CyberAlert -- 01/24/2000 -- CBS: Bush's Rush to "the Hard-Right"

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CBS: Bush's Rush to "the Hard-Right"; Improper Hillary Query; Post's Oops

1) In just three nights over this past weekend the CBS Evening News used the labels "conservative," "right" or "hard-right" an incredible 20 times, but did not once issue a liberal label. CBS tagged not only Bush and other Republicans, but the Supreme Court.

2) NBC applied labels to Republicans, but just two. Avoiding the word "liberal," ABC's Jackie Judd referred to "the big, bold government envisioned by Bradley." ABC aired two news stories over the weekend narrated by George Stephanopoulos.

3) On Fox News Sunday Tony Snow asked a Gore supporter about a new book "that says that Al Gore used marijuana right up until the time he ran for the House of Representatives in '76."

4) On the question to Hillary Clinton about Vince Foster, CBS's Bob Schieffer relayed: "I haven't talked to a single reporter who thinks that was a proper question." Meanwhile, he and the Today show publicized it.

5) "I feel very strongly that you are the best Republican candidate for President," former Kennedy Press Secretary and ABC News reporter Pierre Salinger proclaimed of Orrin Hatch.

6) To illustrate media sympathy for John McCain, in Newsweek George Will recalled a MRC-highlighted question on GMA.

7) Washington Post correction to poll story which stated Gore seen as strong a leader as Bush and that more said Gore will "bring change to Washington." Poll really found neither to be true.

8) Eleanor Clift's prediction: "Hillary Clinton will be beating Rudy Giuliani in the polls by Spring."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)Number of times the CBS Evening News over three nights, from Friday January 21 through Sunday January 23, used the terms "liberal," "left" or "hard-left": Zero. Number of times the CBS Evening News, over the same three nights, employed the labels "conservative," "right" or "hard-right": 19 times. That's an average of 6.33 times a night. And that's just in stories on the Republican presidential contest so it doesn't even count Dan Rather's bizarre assertion that the Supreme Court's "new majority" may be showing a "shift to the right."

Amongst the 20 ideological tags assigned by CBS in a mere three newscasts: Dan Rather claimed "George W. Bush's talking the right talk, as in Republican hard-right." Rather also highlighted "Bush's sudden rush to the right." Reporter Bill Whitaker warned, "Political observers say Iowa is a treacherous road for candidates to veer to the right without losing the middle." Another night Whitaker asserted: "George W. Bush today ratcheted up the rhetoric on a tried and true right-wing issue: abortion."

Bush's comments about abortion fueled most of the CBS labels as the network portrayed conservatives as a ruinous force driving the campaign, but CBS's own Bob Schieffer reported that Bush had not changed his position. While Dan Rather exclaimed on Friday that "George W. Bush punched to the right with more anti-abortion talk," the next night Schieffer told viewers: "Bush says he will not use abortion as a litmus test in appointing federal judges. He hasn't backed down from that so I think he has not changed his position a bit on all of this."

CBS didn't find anything about the Gore or Bradley campaign worth labeling, and neither did ABC or NBC over the weekend. But ABC was at least consistent in not labeling either party's candidates. NBC's David Bloom couldn't refrain from applying two conservative tags on Republicans. (See item #2 below for more on ABC and NBC.)

To best illustrate the spree of ideological tags from CBS News, I've upper-cased them in the transcripts recited below, which run through the Friday, Saturday and Sunday editions of the CBS Evening News.

-- Friday, January 21. Setting up two campaign stories, starting with the piece of the Democrats, anchor Dan Rather declared:
"In the U.S. presidential campaign, it's the final weekend before the sometimes influential Iowa caucuses. On the Republican side, George W. Bush PUNCHED TO THE RIGHT with more antiabortion talk, trying to position himself as the anti-abortion candidate, aiming to take out Steve Forbes. John McCain split for South Carolina to show he's in the race for the long haul. Democrat Bill Bradley tried to shrug off news of the latest irregular heartbeat episodes, arguing they should not be an issue. Al Gore is working hard not to look complacent amid talk, but no proof, that he's pulling away from Bradley."

After a report from John Roberts on Bradley and Gore, Rather introduced the Republican story: "Now Bill Whitaker, covering Bush's SUDDEN RUSH TO THE RIGHT."

