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CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Thursday April 5, 2001 (Vol. Six; No. 57) |
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Rather Gave 23 Seconds to Recount; Couric Still Obsessed by Confused Voters; On China, Conservatives "Belligerent" & "Nasty"

1) In December Dan Rather impugned the "ideologically motivated" U.S. Supreme Court for having, "in effect, handed the presidency to Bush" by stopping a statewide hand count. But Wednesday night after a newspaper hand count found more votes for Bush, Rather gave it a vague 23 seconds and didnít correct his spin.

2) Peter Jennings relayed the key finding: "The first major, independent review of the Florida vote has found that President Bush would have won by an even greater margin if the Supreme Court had not stopped the recount." USA Today pointed out: "George W. Bush would have won a hand count of Florida's disputed ballots if the standard advocated by Al Gore had been used."

3) NBCís Katie Couric seemed most intrigued by votes Gore was supposedly denied. Interviewing a Miami Herald editor she made sure viewers realized: "You all werenít counting the 19,000... estimated votes in Palm Beach County, where voters say they accidentally pushed...the ballot for Pat Buchanan, right?"

4) CBSís Bob Schieffer credited Republican Senator James Jeffordsís turn against the Bush tax cut plan to his concern that itís "too big," but ABCís Linda Douglass noticed he decided to oppose Bush only after the Bush administration rejected his demands for more spending.

5) A reporter at the White House press briefing: "On child abuse, 18 percent reported reduction in child abuse funds, which is about $15.7 million. How is that being a compassionate conservative?"

6) In stories on the showdown with China, ABC News has assumed conservatives are the bad guys. Ted Koppel lamented that "over there they also have their conservatives," Terry Moran warned "Republicans in Congress are growing increasingly belligerent" and Peter Jennings worried about a "nasty campaign being waged against" the aircraft pilot by retired naval aviators.

7) FNC's Brit Hume reminded viewers of how Dan Rather tried to discredit the vote certification by Katherine Harris and informed them of how 60 Minutes chief Don Hewitt believes Rather "likes" Bill Clinton.


1
Back in December Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News by asserting that the U.S. Supreme Court, which "some say" was "politically and ideologically motivated," had "ended Vice President Goreís contest of the Florida election and, in effect, handed the presidency to Bush." But just under four months later, when a comprehensive newspaper hand count of all the "undervotes" in the counties which the U.S. Supreme Court order had stopped, to Ratherís consternation, found Bush won by an even greater margin, Rather gave the development a piddling 23 seconds. And, of course, he didnít bother to correct his impugning of the now vindicated U.S. Supreme Court.

     Rather tried to dismiss the relevance of the new tally as he ended his brief April 4 item by highlighting how a future count will provide "a broader review," though he didnít explain that "broader" means counting those who voted for more than one candidate, a highly subjective process:
     "Several newspaper groups are out today with the latest review of the Florida presidential vote. They found the hand count method Al Gore favored would have given George Bush a bigger victory margin. And the recount method Gore felt gave him the least hope shows he actually may have beat Bush by three votes. A broader ballot review by another newspaper consortium is due out next month."

     Rather opened the December 13 CBS Evening News by castigating the U.S. Supreme Court for making Bush the President by stopping the hand count ordered by the Florida Supreme Court: "Good evening. Texas Governor George Bush tonight will assume the mantle and the honor of President-elect. This comes 24 hours after a sharply split and, some say, politically and ideologically motivated U.S. Supreme Court ended Vice President Goreís contest of the Florida election and, in effect, handed the presidency to Bush."

    Later that night, during CBSís prime time coverage of the Gore and Bush speeches, Rather posed a question to legal analyst Jonathan Turley which presumed the Supreme Court had damaged its reputation: "In the wake of the Supreme Court decision where does the court go from here in rebuilding its prestige and reputation?"

    Thatís a question Rather should be asking about himself after he first suggested the court ruling had taken the decision out of the hands of voters and then, when a media analysis found Bush would have won even bigger if the count the court ordered stopped had been completed, he didnít bother to correct his earlier spin.

