CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Tuesday January 23, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 13) |
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"Controversial" Abortion Order; But 8 Years Ago Clinton Just Fulfilling "Promise"; "Ought to be Ashamed" of Ashcroft Portrayals

1) Monday night ABC, CBS and NBC characterized Bush’s abortion order as a "controversial" decision in which he "did something to quickly please the right flank." But eight years ago to the day Clinton’s executive orders on abortion reflected how he had "delivered on his campaign promise" by taking non-ideological action which demonstrated how he "keeps his word."

2) A reporter lectured Ari Fleischer: "You’re not really saying that you believe that the way to build the spirt of bi-partisanship is by wading into the issue of abortion on day one are you?"

3) "Pretty well clued in" is how ABC’s Charles Gibson assessed 3rd and 4th graders who he wished to could vote after they urged Bush to do liberal things, such as: "Get rid of guns," tell companies to "stop cutting down the trees," give the homeless the "chance to go to college" and "just be nice to the Democrats."

4) Even George Stephanopoulos was outraged by Clinton’s pardon for fugitive Marc Rich, prompting ABC to first highlight the story on Sunday night. NBC caught up on Monday night.

5) The national media "ought to be ashamed" of how they portrayed John Ashcroft "as some sort of right wing radical," Brit Hume scolded on Fox News Sunday.

6) During the Golden Globe Awards ceremony broadcast on NBC Sunday night, actor Martin Sheen praised Jesse Jackson: "You’re still our hero, and we need you now more than ever." Actor George Clooney used his air time to take a shot John Ashcroft.

7) The Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush appearances on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman will be re-run on Tuesday and Wednesday nights this week.

Correction/Clarification: A table of contents listing in the January 22 CyberAlert stated: Peter Jennings empathized: "It’s been a very difficult last 24 hours for him, having to make a deal with the "independent counsel..." The second quote mark before the word independent should not have appeared. The same issue speculated that ABC’s Tom Jarriel might be spelled Jariel. MRC Webmaster Andy Szul checked the ABC News Web page and confirmed that "Jarriel" is the accurate spelling.


What’s the difference between a "controversial" decision by a new President "wading into controversy" with an action "designed to appeal to...conservatives" as he "did something to quickly please the right flank in his party" and a new President having "delivered on his campaign promise" by taking a non-ideological action which shows how he "keeps his word"?

    President Bush re-instituting the ban on U.S. funding of groups promoting abortion overseas versus President Clinton exactly eight years earlier signing several executive orders which pleased abortion activists by lifting bans on funding for overseas aid programs that include abortion, abortions at U.S. military installations, fetal tissue research and federally funded clinics telling women about the abortion option.

    Check out the incredible contrast in how ABC, CBS and NBC reacted on January 22, 2001 versus January 22, 1993 to new Presidents issuing opposite executive orders on abortion. I managed to get some of this off Nexis, but also employed the MRC’s tape library to go back and watch the 1993 shows in order to locate the missing stories as well as plugs and teases.

    -- ABC’s World News Tonight. This year, anchor Peter Jennings plugged the upcoming story: "President Bush begins by taking a tough line on abortion."

    In the subsequent story Terry Moran reviewed Bush’s activities during his first work day. When he got to the abortion decision he stressed the ideological component of it as a payoff to a segment of supporters:
    "One of the President’s first actions was designed to appeal to anti-abortion conservatives. The President signed an order re-instating a Reagan-era policy that prohibited federal funding of family planning groups that provided abortion counseling services overseas. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was peppered with questions about the order at his first daily briefing."

    (Indeed he was "peppered" by bewildered reporters. See item #2 below for examples.)

    Eight years ago, on Friday January 22, 1993, Jennings trumpeted Clinton’s action in this plug for the upcoming story: "In a moment, President Clinton keeps his word on abortion rights."

    ("President Clinton keeps his word." My, how gullible were the media in Clinton’s early days.)

    Jennings introduced the report by emphasizing how Clinton had fulfilled a promise: "President Clinton kept a promise today on the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. While tens of thousands of abortion opponents marched from the White House to the Supreme Court, Mr. Clinton signed presidential memoranda rolling back many of the restrictions imposed by his predecessors."

    In the subsequent piece, Jackie Judd delivered no formulation even close to something like how Clinton’s action "was designed to appeal to pro-abortion liberals." She never uttered the word liberal.

    -- CBS Evening News. This year, Dan Rather delivered this plug: "Up next here on the CBS Evening News, President Bush’s fast anti-abortion action."

    Rather set up the story by painting Bush’s decision in ideological terms: "This was President Bush’s first day at the office and he did something to quickly please the right flank in his party: He re-instituted an anti-abortion policy that had been in place during his father’s term and the Reagan presidency but was lifted during the Clinton years."

