About Bush’s "Truth"; Gary Graham Crusade; ABC Picked Liberal Over Limbaugh; Byrd Attack Dismissed
1) Unlike previous revelations
about requests for an Independent Counsel, the networks jumped on Thursday’s
news that a current Justice official wants Gore probed. Peter Jennings likened
Bush and executions to Gore’s honesty: "This is all about truth and
character for both these men, right?"
2) ABC, CBS and NBC ran short
items on how Independent Counsel Robert Ray decided to not indict Hillary
Clinton, though he concluded that she did have a role in Travel Office
3) Charles Gibson boasted of
GMA’s slant: "We've been bringing you reports raising questions about
the soundness of the death penalty across the nation." The Gary Graham
case led the Thursday morning and evening shows. On Today, Geraldo called it
4) On CNBC Geraldo Rivera
castigated as "barbaric" giving Graham six last meals and argued
that a civilized nation would not execute a man for a crime committed at age
5) In estimating the cost per
gallon EPA-mandated reformulated gas adds, EPA pegged it at three cents and a
study for Congress put it at 25 cents. Guess which number ABC News believed.
6) ABC passed over conservative
Rush Limbaugh for Monday Night Football and instead picked liberal Dennis
Miller, who once belittled Limbaugh’s show: "...barely educates [and]
reinforces the narrow-minded prejudices of both the host and the
7) The senior Democratic Senator,
Robert Byrd, excoriated Bill Richardson, but CBS News ignored it and talked
about a "new round in the blame game."
8) Letterman’s "Top Ten
Questions on the Los Alamos Security Application."
online, the June 20 edition of MagazineWatch about the June 26 issues of
Time, Newsweek and U.S. News. The items in this edition compiled by MRC
analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- 1. All three magazines minimized the sudden retirement of
scandal-plagued Gore campaign boss Tony Coelho, praised Gore’s selected
replacement, Bill Daley as "a step up," and all but ignored his
blatant snub of his top black aide, Donna Brazile. All three news
magazines interviewed Gore, but none raised the "slumlord" gaffe
or his embarrassing "I’m not an expert on computers" defense
of his vanishing year of White House e-mails.
-- 2. All three magazines praised North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il, the
dictator with the showstopping moves: "The world’s scariest
dictator made himself into a huggy bear."
-- 3. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the media’s
love of taxes at death. U.S. News reporter Jodie Allen found a
"conservative" who not only supports estate taxes, but complete
confiscation of estates.
-- 4. U.S. News reporter Kit R. Roane lumped the National Rifle
Association’s NRA Sports Blast café with recent shootings and the
Central Park "wilding" incident.
To read these items, go to:
months of ignoring revelations about the requests by former fundraising
task force chief Charles LaBella and FBI Director Louis Freeh for an
independent counsel to investigate Al Gore’s 1996 fundraising
activities, Thursday night all the networks jumped on the disclosure that
LaBella’s successor at Justice, Robert Conrad, had earlier this year
urged appointment of a special prosecutor.
(When the March 10 Los
Angeles Times revealed the contents of a memo in which LaBella urged
appointment of an independent counsel, none of the broadcast networks
uttered a word about it that morning or evening. Ditto for when at a May
24 House hearing the FBI's general counsel provided corroboration for FBI
Director Louis Freeh's statement in a 1996 memo that he learned that
Attorney General Janet Reno's continuation in her job was at risk from the
White House if she pursued Clinton-Gore fundraising.)
officials’ admission Thursday was prompted by a question from Senator
Arlen Specter to Conrad at a hearing on Wednesday.
ABC’s Peter Jennings
equated doubts about Gore’s honesty in answering prober’s questions
with how George Bush is handling the death penalty. He asked Cokie
Roberts: "This is all about truth and character for both these men,
right?" Roberts agreed: "It is."
For a flavor of how the
broadcast networks handled the Gore story, below are transcripts, thanks
to MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, of how each anchor introduced the story and
the spin the reporter delivered in their wrap-up. In between, all three
reporters explained how the recommendation stemmed from an April 18
interview with Gore by Justice investigators in which his answers about
the Buddhist temple event troubled Conrad and how Janet Reno has already
turned down two requests from her deputies (LaBella and Freeh) to name an
independent counsel. Since that position no longer exists, Conrad asked
Reno to name a special prosecutor under her direction.
-- ABC’s World News
Tonight. Immediately after the lead story about the impending Gary Graham
execution, Peter Jennings announced: "In Washington today, a senior
prosecutor at the Justice Department has recommended that a special
counsel be appointed to investigate Vice President Gore’s fundraising
activities during the last presidential campaign. Did he lie about his
famous visit to a Buddhist temple?"
