The Man Inside Anne; Hsia Shunned More; Today's Expensive McCain Gimmick
1) Quotes of the Weekend: Larry King boasted of kissing a man
on the lips and Anne Heche claimed she's as much male as female.
2) Maria Hsia shunned some more Friday: All three morning
shows ignored the conviction of the woman behind the Buddhist temple event, as
did two of the Big Three Sunday interview shows. On Inside Washington two
media stars minimized Gore's culpability.
3) Anything for a gimmick promoting McCain. For the second
time, on Friday NBC's Today went to great expense and logistical effort in
order to broadcast a live interview from McCain's bus.
4) Friday night ABC eagerly relayed McCain's complaint about
an anti-McCain ad: "McCain says the real issue is how the ad is paid for
with those huge unregulated contributions he rails against." NBC ran an
In Their Own Words from a conservative upset at McCain.
5) CNN's Jeff Greenfield hit George W. Bush from the right on
his student testing plan.
6) Tim Russert to Bill Bradley: "Why would you embrace
someone like Al Sharpton?"
>>> "McCain's 'So-Called' Straight Talk Express: Media
Favor McCain's Sloganeering Bus Title, But Dan Rather Chokes on 'Christian
Coalition.'" The March 2 Media Reality Check fax report is now
online, thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul. This edition by Tim Graham
contends: "One measure of the media's uncritical acceptance of the
McCain campaign spin is its unattributed use of the name of his famous
press-schmoozing bus, the 'Straight Talk Express.'" Graham contrasted
this with how Dan Rather regularly offers up such convoluted sentences as
this in order to avoid accepting the Christian Coalition as a legitimate
name: "The head of the Republican political lobbying group that calls
itself, quote, the 'Christian Coalition.'" To read this report, go
of the Weekend: From actress Anne Heche's appearance Saturday night on
CNN's Larry King Weekend along with Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone to
promote HBO's If These Walls Could Talk 2, a movie which debuted on Sunday
night showcasing vignettes about three generations of lesbians who lived
in the same house. For those not up on Hollywood matters, Heche is
DeGeneres's lover and Heche directed the portion of the HBO film featuring
DeGeneres and Stone as present-day lesbians trying to have a child through
First a little warm up before getting to the
Larry King: "I was just telling Anne that
I've never been kissed by a man, except Brando. Brando kissed me on the
Sharon Stone: "That's something."
Thanks for sharing that, Larry. Actually,
maybe that should be my Quote of the Weekend.
Shortly after King's boast viewers heard this
exchange, which features my original pick for Quote of the Weekend from
Heche as she claimed she's both male and female.
King: "Do you miss anything about the
Heche: "No I don't."
King: "You don't?"
Heche: "I don't at all. I mean, Ellen is to
me the embodiment of both male and female. I think that's why our energies
connected so quickly and so easily because I've always felt in my being
that I'm both male and female, maybe a little more -- maybe a little more
balanced out than most. I've just felt like I had a lot of male energy in
me. So we connected so quickly because of that."
But there's more. Stone later poured out to
Heche: "Anne is very special. She's like a little Buddha. She lives
without prejudice, without bias. She can understand and accept everything
in others and in herself."
This prompted Heche to hug Stone.
All this occurred in just one six minute
segment of the one hour show.
Maria Hsia shunned Friday morning too without one syllable about her on
the three broadcast morning shows, not even during Today's live bus
interview with John McCain. (See item #3 today for more on Matt Lauer's
Manhattan bus trip with McCain.) Plus, the ABC and CBS Sunday morning
interview shows skipped her conviction while on Inside Washington NPR's
Nina Totenberg maintained that Al Gore didn't know the Buddhist temple
event was a fundraiser and Newsweek's Evan Thomas insisted it's "not
all that clear-cut that Gore did something terrible at that temple."
