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ABC and CNN Post-Debate Polls Make Kerry the Winner, Barely --10/9/2004


1. ABC and CNN Post-Debate Polls Make Kerry the Winner, Barely
Post-debate polls from both ABC and CNN made John Kerry the winner of Friday night's town meeting-style presidential candidate debate at Washington University in St. Louis. ABC's survey of 515 registered voters polled three percentage points more Democrats than Republicans and Kerry was assessed the winner by that margin, 44 percent to 41 percent. CNN's same number of respondents picked Kerry over Bush by 47 percent to 45 percent, but as Bill Schneider was quick to point out, in CNN's universe Republicans outnumbered Democrats so, he argued, "for those debate watchers to say...that Kerry won by two points means Kerry made some progress."

2. Consensus: "Jack-in-the-Box" Bush Better, But Kerry Better Still
The consensus of the night from the television network reporters and analysts who offered an opinion: George W. Bush did much better than in the first debate, but may have been too animated, so John Kerry, utilizing his superior debating skills, won the debate on points. NBC's Tim Russert remarked that Bush "flew off the chair several times without being recognized, almost like a jack-in-the-box." FNC's analysts scolded Bush for missing "a great chance" to point out how Kerry opposed the Gulf War which had UN approval and a large alliance, just the conditions he chastises Bush for not achieving. Kerry got chided from the left on MSNBC by Ron Reagan who complained that "Kerry could have done a better job in pointing out the moral incoherence of Mr. Bush's position" on embryonic stem cell research.

3. Kerry's Anti-Tax Pledge Appalls Russert & Brokaw, Redolent of 41
NBC's Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw were appalled by John Kerry's pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $200,000. Appearing in MSNBC in the 11pm EDT/10pm CDT half hour, Russert rued to MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews: "I never thought I'd see another 'Read my lips, no new taxes,' Chris. Never in my lifetime." Brokaw chimed in: "Especially with the deficits with the size that they are today." Brokaw suggested that Kerry may have remembered how George H.W. Bush, 41, won the presidency on an anti-tax hike pledge but, Brokaw warned, "he paid the penalty later." That penalty was not for making the pledge, but for unnecessarily breaking it.

4. ABC: Bush Distorts More than Kerry, So Must Be Held to Account
ABC News to deliberately correct Bush more often than Kerry? In an internal memo which was given to the Drudge Report, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin declared that "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done." Halperin told his colleagues: "We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that." He also bemoaned the "stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage," claiming it "is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible." ABC's post-debate fact check matched Halperin's advice with two corrections for Bush to one for Kerry.

5. NBC Analysts Praise Questions, Russert: "I loved the Questions!"
The NBC team loved the questioners in the St. Louis audience. "Hats off to these questioners," Tim Russert gushed on NBC immediately after the debate concluded. He maintained: "They framed this election and this debate better than I've ever seen before." Later, on MSNBC, Tom Brokaw cited the "great value of having these voters ask those questions" and Russert exclaimed: "I loved the questions! They were right to the point. They came from the heart..." Characterizing the questions as "highly sophisticated," Chris Matthews didn't say much for his television audience as he declared: "They're obviously newspaper readers."

6. MSNBC's Chris Matthews Shares How He Gave Up Sex Before Boxing
TMI: Too much information. Seconds before the debate began, MSNBC analyst Ron Reagan analogized the event to a "prize fight," leading Chris Matthews to quip that the debaters don't have to give up sex. Then, to Andrea Mitchell's discomfort, he decided it was a good time to share that when he was a teenage boxer he gave up sex before bouts.

7. Nets, Especially CBS, Paint 96,000 New Jobs as Bad News for Bush
The broadcast networks on Friday night portrayed the gain of 96,000 jobs in September as bad news, but CBS was the most negative and most pointed in tying Bush's political health to the latest jobs report. "Tonight, where are the jobs?", Dan Rather demanded at the top of the CBS Evening News before driving home the political implications: "A disappointing report on the economy is out just weeks before the election." Rather asserted, in setting up his lead story, that "what's troubling is the number of jobs the economy did and did not create. CBS's Anthony Mason reports it's far fewer than expected, far fewer than needed." Mason relayed how an economist who "likens the latest jobs numbers to a bloop single in the bottom of the ninth when your team is way behind. They might offer some hope, he says, but they're not going to win the game." Introducing a second story, Rather stressed: "It's the first net job loss on a President's watch since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression of the 1930s."

8. CBS's Julie Chen Calls Woman Ex-Convict a "Political Prisoner"
Friday morning on CBS, just as Martha Stewart was checking herself into the Alderson Federal Prison Camp for Women, The Early Show's Julie Chen turned to a former inmate in the prison for insight into what Stewart can expect inside, but Chen introduced her guest as "a political prisoner." Claire Hanrahan, however, was not locked up for holding dissenting beliefs, but for repeatedly trespassing on an Army base as she joined leftists such as actor Martin Sheen in protesting the now-closed military training center, the School of the Americas, in November 2000.