Jackie Judd concluded
her subsequent piece: "Peter, we’re told tonight that Reno does
know about this recommendation, but it has not been sent to her officially
and so is not yet under really active consideration."
Later, Jennings talked
with Cokie Roberts and George Stephanopoulos about the controversies
facing the two candidates. The first question to Stephanopoulos about
Bush: "Why need he be so worried about his issue of the death
penalty?" And to Roberts about Gore: "Why should be unusually
worried about one more investigation of the Clinton-Gore
Jennings soon equated
the relevance and import of the two topics: "This is all about truth
and character for both these men, right?"
Roberts agreed: "It is. In Gore’s case about
truth and in both of their cases about character. And in Bush’s case it
could come down to truth if he’s challenged, as George said, about his
statements over and over again that every single one of those executions
the character was guilty and the trial was fair."
Jennings: "Thank you Cokie. Truth and
Stephanopoulos: "Judgment on Bush’s part."
There you have it, Bush
potentially being wrong in his judgment about the quality of the Texas
judicial system would make him just as guilty for not telling the truth as
Gore would be if proven what he himself said is untrue.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan
Rather intoned after two opening stories on Gary Graham: "Vice
President Gore is also on the spot tonight over a new carefully
orchestrated leak involving accusations about Gore’s past campaign
fundraising practices. A Justice Department official is calling for an
independent investigator in the case."
Bob Schieffer concluded:
"The Justice Department would not comment for the record, but one
official there said Conrad had made a quote, ‘preliminary
recommendation,’ that has not yet been formally presented to the
Attorney General. But even if she decides not to appoint an outside
counsel, it leaves the Vice President in a political fix. Three senior law
enforcement officials, including the FBI Director, had already urged Reno
to name an outside counsel to investigate Gore. This will just make it
harder for him to explain why they’re wrong."
-- NBC Nightly News.
Also following multiple opening pieces on Graham, Tom Brokaw declared:
"The other presidential candidate, Vice President Al Gore, is also in
the news tonight, and it’s not good news for him. After many months of
speculation, controversy, and confusion, it appears that another senior
Justice Department official has concluded Al Gore should be investigated
by a special prosecutor for alleged campaign fundraising abuses."
Claire Shipman, after
running a soundbite from LaBella urging Reno to act this time, concluded:
"Now Janet Reno, remember, may decide again not to follow this
advice, and she can’t appoint an independent counsel. That law expired
last year. If she does bring somebody in, it would be a special counsel
working within the Justice Department and reporting to Janet Reno."
after the Gore story all three network anchors read short items on an
announcement from Independent Counsel Robert Ray about how he had decided
to not go for an indictment of Hillary Clinton, though he concluded that,
in contrast to her claims, she did have a role in the Travel Office
firings. ABC and CBS went with that sequence while NBC’s Tom Brokaw
first relayed his conclusion about her role in the scandal.
Here’s what viewers of
each show heard on Thursday night, June 22:
-- ABC’s World News
Tonight. Peter Jennings: "One other issue about investigations today.
The independent counsel, Robert Ray, said today he’s not going to file
charges against Hillary Clinton. He said there is not enough evidence to
prove that she lied about the firing of White House Travel Office
employees seven years ago. He did say there is substantial evidence that
Mrs. Clinton had a role in the firings, which contradicts her
-- CBS Evening News. Dan
Rather: "Another blast from the political past tonight concerns First
Lady Hillary Clinton. Robert Ray, who replaced special prosecutor Ken
Starr, says no charges will be filed against Mrs. Clinton over the firings
of White House Travel Office employees that happened just when the
Clintons were coming into office. Mrs. Clinton has denied any role in
those firings. Ray says there is quote, ‘substantial evidence,’
unquote, that she was involved but not enough evidence to prove her
statements were knowingly false."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom
Brokaw: "Then there’s also this tonight from Independent Counsel
Robert Ray, who says there is substantial evidence that First Lady Hillary
Clinton played a role in the firings at the White House Travel Office back
in 1993. However, he says he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that any of Mrs. Clinton’s statements and testimony about Travelgate
were knowingly false, so Ray says he will not prosecute the First Lady,
now running for the U.S. Senate from New York."
Graham mania. His impending execution dominated the three cable news
networks all day -- with Geraldo Rivera live from Huntsville, Texas all
day on MSNBC -- after the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows made it their top
story. The omnipresent Geraldo popped up on Today to denounce the
execution as an "outrage." Thursday night his cause topped the
broadcast network evening shows a day after all three had run full pieces
the night before.
