1) Post-Bush speech analysis. ABC’s Charles Gibson and
CNN’s Aaron Brown both characterized Bush’s decision as allowing just
"very limited research." Conservatives are "really going to
be upset" and outraged, ABC’s John Yang insisted. But FNC’s Jim
Angle contended: "Anti-abortion forces should be somewhat heartened
by the President’s words." Forrest Sawyer, on MSNBC, heard from
Bush "a thoughtfully posed analysis."
2) Dan Rather’s advice: "If you’re really
interested in this you’ll want to read in detail one of the better
newspapers tomorrow," because stem cell research is "the kind of
subject that, frankly, radio and television have some difficulty with
because it requires such depth into the complexities."
3) Before Bush’s speech, the CBS Evening News pushed for
him to allow unlimited research. Profiling a Lou Gehrig’s Disease
sufferer, Elizabeth Kaledin lectured Bush about how for the victim
"it’s not about politics or ethics...it’s a matter of life and
death." A doctor warned that "people will die needlessly if
there is a delay in getting federal funding into this area."
4) In the media’s prism, there’s a diverse crowd for
embryonic stem cell research battling "conservatives" who oppose
5) The networks recognized that Bush’s decision could be
seen as breaking a campaign pledge. NBC featured a clip from one
Republican who portrayed restricting research as "deciding to go with
the Rush Limbaugh’s and the other naysayers."
6) MSNBC anchor Monica Novotny framed the embryonic stem
cell issue as one which "pitted Republicans against Republicans and
the sick and dying against abortion opponents."
7) Rosie O’Donnell expounded on Good Morning America
about how her depression was fueled by how "the bad guys were
winning" on guns and that men like Tom Selleck "could decide
that it was alright to, everyone to have guns because they get to make
money and own the gun companies and kill all the innocent kids."
8) America’s latest peril: A quite serious MSNBC anchor
assured viewers on Thursday afternoon that a celebrity "is recovering
from an addiction to shopping on the Internet."
network carried President Bush’s 9pm EDT address to the nation live from
Crawford, Texas, but CBS and NBC, after less than a minute of post-speech
comment, moved on to regular programming. ABC offered analysis for over
three minutes before going to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? CNN and FNC
offered a few minutes of analysis before going to guests on their regular
shows of Larry King Live and Hannity & Colmes. MSNBC waited over 15
minutes, until 9:30pm, before switching to a half-hour Hardball.
Substantively, the post-speech analysis in
some ways matched across the networks and in other ways was in conflict.
Below are highlights from every network but CBS (which gets its own item,
#2 below), followed by more extensive quotations from the August 9 prime
> "Very limited research."
ABC’s Charles Gibson employed the phrase "very limited
research" three times to describe Bush’s decision as he approached
it from the left. CNN’s Aaron Brown agreed, referring to the "very
limited embryonic stem cell research" that Bush will allow.
> Scientists will be
"disappointed," ABC’s Dr. Tim Johnson maintained. On MSNBC,
Robert Bazell echoed: "Most of the scientists who are on the front
lines in doing stem cell research say this is a severe restriction."
> A fair and thoughtful speech. FNC’s
Tony Snow asserted: "He presented both sides pretty fairly, I think
it’s fair to say." On MSNBC Forrest Sawyer described it as "a
thoughtfully posed analysis of the conundrum that is brought by embryonic
stem cell research."
> Outraged conservatives will
"really" be "upset by this" -- or will they? On ABC,
John Yang predicted: "We already know that the conservatives, the
conservative wing of the Republican Party that supports him so much, is
really going to be upset by this. There is going to be a lot of
outrage." In contrast, FNC reporter Jim Angle forecast:
"Anti-abortion forces should be somewhat heartened by the
CNN’s John King, meanwhile, observed that Bush
avoided "the biggest round of criticism from the Republican right,
Christian conservatives and the Catholic Church, that would have been if
he had allowed the broader research on those embryos still sitting in
Now, more extensive recitations of the
post-speech analysis gathered with the assistance of MRC analyst Brad
-- ABC News. Charles Gibson: "The
President announcing that he will accept very limited stem cell
John Yang, from Crawford: "Well, we
already know that the conservatives, the conservative wing of the
Republican Party that supports him so much, is really going to be upset by
this. There is going to be a lot of outrage. House Republicans have
already said they will try to stop the funding, and abortion rights
opponents have said that they will raise a ruckus about this."
Gibson turned to Dr. Tim Johnson: "As I
heard the President, he is accepting very limited research in these areas.
