Bush & Gore Eat Dessert, Avoid Spinach; Liberals not Labeled; Missile Shield "Doubts"; Helen’s Plea
1) ABC, CBS and NBC led with the
Supreme Court’s ruling against student-led prayer. Dan Rather spun it as
"strengthening...the wall between church and state." ABC tagged as
"anger" Rehnquist’s criticism that the majority "bristled
with hostility" to religion. CBS suggested prayer backers would be
"heartened" by his comment.
2) "After he bashed"
Bush’s "plan to invest Social Security money in the stock market,"
Gore announced a "strikingly similar plan," CBS’s John Roberts
noted. ABC’s John Cochran complained Gore and Bush are telling voters they
don’t have to "eat their spinach."
3) The media crusade for Texas
death row inmate Gary Graham rolls on. Time’s Margaret Carlson made George
Bush’s failure to stop the execution her "Outrage of the Week" and
though Bush cannot commute the sentence, ABC’s Dean Reynolds stressed how
critics "argue whatever it may say on paper Bush is far from
4) A liberal group put out a study
Monday meant to discredit welfare reform, but the networks failed to apply a
label. CBS’s Dan Rather picked up on the "private study." ABC’s
Peter Jennings cited the numbers from "a lobbying group."
5) "More Doubts Are Raised on
Missile Shield" announced the Sunday headline over the Washington
Post’s lead story. But far from an unworkable system, the panel found, as
ABC but not CBS noticed, that it will work, though it will take some time to
6) Matt Lauer used an appearance
by Bill Clinton to promote the giving of used instruments to school kids to
advocate a bigger federal role in schools.
7) Helen Thomas’s commencement
plea to the next generation: "Don’t let the politicians chip away at
the New Deal and the Great Society programs like Social Security,
Medicare" which make sure "the powerless do not starve." And
she condemned the GOP Congress.
8) Asked if she ever came across
anyone she dated years ago, Diane sawyer laughed nervously. Was she afraid of
the name Bill Bradley?
online, the June 16 edition of MediaNomics, which relays "what the
media tell Americans about free enterprise." MediaNomics is published
by the MRC’s Free Market Project (FMP). The articles by FMP Director
Rich Noyes in this latest edition: "Liberals Featured, Conservatives
Shunned in Death Tax Coverage"; "Networks Silent on
Government-Inspired Hospice Horrors," which showed how "the
broadcast networks -- whose news programs frequently feature stories of
how patients of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) have suffered as a
result of cost-cutting rules -- showed no interest in documenting the
human costs that can result from the mindless application of government
rules"; and "NBC News Lent Support to Mandatory Vacation
Law" which quoted how Today’s Matt Lauer confessed that he'd
"never stopped to think about the fact there is no official U.S.
policy on vacation time." To read these articles in full, go to:
Supreme Court’s decision barring student-led school prayer before
sporting events led the three broadcast network evening shows on Monday
night. Each delivered a pretty even-handed account of the views of those
pleased and displeased, though CBS’s Dan Rather offered a positive spin
on the ruling, relaying how "CBS’s Jim Axelrod has more the
Court’s latest strengthening of the wall between church and state."
All three June 19 lead
stories ended by citing Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s dissenting
opinion that the "majority bristled with hostility to all things
religious in public life," but each gave the comment a different
-- ABC’s World News
Tonight. Jackie Judd labeled the comment evidence of anger: "In an
unusual display of anger, Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing the dissent,
said the Court’s majority ‘bristled with hostility to all things
religious in public life.’"
-- CBS Evening News. Jim
Axelrod portrayed it as an upbeat sign for public prayer supporters:
"While many school prayer opponents see this as a sweeping decision
with a potentially powerful impact on many issues, those on the other side
might be heartened by the dissent of Chief Justice Rehnquist. He wrote he
was most bothered by the opinion’s tone, which quote, ‘bristles with
hostility to all things religious in public life.’"
-- NBC Nightly News.