9. CBS Catches With Story on U.S. School Diagrams Found in Iraq
Update. On Friday, the CBS Evening News caught up with ABC's World News Tonight and ran a story about how several local schools in the U.S. were warned that layout diagrams for their schools were found with insurgents in Iraq. The October 8 CyberAlert relayed how on Thursday night ABC's Brian Ross reported how "law enforcement officials tell ABC News that someone described as a captured Iraqi insurgent had downloaded school floor plans...from elementary schools and high schools" in six U.S. states. CBS's Dan Rather picked up the same story about a warning issued to schools, but held it to a brief item in which he managed to not mention how floor plans were found with the enemy in Iraq.

10. "Top Ten Questions Audience Not Allowed to Ask During Debate"
Letterman's "Top Ten Questions Audience Members Were Not Allowed to Ask During the Debate."


ABC and CNN Post-Debate Polls Make Kerry
the Winner, Barely

ABC News post-debate poll Post-debate polls from both ABC and CNN made John Kerry the winner of Friday night's town meeting-style presidential candidate debate at Washington University in St. Louis. ABC's survey of 515 registered voters polled three percentage points more Democrats than Republicans and Kerry was assessed the winner by that margin, 44 percent to 41 percent. CNN's same number of respondents picked Kerry over Bush by 47 percent to 45 percent, but as Bill Schneider was quick to point out, in CNN's universe Republicans outnumbered Democrats so, he argued, "for those debate watchers to say...that Kerry won by two points means Kerry made some progress."

Unlike after the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate, CBS News refrained from running one of their ridiculous polls via the Web of 180 "uncommitted" people. Instead, James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine came aboard to review with Dan Rather the best and worst moments for each candidate.

At about 10:51pm EDT/9:51pm CDT, Jennings reported ABC's poll results, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson, with matching on screen graphics for the numbers:
"So let us look at the ABC News poll, and first of all, let me tell you, because there was a little confusion during the vice presidential debate about the identity of debate viewers. You know, we're polling with groups of people all the time -- sometimes there are more Democrats home at night, sometimes there are more Republicans home at night when there's a debate going on. And one of the things we wonder about is whether, because this is Friday night, there'd be more Republicans at home than Democrats, as somebody suggested. But here's the party identification of the viewers tonight: 35 percent of them were Democrats, 32 percent of them were Republicans and 29 percent of them were Independents. So it's fairly even among Democrats and Republicans. And here are the results on who won: 41 percent think Mr. Bush won, 44 percent think Senator Kerry won, and 13 percent believed that it was a tie."

For the posted rundown of the ABC News poll: abcnews.go.com

About an hour-and-a-half later, at 12:15am EDT on a late NewsNight on CNN, Bill Schneider checked in with the results of a CNN/USA Today/Gallup snap poll:
"Well, in the last debate that was clear: Kerry 53, Bush 37, a sixteen-point margin for John Kerry. But this time it wasn't quite so clear. The results showed, among debate viewers, Kerry 47, Bush 45 -- just a two-point lead. But keep this in mind: among debate watchers, Republicans outnumbered Democrats, and before the debate they favored Bush over Kerry by four points. So for those debate watchers to say, as we see here, that Kerry won by two points means Kerry made some progress."

CNN's posted results listed the party breakdown as: 38 percent Republican, 32 percent Democratic and 30 percent independent. See: www.cnn.com

Anchor Aaron Brown asked Schneider: "And one more question -- well, actually, I have two, but let me get you on the issues first. Did we break this down on Iraq and the economy and the like?"
Schneider: "Yes, we did. We asked, 'which candidate can better handle the economy?' and the result was a tie, 49 to 49. But before the debate, these same people favored Bush on the economy by six points [on screen: 50 to 44 percent], so there's progress for Kerry. On Iraq, it was a different story. Before the debate, viewers thought Kerry would do a better job on Iraq [50 to 46 percent]. After watching the debate, they gave Bush the edge on Iraq, as you see here, 53 to 46. The reason is they thought, as Jeff [Greenfield] just said, Bush came across as a tougher guy who can handle international issues better.
"So overall, Kerry did make progress because in this debate, the agenda shifted to domestic issues, particularly the economy, and as it happens, as we know, the next debate will be entirely on domestic issues."

Schneider soon acknowledged the media's role in shaping public perception of who won a debate: "What happened in the last debate was very interesting. Immediately after the debate, as we just reported, by a sixteen-point margin, people thought that Kerry had won the debate, but by the end of the weekend after that debate, people thought Kerry had won by a 38-point margin; more than 60 percent said Kerry had won. That became the reality, so the spin matters, the analysis matters, because in the next couple of days, people are going to be forming very significant impressions that they're not really sure of yet."