Opening the June 22 CBS
Evening News, Dan Rather made sure viewers realized the link to Bush and
the larger political cause:
"The scheduled execution of convicted killer Gary
Graham at this hour is on hold, pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling
expected shortly. This is a case that puts Governor George Bush in the
spotlight and in the spot in the latest death penalty debate in Campaign
2000. The context: Questions about whether Graham and other inmates around
the nation are dying for crimes they didn’t commit."
Introducing the first
interview segment on Thursday’s Good Morning America, co-host Charles
Gibson, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, boasted of how his show had
chosen sides: "We do turn first this morning to convicted killer Gary
Graham, who as we said, is sentenced to die this evening on the strength
of a single eyewitness. Over past 10 day, we've been bringing you reports
raising questions about the soundness of the death penalty across the
nation and in the state of Texas. As in so many death penalty cases, this
one is reaching a fever pitch."
Over on NBC’s Today,
co-host Katie Couric interviewed Bernadine Skillern, the eyewitness who
identified Graham as well as Graham’s lawyer, Jack Zimmerman. Live from
Texas, Geraldo Rivera soon joined the conversation as well as Diane
Clements of Justice for All. Abandoning any pretense of being a reporter,
Rivera argued, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
"You know Katie it seems an awfully thin read on
which to base an execution of a man. There is no physical evidence tying
Gary Graham to this homicide. The .22 caliber weapon he was caught with.
It was not the .22 caliber weapon that caused the death of Bobby Lambert.
That information was never....That information was never given to the
jury. In state after state in case after case we are finding too many
Americans being condemned to die because of inadequate representation of
counsel. Because of shady testimony from jailhouse snitches because of
tainted evidence. How can we send a man to his death? You hear these
people debating over the facts and circumstances of this homicide. If
there is this debate in the Today show studio by God how can we send the
man to his death? This is not only reasonable doubt, this is real doubt.
And if he is indeed innocent. And he has not been given a full hearing
then shame on us. I'm not suggesting that it's George Bush. Even though
this is the 135th person to be executed during his tenure in office as
Governor of the state of Texas. Bill Clinton as Governor of Arkansas
during the 1992 presidential race went back to his state to supervise the
execution of a mentally retarded person there. This is death row politics.
This is, this is unseemly haste."
But Geraldo, nor anyone
else, appeared live from Arkansas on Today back in 1992 when Bill Clinton
left the campaign trail to handle that execution. In fact, that execution
of Rick Ray Rector didn’t generate any morning show segments and barely
registered ion the evening news. (Details to follow later today in a Media
Reality Check the MRC’s Tim Graham is preparing for morning distribution
and which I will send to the CyberAlert list.)
Back to Thursday’s
Today, Geraldo made clear he doesn’t think much of the legal reasoning
Bush applied in maintaining he could not extend a second 30-day reprieve.
Governor George Bush says that he doesn't really have that many options
under the Texas constitution because Ann Richards has already granted a
gubernatorial reprieve. What is your interpretation of that? Because I
know that, that has been interpreted in different ways and some people
don't agree with the Governor."
Rivera: "That's precisely the point, Katie. You're
exactly right. There has never been an interpretation because one Governor
granted a 30 day reprieve, a succeeding Governor cannot grant another 30
day reprieve. There is no law on the books in the state of Texas that bars
George Bush from doing this upon the recommendation of the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles. To suggest that because one governor did it back in
1993 he can't do it now in the year 2000 I think is disingenuous at best.
And what it attempts to do is to place responsibility someplace else. To
say hey I can't do anything about it. The fact of the matter is, more
people have been sent to their deaths in this building behind me than any
place else in the civilized world. To send a person to the ultimate
punishment based on this kind of shaky testimony, this kind of evidence, I
think is an outrage."
takes three networks to handle all of Geraldo’s bias. In addition to
serving as an advocate/reporter on Thursday’s Today on NBC and to
providing live reports from Huntsville, Texas on MSNBC all day, Geraldo
had his usual gigs Wednesday night on CNBC. He used them to castigate as
"barbaric" giving Graham six last meals, to allow Graham to
denounce the system as "barbaric" and to argue that a civilized
nation would not execute a man for a crime committed at age 17. All these
quotes were taken down by the MRC’s Geoffrey Dickens:
-- CNBC’s Upfront
Tonight, June 21: "Gary Graham told me that he has already had six
last meals. Coming that close to death a half dozen times. And whatever
your feelings about the death penalty, if that is not barbaric nothing
Six times the
"barbaric" system ruled in his favor and allowed another appeal
to be heard.