Pete Williams failed to label the six Justices in the majority as liberals
or even moderates, but provided a conservative tag for those in dissent:
"The Court’s three most conservative members -- Rehnquist, Scalia
and Thomas -- write a strong dissent today. They say the ruling quote,
‘bristles with hostility to all things religious in political
Gore couldn’t even fool the media as all the networks on Monday night
pointed out how his retirement savings plan, to be officially announced on
Tuesday, borrows heavily from George Bush’s with its reliance on
investments in stocks and mutual funds. "Just a month after he bashed
George W. Bush’s plan to invest Social Security money in the stock
market, Al Gore has torn a strikingly similar plan from Bush’s own
playbook," announced John Roberts on the June 19 CBS Evening News.
Monday night CBS took on
only Gore while NBC ran back-to-back pieces, one on Gore’s plan and one
on Bush’s plan, and ABC’s John Cochran declared that both candidates
are avoiding hard truth: "Gore and Bush are telling voters they can
eat their dessert without having to eat their spinach."
-- ABC’s World News
Tonight. John Cochran outlined how while Bush’s plan would permit money
for Social Security to be put in the stock market, Gore’s plan would
only allow money to be put in through new accounts to which the federal
government would add: $3 for every $1 put in for the poor, $1 for $1 for
those between $30,000 and $60,000 with a phase-out at $100,000.
After running a
soundbite of Bush accusing Gore of a flip-flop for accusing him of putting
money in the "risky" stock market, and a clip of Gore claiming
Bush’s plan, unlike his, "diverts" money from the Social
Security "trust fund," Cochran assessed both plans as
"Critics of Gore and Bush say both are counting on
budget surpluses to last forever and neither has proposed the tough
medicine needed to keep Social Security solvent in the years ahead, such
as raising payroll taxes or the age of eligibility. So, when it comes to
retirement plans, both Gore and Bush are telling voters they can eat their
dessert without having to eat their spinach."
-- CBS Evening News.
After opening his story with the above quoted statement, John Roberts ran
through the basics of Gore’s plan and let Bush accuse him of
flip-flopping before Roberts showed tape of him demanding of Gore:
"Well, you’ve said it’s too risky to invest Social Security in
the stock market, does it not follow that it’s too risky to invest tax
dollars from the surplus into the market?" Gore replied:
"Doesn’t follow at all because Social Security is protected this
-- NBC Nightly News.
Claire Shipman handled the piece on Gore’s proposal and she featured a
soundbite from Carol Cox Wait of the Committee for a Responsible Federal
Budget, who complained that Gore’s plan would mean a "tremendous
cost to the government." Of course, it would really mean a tremendous
cost to higher-income taxpayers who already shoulder most of the tax
Up next, Lisa Myers
reviewed Bush’s retirement plan, acknowledging up front:
"Republicans gloat that Al Gore is now copying Bush’s ideas."
Myers featured a suburban man in favor of Bush’s idea and noted how a
poll found most back it, especially the young, but not the elderly. Myers
then hit Bush with a criticism from a rarely cited source on network TV:
The libertarian Cato Institute. Myers asserted: "Experts say Bush is
avoiding the hard truth."
Michael Tanner, Cato Institute: "The Governor has
tried to hide the fact that there is going to be some costs
Myers concluded: "A cost of hundreds of millions
of dollars which aides say probably will come out of the projected budget
surplus. Still, the Bush camp argues that a proposal, which some hailed as
political suicide, is in a fact a political winner. The best proof of that
they say: today’s move by Al Gore."
media continue to promote the cause of Texas death row inmate Gray Graham,
injecting George W. Bush’s campaign into their cause. Monday’s
Nightline was devoted to Graham’s case following another story on
Monday’s NBC Today. On Saturday’s Capital Gang on CNN Margaret Carlson
denounced Bush for not stopping the impending execution. And in a piece on
Monday’s World News Tonight reporter Dean Reynolds pushed Bush into the
controversy by acknowledging that a Governor can only issue a 30-day stay,
but then stressed how critics of the death penalty "argue whatever it
may say on paper Bush is far from powerless." Reynolds piled on with
criticism from death penalty opponents about how the pardon board
First Carlson and then
more on the story by Reynolds.
Here’s the June 17
"Outrage of the Week" from Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson as
announced on CNN’s Capital Gang:
"Gary Graham is about to be executed in Texas on
the basis of one witness's shaky I.D. Graham's attorney put on not one
witness in the case and did no investigating. There was strong evidence
that the deceased was the victim of a drug hit man, and Graham's gun did
not match the murder weapon. A new study shows a 68 percent reversal rate
in capital cases that are appealed. Shouldn't Governor Bush be a little
less sure of himself in his 134 executions and in a case as flimsy as this
Of course the 68 percent
reversal rate hardly means 68 percent of those sentenced to death are
later found innocent. As detailed in the June 16 CyberAlert, most just
found anti-death penalty judges.