The March 3 CyberAlert reported how the March
2 conviction of Maria Hsia on five counts of illegal funneling of campaign
funds, including one count stemming from the infamous Buddhist temple
event with Al Gore, was ignored Thursday night by NBC Nightly News and
MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams. ABC's World News Tonight gave the
development 18 seconds and it earned just 23 seconds on the CBS Evening
News. (CNN and FNC aired full stories Thursday night.)
Friday morning the Hsia conviction ran on the
front page of both the New York Times and Washington Post. In the March 3
Post story, reporter Bill Miller summarized her transgressions and made a
prediction about its impact on Gore:
Political fundraiser Maria Hsia, a longtime associate of Vice President
Gore, was convicted yesterday of channeling more than $100,000 in illegal
contributions to Democratic candidates in 1996, including $65,000 in
tainted money she brought in the day after Gore's controversial appearance
at a Buddhist temple.
The verdict marked one of the biggest victories yet for the Justice
Department's oft-criticized campaign finance task force. It also rekindles
an issue that could cause Gore problems in his quest for the presidency.
Within an hour of the jury's finding, the Republican National Committee --
which had a staff worker follow the trial -- issued a statement depicting
Hsia as a "small fry" target and calling on prosecutors to go
after Gore and other Democratic Party leaders....
The verdict followed 10 hours of deliberations and a three-week trial
in U.S. District Court in which the jury got an exhaustive education in
campaign fundraising tactics and federal election laws. Prosecutors argued
that Hsia deliberately broke the law to enhance her influence in the
Democratic Party, collecting money from "straw donors" who were
then illegally reimbursed for their contributions.
"Rekindles an issue that could cause Gore
problems"? In newspapers, but not on the networks as National Review
Washington Editor Kate O'Beirne astutely observed in her Outrage of the
Week on Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN:
"This week, Al Gore's longtime fundraiser
Maria Hsia, identified as an agent of the Chinese government by a
congressional committee, was convicted of five felony counts for illegal
fundraising, including the infamous Buddhist temple event. Although Secret
Service and Gore staff memos all refer to the temple visit as a
fundraiser, the Vice President implausibly insists he had no idea money
was being raised there. Now that his old friend has been convicted, Gore,
the beneficiary of her illegal activities, refuses to discuss them. As
long as the network news all but ignores Hsia's conviction, Al Gore can
continue his dodge."
Indeed, after ignoring it Thursday night the
NBC Nightly News on Friday night failed to catch up with the story. Friday
morning, all three broadcast networks shows refused to tell their viewers
about it. Good Morning America dedicated its 7am half hour to another
interview about gun control and a look at "pump and dump"
schemes related to penny stock scams. CBS's The Early show focused on guns
in schools in its 7am half hour and had time in its news update for a look
at a robotic gas pump in Indianapolis. See item #3 for more on Today.
Sunday morning, neither Gloria Borger or Bob
Schieffer raised Hsia's name during interviews with George W. Bush and
John McCain. Neither did Cokie Roberts or Sam Donaldson during interviews
with Bush, McCain aide Rick Davis or Bill Bradley. NBC's Tim Russert did
bring up her conviction near the end of his Meet the Press interview with
McCain and made it the subject of his very first question to Bill Bradley.
Fox News Sunday raised Hsia during the roundtable segment.
On Inside Washington two media heavyweights
tried to downplay the degree of Gore's misdeeds. Newsweek Assistant
Managing Editor Evan Thomas insisted:
"As I keep trying to read the facts of this
story, it is awfully murky. It's not really a clear-cut, to me it's not
all that clear-cut that Gore did something terrible at that temple."
NPR's Nina Totenberg piped in: "I don't
think he probably, I certainly don't think he knowingly did. But that's
undoubtedly true of Bob Dole and one of his top campaign people last time,
in the middle of the campaign, had to plead guilty to major campaign
finance abuses but there's no film in that case. In this case there's film
If I recall correctly, the man in the Dole
story was a donor, not a paid fundraiser and it did not involve an event
which Dole attended.