Consensus: "Jack-in-the-Box" Bush Better,
But Kerry Better Still

The consensus of the night from the television network reporters and analysts who offered an opinion: George W. Bush did much better than in the first debate, but may have been too animated, so John Kerry, utilizing his superior debating skills, won the debate on points. NBC's Tim Russert remarked that Bush "flew off the chair several times without being recognized, almost like a jack-in-the-box." FNC's analysts scolded Bush for missing "a great chance" to point out how Kerry opposed the Gulf War which had UN approval and a large alliance, just the conditions he chastises Bush for not achieving. Kerry got chided from the left on MSNBC by Ron Reagan who complained that "Kerry could have done a better job in pointing out the moral incoherence of Mr. Bush's position" on embryonic stem cell research.

On FNC, Fred Barnes suggested that "if you cupped your ear, you could hear Republicans all over the country and Bush supporters and the White House staff all giving a great sigh of relief because the President did so much better than he did in the first debate."

Over on CBS, John Roberts insisted there was "no question that President Bush was amped up tonight, and that plays well to partisans, the party faithful out on the campaign trail." But, he wondered, "How is it going to play with the undecided voter, though? I mean, is it the sort of thing that, you know, little kids are going to jump behind the couch and hide from him?"

In prime time, ABC's George Stephanopoulos described Bush as "much improved over the last time," but he reminded viewers that "Senator Kerry's been studying debate, I think, since high school."

Later, on Nightline, Stephanopoulos opined: "My gut tells me that President Bush helped himself personally by having an improved performance, but that Senator Kerry's campaign is helped more overall because the issues are trending in his direction."

Ever insightful, CBS's Bob Schieffer, the moderator of the next presidential debate, concluded: "So I think who you thought won will depend a lot on who you liked going into this."

Also of note from post-debate prime time coverage: On ABC, George Will observed how "we had the conservative Republican from the state of Texas boasting about the prescription drug entitlement, which is the largest expansion of the welfare state since 1965, and the liberal Senator from Massachusetts complaining about deficit spending." Peter Jennings charged: "This whole business of being absolutely Red and Blue America is a crock."

Now, a more extensive sampling of post-debate analysis and comment, from Friday night, October 8, starting at about 10:38pm EDT/9:38pm CDT. ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS ran coverage until just before 11pm EDT, Fox cut out within five minutes, CNN and FNC stayed live until 1am EDT and MSNBC until 2am EDT. Of the broadcast network anchors, only NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert traveled to St. Louis.

-- ABC News, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson based on tips from the MRC's Rich Noyes.

# Stephanopoulos: "But you also saw tonight, I think, that Senator Kerry's been studying debate, I think, since high school, and he's had more than 70 town meetings this year, and you saw him putting those skills to work here tonight: addressing the audience members by their first name; working in Missouri in several answers -- of course, this is in St. Louis; as you said, confronting President Bush, and also laying out his plans.
"Where I think President Bush was most effective is when he brought people into the Oval Office -- he talked about meeting with the Iraqi finance minister, talking about going to the Situation Room and talking to General Tommy Franks -- and then finally also bringing up Senator Kerry's Senate record. But you did see, I think, a lot of skill out there tonight."
Jennings: "And not just a lot of skill for Mr. Kerry, but I do think the President looked very much more comfortable than he did in the first debate."
Stephanopoulos: "Much improved over the last time."

# George Will: "On domestic policy, we had the conservative Republican from the state of Texas boasting about the prescription drug entitlement, which is the largest expansion of the welfare state since 1965, and the liberal Senator from Massachusetts complaining about deficit spending. The conservative from Texas then used the 'L' word, said this is a liberal we're dealing with, and the liberal promptly identified himself with Nancy Reagan, John McCain, welfare reform, faith-based initiatives, and 100,000 policemen on the street. Now, the world has been turned upside down."
Jennings: "Well, George, I think in some respects you've said one of the most important things of the year, because at least from my point of view, I agree with you. This whole business of being absolutely Red and Blue America is a crock and we'll come back and talk about that."

# Ted Koppel, on Nightline: "Forget about the poll for a moment, what does your gut tell you about this second debate?"
Stephanopoulos: "My gut tells me that President Bush helped himself personally by having an improved performance, but that Senator Kerry's campaign is helped more overall because the issues are trending in his direction and he's the challenger and he's now had two debates where people have seen him as either a tie or a win. A credible alternative at a time when you've had job loss, when a majority of the country thinks we're going in the wrong direction -- that's very good news for the challenger."


-- CBS News, as compared to the closed captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth.

# Bob Schieffer: "It was interesting, I thought the President did a little better tonight than he did in the first debate, but John Kerry is a very good debater, Dan."

