they can be. The media is more liberal than the average conservative out there can dream. They like John McCain. Why do they like him so much? Because on the things they care about that doesn't show up in the voting records, he is right in tune with them. When he says, ‘We don't want a tax cut for the rich,’ that doesn't show up in his voting record, but that's liberal propaganda. That's the liberal language."

    Host Jeff Greenfield wondered: "I want you to answer a specific question. The liberal media likes a guy who is pro-life, against federal aid to the arts and pro-defense buildup?"

    Novak explained: "They don't believe he means it on those things. What they think he means -- for example, let me give you a for example on tax reform. Republican Reagan conservative tax reform is trying to get rid of the system, having a flat tax or a national sales tax. His idea of tax reform is closing tax loopholes for corporations. What tax loopholes for corporations? Well, he's very vague on that. But that kind of talk really fits in to what the media is expecting."


Tom Brokaw and Al Gore, Internet pioneers. Last March Al gore told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Now Tom Brokaw has claimed he was like Paul Revere, proclaiming "The Internet is coming, the Internet is coming."

    MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey alerted me to a quote cited in a February 24 item by New York Daily News TV reporter Richard Huff. He reported on how Brokaw will host this Sunday a 8-10pm ET MSNBC "Summit in Silicon Valley," featuring a panel of industry leaders. "This is like having Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Walter Chrysler, Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright brothers on the same stage," Brokaw exclaimed.

    Huff relayed: "The anchorman said he pays a lot of attention to new media partly because one of his daughters is in the business. ‘I was one of the Paul Revere outriders saying, 'The Internet is coming, the Internet is coming,’ Brokaw said, noting that he was one of several NBC execs who were dealing with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who agreed to partner with NBC on MSNBC.

    A real Internet Paul Revere would know that Microsoft didn’t even discover the Internet until about 1995.


MRC job opening. Find the bias documented in CyberAlerts. The MRC, located in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, has an opening for a News Media Analyst. Those in this position must work at the MRC’s headquarters and, therefore, should live in the Washington, DC area. News Media Analysts review network television news shows and major print publications to track coverage and identify biased stories for quoting in our publications which document liberal bias. Qualified applicants should have a good understanding of current events, be able to write clearly and be interested in politics and the news. The starting pay for the position is $22,000. Those interested should send a resume via fax to Brent Baker at (703) 683-9736.

    And, you’ll have the privilege and joy of working with me. -- Brent Baker



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