The networks have had a field day since Inauguration Day attacking America’s freshman President from the left. They’ve spun his policy proposals beyond the point of recognition, then cherry-picked liberal experts to excoriate them.
Well, if the media can grade George W. Bush at his 100-day mark, the MRC can grade the media. Based on analysis of network news coverage of President George W. Bush from January 20 through April 25, MRC analysts assigned a B-minus to NBC, while ABC gets a C-minus, and CBS gets an F for its heavy-handed liberal bias. For a summary of MRC’s findings, check out
Grading TV Coverage of Bush’s 100
Days. For details and to find out who MRC named Best and Worst White House Correspondent, click below.
Grade For Coverage of
Bush's First 100 Days: F
CBS covered Bush’s first weeks in the White House as if it were a 100 Day War, rather than a honeymoon. Its squadron of Rather, Schieffer, Roberts, and Gumbel lobbed liberal bombs against the new White House occupant and his policies at sunup and sundown.
From his anchor throne, Dan Rather personally put down Bush proposals, pushing the liberal spin on tax cuts in this era of federal budget surplus by describing them as the president’s "cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax-cut" plan. Reporter Bob Schieffer’s "Real Deal" was more like the raw deal, as he typically gave only one side of the story — the liberal side. White House correspondent John Roberts spiked his own network’s pro-tax cut poll. And morning host Bryant Gumbel’s anti-John Ashcroft gambits belong in the bias hall of shame.
Here are just a few examples of the performance CBS news turned in that earned it an F from the
Green Policy = Campaign Cash, Part 1
"Fairly or unfairly, critics of President Bush’s environmental policy believe the only green policy he’s displayed is the color of big business money. Today the President made moves to change that image, upholding a new rule on industries pumping lead into the environment. So is the Bush push really getting the lead out or just blowing smoke? CBS’s John Roberts clears the air on this."
— Dan Rather, April 17 CBS Evening News.
Green Policy = Campaign Cash, Part 2
"President Bush insisted today that he was not caving in to big money contributors, big-time lobbyists, and overall industry pressure when he broke a campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. But the air was thick today with accusations from people who believe that’s exactly what happened."
— Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, March 14.
Gumbel, Pining for Clinton and Blaming Bush
"I know you’re not a political analyst, but the Bush White House has done very little about this [stock market fall] with the exception of seemingly adding fuel to the fire with talk of a worsening economy. Is there something official Washington should or could be doing to help right now?"
"But the reason I ask is for years the markets pooh-poohed Clintonomics and patted Greenspan on the back, but in truth do the markets now miss Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin?"
— CBS’s Bryant Gumbel to Eric Wiegand of Credit Suisse Asset Management, March 22
The Early Show. Wiegand rejected Gumbel’s suggestion and blamed Greenspan.
Gumbel’s Anti-Ashcroft Crusade
"Can you deny that he distorted Mr. White’s record and basically engaged in what some would kindly call character assassination?"
— CBS’s Bryant Gumbel to Ashcroft adviser Charles Polk, January 16
"If he’s so much of an extremist liability, as you claim, what’s his nomination say about George W. Bush and his claims of compassionate conservatism?"
— Gumbel to Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, same show.
"What do you think Senator Ashcroft’s distortion of your record and tarnishing of your good name says about his character?"
— Gumbel to Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White, January 19
Still Paying Reagan's Bill
"Democrats, collaborating on a smaller tax cut proposal, have vowed to fight the Bush plan, targeting it as a budget buster that caters to the rich....On the Republican side, Mr. Bush faces a different problem. Already they’re talking up adding more tax cuts to his plan. And then, there’s the lobbyists who wonder why Mr. Bush gave nothing to corporate America. Critics charge the bill could eventually top $3 trillion....Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice can’t forget the last time Congress went on a tax cut spree in 1981. America is still paying the bill."
— CBS White House correspondent John Roberts, February 5 CBS Evening
Dangerous, Unfair Tax Cuts
"President Bush tonight outlines his cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax-cut plan to Congress and the nation. Democrats will then deliver their televised response, which basically says Mr. Bush’s ideas are risky business, endangering among other things, Social Security and Medicare."
— Dan Rather, February 27 CBS Evening News.
Calling It a "Bush Recession"
"Good evening. President Bush today again talked down the U.S. economy, and this time he did it in some of the strongest terms yet, as he sent Congress the big tax cut plan he says will stoke the economy up. Some economists worry that it’s a long-term risk. Mr. Bush said his more than one-and-a-half trillion dollars in tax cuts are just right. Democrats said again the Bush cuts are mostly a boon to the rich, and they say the cuts risk squandering the nation’s budget surplus."
— CBS anchor Dan Rather, February 8.
"Controversial" Payoff to "Right Flank" vs. Fulfilling "a Promise"
"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."