He said 60 lines of cells here exist that can be used, embryos that have
already been destroyed, and those are all that can be experimented upon.
Is that the way you heard it?"
Johnson was in accord: "That’s the way I
heard it, too. And that means that it is limited, and some scientists are
going to be very disappointed that they cannot go ahead and create new
cell lines, at least with government funding..."
Gibson next asked: "So, can you give me
some sense of what the reaction might be now from the scientific community
that was hoping they would be able to go ahead with embryonic stem cell
Johnson: "Well, they’re going to be
pleased, I think, in part with government funding of even this limited
sort, but they’re also going to be disappointed, I think, that more
embryos cannot be made available with government funding."
Gibson wrapped up with his recitation of the
"very limited" theme: "Just to repeat, the President has
said that he will accept -- and proceed with great care -- federal funding
for very limited research on embryonic stem cells and you heard him spell
out his reasons. They’ll be more on World News tomorrow and on Good
Morning America. I’m Charles Gibson in New York. Good evening."
So much for plugging Nightline, which did
focus on the issue.
-- CNN. Aaron Brown, until recently of ABC
News, made his CNN debut from New York City last night, though he only got
a few minutes of face time -- a couple of minutes both before and after
Bush spoke. Afterward, he observed:
"President George W. Bush, from his ranch in
Crawford Texas tonight, saying that the federal government, his
administration, will support very limited embryonic stem cell research
using only the 60 existing stem cell lines that have already been created,
but won’t allow any new lines to be created. This will make no one very
happy, we suspect, or at least not many people very happy. Those people
who support broad science here, a broad expansion of stem cell research,
are going to say that this is too little. And there are those on the other
side of this who will to say any use of these embryos is too much."
John King soon checked in from the White
House. He suggested Bush had successfully avoided angering conservatives:
"Some in the pro-life, the anti-abortion community, likely to say
lives were destroyed to create those stem cells, but the President,
avoiding the biggest round of criticism from the Republican right,
Christian conservatives and the Catholic Church, that would have been if
he had allowed the broader research on those embryos still sitting in
-- FNC. Anchor Tony Snow’s assessment:
"It was an interesting speech in that the President seemed to go back
and forth. He presented both sides pretty fairly, I think it’s fair to
say. And people who had a rooting interest in either side probably found
their hopes both raised and dashed several times during the President’s
From Crawford, Jim Angle noted:
"Scientists will be disappointed, saying it will hamper medical
research. Anti-abortion forces should be somewhat heartened by the
-- MSNBC. Anchor Forrest Sawyer, also formerly
of ABC News, echoed Angle’s theme that Bush can’t win as he praised
the thoughtfulness of the address:
"It’s a very difficult, very complicated
issue, and it was a thoughtfully posed analysis of the conundrum that is
brought by embryonic stem cell research, the scientific promise posed
against the ethical dilemma of whether there should be experimentation on
what is at least the promise of human life, and that is to say human
embryos. So let’s explore this just a little bit further, if we can, the
political, the medical, and the ethical implications of the President’s
Sawyer asked reporter Robert Bazell:
"Some 60 odd cell lines, says the President, are presently available
for research. Is this enough for there to be significant federally funded
Bazell outlined the concerns of scientists:
"Well, the question for us is ‘significant.’ There certainly is
enough for there to be some federally funded research and more than
nothing, and I think some of the people who are, for instance, the head of
the NIH will be spinning this to say, well, it’s better than nothing, it
gives us a foot in the door to keep going. But most of the scientists who
are on the front lines in doing stem cell research say this is a severe
restriction. There’s a lot of problems with these stem cell lines, and
one of the biggest questions that has to be answered in order to make stem
cells possibly work is how to make new lines, how to make lines better so
that they keep reproducing, and that, of course, you can’t even begin to
answer that question if you can’t create new ones by using
-- NBC News. Anchor John Seigenthaler got 45
seconds to summarize before NBC went to a Will & Grace repeat for EDT
and CDT viewers:
"President Bush from Crawford, Texas tonight
with a compromise decision to allow federal funding for research on stem
cells already extracted from human embryos. Now this allows him to keep a
campaign promise not to support research that results in the destruction
of any more embryos. The President has sought the middle ground here and
he’s running the risk of criticism from both the scientific community,
who may see this decision as limiting, and Christian conservatives who
lobbied against any research that involves human embryos."
Rather gets his own category today not for liberal bias but for giving up
on reporting as he advised CBS News viewers to go buy "one of the
better newspapers tomorrow" if they want to learn about embryonic
stem cell research and the implications of Bush’s decision.
