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Carlson: 'Democratic Base Is Really the Middle American Base' --8/13/2007


1. Carlson: 'Democratic Base Is Really the Middle American Base'
The left-wing AFL-CIO union labor and Human Rights Campaign gay rights forums with Democratic presidential candidates held last week "suggest to me that the Democratic base is really the middle American base now," former Time magazine Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson declared on Sunday's Meet the Press. During the roundtable, Carlson, now a columnist for Bloomberg News and Washington Editor of The Week magazine, asserted that an "amendment to discriminate against gays" is not politically viable and "as the middle class feels in trouble, the labor position becomes a majority position." She contended that "the person who won" the AFL-CIO "debate was the steel worker who stood up and said, 'I worked for 36 years and every morning I sit across from my wife, and I say' -- to the steel company -- 'why don't have I health care and why don't I have a pension?' They're bewildered by what happened."

2. CBS Evening News Connects George H.W. Bush to Trapped Miners
Friday's CBS Evening News managed to link former President George H.W. Bush to the plight of the trapped miners in Utah as correspondent Nancy Cordes used archive video to show how Bush, when Vice President back in 1984, toured an Illinois mine with many safety violations that's owned by the same man who owns the Utah mine. Anchor Katie Couric introduced a story on how the mines owned by Bob Murray of Murray Energy have "been cited over and over for safety violations." Cordes undermined Couric's implication by relaying how the "Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah has a better-than-average safety rate." But, she added, over 1984 video of Bush wearing a hard hat as he rode in an underground truck, "the same cannot be said of this Illinois mine owned by the same man, Robert Murray, and toured by then-Vice President Bush senior in 1984. This mine has racked up $1.4 million in proposed fines so far this year." Cordes noted how new mine safety laws are being phased in, but fretted that "new legislation being considered in Congress that calls for even tougher safety standards has been attacked by the industry."

3. Stephanopoulos: 'Melissa Etheridge Is the New Ted Koppel!'
On Friday's Good Morning America, ABC host George Stephanopoulos raved about singer Melissa Etheridge's hosting of Thursday's Democratic debate on gay issues. He enthused: "Melissa Etheridge is the new Ted Koppel!" Stephanopoulos, a former top Clinton aide and now the host of This Week, also framed the debate from a decidedly pro-gay rights angle: "This is remarkable that a forum like this is happening. It would never happen on the Republican side, at least not yet."

4. Most See Media as Liberal, More Trust Military than Media on Iraq
Many Americans do not believe the news media are fair, accurate or even moral, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The poll of 1500 Americans conducted late last month found that most of the public thinks news organizations are politically biased (55%) and often publish inaccurate stories (53%), and that roughly a third of the audience say the media are too critical of America (43%), hurt democracy (36%) and are immoral (32%). Half of Americans (52%) label the media as liberal, led by self-described Republicans (75%) but also large percentages of independents (49%) and even Democrats (37%). And while journalists tout themselves as the public's objective eyes and ears, many more Americans are confident that the military provides an accurate view of the war in Iraq (52%), compared with 42 percent who trust that the press offers accurate reports.

5. Flashback: Merv Griffin Blasts CBS as 'Cowardly' on Reagan Movie
Word came Sunday that entertainment industry titan Merv Griffin passed away at age 82. Back in October of 2003, when CBS planned to air a derogatory mini-series about Ronald and Nancy Reagan, The Reagans, Griffin went onto MSNBC to denounce CBS as "cowardly" for belittling Ronald Reagan and distorting his record when the former President (who would die eight months later) was on his deathbed. Thanks to controversy over the movie, fueled in part by a letter from the MRC to all advertisers urging them to review the movie before placing ads and to consider what their customers would think of their support for such a disparaging portrait, CBS moved the movie to its Showtime pay cable movie channel.


Carlson: 'Democratic Base Is Really the
Middle American Base'

The left-wing AFL-CIO union labor and Human Rights Campaign gay rights forums with Democratic presidential candidates held last week "suggest to me that the Democratic base is really the middle American base now," former Time magazine Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson declared on Sunday's Meet the Press. During the roundtable, Carlson, now a columnist for Bloomberg News and Washington Editor of The Week magazine, asserted that an "amendment to discriminate against gays" is not politically viable and "as the middle class feels in trouble, the labor position becomes a majority position." She contended that "the person who won" the AFL-CIO "debate was the steel worker who stood up and said, 'I worked for 36 years and every morning I sit across from my wife, and I say' -- to the steel company -- 'why don't have I health care and why don't I have a pension?' They're bewildered by what happened."