    John Roberts began his story by reporting how Bush contrasted himself with the previous President by urging his staff to follow high ethical standards. Roberts then emphasized how abortion placed Bush in "controversy":
    "But in a sign that not everything has changed, the President waded into controversy on his first day. In a nod to anti-abortion groups on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, he announced he’ll cut federal funding to organizations that provide family planning and abortion counseling overseas. Abortion rights activists fear there’s more to come."
    CBS ran a soundbite from Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood. The CBS video gave her a nice free ad as it prominently showed a poster plugging this Web site: ""

    Eight years ago Rather teased at the top of the January 22, 1993 CBS Evening News: "On the anniversary of Roe versus Wade President Clinton fulfills a promise, supporting abortion rights."

    Rather made that the show’s lead, again stressing how Clinton had "delivered" on a campaign promise: "Good evening, Dan Rather reporting. It was 20 years ago today, the United States Supreme Court handed down its landmark abortion rights ruling and the controversy hasn't stopped since. Today, with the stroke of a pen, President Clinton delivered on his campaign promise to cancel several anti-abortion regulations of the Reagan-Bush years. CBS News correspondent Rita Braver has our report."

    Of course, neither Rather or Braver made any allusions to how Clinton "did something to quickly please the left flank in his party."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened Monday’s broadcast by noting how it was Bush’s first day and the capture of some of the Texas escapees. He then returned to the new Bush White House, as he highlighted how it started "on a controversial note." Brokaw announced: "We’ll be covering all of this tonight. We’ll begin with the new President’s very active day, which started on a controversial note. NBC’s David Gregory is at the White House tonight, Lisa Myers on Capitol Hill. David, you begin please."

    Gregory reported: "Well Tom tonight, even as the President vows to move quickly on his agenda, including education reform and tax cuts, on his first day of official business Bush decides to send his strongest message on the issue of abortion. 28 years to the day since the Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion, Bush today issues an executive order banning federal funding for international groups that offer abortions or abortion counseling abroad, a ban President Clinton had lifted."

    After a soundbite from White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Gregory noted: "The decision, which aides say is simply the fulfillment of a campaign pledge, came as thousands of abortion foes marched in Washington...."

    Eight years earlier, Brokaw did not attribute to "aides" the idea that Clinton was fulfilling a campaign pledge. He said it straight out as a fact as he introduced a story after a report on how Zoe Baird has withdrawn her name from consideration for Attorney General: "At the same time today President Clinton kept a campaign promise and it came on the 20th anniversary of Roe versus Wade legalizing abortion. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski tonight on the changes in the Washington environment on this emotional issue, Jim."

    Miklaszewski repeated the approving "keeping" a campaign promise spin: "Tom, today President Clinton started to undo 12 years of Republican anti-abortion policy here at the White House. Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators staged their annual march past the Supreme Court down to the White House, but for the first time in 12 years their voice fell on deaf ears. In fact, significant gains they made in the Reagan and Bush administrations were wiped out with the stroke of a pen. Keeping a campaign promise, President Clinton lifted restrictions on abortion."

    END of contrasts.

    Now that’s one for the file of fantastic contrasts proving liberal bias.


Bewildered reporters. As noted in item #1 above. On Monday night ABC’s Terry Moran reported how "Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was peppered with questions about the [abortion] order at his first daily briefing."

    Indeed he was and I took down a few of the questions that I noticed, starting with an inquiry from a voice I recognized, John Roberts of CBS News. (C-SPAN’s camera remained focused on Fleischer.)

    Roberts warned: "Ari, I don’t want to say this abortion executive order might be your gays in the military because it’s unlikely that the Joint Chiefs of Staff will march in here and oppose it, but do you not risk being distracted in your legislative agenda by doing his right out of the box?"
    Fleischer: "No, I think it’s something that everyone expected."

    Apparently it took out of touch reporters by surprise.

    Helen Thomas, now with Hearst Newspapers, was dumfounded: "It is the top of the President’s agenda? He takes over a country and this is the top and of all the issues-"
    Fleischer cut her off and explained it was just one of a series of executive orders Bush issued during the day.

    Fleischer tried to convince reporters that the order has bi-partisan support since both Republicans and many Democrats don’t believe in using taxpayer money to promote abortion, but a male reporter, whose voice I did not recognize, didn’t buy it: "But you’re not really saying that you believe that the way to build the spirt of bi-partisanship is by wading into the issue of abortion on day one are you?"

    I hope no one really believed that the White House press corps would treat Bush as nicely as they did Clinton eight years ago.


We need more voters who want President Bush to "get rid of guns," "give" more federal money to schools, tell companies to "stop cutting down the trees," give the homeless the "chance to go to college and get a diploma," "just be nice to the Democrats" and "treat them like they're your friends."