Here’s what CBS viewers heard from Rather
following Bush’s August 9 address to the nation:
"Live from Texas, President Bush explaining
that he will do the following: that he will allow some federal funding for
some embryonic stem cell research. The President says he will allow
federal funds for research on quote, ‘existing stem cell lines.’ And
he added that he will encourage research into adult stem cells and
umbilical cord cells. So this is a limited amount that the President is
authorizing federal monies to be spent for stem cell research.
"Obviously this is a very complicated
subject. It’s the kind of subject that, frankly, radio and television
have some difficulty with because it requires such depth into the
complexities of it. So we can with, I think, impunity recommend that if
you’re really interested in this you’ll want to read in detail one of
the better newspapers tomorrow. This has been a CBS News Special
Elapsed time: 53 seconds. Exactly 1:25
after Bush had concluded by saying "God Bless America," CBS
started Big Brother 2 for EDT and CDT viewers. (In between Rather’s
quote above and the start of Big Brother viewers heard Rather plug
upcoming CBS News shows and the announcer give the usual line about
CBS’s "interactive partner" AOL.)
CNN at least tried to explain the
subject to viewers. About five minutes after Bush finished, anchor Aaron
Brown promised: "We said at the outset tonight that this was an
enormously complicated decision. Over the next several hours we here at
CNN will try and un-complicate it some."
before President Bush’s address, the CBS Evening News campaigned for him
to allow unlimited research on embryonic stem cells. Profiling a Lou
Gehrig’s Disease sufferer, Elizabeth Kaledin lectured Bush about how for
the victim "it’s not about politics or ethics. She says it’s a
matter of life and death." Kaledin featured one doctor who ominously
warned that "people will die needlessly if there is a delay in
getting federal funding into this area."
"For Shelby Oppenheimer it’s not
about politics or ethics. She says it’s a matter of life and
death," declared Elizabeth Kaledin in opening the one-sided piece
which looked only at the benefits of embryonic stem cell research.
After explaining how Lou Gehrig’s
Disease will eventually leave Oppenheimer unable to walk, talk or breath,
Kaledin pointed to a solution: "Scientists like John Gearhart believe
embryonic stem cell research could help people like Shelby."
Dr. John Gearhart, Johns Hopkins University
Medical Center: "To me, it’s absolutely essential that we move in
this area as quickly as possible."
Kaledin helpfully noted: "To move
quickly, Gearhart has been counting on President Bush to allow federal
funding for research."
Gearhart: "People will die needlessly
if there is a delay in getting federal funding into this area."
Kaledin maintained embryonic stem cells
"hold the most promise" to scientists because they can reproduce
indefinitely into stem cell lines and can become any cell type in the
body. "To do the research necessary," Kaledin noted in rejecting
the policy later proposed by Bush, "scientists say they need at least
fifty stem cell lines. Doctor Neil Theise is concerned a compromise
limiting the number of cell lines could also limit progress."
Thiese, of the NYU Medical Center, then
uttered a matching soundbite.
the media’s prism, in the embryonic stem cell debate, there’s a
diverse crowd all for it battling "conservatives" who oppose it.
That skew is apparent in some of the quotes listed in item #1 above as
well as in Thursday night stories on the broadcast network evening shows.
On ABC’s World News Tonight, John Yang noted
how "social conservatives" protested outside White House. Over
on the CBS Evening News, John Roberts twice applied ideological labels to
"...A staunch opponent of abortion, Frist,
like many other Senate conservatives, believes stem cell research is a
right to life issue for people suffering from terminal
illness....President Bush has plenty of political cover to chart the
middle course on stem cells. Yet he is still likely to face scorn from
religious conservatives who denounce such research as murder..."
David Gregory reported on the August 9 NBC
Nightly News: "At issue is federal support for research on cells
extracted from embryos that are left over from fertility treatments or
embryos that could be created for their stem cells. Supporters see cures
for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Opponents, including
anti-abortion conservatives, insist it is wrong to use human embryos for
research because they are destroyed in the process."
networks acknowledged on their evening shows that Bush’s expected
decision could be seen as breaking his campaign pledge to conservatives.
And NBC featured a soundbite from one Republican who portrayed Bush’s
choice as between putting "meat on the bones of compassionate
conservatism" and "deciding to go with the Rush Limbaugh’s and
the other naysayers."
ABC’s John Yang somewhat
condescendingly remarked on World News Tonight: "During the election,
candidate Bush flatly opposed federal funding for the research. Since then
President Bush has found the issue more complicated."