In fact, Steve Skvara, at the August 7 forum shown on MSNBC, targeted America for his complaint about why others don't pay for his wife's health care after his ex-employer, LTV Steel, went bankrupt: "Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family, and I can't afford to pay for her health care. What's wrong with America? And what will you do to change it?"

As noted in the August 9 CyberAlert, Skvara agreed with the call by John Edwards for universal, government-provided health care coverage: www.mrc.org

As for the agenda of the Human Rights Campaign matching middle America, same-sex marriage does not enjoy majority support and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards refused to endorse same-sex marriage. Two candidates, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, did not even show up for the forum carried August 9 by CBS's Logo cable channel.

[This item was posted late Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

On the August 12 Meet the Press, moderated by David Gregory, Carlson appeared with Time's Michael Duffy, National Review's Byron York and NBC's Chuck Todd. Carlson maintained:
"Well, you know, the labor and the Human Rights Campaign forums and debates this week suggest to me that the Democratic base is really the middle American base now. And if you look at polls on how people feel about things, it's true. The fight that was had last time over gays, I don't think we're going to have that this time. I don't think Bush saying there's going to be an amendment to discriminate against gays, I don't think that's going to come up with quite that passion this time around.
"And on the labor thing, the Democrats sounded, you know, like they would work your second shift, they wanted the labor vote so badly. And Mrs. Clinton said, you know, 'I'm your girl.' But as the middle class feels in trouble, the labor position becomes a majority position. And the person who won that debate was the steel worker who stood up and said, 'I worked for 36 years and every morning I sit across from my wife, and I say' -- 'to the steel company' -- 'why don't have I health care and why don't I have a pension?' They're bewildered by what happened."

CBS Evening News Connects George H.W.
Bush to Trapped Miners

Friday's CBS Evening News managed to link former President George H.W. Bush to the plight of the trapped miners in Utah as correspondent Nancy Cordes used archive video to show how Bush, when Vice President back in 1984, toured an Illinois mine with many safety violations that's owned by the same man who owns the Utah mine. Anchor Katie Couric introduced a story on how the mines owned by Bob Murray of Murray Energy have "been cited over and over for safety violations." Cordes undermined Couric's implication by relaying how the "Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah has a better-than-average safety rate." But, she added, over 1984 video of Bush wearing a hard hat as he rode in an underground truck, "the same cannot be said of this Illinois mine owned by the same man, Robert Murray, and toured by then-Vice President Bush senior in 1984. This mine has racked up $1.4 million in proposed fines so far this year." Cordes noted how new mine safety laws are being phased in, but fretted that "new legislation being considered in Congress that calls for even tougher safety standards has been attacked by the industry."

However, a Thursday Washington Post profile of Murray reported that "Murray has been at the company's helm since he founded it [Murray Energy] 20 years ago." That would put the founding in 1987, meaning that in 1984 he didn't own the mine Bush toured.

That front page Washington Post article, "Collapse Is Latest Fight for Coal's Best Friend," delivered a less than admiring profile of Murray as reporter Alec MacGillis related how "Murray has emerged as one of coal's most ardent defenders against charges that it is driving global warming, arguing on Capitol Hill and in interviews that restricting coal would decimate the U.S. economy." See: www.washingtonpost.com

[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Cordes is the same reporter who in May scolded 41's son, President George W. Bush, for not wearing a seatbelt. The May 25 CyberAlert item, "Using Corzine as Peg, CBS Scolds Bush for Not Wearing a Seatbelt," recounted:

As if President Bush needed any new actions for which to be criticized by the news media....In a Thursday CBS Evening News story on the federal government's Memorial Day weekend effort to get people to wear seatbelts, reporter Nancy Cordes maintained that President Bush "is taking heat" for not wearing a seatbelt while driving his pick-up truck at his Texas ranch. Cordes began with a new public service announcement (PSA) from New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine who was seriously injured in a high-speed auto accident ("I'm New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and I should be dead....I have to live with my mistake. You don't. Buckle up.")