-- On Rivera Live
Geraldo played clips of his interview with Graham and put the same
complaint to him:
"It sounds barbaric. Six last meals, it sounds
barbaric coming within an hour and a half of the state killing you when it
happened that close."
Gary Graham: "Well it is. You know it’s, it is a
very inhumane system. And very barbaric system. I think the civil rights
world is certainly outraged by what’s happening."
This from a guy who
admits shooting two people, one in the neck. Just good luck prevented them
from being murder victims.
At another point in the
interview, Geraldo empathized with him: "You were 17, even if you did
it. Most civilized nations, and most states wouldn’t let them kill
Fortunately he committed
his crime in Texas.
assumed the EPA is more accurate than congressional researchers or the oil
industry in figuring the cost of reformulated fuel.
On Wednesday’s World
News Tonight ABC reporter Bob Jamieson explored why, after factoring out
the difference in state taxes, Seattle's pump price is "30 cents more
than the basic costs, while Chicago's is nearly 80?" After
acknowledging that a pipeline disruption "may have added 25 cents to
the price of a gallon in Chicago," Jamieson raised EPA regulations:
"Another reason may be new federal regulations.
Since June 1st, Chicago has been required to use a reformulated gasoline
to cut air pollution. There's no agreement on how much that costs Chicago
motorists. The Congressional Research Service today said that adds 25
cents, but the oil industry says it adds only a dime, and the
Environmental Protection Agency says just pennies. If the EPA is right,
that still leaves 22 cents of the difference between Chicago and Seattle
unaccounted for. Many are charging that is the result of price gouging.
But who are the gougers? Gasoline station operators say they are not. The
oil companies say they are not. It is now up to the Federal Trade
Commission to decide who's telling the truth."
How about we assume the
Congressional Research Service is right. That would explain it all,
leaving a price difference of zero.
conservative is too controversial for ABC Sports but a
conservative-bashing liberal is not? How else do you explain ABC passing
over Rush Limbaugh for a spot in the Monday Night Football booth and
instead picking Dennis Miller?
Late Thursday ABC
announced that joining play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in the booth for
ABC’s Monday night NFL games this year will be Miller, a veteran of
Saturday Night Live, and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts.
Anyone who watches
Miller’s Friday night HBO show, Dennis Miller Live, knows that while he
is great with quick quips, he’s also a regular basher of conservatives,
though he does occasionally stray from the liberal line. As noted in the
June 8 CyberAlert, he denounced Hillary Clinton as a "craven
careerist" in a June 2 interview of Christine Lahti.
The MRC has not
systematically documented Miller’s liberal antics on his HBO show, but
MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson has tracked Miller and taken down
many of his more strident jokes, put-downs and quips. Here’s a small
sampling the quotes, starting with ones Tom provided to MRC Chairman L.
Brent Bozell for a column.
From Bozell’s July 21,
1998 Creator’s syndicate column:
Comedian Dennis Miller, who called himself
a "conservative libertarian" in a 1996 interview, has
demonstrated again that he hasn't a clue about the meaning of either term.
However Miller identifies himself, his
strongest invective is always aimed at the right. After the Republicans
took Congress in 1994, his attacks on Newt Gingrich were breathtakingly
vicious. Even though Gingrich isn't the inviting target he was a couple of
years ago, Miller isn't short of conservative whipping boys.
Discussing Trent Lott's remarks on
homosexuality on the June 19 edition of his weekly HBO half-hour,
"Dennis Miller Live," he snarled, "Maybe we shouldn't come
down on Trent just because he believes the only thing a man should have up
his [rear end] is his own head," and labeled him a
"stiff-haired, pinhead scumbag."
OK, maybe Miller's not a social
conservative. Maybe he's a true-blue, albeit nasty and foul-mouthed,
libertarian. But listen to something else he said on the very same
episode: "When it comes to paranoia, most folks [are more concerned
with] the federal government... but I'm made more paranoid by
corporations. Car companies that lie about their safety records; chemical
firms selling toxic weed killers that wind up in our food... Let's face
it, the idiots in Washington, D.C. can't even investigate a conspiracy,
much less create one."....
On July 10th, Miller went after Rush
Limbaugh, whose show, he claims, "barely educates [and] reinforces
the narrow-minded prejudices of both the host and the listener."
Unlike, we are meant to gather, "Dennis Miller Live."