Moderator Gordon Peterson asked: "In
other words you believe that Gore thought this was all part of a community
Totenberg confirmed: "I think Gore thought
it was part of a fundraising swing where you go and talk to people and
then you follow up with their friends and things like that, yes I
It took the liberal Jack Germond to point out the
obvious flaw in Totenberg's rationalization: "He wasn't at all non-plussed
by being with a bunch of monks at a fundraiser?"
What expense won't NBC incur in order to promote the McCain campaign?
Before the North Carolina primary they broadcast a live interview by
Jonathan Alter with McCain as McCain's bus cruised down an Interstate
highway, a feat which took two helicopters above: One to pick up the
signal from the bus and another to relay it to a satellite.
Friday morning, instead of having McCain get
off his so-called "Straight Talk Express" and walk into Today's
street-side studio in Rockefeller Plaza, when the bus pulled up Today
co-host Matt Lauer climbed aboard to conduct another technologically
challenging live interview at great extra expense. As Lauer explained, in
South Carolina the bus was in an open area, but all the tall buildings in
Manhattan make it very difficult to transmit a live TV image. So, did
Today just have the interview take place in the bus as it remained
stationary? No, NBC just ordered up more helicopters so they could have
the gimmick of a live interview from a moving bus.
Lauer, unlike Alter last month, at least did
spend a reasonable portion of the interview challenging McCain about his
honesty in denying a connection to anti-Bush flyers and phone calls, but
that was only after a series of softballs about the inaccuracy and
questionable funding of new Bush ads against McCain and Lauer urging
McCain to get back onto his winning message after being sidetracked by
attacking the Religious Right.
Here are the questions Lauer posed as McCain's
bus cruised through Manhattan in the 7am half hour, as transcribed by MRC
analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- "I know you haven't had a lot of time
to watch television since you've been in New York but I want to talk to
you about a couple of ads that are now running. The first is about breast
cancer, paid for by the Bush campaign. In it a breast cancer survivor says
that John McCain in the Senate voted against funding for breast cancer
research. What's your reaction to that ad?"
-- "Is this is a case of your record being
twisted then by the Bush campaign?"
-- "Are you more concerned with another ad
that's also running here in New York and from what I understand in some
other states as well. This one deals with the topic of clean air and it
says Senator John McCain voted against solar and renewable energy. The
implication being that Governor Bush is more for clean air than John
McCain. This one is not paid for, from what we understand, by the Bush
campaign. It's paid for by a small political action committee out of
Texas. What's your reaction to that one?"
-- "Let's talk about New York. The latest
poll came out last night. In it Governor Bush has inched ahead of you in
the polls. Still within the margin of error. What do you need to do in
your short time here in New York to get a win here? Because it's a crucial
state, huge number of delegates."
-- "Is it fair to say, but is it fair to say
Senator that in the last couple of weeks you've gotten a little bit off
that message? That you've spoken as much about your enemies on far right
side of your party as you have about reform in unifying the party. For
example your challenges to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell."
-- "But it was a risky strategy. A lot of
people said it was a big gamble. It appears if you look at the results you
had since you made that speech that the gamble may have backfired. In
Virginia, in Washington state you took a beating with Republican voters
especially the staunch Republican loyalists."
-- "Even if it's at your own personal
expense because you have to know that you're gonna need certain parts of
their voting block to win this nomination."
-- "Gary Bauer after he ended his
presidential bid. He became one of your supporters. He said this. Quote,
'I must in the strongest possible terms repudiate Senator McCain's
unwarranted, ill advised and divisive attacks on certain religious
leaders.' This is a guy who backs you."
-- "Bill Bennett a conservative who was
leaning toward endorsing you said that your comments crossed the line.
He's not sure anymore."
-- "Let's talk about Straight Talk. We're on
the Straight Talk Express. Earlier this week in California you called
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson agents of intolerance. Forces of evil. A
day later you said after much criticism, 'I was kidding.'"