Whitaker began his piece: "To lay to rest fears his compassion means he's NOT CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH, George W. Bush today ratcheted up the rhetoric on a tried and true RIGHT-WING issue: abortion. Campaigning in Iowa, he said the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion should have been left to the states."
Bush: "I've got a pro-life record as Governor of Texas. I'm a pro-lifer. I ran as a pro-life Governor, I've got a pro-life record."
Whitaker continued: "He defined himself early on as a new kind of CONSERVATIVE, but he's finding here in Iowa it's the old bedrock issues that fire up the faithful: THE CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES, the most devoted caucus attendees."
Gary Bauer: "Thirty-five million American children have been destroyed."
Whitaker: "Sensing a Bush Achilles' heel, his challengers on the RIGHT have been hammering him on abortion. And for publisher Steve Forbes, the hard line has brought some upward movement in the polls...."

Later in the show Rather delivered an odd analysis of the Supreme Court. Though the only changes in its composition over the past seven years have been the additions of two liberal justices named by President Clinton, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, Rather discovered that the court has a "new majority" which may be moving it "to the right." Here's the whole item, as read by Rather:
"A possible new sign today of the U.S. Supreme Court's new majority and shift to the right. The court said it will decide whether states can be sued in federal court for discrimination against disabled workers. Two weeks ago, the justices barred state employees from suing in federal court for age discrimination. Many legal scholars say the current Supreme Court is systematically whittling away federal power over the states on key issues."

-- Saturday, January 22. Reporter Bill Whitaker focused on George Bush's ideological positioning:
"Like front running Republican candidates here before, he's being pressured to prove HIS CONSERVATIVE CREDENTIALS, declaring again his opposition to Roe v Wade."
Bush: "I think the Republican Party ought to keep its pro-life plank."
Whitaker: "But he still refuses to make abortion a litmus test for a running mate or judges, leaving himself open for sharp attacks from his challengers on the RIGHT."
Forbes: "We will settle for nothing less than the overturn of this misbegotten, murderous decision."
Whitaker: "A RIGHT TURN makes sense in Iowa where forty percent of Republican caucus-goers are CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES, but today in Los Angeles President Bill Clinton made it clear it will be used against Bush in pro-choice states."

After a soundbite from Clinton, Whitaker warned: "Political observers say Iowa is a treacherous road for candidates to VEER TO THE RIGHT without losing the middle."
Following a supporting bite from Hugh Winebrenner of Drake University, Whitaker concluded: "And something else for Bush to worry about. There's often a caucus surprise, a candidate from the RIGHT who does better than expected, and that's often at the expense of the frontrunner."

Next, John Roberts managed to avoid labeling Gore or Bradley in his story on their days.

Bob Schieffer, however, contradicted the CBS reporting which clearly stated Bush had moved right on abortion, telling anchor Thalia Assuras: "You have to say this, George Bush is pro-life. He's been that way all his life, he makes no secret about that. What's happening out here is his opponents -- Forbes and Bauer -- are trying to show they're MORE CONSERVATIVE on this abortion issue because Bush says he will not use abortion as a litmus test in appointing federal judges. He hasn't backed down from that so I think he has not changed his position a bit on all of this."

-- Sunday, January 23. Dan Rather anchored the show from inside the state Capitol building in Des Moines, and he went immediately to the campaign. First John Roberts, as usual, handled Bradley and Gore and did not tag either one ideologically.

Then Rather announced: "Now to Bill Whitaker covering George W. Bush's TALKING THE RIGHT TALK, as in REPUBLICAN HARD-RIGHT, to try to take out Steve Forbes in Iowa and focus on eliminating John McCain in New Hampshire."

Bill Whitaker opened by explaining how the Des Moines Register endorsed Bush and that he was campaigning like an underdog. Whitaker then issued some more labeling as he again portrayed conservatives as driving the process:
"So in these final hours a final appeal to CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES, the biggest block, forty percent of caucus-goers. Hoping to deny Bush this vote, his challengers from the RIGHT made a pilgrimage to one of the largest evangelical churches in Iowa last night...."
Following a clip of Steve Forbes, Whitaker led into another soundbite, this one from Alan Keyes: "Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes branded Bush a false CONSERVATIVE."

Up next, after having delivered liberal spin in claiming Bush was appealing to the GOP's "hard-right," with a straight face Dan Rather seriously intoned: "For more about the political realities, without the spin doctors and the expectations games, chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer is with us here in Iowa with the cold hard facts and some analysis."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)ABC and NBC refrained from such blatant bias as CBS displayed over the weekend, though NBC did label Republicans on Sunday night. On Saturday night ABC's Jackie Judd did point out how polls show the public is not enthralled with big government programs advocated by Bill Bradley, but instead of describing his plans as liberal she referred to them as "the big, bold government envisioned by Bradley." Playing "reporter" again, former Clinton enabler George Stephanopoulos provided stories for ABC on both Saturday and Sunday nights.