On Monday’s World News
Tonight Dean Reynolds explained that Gary Graham can only escape execution
if the state Board of Pardons and Paroles gives a pardon, a decision Bush
as Governor can overrule, "but the Texas constitution prevents him
from vetoing an execution once the board says it should go ahead. He can
only issue a one-time 30 day reprieve, nothing more." Reynolds noted
that Bush’s office maintains it cannot even do that in this case because
former Governor Ann Richards already gave Graham one seven years ago.
Reynolds then turned
over his story to death penalty opponents: "But for several hours
today the Governor’s office and the Board of Pardons and Paroles were
offering differing interpretations of what the Governor can and cannot do.
That kind of imprecision draws critics of the death penalty who argue
whatever it may say on paper Bush is far from powerless."
Professor Jordan Steiker, University of Texas Law
School: "It’s his decision to allow the execution to go forward as
a political matter. This is his board, these are his appointees and he
certainly has a lot of political and moral sway."
Reynolds: "The 18-member board’s mode of
operation is also drawing fire. It almost never meets together on a case
and members usually send in their opinions by fax."
Professor Larry Marshall
of Northwestern University Law School then got time for an attack, though
Reynolds failed to inform viewers that he’s part of a team of lawyers
who claim Graham is innocent. Marshall bemoaned: "They don’t meet
as a group, they don’t hear evidence as a group. That’s very
Reynolds concluded: "Governor Bush today
reaffirmed his confidence in the system and he vowed to quote ‘stand my
ground’ in the face of a pretty considerable movement to undermine the
death penalty in Texas."
More like a "pretty
considerable movement" in the national news media.
example Monday night of how unchecked numbers from liberal groups get
relayed by the networks which fail to accurately apply an ideological
label. A liberal group put out a study Monday meant to discredit welfare
reform and CBS’s Dan Rather compliantly picked up on the "private
study." ABC’s Peter Jennings cited the numbers from "a
lobbying group," but at least named it.
Viewers of the June 19
CBS Evening News heard this unsourced item from anchor Dan Rather:
"On the CBS HealthWatch, a private study of 15 states out today shows
many low income families that went off welfare in recent years were also
dropped from Medicaid, leaving them with no health insurance. The study
found that by mistake or otherwise the 15 states cut off Medicaid benefits
to almost a million parents who still need or qualify for it."
Over on ABC’s World
News Tonight Peter Jennings at least told viewers the name of the group
and offered a description of their policy agenda, though he refused to
provide an ideological tag: "There is a report today from a lobbying
group which advocates universal health care coverage, that says nearly a
million parents have lost their Medicaid coverage because of welfare
reform over the last four years. Families USA says a number of states
either improperly removed people from Medicaid once they left welfare or
made it extremely difficult for them to get it."
If you are really off
"welfare" shouldn’t you be off Medicaid since it is a welfare
Doubts Are Raised on Missile Shield" announced the top of the fold
headline over the Washington Post’s lead story on Sunday, June 18. The
subhead: "Pentagon Panel Concurs with Recent Criticism." Reading
the headline you’d think the panel found the idea unfeasible and a waste
of money to try to develop. In fact, buried in the article by Roberto Suro
and Thomas E. Ricks was the finding that "‘there is substantial
schedule risk, but not particularly high technical risk’ of a
fundamental engineering or scientific flaw." In other words, it may
take longer than planned to develop, but it can be deployed successfully.
Not until the 17th
paragraph did readers learn: "Overall, the new report gives the
Pentagon's missile defense developers a ‘B plus grade for work done thus
far,’ and it grants an overall blessing to the plans drawn up for future
testing and evaluation, a senior official said. The warnings mainly
concern a series of developments that could hold up the process."
But before that the
reporter duo delivered a lead which emphasized the negative portion of the
report. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the story:
A classified report by a Pentagon-appointed
panel of experts raises numerous warning flags about the current plan for
a missile defense shield, citing problems with the booster rocket for
interceptor missiles, doubts about whether the interceptor can distinguish
an enemy missile from decoys, and concern that the timetable for
constructing a working system in five years is unrealistic.