After showing how characters in television shows often don't wear a seatbelt, Cordes turned to Bush: "Corzine's not the only politician taking heat for his habits. The White House press corps wants to know why President Bush won't buckle up when he's tooling around his Texas compound." But she had to concede, as she led into a clip of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow: "It's not illegal. He's on private property, but still." As for "taking heat," that heat came in the very last question posed at Snow's May 22 briefing -- so hardly a priority for any journalist but those at CBS News.

END of Excerpt

For the May 25 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org

The August 10 CBS Evening News story which aired after reporter John Blackstone, in Huntington, Utah, concluded with how "since 1995 there have been eleven fatalities" in Murray's 19 mines.

ANCHOR KATIE COURIC: Bob Murray's mines have also been cited over and over for safety violations, but does that mean he and other mine owners are actually endangering their workers? Nancy Cordes has that part of the story.

NANCY CORDES: We've heard a lot this week about mines that rack up hundreds of violations. But what does that really mean?
ELLEN SMITH, EDITOR OF MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH NEWS: They don't have guards or they're missing on conveyor belts or on some pieces of equipment where someone could lose a finger or an arm or get their clothing entangled in the equipment.
CORDES: In fact, of the 31 fatalities in U.S. mines in the U.S. so far this year, the majority took place above ground involving equipment that malfunctioned or vehicles that overturned. With 324 violations, Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah has a better-than-average safety rate. But the same cannot be said of this Illinois mine owned by the same man, Robert Murray, and toured by then-Vice President Bush senior in 1984. This mine has racked up $1.4 million in proposed fines so far this year.
SMITH: They had a high number of citations for accumulation of combustible material. That's what makes mine a mine blow up. It's incredibly dangerous.
CORDES: Safety equipment that's commonplace in mines from Canada to Tanzania is rarely used in the U.S.: Things like two-way tracking devices for miners or underground rescue chambers stocked with food, water and oxygen. Laws enacted after the Sago mine disaster will help to change that. They're being phased in through 2009. But new legislation being considered in Congress that calls for even tougher safety standards has been attacked by the industry.
U.S. REP. LYNNE WOOLSEY (D-CA): I don't think they'd say they don't want to keep their workers safe. They want to keep their profits up.
CORDES: Mining is considered one of the most dangerous professions, but mine safety experts say it doesn't have to be this dangerous. Nancy Cordes, CBS News, New York.

Stephanopoulos: 'Melissa Etheridge Is
the New Ted Koppel!'

On Friday's Good Morning America, ABC host George Stephanopoulos raved about singer Melissa Etheridge's hosting of Thursday's Democratic debate on gay issues. He enthused: "Melissa Etheridge is the new Ted Koppel!" Stephanopoulos, a former top Clinton aide and now the host of This Week, also framed the debate from a decidedly pro-gay rights angle: "This is remarkable that a forum like this is happening. It would never happen on the Republican side, at least not yet."

Would Stephanopoulos spin a GOP debate on defending the Second Amendment as something the Democrats wouldn't be interested in, at least not yet? Indeed, there was no mention in the segment that the entire debate focused heavily on promoting a decidedly liberal agenda. The "L-word" was never used at all.

And despite Stephanopoulos's elevation of Etheridge to the status of premiere journalist, most of her questions came from a solidly left-wing perspective. The singer claimed that gays felt "thrown under the bus" when the Clinton administration didn't go far enough in supporting their issues.