    After some 3rd and 4th graders made those suggestions in a taped segment on Saturday’s special Good Morning America, Charles Gibson recommended lowering the voting age "to include third and fourth graders, because those young people, pretty well clued in."

    MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught the segment toward the end of the 7am hour on the special January 20 ABC show before the inaugural. Gibson set it up: "Out of the mouths of babes oft times come the most astounding statements. We wanted to know what young people thought George W. Bush should accomplish in the next four years, and so we went to the Placentia Elementary School in Los Angeles and asked them."
    Boy #1: "I think that he should get rid of guns, 'cause it ain't fair to kill the animals, and not fair to kill the people either."
    Boy #2: "Not destruction, war, but peace and life for the animals."
    Boy #3: "Dear Mr. President, I would want you to give more money to, like, replace the school, like, put newer things and help the school get a new coat of paint."
    Girl #1, in what might be a plug for vouchers: "A lot of kids can't go to school 'cause their parents don't have enough money to, like, send them there, so maybe he could help them out and, like, send them there so they could get a better education."
    Boy #4: "I would make the White House bigger and move it to another state."
    Boy #1 again: "I really need to tell George Bush to get rid of the drugs, 'cause that's how people die."
    Boy #2 again: "Talk to the companies and tell 'em to stop cutting down trees."
    Girl #2: "I would ask if he could give the homeless people on the streets a second chance to go to college and get a diploma."
    Girl #3: "Mr. Bush, I hope you could just, like, be nice and just move on with your presidency, and like, just be nice to the Democrats, and like, treat them like they're your friends."

    Gibson then gushed: "Maybe we should have lowered the voting below 18 to include third and fourth graders, because those young people, pretty well clued in."

    They are the journalists of the future, pretty well clued in to repeating liberal cliches.


Some things Bill Clinton does even outrage George Stephanopoulos. A couple of weeks ago it was suggested that he may have been behind why ABC News first reported the Linda Chavez illegal alien story, though Chavez’s former neighbor is also the sister of ABC News reporter Terry Moran, but on Sunday Stephanopoulos’s disgust may have led ABC to first highlight the Marc Rich tax evasion case.

    On Sunday’s This Week Stephanopoulos praised Clinton’s pardon of Susan McDougall: "She spent 18 months in prison because of what President Clinton did. It was the decent thing to do."

    But then he complained: "There’s at least one outrage from what I can tell. He pardoned a man named Marc Rich. You may not remember Marc Rich but he was a banker, a commodities trader who was trading with Iran while they were holding terrorists [actually the U.S. hostages of 1979-80] and trading with South Africa under the apartheid regime. Indicted by Rudy Giuliani. Instead of facing trial he went on the lam. He’s lived in Switzerland for 17 years. His ex-wife has given $600,000 almost, over $500,000, to the Democratic Party over the last two years. This is outrageous."

    Sunday night ABC’s World News Tonight featured a whole story from Josh Gerstein on those upset by the Rich decision.

    On Monday night, the NBC Nightly News caught up with a piece by Pete Williams on how Clinton’s decision is "sparking outrage from people familiar with the case." Both ABC and NBC pointed out how his ex-wife is a large donor to Democrats and that Rich’s lawyer, who appealed to Clinton, is former White House counsel Jack Quinn.

    Sunday and Monday nights the CBS Evening News ignored the story.


The national media "ought to be ashamed" of how they portrayed John Ashcroft, Fox News Washington Managing Editor Brit Hume argued on Fox News Sunday.

    During the January 21 roundtable segment, NPR’s Juan Williams complained that while Bush’s "rhetoric is so inclusive, here’s a guy who puts Ashcroft up!"

    Hume soon proposed: "I think it needs to be said here that the portrait of John Ashcroft, a man who comes from about as middle of the road, middle of the country a state as one can imagine, who has been elected repeatedly to high office, including Attorney General and Governor in that state and the Senate, being portrayed as some sort of right wing radical is a ludicrous, outrageous caricature that is unfair to him, it was unfair to Governor Bush and it was aided and abetted, I think, by an extraordinary performance by the national media that they ought to be ashamed of."

    For evidence to support Hume’s contention, check out these recent CyberAlert items:

    -- On Ashcroft, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas whined and impugned: "Why can’t they buy off the right wing with unimportant jobs? I mean, this is a buy off the wing nuts." ABC’s Linda Douglass decided that while "Bush’s rhetoric is very inclusive," the "fact is he's proposed no federal programs for minorities."


    -- CBS’s Jim Stewart delivered a one-sided look at how "black leaders have vowed revenge" against John Ashcroft "for what they consider a racially biased vote." Stewart didn’t bother to point out, as did FNC, that Ashcroft voted to "confirm 23 of the 26 African-American federal court nominees. As Missouri Governor he appointed eight African-American judges."
    -- Margaret Carlson complained how the Attorney General "post should be the secretary of uniting, not dividing" and she claimed: "Ashcroft is way to the right....we have a history in this country of appointing moderates to that job."