Here's how the ABC and NBC evening shows handled the campaign over the weekend:

-- Friday, January 21. ABC's World News Tonight only gave the campaign a few seconds as the network devoted nearly all of the show to "Latinos in America." NBC Nightly News ignored the Republicans as the show ran a story on Bradley's health followed by a piece on how the Bradley and Gore campaigns are faring.

-- Saturday, January 22. NBA basketball bumped the NBC Nightly News in all time zones. ABC's Jackie Judd ended a World News Tonight story on Bill Bradley's status:
Judd: "Just as Franklin Roosevelt gave the country Social Security and Lyndon Johnson gave it Medicare, he says it is time to think big again and give the country universal health care coverage."
Bradley: "And I'm not going to settle for anything less. I'm not running for President of the United States to settle. I'm running for President to lead on big things."
Judd concluded: "Bradley likes to tell voters he is running on a radical premise: If he says what he believes, he will win. It is not that simple, of course. Polls show most voters want small steady steps from the government, not the big, bold government envisioned by Bradley."

Linda Douglass checked in on the McCain campaign in South Carolina before George Stephanopoulos examined "one of the most persistent myths in American politics, that plowing through the political fields of Iowa can propel an under-funded underdog to the presidency."

-- Sunday, January 23. ABC opened with a series of campaign stories (Dean Reynolds on Bush, John Yang on Gore and Jackie Judd on Bradley) before George Stephanopoulos reappeared for a story on the political power of the elderly.

Over on the NBC Nightly News, John Seigenthaler handled the overall anchor duties, but from Des Moines Tom Brokaw anchored the campaign stories. Claire Shipman looked at the Democrats and then David Bloom checked in on the Republican race. He tossed in a couple of ideological tags in framing the campaign:
"Here in Iowa where the religious right's grip on Republican politics is only somewhat weakened, where 60 percent of Republican caucus-goers are anti-abortion, Texas Governor George W. Bush today worship's at Des Moines' First Assembly of God church, insisting afterward that he did not buckle under pressure from conservative rivals in speaking out so strongly this past week against legalized abortion."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Fox News Sunday moderator Tony Snow raised the latest story about Al Gore and marijuana, but NBC's Tim Russert did not. The Fox and NBC Sunday interview shows on January 23 both brought aboard representatives of the Gore and Bradley campaigns, but only Fox asked Gore's spokesman to respond to the fresh marijuana allegation.

As relayed by the Drudge Report last Thursday and noted in The Washington Times' "Inside Politics" column on Friday, DRCNet, a Web site for an organization opposed to the drug war, stated that a new book by Newsweek's Bill Turque reports that Gore smoked marijuana longer than previously admitted.

That prompted Snow to ask Senator John Kerry, a Gore supporter: "A while back there was a little bit of a dust up. One of the things that happens in campaigns, you try to figure out what the people are like, there were rumors of George W. Bush having drug use. Now, evidently a new book is going to come out that says that Al Gore used marijuana right up until the time he ran for the House of Representatives in '76. Do you think that's relevant?"

Kerry appeared with Bradley backer Paul Wellstone. On Meet the Press, Tim Russert interviewed Gore supporter Tom Harkin and Bradley supporter Bob Kerrey, but he avoided the drug use issue.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)A totally "improper" and "out of bounds" question to Hillary Clinton, but CBS News keeps raising it. As detailed in the January 20 and 21 CyberAlerts, last Wednesday night and Thursday morning CBS condemned Buffalo radio talk show host Tom Bauerle's question to Hillary Clinton about her faithfulness.

But if it was such a rude and awful question, then why does CBS keep highlighting it? The ABC and NBC evening shows ignored it and in the morning ABC only gave it a few seconds. Friday morning NBC's Today devoted a whole segment to condemning the subject matter.

On Saturday's CBS Evening News, anchor Thalia Assuras asked Bob Schieffer: "What about the New York Senate race. Hillary Clinton had been asked some pretty shocking questions about her personal life, had she been faithful to her husband, for example. Is it going to stay this rough?"
Schieffer's reply showed that he still considers her to be First Lady over a Senate candidate: "It's going to be rough, campaigns in New York are always rough. But I think even a lot of veteran political reporters, myself included, were very uncomfortable to hear the First Lady being asked such a personal question as have you been faithful to your husband. She was just asked it out of the blue. She said that kind of thing is out of bounds. She went ahead and answered. I must say, amongst the reporters I've talked to, they all seem to agree with her it was out of bounds. I haven't talked to a single reporter who thinks that was a proper question and in a funny kind of way, Thalia, it may kind of moderate this campaign from here on in."