[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

As far as the musician's hosting abilities, the New York Sun's political site, in a live blog, didn't appear to be quite as enamored of Etheridge's performance:
"9:11: Melissa Etheridge asks the next question. Leave it to a celebrity to ask the most vapid question of the debate: How are you going to bring this country back together? (I'm speculating that there won't be a more vapid question. I think I'm on solid ground.)" See: www.latestpolitics.com

A transcript of Stephanopoulos's segment, which aired on August 10 at 7:17am:

Sawyer: "And George Stephanopoulos is here. He's, of course, anchor of This Week. What did you make of last night?"
George Stephanopoulos: "Well, Melissa Etheridge is the new Ted Koppel. I mean, she really put everyone on the spot last night and she did make Hillary Clinton uncomfortable, John Edwards uncomfortable. I don't think they did any real damage to their campaigns. Jake is right that this is remarkable that a forum like this is happening. It would never happen on the Republican side, at least not yet. And John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama all protected themselves in the general election by standing firm on their opposition to gay marriage."
Sawyer: "The fact that they were united gave them a barrier."
Stephanopoulos: "Absolutely."
Sawyer: "This weekend, Iowa, straw poll. Here it goes."
Stephanopoulos: "Eight years ago, it gave George W. Bush his start, his road to the nomination and then ultimately the presidency. The bottom line this year is that if Mitt Romney doesn't win big it's going to be the biggest surprise of this campaign so far. He's spent more money than all of his opponents so far. The other question is, these second tier candidates, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Tommy Thompson they have to do very well just to survive."
Sawyer: "A joke from Jay Leno about McCain I want to ask you about him. Here it is."
Jay Leno: "Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney said they will not participant in the Republican debate next month in Florida. John McCain said he will be there if he can get a ride, you know."
Stephanopoulos: "Poor guy."
Sawyer: "What about Iowa and John McCain?"
Stephanopoulos: "Not his state, definitely not his state. He had already said he wasn't going to compete in this straw poll. It would be remarkable if he had any kind of showing here."
Sawyer: "And you were talking to me about now voting in December, for real? In December?"
Stephanopoulos: "It is very, very possible. Think about voting this year as a game of leapfrog that Iowa and new Hampshire are determined to win. Now, we're going to put up a calendar right now. What started this yesterday is that South Carolina has moved up their primary from early February, up to January 19. That means that New Hampshire, which was supposed to be on January 22, is likely to move up to January 8. Iowa was supposed to be on January 14. They're not going to want to do a caucus on New Year's Eve. So that means they could move all the way up to mid December. It's not done yet but very, very possible."
Sawyer: "Thanksgiving elections."
Stephanopoulos: "It could happen."

Most See Media as Liberal, More Trust
Military than Media on Iraq

Many Americans do not believe the news media are fair, accurate or even moral, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The poll of 1500 Americans conducted late last month found that most of the public thinks news organizations are politically biased (55%) and often publish inaccurate stories (53%), and that roughly a third of the audience say the media are too critical of America (43%), hurt democracy (36%) and are immoral (32%).

Half of Americans (52%) label the media as liberal, led by self-described Republicans (75%) but also large percentages of independents (49%) and even Democrats (37%). And while journalists tout themselves as the public's objective eyes and ears, many more Americans are confident that the military provides an accurate view of the war in Iraq (52%), compared with 42 percent who trust that the press offers accurate reports.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Pew discovered that those who have chosen to bypass traditional news outlets in favor of the Internet give the "harshest indictments of the press."

[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Here are some excerpts from the Pew report released on Thursday, August 9:

The American public continues to fault news organizations for a number of perceived failures, with solid majorities criticizing them for political bias, inaccuracy and failing to acknowledge mistakes. But some of the harshest indictments of the press now come from the growing segment that relies on the internet as its main source for national and international news.

The internet news audience -- roughly a quarter of all Americans -- tends to be younger and better educated than the public as a whole. People who rely on the internet as their main news source express relatively unfavorable opinions of mainstream news sources and are among the most critical of press performance. As many as 38% of those who rely mostly on the internet for news say they have an unfavorable opinion of cable news networks such as CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, compared with 25% of the public overall, and just 17% of television news viewers....

The new survey underscores the fundamental change in basic attitudes about the news media that has occurred since the mid-1980s. In the initial Times Mirror polling on the press in 1985, the public faulted news organizations for many of its practices: most people said that news organizations "try to cover up their mistakes," while pluralities said they "don't care about the people they report on," and were politically biased.

But in the past decade, these criticisms have come to encompass broader indictments of the accuracy of news reporting, news organizations' impact on democracy and, to some degree, their morality. In 1985, most Americans (55%) said news organizations get the facts straight. Since the late 1990s, consistent majorities -- including 53% in the current survey -- have expressed the belief that news stories are often inaccurate. As a consequence, the believability ratings for individual news organizations are lower today than they were in the 1980s and 1990s....