# John Roberts: "Dan, we saw a very different President Bush up on the stage in this town hall style meeting tonight. This was a President Bush who was exactly tonight in this hall as he is on the stump, very energetic, very confident, making his points as if he was making them to a partisan audience. You know, prior to this debate just before the debate happened, Vice President Dick Cheney said that President Bush was going to, quote, 'woop on John Kerry,' and there's no question that the President certainly wasn't letting any dust settle on him. You could see his foot tapping sometimes as he was listening to John Kerry's answer, just itching to get up there and respond. The President did keep the grimacing under control tonight. A couple of times, he actually chuckled at John Kerry as he was making his statements, though that might seem to be somewhat pejorative as well. And I saw him a couple of times flash that famous wink at a couple of people who were in the audience for this town hall. I mean, no question that President Bush was amped up tonight, and that plays well to partisans, the party faithful out on the campaign trail. How is it going to play with the undecided voter, though? I mean, is it the sort of thing that, you know, little kids are going to jump behind the couch and hide from him on or is it the sort of thing that is going to sink in and people will say, 'Hey, here's a guy who's got some conviction'? Dan, I think that that's a very, very personal decision, and it's difficult for us, I think, at this point, to really assess how it's going to play. I couldn't tell you who won this. And I think that who won this debate is going to be a decision that's made on an individual sort of basis."

# Bob Schieffer: "I think that John Kerry is very comfortable in this kind of a setting. He's a very good debater. He's able to marshal facts. He seems cool. He makes his arguments. The President does not seem as comfortable as a debater. Democrats will say that John Kerry won this tonight. Republicans will say, look, Ike Eisenhower wasn't a great debater, but he was a very good leader. So I think who you thought won will depend a lot on who you liked going into this, Dan."

# Dan Rather wrapped up CBS's 20 minutes: "And so it comes to an end. Millions tonight saw the face-off between President Bush and Senator Kerry. It's to be expected that supporters of President Bush will say he won and that Senator Kerry's supporters will say he won, as Bob Schieffer pointed out earlier. In St. Louis tonight, a group of everyday citizens asked the candidates a wide range of questions, but the one question that may well decide the election 25 days away is this: Whom do truly independent and swing voters, especially those in about 15 states still up for grabs, including Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, whom do they believe is best qualified to lead the United States for the next four years?"


-- CNN, as watched by the MRC's Jessica Anderson.

# CNN political analyst Carlos Watson: "I think when all is said and done, John Kerry ultimately will be perceived as the winner of this debate, although the President gave a stronger performance. But I think particularly among those who are undecided, the specificity I think will be important and I think we'll hear a lot about that in days to come."


-- FNC, as reviewed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth.

# Bill Kristol: "I don't think the President was as effective as he might have been in reminding people about Senator Kerry's record in the Senate on defense and national security issues. I don't think we learned from President Bush that Senator Kerry voted against the first Gulf War."
Brit Hume: "Yeah, that came up in passing, but only in passing. It seems to me that's a point, Mort Kondracke, that the President has had. It's a potentially strong point on the President's case, but one which he hasn't pounded away."
Morton Kondracke: "I think the 1991 Gulf War is probably the most potent single item in Kerry's record on foreign policy that there is, and the President didn't use it the first time, Dick Cheney mentioned it only in passing the second time in the second debate, and I didn't really hear the President pounding it home tonight. I mean, it is, this is a case where Saddam Hussein invaded another country, George Bush's father got an alliance together to go after him and kick him out, and John Kerry still voted against the war."
Hume: "Yeah, and not only did he have an alliance, but he had a UN resolution authorizing the use of force. In this case, different from this time around. On that occasion, you went to the Senate and the Congress after getting a UN resolution, and still, of course, John Kerry and the majority of Democrats in the Senate voted no. That is, a lot of them now, I think, have thought better of that vote, and now praise that alliance, as indeed Senator Kerry has, and the President has left that argument on the table at each of these debates, hasn't he?"

# Fred Barnes: "You know, he missed, you mentioned the Gulf War, he missed a great chance to point out Kerry's vote on the Gulf War when Kerry was praising General Merrill McPeak of the Air Force for directing the air war during the Gulf War, and the President Could have stepped out and said, 'He did do a good job, but that was a war you voted against.'"

# Barnes: "Here's what I think was important, you know, some time, I think, moving into about the third half-hour of this debate, if you cupped your ear, you could hear Republicans all over the country and Bush supporters and the White House staff all giving a great sigh of relief because the President did so much better than he did in the first debate. I mean, he simply was better. He was more lively. He actually had some pretty good answers at times. And while Kerry wasn't quite as good, still good, but not quite as good, and Bush was much better, I think it comes out a tie."


-- NBC News.

# Tim Russert: "Tom, hats off to these questioners. They framed this election and this debate better than I've ever seen before. The list of questions you just laid out could not have more clearly defined the differences between these candidates. George Bush will be seen by Republicans as more energetic, more focused, more direct than the previous debate. And, in fact, he flew off the chair several times without being recognized, almost like a jack-in-the-box. John Kerry also energetic, forceful, playing to his base. The question tonight, on the differences on Iraq, the differences on tax cuts, the differences on stem cell, the differences on the environment, where do those undecided voters come down? They couldn't have a clearer choice tonight. This debate was very, very important for everyone."