    For a RealPlayer video clip of Ratherís December 13 opening, go to the December 14, 2000 CyberAlert:
http://archive.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2000/cyb20001214.asp#6

     For details about the newspaper analysis by Knight Ridder and USA Today which Rather glossed over, see item #2 below.

2

ABC and NBC played the story much straighter than CBSís Dan Rather on Wednesday night as both delivered full stories about the new hand count of "undervotes" across Florida by Knight Ridderís Miami Herald and Gannettís USA Today which determined that if Gore had gotten the statewide recount using his preferred standard he would have endured a net loss in votes.

     CNNís Inside Politics ran a solid and thorough piece by Candy Crowley on the recount, but it didnít make it into either of CNNís prime time newscasts as CNN devoted the entire 8pm EDT Wolf Blitzer Reports to China and didnít mention it on the 10pm EDT CNN Tonight. MSNBCís The News with Brian Williams ran the same Kerry Sanders piece which had aired on NBC Nightly News.

     On ABCís World News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings set up a story from Jackie Judd by leading with the recountís key finding that Bush gained votes: "The first major, independent review of the Florida vote has found that President Bush would have won by an even greater margin if the Supreme Court had not stopped the recount."

     Judd concluded: "So does this recount end the debate? Probably not. Does it reconfirm this was a beyond belief close election? Absolutely."

     NBCís Tom Brokaw introduced the April 4 NBC Nightly News look at the development: "NBC News In Depth tonight, the question we keep on asking: Who really did get the most votes in Florida, George W. Bush or Al Gore? After 36 long days Bush was declared the winner by just 537 votes. Is that the right answer? Tonight some affirming votes in the first major statewide recount."

     NBC reporter Kerry Sanders ran through the numbers generated by the various counting standards employed by the newspapers, specifically noting that Bush picked up votes using the standard proscribed by the Florida Supreme Court for the recount the U.S. Supreme Court blocked.

     So, what did the review, completed by the Knight Ridder-owned Miami Herald in conjunction with USA Today, find? Itís a little complicated, so hereís an excerpt from USA Todayís April 4 story, headlined: "Newspapers' recount shows Bush prevailed." Reporter Dennis Cauchon explained:

George W. Bush would have won a hand count of Florida's disputed ballots if the standard advocated by Al Gore had been used, the first full study of the ballots reveals.

Bush would have won by 1,665 votes -- more than triple his official 537-vote margin -- if every dimple, hanging chad and mark on the ballots had been counted as votes, a USA TODAY/Miami Herald/Knight Ridder study shows. The study is the first comprehensive review of the 61,195 "undervote" ballots that were at the center of Florida's disputed presidential election.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered Dec. 8 that each of these ballots, which registered no presidential vote when run through counting machines, be examined by hand to determine whether a voter's intent could be discerned. On Dec. 9, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the hand count before it was completed....

USA TODAY, The Miami Herald and Knight Ridder newspapers hired the national accounting firm BDO Seidman to examine undervote ballots in Florida's 67 counties. The accountants provided a report on what they found on each of the ballots.

The newspapers then applied the accounting firm's findings to four standards used in Florida and elsewhere to determine when an undervote ballot becomes a legal vote. By three of the standards, Bush holds the lead. The fourth standard gives Gore a razor-thin win.

The results reveal a stunning irony. The way Gore wanted the ballots recounted helped Bush, and the standard that Gore felt offered him the least hope may have given him an extremely narrow victory. The vote totals vary depending on the standard used:

-- Lenient standard. This standard, which was advocated by Gore, would count any alteration in a chad -- the small perforated box that is punched to cast a vote -- as evidence of a voter's intent. The alteration can range from a mere dimple, or indentation, in a chad to its removal. Contrary to Gore's hopes, the USA TODAY study reveals that this standard favors Bush and gives the Republican his biggest margin: 1,665 votes.

-- Palm Beach standard. Palm Beach County election officials considered dimples as votes only if dimples also were found in other races on the same ballot. They reasoned that a voter would demonstrate similar voting patterns on the ballot. This standard -- attacked by Republicans as arbitrary -- also gives Bush a win, by 884 votes, according to the USA TODAY review.

-- Two-corner standard. Most states with well-defined rules say that a chad with two or more corners removed is a legal vote. Under this standard, Bush wins by 363.