The panel, headed by Larry Welch, a retired
four-star general and former Air Force chief of staff, cites many of the
same difficulties recently raised by critics of the plan, including
prominent scientists and former top-ranking defense officials. But the
Welch report carries far more weight, because the panel had extensive
access to secret information and is giving lengthy briefings on its
conclusions directly to Pentagon decision-makers.
The report contains a mix of cautions and
encouragement for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, the Pentagon
office charged with developing a system to defend all 50 states from a
small number of incoming warheads fired by such "rogue states"
as North Korea and Iran.
Senior defense officials familiar with the
report said it concludes that the complex system of targeting radars,
interceptor missiles and high-speed computers eventually should work as
designed. But it voices strong skepticism that the system will be
operating successfully by 2005, the deadline set by Congress and the White
The Welch panel warns that "there is
substantial schedule risk, but not particularly high technical risk"
of a fundamental engineering or scientific flaw, said a senior official
familiar with the report. "It is like remodeling a kitchen: It may
not get done by [the date the builder promised], but it will get
The report, delivered last week to Defense
Secretary William S. Cohen, questions whether the system's "kill
vehicle" -- which is designed to ram incoming warheads high in space
-- will be able to detect a warhead hidden by decoys and other
sophisticated countermeasures, the officials said.
Opening a new area of concern, the report
notes engineering problems in the construction of the high-speed
interceptor missile that is supposed to boost the kill vehicle into space,
the officials said. Initial testing of the booster has been delayed
repeatedly this year and is now scheduled for September, and yet it is
supposed to be ready for a flight test of the entire system by early next
The Welch panel, composed of 12 weapons
scientists and former military officers, has issued two previous reports
on national missile defense, including one in 1998 that warned against a
"rush to failure" and prompted the Pentagon to seek a
postponement of the deployment date from 2003 to 2005, schedule additional
tests and take measures to tighten management of the program. The new
report comes at a particularly sensitive moment, as missile defense is
emerging as a presidential campaign issue and President Clinton is due to
make a critical decision soon on the current plan....
In recent weeks, a variety of Russia
scholars, prominent scientists and former Clinton administration officials
-- including former defense secretary William Perry, former Joint Chiefs
of Staff chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili and former CIA director John
Deutch -- have urged the President to defer the decision. Among the
reasons they have cited are the hurried testing schedule, the many
technical questions hanging over the system, predictions that a U.S.
missile shield could provoke an arms race in Asia, and concern about
souring relations with Russia and the European allies....
CBS Evening News anchor
John Roberts adopted the Post’s spin on that night’s broadcast:
"The proposal for a limited missile defense system has come under
criticism from an independent Pentagon panel. Today's Washington Post says
the panel's report finds problems with the booster rocket and with the
system's ability to distinguish armed warheads from decoys. The report
doubts the $60 billion system can be deployed successfully by the year
2005 as planned."
To the credit of ABC and
anchor Carole Simpson, she saw through the Post’s spin to what the
report actually stated. In a short item on World News Tonight/Sunday she
stressed how the report contended the schedule, not the concept, is too
"A confidential report by an independent Pentagon
panel is raising concerns about the speed of U.S. plans to deploy a
national missile defense by the year 2005. Pentagon officials have been
saying privately for months that the target date, already postponed from
2003, is overly ambitious."
Clinton got the 8am half hour of Friday’s Today to promote the VH-1
cable channel’s "Save the Music" campaign to encourage
donations of used instruments and money to schools for music education. A
good-sounding cause and one Today promoted for an hour with Hillary
Clinton on June 10, 1999, but co-host Matt Lauer used it as an opportunity
subvert the private giving cause of the project and advocate increased
federal spending on education.
MRC analyst Paul Smith
caught these June 16 questions/assertions from Lauer to Clinton as they
sat inside a New York City elementary school: "But is this the way
it's going to be? I mean, when people like VH-1 come in and they donate
money like this, it's great but it is private and public partnership. Why
can't we find a way, even through the federal government's assistance, to
make sure that this is a basic part of education?"