# Ron Allen checked in from Allentown, Pennsylvania with a group of six undecideds, and they remained so: "We have three Democrats in the front row, three Republicans in the back row. The back row voted for President Bush, the front row voted for Al Gore last time around. And they are still all undecided. Fair? Some more undecided."


-- MSNBC, as watched by the MRC's Geoff Dickens.

# Ron Reagan: "Yeah John Kerry could have done a better job in pointing out the moral incoherence of Mr. Bush's position. He tried to, when he, when he said, well you know, 'if, if you regard these cells as human life how can you, how can you be for experimenting on any of them?'"
Matthews: "Right."
Reagan: "But I think he could have driven that point a little better."

More about NBC and MSNBC in items #3, #5 and #6 below.

Kerry's Anti-Tax Pledge Appalls Russert
& Brokaw, Redolent of 41

NBC's Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw were appalled by John Kerry's pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $200,000. Appearing in MSNBC in the 11pm EDT/10pm CDT half hour, Russert rued to MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews: "I never thought I'd see another, 'Read my lips, no new taxes,' Chris. Never in my lifetime." Brokaw chimed in: "Especially with the deficits with the size that they are today." Brokaw suggested that Kerry may have remembered how George H.W. Bush, 41, won the presidency on an anti-tax hike pledge but, Brokaw warned, "he paid the penalty later." That penalty was not for making the pledge, but for unnecessarily breaking it.

The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this exchange amongst Matthews, at MSNBC's outside location, and Brokaw and Russert inside the venue:

Matthews: "Do you expect that the pledge that John Kerry was forced to make tonight on television before maybe 50 million people that he wouldn't raise taxes in the course of a one or two-term presidency on people who make less than $200,000 a year. Will he get an unfortunate headline out of that?"
Russert: "I never thought I'd see another 'Read my lips, no new taxes,' Chris. Never in my lifetime."
Brokaw: "Especially with the deficits with the size that they are today."
Russert: "We saw it tonight. You know in, in the rules for the debate it specifically says a candidate cannot make a pledge and challenge another to meet it. Well a questioner raised the question so they didn't break the rules. But John Kerry is now firmly committed to never raising taxes on anyone who makes less than $200,000, period."
Brokaw: "What, what may have been playing in his mind was the tape of George Bush the 41st saying that and then remembering he also won after he said that. He paid the penalty later."

ABC: Bush Distorts More than Kerry, So
Must Be Held to Account

ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin ABC News to deliberately correct Bush more often than Kerry? In an internal memo which was given to the Drudge Report, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin declared that "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done." Halperin told his colleagues: "We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that." He also bemoaned the "stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage," claiming it "is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible." ABC's post-debate fact check matched Halperin's advice with two corrections for Bush to one for Kerry.

An excerpt from the text of the October 8 memo posted by the DrudgeReport.com:

....The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.

END of Excerpt

For the full Drudge posting: www.drudgereport.com

An October 8 posting by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch.org site, looked at the New York Times article praised by Halperin: "Only one side makes political exaggerations on the campaign trail, judging by Friday's Times report from Adam Nagourney and Richard Stevenson, 'In His New Attacks, Bush Pushes Limits on the Facts.' The cut-out line attempts to smear the Bush campaign with an old liberal bogeyman: 'Taking a page out of the Lee Atwater campaign book.'" The Times duo claimed:
"But the scathing indictment that Mr. Bush offered of Mr. Kerry over the past two days -- on the eve of the second presidential debate and with polls showing the race tightening -- took these attacks to a blistering new level. In the process, several analysts say, Mr. Bush pushed the limits of subjective interpretation and offered exaggerated or what some Democrats said were distorted accounts of Mr. Kerry's positions on health care, tax cuts, the Iraq war and foreign policy."

For the rest of Nagourney and Stevenson on Bush's "distortions": www.nytimes.com

For Clay's full analysis of the Times news story: www.timeswatch.org

ABC's post-debate fact check matched Halperin's advice with two corrections for Bush to just one for Kerry.

Peter Jennings began the fact checking at about 10:50pm EDT, 9:50pm CDT: "First of all, there was this question of the President being accused by Senator Kerry of owning a timber company, or having a part interest in a timber company and taking $84 in a tax rebate. Mr. Bush looked up and said, 'I own a timber company?' We all sort of looked at one another and said who was right? Well, it turns out Senator Kerry was right and here's how he figured it out, that under the Republican definition and based on the President's federal income tax returns of 2001, he reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise. He shifted it in 2002 and 2003 when he reported his timber income as royalties on a different tax schedule."