In Pew's first measure of media favorability in 1985, there were modest differences of opinion across party lines. Both Democrats and Republicans held overwhelmingly favorable views of network TV news (92% of Democrats who gave a rating, 88% of Republicans)...[Now] just 56% of Republicans express favorable opinions of network television news, more than 30 points lower when compared with the 1985 survey (88%). Independents also express less positive opinions of the three major broadcast news operations (70% today, 88% in 1985). But opinions among Democrats of these outlets remain overwhelmingly positive. Currently 84% of Democrats able to rate the network news outlets express favorable opinions of them, compared with 92% in 1985....

CNN viewers feel much more favorably toward the Fox News Channel than Fox News viewers feel about CNN. Fully 79% of CNN viewers rate Fox favorably, while just 55% of Fox viewers say the same about CNN -- 45% express an unfavorable view of Fox's major competitor.

Dislike of both major cable news networks runs notably high among Americans who count newspapers and the internet as their main sources of national and international news. One-third of people who count on the internet for most of their news express an unfavorable view of Fox, and roughly the same number (31%) feel negatively toward CNN....

The deep political divisions in opinions about the press are reflected in views of coverage of the Iraq war. Overall, about four-in-ten Americans (42%) express a great deal or a fair amount of confidence that the press is giving the public an accurate picture of how the Iraq war is going. By comparison, more people (52%) say they are confident that the U.S. military is presenting an accurate picture of the war.

As might be expected, Republicans express little confidence in the accuracy of war coverage. Only about a third of Republicans (34%) say they have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence the press is giving an accurate picture of the war. More than twice as many Republicans (76%) have confidence that the U.S. military is accurately portraying the war in Iraq.

By contrast, a solid majority of Democrats (56%) have confidence in the press to give an accurate picture of Iraq, while just 36% express comparable trust in the U.S. military. Nearly a quarter of Democrats (23%) say they have "no confidence at all" in the military to give an accurate account of progress in the war; about the same percentage of Republicans expresses no confidence in the press (26%).

END of Excerpt

For the report in full: people-press.org

The Pew numbers echo a July Rasmussen survey. The Tuesday, July 17 CyberAlert item, "Rasmussen Poll: By 2-to-1, Nets Biased to Left; FNC Less Biased," recounted:

A new Rasmussen Reports poll discovered that, by about two-to-one or greater, the public recognize a liberal bias over a conservative bias on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR as well as in the New York Times and Washington Post. "By a 39 percent to 20 percent margin," a Friday summary of their survey relayed, "American adults believe that the three major broadcast networks deliver news with a bias in favor of liberals." The public perceive liberal bias by 33 percent to 16 percent for CNN and 27 percent to 14 percent for NPR. More believe FNC delivers the news with "neither" a bias in favor of liberals or conservatives than see ABC, CBS, CNN or NBC as unbiased: While 25 percent consider the broadcast networks to be without a slant, 32 percent think CNN is "without bias," but even more, 36 percent, say that about the Fox News Channel.

On the newspaper side, in results released Sunday, Rasmussen learned than Americans see the Washington Post as liberal over conservative by about two-to-one (30 to 16 percent) while it's closer to four-to-one (40 to 11 percent) for the New York Times. "One of the more startling details," Rasmussen proposed, is that while liberals see all broadcast outlets and most newspapers as having a bias in favor of conservatives, even "25 percent of liberals see a liberal bias at the New York Times while only 17 percent see a conservative bias. This makes the New York Times the only media outlet that liberals are more likely to see as having a liberal bias than a conservative bias."

END of Excerpt

For the July 17 CyberAlert rundown of the poll findings in full: www.mrc.org

The MRC's "Media Bias Basics" Web page (updated regularly by Rich Noyes) contains a section, "How the Public Views the Media," with about a dozen previous surveys on how Americans see the media as liberal: www.mediaresearch.org

Flashback: Merv Griffin Blasts CBS as
'Cowardly' on Reagan Movie

Merv Griffin Word came Sunday that entertainment industry titan Merv Griffin passed away at age 82. Back in October of 2003, when CBS planned to air a derogatory mini-series about Ronald and Nancy Reagan, The Reagans, Griffin went onto MSNBC to denounce CBS as "cowardly" for belittling Ronald Reagan and distorting his record when the former President (who would die eight months later) was on his deathbed. Thanks to controversy over the movie, fueled in part by a letter from the MRC to all advertisers urging them to review the movie before placing ads and to consider what their customers would think of their support for such a disparaging portrait, CBS moved the movie to its Showtime pay cable movie channel.