-- Strict standard. This "clean punch" standard would only count fully removed chads as legal votes. The USA TODAY study shows that Gore would have won Florida by 3 votes if this standard were applied to undervotes....

     END Excerpt from USA Today

     For the entire story, go to:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2001-04-03-floridamain.htm

     For many more details, including county by county adjustments under each standard, go to: http://www.recount.usatoday.com

     The newspaper hand count covered 59 of Floridaís 67 counties. Of those, 22 used punch cards, 36 employed optical scanners and one counted votes by hand. Seven counties (Broward, Escambia, Hamilton, Madison, Manatee, Palm Beach and Volusia) and 137 Miami-Dade County precincts were not recounted again since hand recounts had been completed in them and submitted to the Secretary of State and so were not part of the Florida Supreme Courtís hand count order. For their analysis, the newspapers adopted the official recounts in these seven counties and thus started Bush at up 188 votes.

3

The morning shows on Wednesday all focused on the new newspaper hand count with ABC and NBC bringing aboard Miami Herald editors to discuss their findings and ABC raising it with George Stephanopoulos. He suggested that "Democrats will still be able to say, somehow, that they were robbed because of unfair ballots...because the butterfly ballot was very confusing," but he conceded, "they canít say that the Supreme Court took away their rights and would have cost them the election."

     NBCís Katie Couric seemed most intrigued by scenarios in which Gore still could have won. Interviewing the Miami Heraldís Executive Editor, Couric resurrected the Democratic complaint about votes not even the Florida Supreme Courtís order covered: "Meanwhile you all werenít counting the 19,000, I guess, estimated votes in Palm Beach County, where voters say they accidentally pushed or pressed, the, the ballot for Pat Buchanan, right?"

     -- ABCís Good Morning America. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down the analysis expressed by George Stephanopoulos on the April 4 broadcast:
     "This is very good news for Bush. When you look at, when you look at this study by The Miami Herald, what it essentially shows is that if the order by the Florida Supreme Court to count all of the undercounts, undervotes in Florida, had gone through, Bush still would have won. Now, there are a lot of uncertainties inside the counts Ė which standard would have been used? Would the same standard have been used in all the counties? But in almost all the scenarios, Bush wins.
     "One of the great ironies, it was Gore who wanted the very loose standard, the Bush people who wanted the strict standard. One of the only scenarios where Gore actually wins is under the strictest possible standard of counting; he wins by three votes....But I think the bottom line here for this is that this undercuts the Democratsí argument that the Republicans stole the election by having the Supreme Court stop the count. Democrats will still be able to say, somehow, that they were robbed because of unfair ballots, because of these overvotes, because the butterfly ballot was very confusing, but they canít say that the Supreme Court took away their rights and would have cost them the election."

     During the 8am news update, Antonio Mora announced: "A hand recount of the so-called undervotes in Florida almost certainly would not have changed the result of the presidential election. Thatís the conclusion of a review by two newspapers, USA Today and The Miami Herald." Jackie Judd then provided a further summary.

     -- CBSís The Early Show. During a first half hour news update, MRC analyst Brian Boyd observed, Melissa McDermott stuck to the key finding: "Another recount has declared George W. Bush the winner in Florida. The Miami Herald and USA Today studied presidential ballots involved in an aborted hand recount. The newspapers report that if those ballots had been counted Mr. Bush's winning vote margin of 537 would have tripled."

     Co-host Jane Clayson interviewed Mark Seibel, the Miami Heraldís Managing Editor for news, and she played it straight without any antagonistic inquiries. She started off: "So even if the U.S. Supreme Court had not stopped the manual recount, George W. Bush would have won the election. Is that what the numbers show?"