Dan Rather opened the August 9 CBS
Evening News: "Good evening. President Bush has made what could be
one of the most important decisions of his presidency, and CBS News breaks
the story. In what some may interpret as the breaking of a campaign
pledge, the President apparently will support some federal funding for
some embryonic stem cell research with what he calls ‘strict limits.’
The President will make the official announcement in an address to the
nation tonight. This is a decision with huge implications -- medical,
ethical, and political. Supporters say the research offers the possibility
of developing new life-saving treatments for disease. Opponents believe
stem cell research on human embryos involves taking a human life."
On the NBC Nightly News David Gregory
played a clip of White House spokesman Scott McClellan talking about how
stem cell research is on the cutting edge of science. From that, Gregory
suggested: "The statement points to a modification of Bush’s
campaign pledge to oppose any research that led to the destruction of
embryos. It’s a decision even some Republicans believe will define the
Viewers then heard this remark from Ken
Duberstein, former Chief-of-Staff to President Reagan: "Whether or
not he puts meat on the bones of compassionate conservatism by reaching
out and allowing federal funding, or deciding to go with the Rush
Limbaugh’s and the other naysayers of the world."
"dying" versus those darn "abortion opponents."
That’s how MSNBC news reader Monica Novotny on Thursday framed the
policy debate as she previewed Bush’s upcoming address.
She announced in starting the 3pm EDT news
update on August 9: "In just a few hours the nation will hear
President Bush’s decision on an issue that’s pitted Republicans
against Republicans and the sick and dying against abortion
TV Talk show host and anti-gun rights crusader Rosie O’Donnell contended
on Thursday’s Good Morning America that the Columbine shooting drove her
into depression. She even claimed that her three-year-old asked her:
"You want to watch Rugrats? Mommy, there's no guns in it."
O’Donnell recounted how she saw those with which she disagreed on guns,
such as Tom Selleck, as people who want to "kill all the innocent
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down some of
O’Donnell’s comments to Diane Sawyer on the August 9 ABC morning show.
Discussing her battle with depression, O’Donnell maintained:
"Everything that had happened to me, when it
started to get really bad, which was right around the time of Columbine,
felt it was happening to me personally. And you know, everyone would say
to me, 'This is not happening to you. This is not in your family. You
don't know any of these people,' but it felt to me like it was happening
to me, like all children in the world were in danger. And this is not at
all to minimize what I believe about gun control -- I still firmly agree
with everything I said at that time, only it doesn't resonate with me in
the way it did then."
She described her breakdown: "I couldn't
go to work, I was crying during the show, I was crying during meals and at
dinner. There was one Friday, I remember, I was sitting in my room all
day....And my son crawled in my bedroom and said, 'You want to watch
Rugrats? Mommy, there's no guns in it,' because he knew I was so upset
about guns -- he was only three or four, but he knew."
Diane Sawyer: "But, a couple of points, the
legendary episode with Tom Selleck."
Sawyer: "In which the two of you were really
having at it, you really believed that, but you're saying in this
particular period you were also just, what, just inflamed by this sense
that it was all personal to you, too?"
O'Donnell: "Yes, and that the bad guys were
winning, you know, that men could decide that it was alright to, everyone
to have guns because they get to make money and own the gun companies and
kill all the innocent kids and children and it's too bad and there's
nothing we can do about it. And it was an overwhelmingly depressing
thought to me, and I assumed everybody would think what I thought. I
assumed every rational, logical person would say, 'Well, this is really
bad. We have to do something to save our kids,' but not everyone
Sounds like one angry white woman. So much for
finding common ground.
For more about the infamous Selleck appearance
on her TV show and/or to view a RealPlayer clip of the encounter, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/1999/cyb19990521.asp#4
peril in America: An addiction to Internet shopping. This is not a joke.
On Thursday afternoon a quite serious MSNBC anchor assured viewers a
celebrity "is recovering from an addiction to shopping on the
Just before 3pm EDT, after viewers
watched a taped interview with tennis star Venus Williams conducted by
MSNBC anchor Rick Sanchez, the new deep-voiced guy, he relayed this item
about Venus’s sister:
"There is word today, by the way in a
related story, that her sister Serena Williams is recovering from an
addiction to shopping on the Internet. Serena admits, according to the
report, that she would try and avoid shopping in public and began buying
and buying and buying items online. She says that she’s better now, but
still gets tempted whenever a catalog arrives in the mail."
Will we soon need a Jeff Bezos Clinic
modeled after the Betty Ford Clinic?