-- "But you've said to people a hundred
times in this campaign, 'I will always tell you the truth.' Let me bring
up a couple of instances though. During a debate, televised debate with
George Bush. He took a flyer out of his pocket. He said this is negative
against me. Why did you do this?' You said, 'That's not part of my
-- "The next day you admitted that your
campaign had distributed those flyers."
-- "When the Bush campaign accused you of
sponsoring recorded telephone messages accusing him of being anti-Catholic
you said it didn't come from my campaign. The next day you said, okay they
did approach me about this and we did pay a company to make those
-- "Foreign policy. Taiwan wants to buy some
weapons from the U.S. They have a list of, their wish list. On it are some
weapons that in the past we've denied selling them because we felt they
could be used for offensive, not only defensive purposes. The Aegis
destroyers, certain missile systems. Given the current state of tension
between China and Taiwan should we make that sale?"
-- "But would you be at all concerned about
ruffling the feathers of the Chinese with an arms sale to Taiwan?"
-- "Let me talk about Super Tuesday. An
enormous number of delegates up for grabs. 13 states. New York, Ohio,
California, Connecticut, Massachusetts. Do you have a number in your mind
in terms of the number of states you need to win, the number of delegates
you need to come away with that's the make or break number that says I go
on or I get out?"
The most important issue of the day on Friday to ABC News: John McCain's
complaint about a TV ad attacking him paid for by an independent
expenditure. ABC made it their lead story and set out to discredit its
funding and points with a story overwhelming tilted in favor of McCain's
campaign finance "reform" agenda.
Anchor Peter Jennings opened the March 3 World
"We are going to begin with unregulated
money and the Republican presidential campaign. It is called soft money by
some people. It's what you may give in unlimited amounts to support a
political campaign, because it's illegal to give more than $1,000 to a
candidate directly. We begin there tonight because two very wealthy men in
Texas are spending more than $ 2 million of their own money to help George
W. Bush defeat John McCain, and Mr. McCain, as you know, has made the
effect of money in politics his campaign priority."
Douglass went right to McCain's complaint:
"John McCain told a raucous crowd in New York that he has caught the
Republican establishment red-handed, playing a dirty trick."
McCain: "They're trying to fool you again.
Two million dollars just came into this campaign from a source we don't
know, alleging things that are not true. Don't be fooled by them, my
Douglass elaborated: "For two days,
people have been asking who is spending $2.5 million on an ad campaign
which claims McCain sides with polluters, and portrays George Bush as a
champion of clean air....The ad claims to be from a group called
Republicans For Clean Air, which lists as its phone number the home of a
young woman in Virginia who would not say who she worked for. The FCC was
considering forcing the commercials off the air unless the group revealed
who was behind it. Today Republicans for Clean Air put out a press release
announcing it was formed just this week by two of George Bush's biggest
contributors, Sam and Charles Wyley of Texas. The Wyley brothers insist
they did not coordinate with the Bush campaign. That would be
Rob Allyn, President of Allyn & Company,
explained: "This is a group in formation. This is the first week of
operation, so our first and primary focus was to let voters in New York,
and California, and Ohio, and all across America, know about the great
record that Governor Bush has about clean air."
Douglass continued: "Today, Bush said he
knows the Wyley brothers but insisted he knew nothing about the ad."
Bush: "There is no coordination between us.
I can't put it any more plainly to you. I had no idea the ad was going to
Douglass concluded by using a liberal group as
her authority: "As for the ad itself, the Sierra Club says it is
factually wrong, arguing Bush's state of Texas has one of the worst air
pollution records in the country. McCain says the real issue is how the ad
is paid for with those huge unregulated contributions he rails
That's certainly the "real issue"
for ABC News as well as the network compliantly produced a story matching
his political agenda. ABC didn't bother pointing out that if we didn't
have the current inane $1,000 donation limit Wyley could have given his $2
million directly to the Bush campaign which then would have produced an ad
it would have to defend. Under the campaign finance regulatory regime
Wyley had to make the ad himself without any coordination with the Bush
campaign, so the Bush people didn't have to stand by its accuracy and have
plausible deniability about knowing its content beforehand.