And: "Is it
possible to take it a step further. From what I understand now, the
federal government supplies about nine percent of funding for schools,
local and states provide the rest. Can you offer states incentives? Can
you say to them look we'll provide more funding if you take it upon
yourselves to make music education part of your basic curriculum?"
Thomas’s plea to the next generation: "Don’t let the politicians
chip away at the New Deal and the Great Society programs" and do vote
out the Republican Congress because it failed to pass tougher gun control
laws and failed to approve the nuclear test ban treaty.
Just three days after
she resigned from UPI on May 16 following its purchase by News World
Communications, the long-time White House correspondent gave the
commencement address at the University of San Francisco. On Saturday, June
17, C-SPAN let those not there hear her May 19 comments as part of weekend
series of replays of commencement addresses.
As transcribed by MRC
intern Michael Ferguson, Thomas warned:
"There is a problem that we could lose our human
touch, and humanity still counts above all things. All you have to do is
look around you and see that there is so much to be done to make this a
more equal society. For starters, don’t let the politicians chip away at
the New Deal and the Great Society programs like Social Security,
Medicare, that puts a floor beyond which the elderly, the sick, the
powerless do not starve or lack for medicine or shelter."
After some applause, she
continued her diatribe: "Winston Churchill said, ‘Democracy is the
worst form of government except for all the others that have been
invented.’ We’re all in it together. As for the problems on the
domestic front, twelve or thirteen children are killed everyday from guns.
Five school massacres in two years. Members of Congress have bottled up a
gun safety bill, refused to vote on it. Forty million Americans with no
health insurance. Ten million children who live below the poverty line.
Thousands of schools in this country falling apart. Racism. On the foreign
front, we have volatile disputes in the Balkans, the Middle East, Northern
Ireland. The AIDS pandemic in Africa. The world is also a more dangerous
place because Congress turned down the nuclear test ban treaty. That vote
deprived the United States of its moral authority to urge other nations
not to test or build nuclear weapons. So you see, there is a lot of work
cut out for you."
No doubt some of the
students who heard her will join the media and carry on her legacy of
Sawyer, like a deer caught in the headlights. Could it be because of her
dating experience with Bill Bradley years ago, which she has never
acknowledged on the air?
Following a June 19 Good
Morning America story about two college sweethearts who found each other
after 70 years and married in their mid-‘90s, co-host Jack Ford asked
his ABC colleague Sawyer: "It's a great story -- college sweethearts,
away from each other for 70 years. Did you ever come across somebody that
you sort of dated or were involved with years and years ago, and you kind
of bump into them afterwards?"
Sawyer, who started to look uneasy before Ford finished
his question, answered with a drawn out "Yes," then started
laughing as she nervously asked: "Where are you going with
Ford, seeming to have realized he’d raised an
uncomfortable issue, assured her: "You don't have to answer this
question. As your lawyer, I should probably advise you you can feel free
not to answer any of these questions if you want."
Sawyer then asked Ford
if he’d ever had such an experience and he said he had when meeting the
daughter of someone he once dated.
As for Sawyer’s
discomfort, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson suggested that Sawyer may have
been worried Ford was going to mention Bill Bradley. As cited in the
December 16, 1999 CyberAlert, the Washington Post revealed that she and
Bradley once dated and were so serious that she spent one Christmas with
Bradley's family. The December 15 "Reliable Sources" item by
Lloyd Grove and Beth Berselli disclosed:
ABC News star Diane Sawyer and Democratic
presidential candidate Bill Bradley managed to get through the entire
half-hour of yesterday's "Good Morning America" Times Square
Town Meeting without mentioning that they once seriously dated each other.
Sawyer, who questioned her former boyfriend on health care and religion,
was attending Wellesley and Bradley was playing basketball at Princeton
when they began seeing each other in the mid-1960s.
According to The Post's Barton Gellman and
Dale Russakoff, their romance was so strong that Sawyer and her parents
spent Christmas 1966 with Bradley's family in Missouri and their friends
speculated that they might marry. During a trip to Russia on his Rhodes
scholarship, Bradley bought her a fur hat (which we hear Sawyer didn't
+++ Watch Sawyer’s anxious
reaction to Ford’s query. On Tuesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul
will post a RealPlayer clip of the exchange. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
-- Brent Baker