"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
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
6) Help produce CyberAlerts: Job opening at the MRC for a News
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.
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
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,
-- 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
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
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:
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
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
After a soundbite from Bush
about how all put to death during his tenure were guilty, Yang continued:
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?"
"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
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."
"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.
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
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
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."
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
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."
"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,
Walters pressed ahead:
"But maybe with real reform, it will make a difference."
"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: http://archive.mrc.org
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
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
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
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.
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