     -- NBCís Today brought aboard Miami Herald Executive Editor Martin Baron. After Katie Couric asked him what they learned and what standard they applied to their counting, Couric wanted him to confirm what she heard:
     "So if the Republican standard had been used in a statewide recount, Al Gore would have won, but, in, with looser interpretations of the standards than George Bush, would have actually gained quite a few votes? Is that accurate?"
     Baron confirmed: "Thatís right. If you start from the point where the canvassing boards ended. You have to remember that the number of canvassing boards, those in Palm Beach County and Broward County, a 139 precincts in Miami-Dade County and a number of other counties in the northern part of the state actually completed manual recounts. If you go from that point forward, then if you use the loosest possible standard, the most inclusive possible standard, then George W. Bush still would have emerged the winner. Now you have to ask the question of what would have happened if we donít take into account what the canvassing boards did. If we throw that out and we start from scratch. And there the scenario changes entirely."
     Couric hoped: "And in that case Al Gore would have won?"
     Baron: "In that case, under certain scenarios, Al Gore would have won if you use the loosest possible interpretation. The most inclusive possible interpretation of what constitutes a valid and legal vote. Because what happened in those, in those counties is that the canvassing boards discarded hundreds of ballots as not being valid votes. Those were ballots that had pinpricks, it had dimples, that had hanging chads and were identical in nature to other ballots that they counted as legal and valid votes. So if you go back and you reexamine what happened in Palm Beach County and in Broward County you come up with a completely different result under the most inclusive interpretation of what constitutes a legal and valid vote."

     Then Couric, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, lectured Baron about a supposed problem he didnít address: "Meanwhile you all werenít counting the 19,000, I guess, estimated votes in Palm Beach County, where voters say they accidentally pushed or pressed, the, the ballot for Pat Buchanan, right?"
     Baron: "Well those are instances where people punched for more than one candidate for President. So they may have punched for Al Gore but also punched for Pat Buchanan. So they double punched the ballot. Thatís called an overvote. And those kinds of votes are actually discarded under Florida law and are not counted."
     Couric made sure viewers realized double votes were not discerned: "And you all didnít count them in the manual recount either?"
     Baron: "We did not. You have to remember that the Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount of all undervotes. Those are the votes, the votes that recorded no vote for President when run through a machine. They did not order a manual recount of the overvotes. And thatís what youíre talking about in the butterfly ballot in, in Palm Beach County."

4

"If itís not dead itís nearly dead," CBSís Bob Schieffer pronounced Wednesday night of Bushís tax cut plan after a Senate vote. But NBCís Lisa Myers gave it a slightly better prognosis: "Tonight, the Presidentís allies say the Bush tax cut is on life support, but not necessarily dead."

     Schieffer credited Republican Senator James Jeffordsís turn against the bill to his believing the Bush tax cut is "too big," but ABCís Linda Douglass informed viewers he decided to oppose Bush only after the Bush administration rejected his demands for more spending.

     Some brief quotes from ABC, CBS and NBC coverage Wednesday night, April 4, of the Senate vote for an amendment by Democrat Tom Harkin to reduce Bushís tax cut by a third and spend the money instead.

     -- ABCís World News Tonight. Linda Douglass observed that Jeffords of Vermont "will not vote for the Presidentís tax cut unless thereís an increase in funding for special education, which has been his passion for 25 years."

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather seemed gleeful: "There was a major setback today for President Bushís big tax cut plan. The Senate voted to reduce the cut by a third and use the money for education programs and debt reduction."

     Bob Schieffer stressed only concern about the size of the tax cut, not how Senators might just want to spend more: "It was two Northeastern Republicans who blew this open today: Chafee of Rhode Island, who said all along that he thought the tax cut was too big, and now Jeffords of Vermont, who says itís looking that way to him too. They both voted with the Democrats. It is much too early in the game to say itís all over. The Republican leader in the Senate, Trent Lott, says heíll make the Senate vote again on this. But the Presidentís tax plan took a heavy, heavy hit tonight. If itís not dead itís nearly dead."

     -- NBC Nightly News. After a soundbite of Democratic leader Tom Daschle asserting that Bushís plan can now be "officially proclaimed as dead," Myers concluded: "Tonight, the Presidentís allies say the Bush tax cut is on life support, but not necessarily dead. The question: How much will they have to give up to save the patient."

5

One small piece of evidence, as if any more are needed, that the Washington press corps are a force for more spending and will portray any reduction in government spending of tax dollars as contradicting compassion.