[This Item was posted Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

An excerpt from the October 29, 2003 CyberAlert:

Veteran television host and producer Merv Griffin, a long-time friend of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, appeared Tuesday night [October 28, 2003] on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann and used the opportunity to blast CBS for "the most cowardly thing I've ever heard" over the reported tone and content of CBS's upcoming mini-series, The Reagans. "It's a cowardly act," he charged, asking: "Is that what the 'C' stands for in CBS?"

Griffin, the owner of the Beverly Hilton who created the Wheel of Fortune game show after many years as host of his own daytime Merv Griffin Show, relayed how Nancy Reagan feels "hurt" by the distorted portrayal.

Griffin laid into CBS for denigrating the Reagans when they "can't fight back" since Ronald Reagan is "on his deathbed" and Nancy Reagan is taking care of him all day. An angry Griffin asserted:

"Here is a man who is on his deathbed. He's in the last stages of Alzheimer's, and a woman who has been sitting by the bedside there holding his hand for nine years, they can't fight back. From what I've read, I have not seen the film, I have not read the script, but I have certainly seen enough excerpts from it in the promos. I mean it's, I think it's cowardly. I think it's the most cowardly thing I've ever heard. I don't understand my own medium which I've been in since the Dumont network. How can it be so cruel? That's not, from what I've read in the scenes, that's not Nancy and the President at all."

But MSNBC delivered a cowardly act itself. As Griffin spoke, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, on-screen text, below some historic video of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, read: "30 Members of Reagan Admin. Spent Time in Prison."

That was the fourth an final information line MSNBC placed on screen toward the start of Griffin's appearance by satellite from California. The previous three:

- "A U.S. Aircraft Carrier is Named After Reagan"

- "Nancy Reagan Refused to Live in CA Governor's Mansion"

- "Reagan Was Named Spokesman for General Electric in 1950s"

END of Excerpt

For the October 29, 2003 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org

Showtime ran the movie on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. An excerpt from the Monday, December 1, 2003 CyberAlert about what I saw and several very negative newspaper reviews:

I spent three hours -- two hours and 53 minutes to be exact -- on Sunday night watching The Reagans on Showtime so I could spare you the pain: The movie, originally produced as a two-part mini-series for CBS, was every bit as awful as conservatives feared with a belittling portrayal of Ronald Reagan. The movie delivered a cartoonish Ronald Reagan, played by James Brolin, who read words fed to him by others, seemed capable only of uttering short quips about "commies" and "big government" and followed the orders of others -- mainly an all-controlling Nancy Reagan, played by Judy Davis, who came across every bit as what rhymes with witch.

Before the showing of the movie, Matt Blank, Chairman and CEO of the Showtime Networks, delivered a condescending introductory message in which he bemoaned how the movie "has been criticized by those who have yet to see it as an unbalanced denouncement of Ronald Reagan's presidency," though that was exactly what viewers were about to see. He also maintained that "nearly all" of the "facts" are true: "Nearly all of the historical facts in the movie can be substantiated and have been carefully researched."

And the bias didn't relent after the movie when the producers displayed their political agenda in a series of on-screen text messages which highlighted how Reagan helped Saddam Hussein and blamed Reagan for AIDS deaths.

On the production values side, the film's shallowness and brief scenes meant it didn't approach the quality and authenticity of NBC's The West Wing.

After nearly three hours of scenes of a befuddled Reagan barely able to comprehend what aides around him are discussing, a bunch of very weird scenes of dreams in which Ronald Reagan imagines himself as a lifeguard saving present-day administration officials, and numerous temper tantrums between Nancy and daughter Patti, interrupted by Nancy consulting her astrologer and telling Mike Deaver how ketchup really is a vegetable, it's hard to imagine how anyone not familiar with the Reagan years -- anyone under age 30 or so -- would have any idea how he won election to any office, never mind a landslide re-election to the presidency.