From the July 1995
edition of TV, etc., the MRC’s now defunct entertainment media
newsletter, some quotes from Miller’s HBO show:
-- June 2: "Well, Newt, as an American, and
especially as a comedian, Christ, do I want you to run [for President].
I'll blow you, ‘cause I know it's about time you had one of those."
-- June 16: "Then,
while up in New Hampshire, Gingrich went looking for moose. He said he
wanted to see a moose before his Party's environmental policy made them
-- June 23: "As for
our esteemed leadership in Washington, sometimes it would appear that
these demagogues furtively crave teen pregnancies because they need the
scapegoats. Well, we need to get the religious right to take off their
official Ralph Reed blinders and wake up...
"America, let's grow up about sex. Let's realize
that a Surgeon General who speaks her mind about sex education, teen
pregnancy, and preventive health care doesn't deserve to be Surgeon
General. She deserves to be the f[---]in' President of the United States.
"[To guest Joycelyn Elders] As a citizen, I'm
proud that you were once my Surgeon General, and as a person, I'm glad
you're out of there. You're too bright."
And from the May 1994
TV, etc., Miller on CNBC’s old Dick Cavett show on April 15: "When
you [hear Clinton] speak, you think ‘My God, he actually knows the
issues,' whereas the entire Reagan library is nothing but...3 X 5
cabinet member is excoriated by the senior Senator of his own party and
what does CBS News do? Ignore it and talk about a "new round in the
blame game" and insist a hearing "shed more heat than
light." That’s just what happened in CBS’s reporting, or really
lack of reporting, on Energy Secretary Bill Richardson’s appearance
Wednesday before a Senate committee to answer questions about a lost and
found hard drive at Los Alamos which contained top secret nuclear data.
On ABC’s World News
Tonight on June 21 Barry Serafin led with the condemnation:
"Richardson was the target of blistering attacks, mostly from Senate
Republicans....But even the Senate’s senior Democrat went on the attack,
accusing Richardson, who declined to testify at an earlier hearing, of
contempt of Congress and supreme arrogance."
Senator Robert Byrd, D-WVa: "You will never again
receive the support of the Senate of the United States for any office to
which you might be appointed."
Andrea Mitchell stressed
in her NBC Nightly News piece how Richardson delivered good news about how
there is no evidence of espionage, but she also acknowledged his chilly
reception: "For Richardson, a trip to the woodshed with big
consequences. Only three months ago, around the time the hard drives were
apparently taken, he was on the short list to become Al Gore's running
mate. Today, a very different outlook."
Byrd: "You will never again receive the support of
the Senate of the United States for any office to which you might be
Now compare that to what
CBS Evening News viewers heard Wednesday night from Dan Rather. No full
story, just this loaded item which treated the matter as a political game:
"There is a new round in the blame game over those
lost and found nuclear weapons secrets at the Los Alamos laboratory. A
congressional hearing shed more heat than light with renewed attacks on
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Behind the scenes, sources tell CBS’s
Sharyl Attkisson, investigators believe, but cannot prove, that one of
three scientists may have hid and then put back the computer hard drives
with the nuclear data. They still think it’s sloppiness, not
the June 21 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions on
the Los Alamos Security Application." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide
10. "Do you have any previous
experience sitting around doing nothing?"
9. "How many hard drives per minute can you lose?"
8. "Could you personally make our security program suck even
7. "Do you believe in the 'Computer Disk Fairy'? That's our excuse
when things disappear"
6. "If something is stolen, do you promise to file report within 38
5. "Tell us about your work with the group 'Overthrow America'!"
4. "Which word better describes you: 'bumbling' or
3. "Will you keep all secrets to yourself that is unless someone
offers you a boatload of cash?"
2. "Can you tell me the difference between your ass and a hole in the
1. "You haven't seen an encrypted MIRV warhead schematic lying
around, have you?"
And, from the Late Show
Web page, (http://www.cbs.com/lateshow/),
some of the "also ran" jokes that didn’t make it into the list
because "those overachieving writers keep producing more brilliant
jokes than can fit in a Top Ten List."
-- "Would you agree that in terms of
security, nothing beats the honor system?"
-- "Where do you see yourself in five years? That is, if some
terrorist organization doesn't kill us all with the secrets they've
-- "When we're all called to testify before a Senate committee, do
you have moral objection to lying your particular ass off?"
Final Note: Tonight’s
20/20 features Barbara Walters with Al and Tipper Gore. To see and hear
Walters earlier this week singing the closing song at her late father’s
nightclub, The Latin Quarter, go to:
-- Brent Baker