     Check out this question posed at Wednesdayís White House press briefing to Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. It came from a female reporter whose voice I did not recognize and the TV cameras did not show her:
     "The President, as part of his campaign promises, said that he was going to increase and help the National Health Service Corps. There is now talking about that there is nothing increased in there in terms of funding for training, and also on child abuse, 18 percent reported reduction in child abuse funds, which is about $15.7 million. How is that being a compassionate conservative?"

     How does that question comport with a journalist keeping her opinion to herself in order to be a dispassionate reporter?

6

ABC: Always Bashing Conservatives. In Tuesday and Wednesday night stories, on the showdown with China, ABC News reporters have assumed conservatives are the bad guys in the unfolding drama. Ted Koppel regretted that "over there they also have their conservatives," Terry Moran warned that "some Republicans in Congress are growing increasingly belligerent" and Peter Jennings worried about a "nasty campaign being waged against" the aircraft pilot by retired naval aviators who think he should have ditched.

     -- On Tuesdayís Nightline Ted Koppel revealed how he assumes whoever is on the wrong side is "conservative," so a hard-core Chinese communist is "conservative" just as are those in the U.S. who are the most anti-communist. Northern Virginia freelance writer Steve Allen alerted me to Koppelís question to former CIA Director James Woolsey:
     "You know better than I do that over there they also have their conservatives and maybe not their liberals, but theyíre less conservative, and Iím sure that they now are arguing in similar fashion, ĎHey, we donít need this relationship with the United States.í Is there anything of value that we want to preserve here, even after this incident is over, no matter how it turns out?"

     -- On Wednesdayís World News Tonight reporter Terry Moran employed a harsh term to describe conservatives who have criticized China: "Some Republicans in Congress are growing increasingly belligerent about the detained Americans."
     Dana Rohrabacher: "They should be considered as hostages being held by a hostile power."

     -- Later on the same show Peter Jennings tried to discredit those critical of the intelligence gathering planeís pilot by castigating them for sending "nasty" e-mail. He asked Pentagon reporter John McWethy: "John, we noticed today that the commander of the aircraft has not been identified and I gather thatís in part because of a nasty campaign being waged against him."
     McWethy confirmed: "There is an e-mail campaign by retired Naval flyers, Peter, and they are saying that this young pilot should have ditched his plane in the ocean so as, so that it would not fall into Chinese hands. That, of course, officials say, probably would have killed the entire crew."

7

CNNís Inside Politics read a short item Wednesday night about the revelation that Dan Rather headlined a Democratic fundraiser on March 21 in Texas (see the April 4 CyberAlert for details), but FNCís Special Report with Brit Hume showed a video clip of Rather from last fall to illustrate his anti-Republican agenda. Hume also highlighted how 60 Minutes Executive Producer Don Hewitt asserted that Rather "likes" Bill Clinton.

     During the roundtable portion of the April 4 FNC show, Hume played a video compilation of Ratherís comments uttered as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified Bush the winner on November 26. Rather tried to discredit Harris:

     -- "Floridaís Republican Secretary of State is about to announce the winner -- as she sees it and she decrees it -- of the stateís potentially decisive 25 electoral votes."
     -- "The believed certification -- as the Republican Secretary of State sees it."
     -- "She will certify -- as she sees it -- who gets Floridaís 25 electoral votes."
     -- "The certification -- as the Florida Secretary of State sees it and decrees it -- is being signed."

     For more on Rather that night and a matching video clip, go to: http://archive.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2000/cyb20001130.asp#7

     At the very end of his program, Hume picked up on a comment by Don Hewitt quoted in the April 3 CyberAlert as he added a matching video clip:
     "Finally, Dan Rather says that regardless of his starring at that Democratic Party fundraiser in Texas, people would criticize him as being a closet Democrat, quote, Ďwhether I deserve it or not.í Consider, though, what Don Hewitt, the legendary producer of 60 Minutes said in a C-SPAN interview last weekend, when asked about where Bill Clinton might turn when he finally decides to grant somebody an extended interview."
     Don Hewitt on Booknotes: "Heís gonna do something with somebody. My guess is he may do it with Dan Rather. He likes Dan, and Dan likes him, I think."
     Hume: "And that, as Walter Cronkite used to say, is the way it is."

     Exactly. -- Brent Baker


 

 


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