        -- Bush could have avoided opposition to Ashcroft "by choosing someone for that post who was a little more acceptable to all people," argued NBC’s Matt Lauer as Tim Russert agreed the problem is that Ashcroft comes from the "far right."

        -- "Do you think that John Ashcroft is a racist?" CBS’s Bob Schieffer asked Senator Barbara Boxer in a story prompted by her opposition. Schieffer relayed, without any label, how "groups representing everything from civil rights to consumer advocates" are against Ashcroft and are upset by his Christmas card.
    -- CBS News reporter John Roberts peppered Ari Fleischer with questions from the left over Ashcroft: "As somebody who is charged with executing the laws that are on the books, is it prudent for their ideology to be at odds with some of those laws?" And Bush’s nominees have ruined the "spirit of reconciliation."


    -- ABC’s Linda Douglass insisted the "very conservative" Senator Ashcroft is "opposed by every group." Every?
    -- Thursday night CBS and NBC made sure viewers realized pro-Ashcroft groups were "conservative," but when liberal groups had denounced him on Tuesday the two network evening shows avoided applying any ideological tags.
    -- NBC’s Today devoted 13 minutes to Senator Jean Carnahan as Katie Couric praised her qualifications. When Carnahan refused to denounce Ashcroft, Couric fired back: "Do you have some concerns though...given some of the things you know about his record on civil rights, on abortion and on gun control?"


    -- On Dateline Tom Brokaw put the burden on Bush for how his picks will make it hard to show how he’s a "uniter not a divider." Brokaw highlighted how Ashcroft "is a divisive gesture within the African-American community" because he supposedly "said he’s got to speak out on behalf of the agenda of Robert E. Lee." Clinton’s popularity proves "the country likes what he’s been doing."
    -- Ashcroft’s critics say he is "too conservative," ABC"s John Yang stressed Sunday night. But Yang couldn’t bring himself to label any of his opponents as liberal. Instead he referred to "former Democratic colleagues in the Senate," "civil rights advocates" and "more than a dozen groups."
    -- "Chief Foe as Chief Defender? Ashcroft Critical of Laws, Decisions He Would Enforce." Saturday’s Washington Post gave front page play to a new liberal ploy to undermine Ashcroft. The Post warned that Ashcroft’s views "put him at odds with current law, government practice, prevailing court opinions and members of the Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court."

    For these three items, go to:

    -- Tom Brokaw marked Martin Luther King Day by promising "race will be a major issue in the contentious hearings" for John Ashcroft, "especially since Ashcroft defended the Confederate agenda of Robert E. Lee."

    Go to:

    -- Bryant Gumbel to a pro-Ashcroft guest: "Can you deny that he distorted Mr. White's record and basically engaged in what some would kindly call character assassination?" To an Ashcroft basher: "What troubles you the most about the nomination of John Ashcroft?" And: "What's his nomination say about George W. Bush and his claims of compassionate conservatism?"

    Go to:


Anxious actors adjusting to life without their buddy Clinton in the White House. During the Golden Globe Awards ceremony broadcast on NBC Sunday night, actor Marin Sheen praised Jesse Jackson: "You’re still our hero, and we need you now more than ever." Actor George Clooney used his air time to take a shot John Ashcroft.

    MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth tracked down and transcribed these two liberal outbursts from the January 21 event:

    -- Martin Sheen, who plays "President Jeb Bartlet on NBC’s The West Wing, as he accepted the award for best actor in a TV drama:
    "Jesse, if you’re watching in Chicago, you’re still our hero, and we need you now more than ever. And finally, to the incoming administration, I want to assure you of our continued support on the West Wing. And despite recent events in Florida, I want to remind you that, the good Lord willing, you’re going to have Jeb Bartlett and company to kick around for four more years."

    -- George Clooney, star of Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, accepting the award for best actor in a movie. Clooney joked about how the film’s producers, the Coen brothers, "aren’t really brothers. That’s a lie. That’s all a lie, and I, while we’re confessing, I am actually the illegitimate love child of John Ashcroft. I want that out there. I don’t want that to effect any kind of voting that’s coming up, but that’s it."


Late Show political star repeats. CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman is in repeats this week and amongst the re-runs will be the shows with Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush, whom Letterman treated much harsher than he did Hillary or Al Gore.

    Tonight, Tuesday January 23, CBS will re-run the January 12, 2000 show with Hillary Clinton. On Wednesday night, January 24, you can catch the re-run of Bush from October 19, 2000.

    That one includes musical guest James Brown, which shows how diversity seems to naturally surround W. -- Brent Baker



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