— Dan Rather, CBS Evening News, Jan. 22, 2001.
"On the anniversary of Roe versus Wade President Clinton fulfills a promise, supporting abortion rights....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."
— Dan Rather, CBS Evening News, Jan. 22, 1993.
CBS Found 67% Want Bush’s Tax Cut, But...
Dan Rather: "President Bush insists what the economy really needs is his major tax cut. Democrats and some independent economists believe the Bush push is risky business...."
CBS News reporter John Roberts: "...The debate now is over which way to go: Mr. Bush’s plan or the Democrats’ proposal for smaller targeted tax cuts. At the Stage Right Cafe in Omaha, where the sarcasm runs as strong as the coffee, they’ve heard all the talk about tax cuts."
Woman: "Some people think it’s too small. Some people think it’s too big. And some people think it’s just right. Isn’t that what it was?"
Roberts: "What do you think?"
Woman: "I think it could probably be reduced."
Roberts: "Jan Dill believes if Mr. Bush can hold the line on spending, his tax cut could work, but Sue Kilgarin fears the President is rolling the dice on eight years of success just for political gain."
Kilgarin: "I think a big tax cut is just a real feather in someone’s cap."
– February 28 CBS Evening News story the day CBS News released a poll which found 67 percent support for Bush’s tax cut, a result the
Evening News failed to report.
"New polls...show voters leaning slightly in favor of the Democratic plan."
— Roberts on the CBS Evening News the next night.
Grade For Coverage of
Bush's First 100 Days: C-Minus
MRC analysts found ABC News offered a bevy of bias in its Bush coverage. Anchor Peter Jennings sent a jolt through viewers during the China hostage stand-off by musing whether Bush’s "militant rhetoric" had undercut America’s national security. Reporter Linda Douglass damned the new President for ruining "bi-partisanship" in Washington, as if the Clinton years were an era of sweetness and light. White House reporter Terry Moran moaned about Bush alleged exaggeration in using the phrase "energy crisis" — the precise words which his own network used the very next night to describe America’s fuel problems.
Since the MRC grades on a curve, and since ABC did offer fleeting flashes of bipartisanship in its coverage, ABC News earned a C-minus for its coverage of Bush’s first 100 days.
Here’s a sampling of ABC News’s coverage:
"Indeed, the Clinton administration had been very tough during the political campaign about China. Some people think that, in fact, exacerbated this particular incident, from the Chinese point of view."
— Peter Jennings, confusing Clinton with Bush in an ABC News special, immediately after President Bush’s Rose Garden remarks about the release of Americans in China.
"He did do well here. Listen, he succeeded. It’s Easter. Everyone is home, everyone is safe. It’s a win no matter how it happened. We’ll never know if it could happened earlier if he hadn’t been so hard
— ABC reporter and analysts George Stephanopoulos during the roundtable on
This Week, April 15.
Oh, That Energy Crisis
"Just as President Bush used what he called the sputtering economy – what some people called talking down the economy – as a way to sell his tax cut, he is now saying that the country is in an ‘energy crisis,’ even though there are no gas lines and the price of crude oil is actually declining, in order to sell his energy agenda, most particularly the controversial proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is something that critics say he’s exaggerating."
— ABC’s Terry Moran on World News Tonight, March 29.
"When we come back, America’s energy crisis. Gas prices are soaring and they’ll get even worse this summer."
— World News Tonight substitute anchor Charles Gibson, the next night.
Democrats Never Partisan
"So much for bi-partisanship, Charlie [Gibson]. The Republicans rammed through this tax cut, and all but ten Democrats voted against it, and the Democrats are accusing President Bush of reneging on his promise to change the tone in Washington."
— ABC’s Linda Douglass on World News Tonight, March 8, 2001.
"The vote on the budget plan was the closest and most partisan in 50 years. Not a single Republican supported it, and there was not a vote to spare in either house....Republicans did not offer an olive branch, and party leaders scoffed at suggestions that the President had won a big victory."
— Douglass, then with CBS, after Bill Clinton’s 1993 budget, which raised tax rates, passed Congress with only Democratic votes, August 7, 1993
CBS Evening News.
The Homeless Are Back!
ABC anchor Carole Simpson: "After one of the longest periods of prosperity in U.S. history, America’s robust economy is slowing. Layoffs and the high cost of housing are creating hardships. Homelessness, which is estimated to affect from two and a half to three and a half million people, is again on the
Bob Jamieson: "The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports a 17 percent increase in the number of families asking for help because of homelessness. In part, the long economic boom is blamed for causing rents to skyrocket. Since 1994 housing costs have increased at a rate 40 percent greater than inflation every year. In New York City the number of homeless in the shelter system has risen above 25,000 a night for the first time since the late 1980s."
— World News Tonight/Sunday, February 11.
Can You Say "Massive & Controversial?"