Turning to Jake Tapper, Jennings pointed out how "the President said twice that 75 percent of al-Qaeda had been brought to justice or captured. Right or wrong?"
Tapper: "Well, that's not right, Peter. There's actually no way to know how many members of al-Qaeda there are in total. What the President probably meant to say was that, according to intelligence, 75 percent of al-Qaeda leadership, known al-Qaeda leadership as of September 11th, 2001, has been killed or brought to justice. But intelligence experts also caution that many of those individuals have been replaced."
Jennings: "Okay, second one. Senator Kerry kept saying, and he's repeated it more than once, that General Shinseki lost his job and was retired after he made critical remarks about the campaign in Iraq and the number of troops that were required. Right or wrong?"
Tapper: "That is incorrect and Senator Kerry must know this by now -- it's been pointed out on fact checks all over the country. But General Shinseki, who was the Army Chief of Staff, announced his retirement in 2002. He did not make his controversial remarks until 2003, so the idea that he left the military because of the remarks is just not a fact."

NBC Analysts Praise Questions, Russert:
"I loved the Questions!"

The NBC team loved the questioners in the St. Louis audience. "Hats off to these questioners," Tim Russert gushed on NBC immediately after the debate concluded. He maintained: "They framed this election and this debate better than I've ever seen before." Later, on MSNBC, Tom Brokaw cited the "great value of having these voters ask those questions" and Russert exclaimed: "I loved the questions! They were right to the point. They came from the heart..." Characterizing the questions as "highly sophisticated," Chris Matthews didn't say much for his television audience as he declared: "They're obviously newspaper readers."

Just past 10pm CDT, from NBC's location inside the hall, Brokaw observed on MSNBC: "I thought it was the most useful debate that I've seen in a long, long time. Tim and I have been talking here about the great value of having these voters ask those questions, Tim."
Russert: "I loved the questions! They were right to the point. They came from the heart and you could hear people all around the country saying, 'Yes that's what I wanted to ask!' Nodding their heads. And these candidates didn't try to morph these answers!"

Matthews soon added: "Tom, it seemed to me the questioners were highly sophisticated. They're obviously newspaper readers, they keep up with events."

(Unlike the last several town meeting-formatted presidential debates where, as documented in an October 8 MRC Media Reality Check, the questions posed skewed left, the questions on Friday night were ideologically balanced. The MRC's Rich Noyes broke down the 18 questions posed: eight from the left/pro-Kerry, eight from the right/pro-Bush and two ambiguous/neutral. The 1992, 1996 and 2000 town meeting debates included 23 informational questions, 17 liberal questions, and six from the right. See: www.mediaresearch.org )

MSNBC's Chris Matthews Shares How He
Gave Up Sex Before Boxing

TMI: Too much information. Seconds before the debate began, MSNBC analyst Ron Reagan analogized the event to a "prize fight," leading Chris Matthews to quip that the debaters don't have to give up sex. Then, to Andrea Mitchell's discomfort, he decided it was a good time to share that when he was a teenage boxer he gave up sex before bouts.

The MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed that at 9:01pm EDT/8:01pm CDT, leading into Charlie Gibson opening the debate, this exchange took place amongst MSNBC's panel on their outdoor set at Washington University in St. Louis:

Ron Reagan: "This is like a prize fight. I mean you know? Like I said before somebody's gonna lose."
Chris Matthews: "Yeah but they don't give up sex for the first six months or the last six months before a debate do they?"
Andrea Mitchell: "Chris?!"
Reagan: "One hopes not."
Matthews: "No in boxing they do that. Don't you know that?"
Reagan: "When you were fighting."
Matthews: "When I was in the, when I was in Golden Gloves I had to give it up and I was only 16. Anyway, Charlie Gibson is set to begin the second presidential debate. Let's listen."

Nets, Especially CBS, Paint 96,000 New
Jobs as Bad News for Bush

The broadcast networks on Friday night portrayed the gain of 96,000 jobs in September as bad news, but CBS was the most negative and most pointed in tying Bush's political health to the latest jobs report. "Tonight, where are the jobs?", Dan Rather demanded at the top of the CBS Evening News before driving home the political implications: "A disappointing report on the economy is out just weeks before the election." Rather asserted, in setting up his lead story, that "what's troubling is the number of jobs the economy did and did not create. CBS's Anthony Mason reports it's far fewer than expected, far fewer than needed." Mason relayed how an economist who "likens the latest jobs numbers to a bloop single in the bottom of the ninth when your team is way behind. They might offer some hope, he says, but they're not going to win the game." Introducing a second story, Rather stressed: "It's the first net job loss on a President's watch since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression of the 1930s."

In fact, whether he wins or loses the election, President Bush has nearly four more months in which to have job growth credited to his term.

ABC's World News Tonight also led with the employment numbers. Betsy Stark contended that "economists generally agree, this was another surprisingly weak jobs report." Stark rued: "What troubled economists is that September marked the fourth straight month of anemic gains."

Both the ABC and CBS pieces featured dour assessments from the same economist, Bill Cheney of MFC Global Investment Management.

NBC's Tom Brokaw led with the beheading in Iraq, but when he arrived at the unemployment report he emphasized the negative: "Employers' payrolls grew by 96,000 in September. That's much weaker than analysts had expected. The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 5.4 percent last month as more than 200,000 job seekers dropped out of the labor pool. Both campaigns today were trying to put their own spin on the numbers as they get ready for tonight's debate." NBC Nightly News proceeded to deliver each candidates' spin on the employment numbers.