On the political policy front, the movie basically jumped from negative anecdote to negative anecdote, highlighting a liberal hit parade from the 1980s: Reagan saying trees cause pollution, the administration counting ketchup as a vegetable, Reagan sleeping through a Libyan attack on an Air Force jet, embarrassment over SS graves at the Bitburg cemetery visited by Reagan, and how Reagan said he "saw" the "horrible" holocaust though he was in Hollywood during the war. (He probably was amongst the first to see the video of the death camps.)

And you don't have to take my word for how bad a movie CBS commissioned: On Saturday, Showtime let some TV critics see it and a few managed to write up reviews in time for their Sunday papers.

In the Los Angeles Times, state politics columnist Patt Morrison observed:

"The problem Reagan's admirers and chroniclers will find is that's about all there is here; we get Iran-Contra, but not Reagan's 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' We get the stupefyingly ill-advised visit to a cemetery where Nazi SS troops were buried, but not the Reagans teary-eyed at the memorial for the Challenger astronauts."

In a dispatch posted by Yahoo on Saturday night, the AP's David Bauder summarized the overall derogatory theme:

"The Reagans' faults are familiar to those who followed his presidency. What's striking is how they dominate this film compared to Reagan's successes; the Iran-Contra affair is given considerably more time than the Cold War defeat of the Soviet Union, and the economic boom of the 1980s is barely touched upon. The film opens with a befuddled Ronald and tearful Nancy Reagan dealing with the fallout of Iran-Contra, in which the government traded arms to Iran for hostages."

The Washington Post's liberal Tom Shales found some "endearing" moments, but he suggested:

"Nancy Reagan as Cruella De Vil and Ronald Reagan as the nearsighted Mister Magoo? There are those who will probably find the depictions of the former President and First Lady in The Reagans just that simplistic and cartoonish."

Shales elaborated: "The film, while not a hatchet job or unrelentingly vicious attack, definitely makes the Reagans rather freakish creatures, Nancy with her fanatical reliance on an astrologer and her tendency to sob and rant in the bathtub, Ronald haunted by nightmares of being a lifeguard, as he was in his youth, and being unable to 'save,' among others, figures in his administration who go down in disgrace."

He lambasted CBS: "There's enough nastiness and character assassination in the film -- even without the line about AIDS -- to make CBS look wise in pulling it off the network and foolish in having scheduled it in the first place. It's a matter of bad timing as well as bad manners; former President Reagan is not only still alive but seriously and terminally ill, making a drama riddled with slurs unseemly and hugely inappropriate."

In Sunday's Miami Herald, Glenn Garvin conveyed:

"The Reagans, which airs tonight on CBS' corporate cable cousin Showtime, portrays the former President as a bumbling bob who would have been more at home in a pie fight or an eye-poking contest than as leader of the free world. In the view of The Reagans, we should probably be thankful we didn't wind up with the chimp from Bedtime for Bonzo as Secretary of State."

While Garvin maintained that "the script of The Reagans is not the one-sided character assassination that conservatives were calling it a few weeks ago during the uproar that triggered the CBS cancellation," he reported: "It's still clear that the screenwriters (Jane Marchwood, Tom Rickman and Elizabeth Egloff) are not politically sympathetic to Reagan, particularly in the hysterical scenes in which he's blamed literally for the end of the world over his AIDS policies. And the sound-bite bits that they occasionally use from his speeches have been removed from all context, making them sound like troglodyte ravings. Easy enough to laugh now at talk of Soviet world domination, but nobody was giggling during the Berlin airlift or the Cuban Missile Crisis."

In contrast, New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley didn't see what everyone else saw. Seemingly in a parallel universe, she insisted:

"There is no reason Showtime's version of The Reagans could not have been broadcast on CBS earlier this month....Anyone eagerly anticipating or dreading a hatchet job on the 40th President is bound to feel confounded. James Brolin's portrayal of Ronald Reagan is uncannily convincing and respectful."...

END of Excerpt

For the December 1, 2003 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker