Conventions 2000: Media Reality Check, AM Edition
1) Cheney Quizzed on Sunday About
Past Votes; Donaldson: Should Someone Who Used Cocaine Be President?
2) Platform: "A Hard-Right
Document...Softened This Year"; But Still Too "Anti-Abortion
3) Us Biased? Conservatives Must
Be Crazy; CNN Distorted Study to Show Media as Pro-Bush & Anti-Gore.
4) Dan Rather Style Welcome;
Marilyn Quayle: "Scowling Face of Conservatism"?; CBS News
President: MRC "Extremists of the Right"
week the MRC is producing a twice-daily Media Reality Check analysis of
network coverage of the Republican convention. Below is the text for the
three-page Monday Morning, July 31 edition. For the MRC's latest analysis,
go to www.mrc.org and click on
"Campaign 2000." At that location you can also access an Adobe
Acrobat PDF version of these reports as sent by fax. <<<
one story, headlined: Cheney Quizzed on Sunday About Past Votes;
Donaldson: Should Someone Who Used Cocaine Be President?
The pounding away at VP
nominee Dick Cheney over conservative House votes members of the media
consider bizarre continued during his Sunday talk show appearances,
especially on ABC's This Week and CBS's Face the Nation. Last week network
reporters had tagged Cheney as "hard right" and a "very
hardline conservative." Sam Donaldson read off the Democratic tip
sheets as he demanded on This Week that Cheney explain certain votes:
-- "You were a
strong advocate against so-called gun control, and you voted against the
armor-piercing bullet measure in 1985. You also voted against a measure
which would have required 3.75 ounces of metal in any pistol or weapon, so
that if it went through a metal detector it could go off and be stopped.
Why would you vote against that?" When Cheney explained his belief in
the Second Amendment, Donaldson sarcastically shot back: "Well, I
don't mean to be extreme, but a stinger is an arm, an atomic cannon is an
arm, a mortar is an arm. Do you think the Founding Fathers meant that we
should all have stinger missiles if we wanted?"
-- Moving on, Donaldson
demanded: "In 1987, you voted against re-authorizing the Older
Americans Act, which calls for health care centers, it calls for Meals on
Wheels, it calls for Alzheimer's research. It would have cost $1.6
billion. You were one of seven members of the House to vote against it.
Why?" Cheney replied: "Probably because I thought that it was
excessive in terms of funding." To which Donaldson retorted:
"$1.6 billion for older Americans?"
-- Donaldson quizzed
Cheney about how he had given briefings to donors at the Pentagon before
slyly raising the issue of Bush and cocaine: "The question of cocaine
last year was very much in the public mind, connected with one of the
candidates, as you know. My general question to you is if someone has used
cocaine -- we're not talking about marijuana -- do you really think that
person ought to be President of the United States?"
+++ Watch a portion of Donaldson's hostile
approach to Cheney. On Monday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a
RealPlayer clip. Go to: http://www.mrc.org/campaign2000
three article, headlined: Platform: "A Hard-Right Document...Softened
This Year"; But Still Too "Anti-Abortion Rights"
Network reporters liked
how the GOP made some progress in dropping supposedly "harsh"
language from the platform over immigration and even abolishing the
Department of Education, but as Dan Rather grumbled Friday night,
"the Republican platform's hard stand against abortion rights and a
woman's right to choose" remains unchanged. Rather approved how
"there is some softer language on other issues."
Schieffer explained in
his subsequent CBS Evening News story: "This year's draft party
platform has a more moderate tone. It's much friendlier toward immigrants.
Gone is the demand to make English the official language. Gone are the
harsh calls to eliminate the Department of Education and the National
Endowment for the Arts." Schieffer adopted "pro-choice"
language as he added that "women who favor abortion rights urged the
platform committee to change the party's anti-abortion rights language and
got a polite hearing." But, Schieffer bemoaned, "at Republican
conventions, the other side always prevails."
The next morning on
NBC's Today, David Bloom grilled Governor Tommy Thompson about how the
platform remained too conservative. His "questions" in the form
of contentions on the July 29 program:
-- "First off,
abortion. The platform as it stands calls for a ban on all abortion, no
exceptions. Abortion right supporters wanted to insert this language in,
which would say: ‘We welcome people on all sides of this complex issue
and encourage their active participation as we work together on those
issues upon which we agree.' Seemingly, innocuous language voted down.
"I think it was voted down because the Republican Party is very
pro-life, and we want to establish the principles of pro-life in the
Republican Party." Bloom argued: "But Governor Bush says it's a
big tent, everyone's welcome. Isn't that what that language states?"
-- "Let me ask you
about gay rights. Conservatives reinserted the following language which
states, ‘We do not believe that sexual preference should be given
special legal protection or standing in the law.' So the Republican Party
is also against any form of rights for homosexuals and lesbians?"
-- "Let me ask you
a final question. We heard in David Gregory's report a moment ago about
both Governor Bush and Dick Cheney talking about attacking President
Clinton. President Clinton came out last night and said, about the Bush
campaign message, he said it as follows, quote, ‘I've been Governor of
Texas, my daddy was President, I own a baseball team, they like me down
there.' Is that the Governor's message, do you think?"
Saturday night NBC
Nightly News anchor John Seigenthaler hit Thompson again from the left:
"Is there room in the Republican Party for people who believe in
If CBS and NBC are
balanced, in Los Angeles they'll pursue the Democratic Party's lack of
embrace of pro-lifers just as aggressively and bring just as much scorn
upon parts of that party's platform.
the article, headlined: Us Biased? Conservatives Must Be Crazy; CNN
Distorted Study to Show Media as Pro-Bush & Anti-Gore
On Friday's Inside
Politics, CNN's Judy Woodruff claimed a new study of this year's election
coverage showed the media aren't liberally biased. But the actual study,
produced by groups funded by the liberal Pew Charitable Trusts, made no
such claim -- nor did it offer any evidence that would substantiate such a
"A common complaint
among conservatives [in 1992 was] that the news media are biased against
Republicans," Woodruff told viewers, "but this year's GOP
standard bearer has little to complain about."
"According to a
study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Committee of
Concerned Journalists, Democrat Al Gore was far more likely to be the
subject of negative news stories this year....When the media reported on
Bush, it was more likely to deal with positive themes," Woodruff
"There was just a
media study that shows actually the festival has been on George Bush's
side, as far as favorable coverage by the press," chimed in Margaret
Carlson on CNN's Capital Gang the next evening.
Nice try. The PEJ study
ignored four-fifths of this year's campaign news (it looked at one sample
week from five of the six months), and the research team only counted
comments about six pre-selected "themes," and no other positive
or negative references to Bush, Gore or the two parties.
The three Bush themes
the researchers chose were a) his family ties, b) his alleged lack of
intelligence, and c) his being a "different kind of Republican."
That means none of stories about Bush and the death penalty, Bush's tax
cut, or Bush's Social Security plan were included -- even though the media
delivered mostly bad press on each.
The three Gore themes
were a) his exaggerations, b) his links to scandals, and c) "Gore is
competent and experienced." No other Gore issues were considered, nor
was the study equipped to deal with "bias by omission" --
episodes when the media skipped embarrassing stories like the trial of
Gore's fundraiser, Maria Hsia. (Woodruff's show, Inside Politics, ignored
the trial until March 2, when Hsia was convicted of five felony counts.)
The study, "A
Question of Character," was actually designed to critique the way the
press generally covers the "character issue," not serve as yet
another score sheet on the campaign horse race. So, according to the
study, (available at www.journalism.org) how good a job have the media
In the section entitled
"Evidence," the authors write, "Journalists offering either
their analysis or opinion were the most common source for every
theme....Journalists' assertions about Bush's character were more than
twice as likely to be unsupported by any evidence. In other words, they
were pure opinion, rather than journalistic analysis."
But you didn't hear a
word about that from CNN.
sidebar items along the sides of pages two and three:
-- Dan Rather Style
Dan Rather delivered a loaded opening to Sunday's CBS
Evening News: "The stage is set down below and right behind me for a
well-orchestrated, pre-scripted, week-long infomercial designed to sell
the Republican presidential ticket and get corporate donors to pony up
more for the fall campaign. Expect much the same from the Democrats later
Then in an unprecedented
move, Rather cited Newt Gingrich as an authority: "But as George
Bush's running mate Richard Cheney arrived here today, he still was dogged
by questions about what Newt Gingrich says is his very conservative voting
record in the Congress. Cheney says he might vote differently today on
some issues. Abortion rights is not among them."
-- Marilyn Quayle:
"Scowling Face of Conservatism"?
The former Second Lady as symbol of the GOP's dark
side? On Friday's Washington Week in Review, New York Times reporter
Richard Berke made that case. He noted how this year's Republican
convention will look "like a Democratic convention, to tell you the
truth, more than a Republican convention. You're going to see lots of
minorities up there."
But, he asserted:
"You're not going to see the scowling faces of conservatism that have
been up there before, like Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson and Marilyn
-- CBS News President:
MRC "Extremists of the Right" "Well, I'm sorry to
disappoint you, but I do deny that we have a bias, and I'm familiar with
the work that [Brent] Bozell and [Reed] Irvine do. They are activists and
extremists of the Right," declared CBS News President Andrew Heyward
Sunday afternoon on C-SPAN in dismissing a caller who asked about liberal
media bias on CBS documented by the Media Research Center and Accuracy in
After denigrating the
work of the heads of the two groups, Heyward proceeded to claim "the
people I work with, many of them are surprisingly conservative."
As for why people see a
liberal bias, Heyward maintained it's only because "as journalists
we're always holding the establishment up to scrutiny, whether it's a
Republican or a Democratic administration, a Republican or a Democratic
Congress." "It's our job to ask tough questions and to shine a
light in corners that might otherwise remain dark. And if you tend to be
conservative, by definition somebody who's constantly challenging the
status quo, even though that's how we see our jobs, is seen potentially as
unpatriotic or they're anti-government, anti-American."
He ended his answer by
insisting: "Our job is to communicate the truth to people."
END of reprints of
Conventions 2000 Media Reality Check for Monday Morning, July 31.
Memo to Heyward: No time
like the present to start putting truth ahead of bias. -- Brent Baker