Now, a full rundown of October 8 CBS and ABC coverage:

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased: "Tonight, where are the jobs? A disappointing report on the economy is out just weeks before the election. It puts President Bush in a tough position tonight but also gives him new opportunity as he faces Senator Kerry in their second televised showdown."

Rather led his broadcast: "Good evening. President Bush and Senator Kerry are about to go head to head for the second time in a joint appearance tonight that will focus in large part on the economy, an economy that is still struggling to create jobs. The Labor Department reported today that the unemployment rate remained at 5.4 percent in September. What's troubling is the number of jobs the economy did and did not create. CBS's Anthony Mason reports it's far fewer than expected, far fewer than needed."

Mason asserted, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "The U.S. economy may be growing, producing more goods and reaping more profits, it's just not creating enough jobs. 96,000 new jobs were added to the economy in September. That may sound like a lot, but we need 150,000 every month just to keep up with population growth."
Bill Cheney, MFC Global Investment Management: "So if we keep going at this pace, things will be getting worse rather than better."
Mason: "The hurricanes that hit the Southeast may have slowed hiring a bit. The biggest growth came in government hiring: 37,000 jobs. But the retail sector lost 15,000 jobs, and the hard hit manufacturing sector cut another 18,000 last month. In West Virginia, Cannelton Industries closed this coal mine and announced 250 layoffs in a letter to miners."
David Hardy, Kanawha County Commissioner: "And it specifically states that the layoffs are expected to be permanent."
Mason: "For four straight months now, job growth has been anemic."
John Silvia, Wachovia Securities: "We keep on waiting for the big boom in employment, and we keep on being disappointed."
Mason: "Economist John Silvia says there's a message in the numbers."
Silvia: "And what they're telling you is that we're getting good economic growth in the United States, but we don't need to hire a lot of workers to achieve it."
Mason: "Some say it's a structural shift in the economy. Technology has enabled companies to produce more with fewer people, which means even in an economic recovery it won't be easy to find work.
Cheney: "Clearly, with numbers like this, it's going to get harder rather than easier to find jobs. There are more people entering the work force than new jobs that are being created.
Mason: "That's economist Bill Cheney, who in this baseball playoff season, likens the latest jobs numbers to a bloop single in the bottom of the ninth when your team is way behind. They might offer some hope, he says, but they're not going to win the game."

Rather introduced the second story of the night: "While the economy has created nearly two million jobs in the past year, President Bush still goes into the election with 821,000 fewer jobs in the nation than when he took office. It's the first net job loss on a President's watch since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression of the 1930s. CBS's Jim Axelrod reports Senator Kerry is ready to play that up in tonight's town meeting face-off."

Axelrod observed: "First, John Kerry landed in St. Louis. Then the jobs numbers arrived. For Kerry, perfect timing."


-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings announced at the top of his newscast: "There is another presidential debate tonight, and there was a new set of government numbers today about unemployment and jobs, which Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry are bound to argue about when they meet there in St. Louis. The unemployment rate for September was unchanged at 5.4 percent. The political argument will be about the number of jobs created last month: 96,000, or only 96,000, depending on who is making the argument. Senator Kerry portrays them as evidence the President has mishandled the economy. Mr. Bush says no, the economy is going in the right direction. On this debate we turn immediately to our business correspondent, ABC's Betsy Stark."

Stark maintained: "Well, Peter, the politicians are still debating how to interpret today's numbers, but economists generally agree, this was another surprisingly weak jobs report. The Labor Department put some of the blame for last month's poor performance on all those hurricanes. What troubled economists is that September marked the fourth straight month of anemic gains."
Bill Cheney, economist, MFC Global Investment Management: "There's basically more people entering the work force than we're creating jobs. So at this pace, we're falling behind."
Stark: "The disappointing news was fresh fodder for Mr. Kerry as he heads into tonight's debate."
Sen. Kerry: "And the President is now officially the first President in 72 years to lose jobs on his watch."
Stark: "That's true, but the White House pointed out, in a new commercial unveiled today, the fact that Mr. Bush's policies have produced 13 straight months of job gains."
Ad clip: "Nearly two million new jobs in just over a year, nearly two million more people back working."
Tom Gallagher, political economist: "So each candidate can find something to point to in this report."
Stark cautioned: "But voters' views of the economy are shaped by more than job numbers, and both campaigns have plenty of facts to draw on. John Kerry can say Americans are being weighed down by record gas and heating prices, sharp increases in health care and college tuition, and a record deficit. The President can say taxes and interest rates are down, home ownership is at record levels, and there have been eleven straight quarters of positive economic growth. So it may not be surprising that the polls show voters are also divided in how they see the economy. Those likely to vote for Mr. Kerry are overwhelmingly negative in their views. Those likely to vote for the President think the economy is doing well, Peter."