Friday's CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News
also picked up on McCain's complaint, but did not devote an entire story
to it. NBC ran an unusual "In Their Own Words" segment from a
Christian conservative upset by McCain's remarks earlier in the week.
Anchor Brian Williams set up the first person narrative:
"One other factor that's working against
Senator McCain tonight, at least with some Republican voters, his use of
the word 'evil' in connection with some prominent Christian conservative
leaders. Jack Thompson is an attorney in Miami and was a McCain supporter
until those remarks came earlier this week. They changed his mind. Here he
is tonight In His Own Words."
Thompson contended: "I was drawn to
Senator McCain because I thought him to be a man of principle, a man of
courage. When I heard Senator McCain describe Jerry Falwell and Pat
Roberston and the things that they had done in the political process as
evil, that got my attention because frankly then Senator McCain was
talking about me, as well. And about other people I know of faith who have
-- has allowed and properly sowed their religion to inform animate their
political actions. I didn't take Senator McCain's comments, though,
personally but what struck me instantly was here's a man who doesn't
understand the role of religion in the life of a society. And it was an
alarm bell. John McCain may, years from now, understand that he was this
close and what he decided to do for personal pique, or for some other
reason was to turn on the very core foundation of this Party. Incredible
An unusual question from the right to George Bush about his education
plans. As noted in the March 2 CyberAlert, at CNN's Wednesday night
Democratic debate Jeff Greenfield pressed Gore and Bradley about
condemning Al Sharpton. Thursday night Greenfield was among the reporters
quizzing McCain, Bush and Keyes at the Republican debate sponsored by the
Los Angeles Times and shown on CNN.
Greenfield again posed a rare media question,
pressing Bush from the right about his proposal to make states receiving
federal money show education success by subjecting students to a
Department of Education-approved test. As taken down by MRC analyst Paul
Smith, Greenfield suggested:
"It seems to me a conservative's worst
nightmare to say, once you take federal money we will require you to
impose standardized tests. Why not leave it, as most conservatives say in
most areas, to the local and state authorities?"
Speaking of Democratic alliances with Al Sharpton, the liberal hypocrisy
in condemning George W. Bush for his speech at Bob Jones University while
cavorting with a race-baiter isn't making it onto the broadcast network
morning or evening shows, but it was raised last week in the Democratic
debate and on Sunday's Meet the Press Tim Russert asked Bill Bradley about
On the March 5 show, Russert observed to
Bradley: "You have been critical of presidential candidates going to
Bob Jones University, a school which tolerates, until last week, no
interracial dating and some anti-Catholic language. There has been
criticism of you embracing Reverend Al Sharpton in New York, a man who
said that Mario Cuomo had Mafia connections, Pat Moynihan had racist
theories, that former Mayor Dinkins was a whore, that the Jews should pin
their yarmulkas back and come get it on, that a Jewish businessman's a
white interloper. Why would you embrace someone like Al Sharpton?"
Bradley replied: "Well, Tim, I haven't
embraced Al Sharpton. I have gone to the House of Justice last summer to
make a presentation to 600 community residents in Harlem. And I was the
first Democratic primary candidate since Bobby Kennedy in 1968 to go to
Harlem and make that kind of presentation. That was the venue that was
afforded me by Reverend Sharpton. I don't agree with Reverend Sharpton on
a lot of things. But at the same time, I took advantage of that
Russert countered: "People would say
George W. Bush took advantage of Bob Jones' venue. And he was criticized
for not challenging Mr. Jones' thinking. Why not challenge Mr. Sharpton's
thinking in front of his own people?"
Final Note: George W. Bush is scheduled to
appear in person Monday night on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Tune in
to see if he can improve upon his Letterman show flop done via satellite.