"President Bush is launching a major public relations campaign today. He’s trying to sell his massive and controversial tax cut plan to American taxpayers."
— ABC’s Antonio Mora, Good Morning America, Feb. 5.
NBC's grade for Coverage of
Bush's First 100 Days: B-Minus
Thanks to its team of Brokaw, Russert, Gregory, and Myers, NBC News bested the competition with a B-minus. Certainly, Matt Lauer belongs in the penalty box for his recent dare to the new President to "look me in the eye" and swear loyalty to environmentalism. Yet anchor Tom Brokaw took fewer liberal swipes than his fellow anchormen, Meet the Press host Tim Russert even faced-off with Bush critic Governor Gray Davis on tax cuts ("Won’t Congress spend the money?" he asked), and White House reporter David Gregory mentioned aloud the Democrats’ duplicitous demagoging of "campaign finance reform."
While NBC did beat out its network competitors, they still offered viewers plenty of biased moments. A review:
Day Care Bad? The Plus Side...
Robert Hager: "On the plus side, it did find those who got high quality day care were better prepared for school later and more social. And many others today praised child care, like Marian Wright Edelman."
Edelman, of the Children’s Defense Fund: "Good quality Head Start and chid care has been shown over the long run to help children be more ready for school, to stay out of special education, to do better in school and stay at grade level. And the question is how do we extend that set of findings to all of our children."
Hager: "Many say that’s the real issue, making day care as good as possible. With so many parents with pre-schoolers working today to make ends meet and pursue careers, those are conditions that are here to stay."
— NBC Nightly News, April 19.
Slobbering Over 'Granny D'
Ann Curry: "Also you know campaign finance reform has gotten a lot of people riled up in Washington. Well a grandmother of 12 in her 90th year got so riled up that she walked all the way across country to make her point that something has to be done. And she wrote a book about this. And she’s gonna be joining us in this half hour."
Katie Couric: "Oh that’s great! I’m sure John McCain is President of her fan club, right?"
Curry: "I bet so!"
— Today, April 18.
Cheering McCain’s Victory
"Tom, this is a very big deal. The Senate is taking a giant step toward cleaning up a campaign money system that many Americans think is corrupt. After clearing a final hurdle this afternoon, reformers, at long last, could claim victory."
— Lisa Myers, March 29 NBC Nightly News.
"Senator, congratulations first of all and what worries you most as this bill now moves to the House?...Senator McCain, thank you very much and again congratulations."
— Tom Brokaw’s first and last comment to Senator John McCain on the
NBC Nightly News, March 29.
"Controversial" Payoff to "Right Flank" vs. Fulfilling "a Promise"
"We’ll begin with the new President’s very active day, which started on a controversial note."
— Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, Jan. 22, 2001.
"Today President Clinton kept a campaign promise and it came on the 20th anniversary of Roe versus Wade legalizing abortion."
— Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, Jan. 22, 1993.
Ashcroft’s Confederate Agenda
"Good evening on this Martin Luther King holiday, a prelude to what begins tomorrow in Washington – the confirmation hearings for John Ashcroft, the former Missouri Senator who is George W. Bush’s choice to be Attorney General. Race will be a major issue in the contentious hearings, especially since Ashcroft defended the Confederate agenda of Robert E. Lee in an interview with the Southern Partisan, a magazine promoting the culture of the Old South."
— Tom Brokaw opening the Jan. 15 NBC Nightly News.
Worst White House Correspondent
The competition for Best and Worst White House Correspondent during Bush’s first 100 days was hardly a contest.
Terry Moran deserved credit for his February 8 report on tax cuts, in which he reported the liberal spin that cuts "only benefit the rich" only holds under one type of analysis (dollar amount vs. percentage cut). But on March 26, Moran assured viewers that the public was "a little skeptical" of Bush’s leadership on key issues, never mentioning that the ABC poll which found that also showed wide support for Bush’s tax cut.
Even so, Moran’s tilted coverage couldn’t hold a candle to John Roberts’ relentless liberal bias. Roberts also buried pro-Bush poll findings; after the President’s budget speech in late February, he misled viewers by showing two women in Omaha opposed to tax cuts, but never said a word about CBS’s poll showing that 88% of those who watched Bush’s speech liked his proposals overall. Roberts was also the only reporter to promote Bob McIntyre and his anti-tax cut advocacy group, Citizens for Tax Justice, twice allowing McIntyre to criticize the Bush tax proposal and never labeling the liberal activist.
In marked contrast to Roberts and Moran, NBC White House correspondent David Gregory offered fewer biased reports and even achieved some balance on stories on the estate tax repeal, income tax cuts, and campaign finance reform.
Thus the competition is settled; for coverage of Bush’s first 100 days, Best White House Correspondent goes to NBC’s David Gregory, Worst White House Correspondent to CBS’s John Roberts.
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