CBS's Julie Chen Calls Woman Ex-Convict
a "Political Prisoner"

CBS's Julie Chen Friday morning on CBS, just as Martha Stewart was checking herself into the Alderson Federal Prison Camp for Women, The Early Show's Julie Chen turned to a former inmate in the prison for insight into what Stewart can expect inside, but Chen introduced her guest as "a political prisoner." Claire Hanrahan, however, was not locked up for holding dissenting beliefs, but for repeatedly trespassing on an Army base as she joined leftists such as actor Martin Sheen in protesting the now-closed military training center, the School of the Americas, in November 2000.

[The MRC's Rich Noyes submitted this article for CyberAlert.]

During the 7am half hour of the October 8 program, Chen, in Los Angeles, began her interview with Hanrahan, who appeared from Asheville, North Carolina: "Later today Martha Stewart will turn in her designer duds for a prison issue uniform. She's scheduled to spend the next five months at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp for Women in West Virginia. And what will her life be like there? Claire Hanrahan is a former inmate at Alderson. Good morning, Claire...You served six months at Alderson as a political prisoner about three years ago. Based on your experience there what can Martha expect when she shows up later this afternoon?"

Unknown to Chen and the rest of the media, Stewart had in fact already checked into the prison by the time the morning shows came on the air at 7am EDT. Hanrahan, a far-left-wing anti-war activist, has also recently appeared on ABC's Good Morning America, MSNBC, CNN and the Fox News Channel to talk about life inside the Alderson prison. But none of those networks held Hanrahan up as "a political prisoner" as did CBS's Chen.

Hanrahan has exploited the media's appetite for information about Martha Stewart's prison conditions as a chance to bash the American judicial system as unjust. On Thursday October 7, for example, Hanrahan appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: "I was quite surprised by the faces of the women, of America's imprisoned mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers, these disenfranchised women of Alderson. And their stories, the stories of what brought them to prison are a really sad tale of how our justice system fails."

When she was in the Alderson prison, Hanrahan wrote an article for the quarterly magazine Peace News deploring CNN for its post-9/11 coverage, complaining of their Afghan war coverage: "The attempt to 'manufacture consent' riles me." An excerpt:
"CNN continues its reports on 'America's New War.' I occasionally join a half-dozen or so women in the cinder-block TV room designated for a 'News' channel. The stationary bicycle keeps my feet moving, but the attempt to 'manufacture consent' riles me. There is no unified country, and no majority approval for the U.S. bombs and missiles that terrorize the Afghan people. Not in this jail. Not from among these hundreds of captive and disenfranchised women."

Now the networks she once deplored are showcasing Hanrahan as someone with useful insight into the goings on at Stewart's new home in Alderson prison.

For Hanrahan's left-wing prison screed, go to: www.peacenews.info

CBS Catches With Story on U.S. School
Diagrams Found in Iraq

Update. On Friday, the CBS Evening News caught up with ABC's World News Tonight and ran a story about how several local schools in the U.S. were warned that layout diagrams for their schools were found with insurgents in Iraq. The October 8 CyberAlert relayed how on Thursday night ABC's Brian Ross reported how "law enforcement officials tell ABC News that someone described as a captured Iraqi insurgent had downloaded school floor plans...from elementary schools and high schools" in six U.S. states. CBS's Dan Rather picked up the same story about a warning issued to schools, but held it to a brief item in which he managed to not mention how floor plans were found with the enemy in Iraq.

The Ross story re-played on Friday's Good Morning America, but neither the Thursday or Friday NBC Nightly News mentioned the find. (Saturday's Today aired a story and interview segment.)

Dan Rather introduced CBS's Friday story: "Something discovered in Iraq has led U.S. authorities to advise schools across America to be more vigilant, though they stress there is no specific threat against any school." Alfonsi began by noting that "because of bullies a half world away," a New Jersey mother kept her son home from school when she "learned this morning that back in July, information about her son's New Jersey school was found on the computer disk of an Iraqi man with ties to Saddam Hussein's government. Blueprints and photos of schools in California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon were also on the disk."

For the October 8 CyberAlert on Thursday ABC and CBS coverage: www.mediaresearch.org

"Top Ten Questions Audience Not Allowed
to Ask During Debate"

10) From the October 8 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions Audience Members Were Not Allowed to Ask During the Debate." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. Who's a better one-term President -- you or your father?

9. Is it annoying being married to a woman who always smells like ketchup?

8. With oil at $50 a barrel, why aren't we looking into cheaper barrels?

7. Which best describes your economic policies: "Preposterous lies" or "Absolute crap"?

6. Senator Kerry, what impact do you think your large, canoe-shaped head will have on the economy?

5. What is your favorite episode of "Sanford and Son"?

4. Do you prefer flipping or flopping?

3. Which one of you is Dukakis?

2. Do you think John Edwards would be interested in dating a New Jersey Governor?

1. If either of you win, will you pardon Martha?

-- Brent Baker, with the overnight team of Geoff Dickens, Jessica Anderson and Brad Wilmouth