If none thought that question was proper, how about some probing of her Rose law firm records and involvement in procuring FBI files?

Friday morning, January 21, NBC's Today dedicated a whole segment with Chris Matthews and Jonathan Alter to dissecting the Buffalo interview which, Matt Lauer asserted, "raised a lot of eyebrows."

As noted by MRC analyst Mark Drake, Lauer played both the question about her involvement with Vince Foster and a subsequent one about past drug use and then asked Alter: "Let me start with you and let's split the question up. Is it fair for a member of the press to ask the First Lady and a candidate for Senate if she has been unfaithful to her husband, just that part of the question?"

Newsweek's Alter answered: "I don't think so. I just think it's out of bounds. It really isn't necessary. It's one to ask you know, are you going to stay married, something that's kind of relevant to the future and it's a little bit of a tacky question you can understand it but to go way back into the past sniffing bed sheets, it's just ridiculous. I mean where does this end? Is every candidate for county commissioner going to have to answer these questions?"

Lauer followed-up: "So if it's out bounds for a member of the press to say were you unfaithful to your husband, you must have really squirmed in your seat when it got more specific and it said what about with Vince Foster?"
Alter: "Yeah, it's just real, real low."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)Orrin Hatch has earned the endorsement of former ABC News chief foreign correspondent Pierre Salinger, the Washington Post recounted on Friday. The Post story reported that the former Press Secretary to President Kennedy, who later served briefly as a U.S. Senator from California, donated $144 to Hatch. Here are the opening paragraphs of a January 21 Washington Post "Style" section piece by Dana Milbank:

MASON CITY, Iowa -- A blizzard has blown into northern Iowa with 40mph winds and sub-zero temperatures. Trucks are jackknifing on the highways, and cars lie abandoned in ditches. But one Chevy Blazer barrels along at breakneck speed, a former race car driver at the wheel. In the passenger seat, in suit and tie, sits a presidential candidate, zipping between meetings with the Marshalltown Times-Republican and the Mason City Globe-Gazette. Neither snow nor wind nor gloom of polls can stay the presidential quest of Orrin Hatch.

How could they? For, in his breast pocket, the senator from Utah carries a letter from Pierre Salinger that he quotes to audiences. At the moment he is reading it into his cell phone, for a reporter from the Kansas City Star. "I feel very strongly that you are the best Republican candidate for President," wrote President Kennedy's press secretary. "You have done incredible work in the Senate for years, something that makes me feel that you would be an important president."

It's hard to picture George W. Bush or John McCain bragging about a letter from a Democrat famous for spinning plane-crash conspiracy theories on the Internet. But Hatch will take support wherever he can get it. "I thought it was pretty neat," says Hatch, who called Salinger to thank him for his $144 contribution....

END Excerpt

Don't count on any ABC News figures endorsing any conservative who has a chance to win.


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes)Oops. Gore not quite as strong as Bush and the public doesn't really think Gore will "bring change to Washington." Never mind what we told you last month. Here's a Washington Post "Corrections" box item I bet many missed. It ran as one long paragraph on page two of the January 20 newspaper:

A computer programming error by TNS Intersearch, the research firm that conducts telephone interviewing for Washington Post-ABC News polls, produced faulty survey results that were reported in a Dec. 17 article. Specifically, the December data incorrectly suggested that roughly the same proportion of Americans viewed George W. Bush and Vice President Gore as strong leaders. In fact, a substantially larger proportion of the public interviewed for the December poll viewed Bush as a strong leader. The data also incorrectly suggested that the proportion of adults who viewed Gore as a candidate who would bring "needed change to Washington" had risen since a Post-ABC survey in October; in fact, views of the vice president on this measure had not changed substantially and Bush still has an advantage over Gore on this trait. Corrected results are available at Results from the latest Post-ABC News survey, reported Tuesday, were unaffected by the programming error."

END Reprint of entire "Corrections" item.

The original, incorrect, story was bannered across the top left of the front page.


cyberno7.gif (1643 bytes)Old Notable Quotables don't go away, they come back sometimes when columnists want proof to illustrate liberal bias. A case in point caught by the MRC's Tim Graham: George Will's column in the January 24 Newsweek out last week. Making the case for how the media favor John McCain because of his liberal stands, Will recited a quote from Good Morning America which the MRC publicized last fall:

McCain favors campaign-finance reforms opposed by most Republicans. And he criticizes Bush's large proposed tax cut in language (the cut, he says, puts Social Security at risk) that borders on plagiarism from President Clinton and congressional Democrats. Which goes far to explain media sympathy for McCain.

For example, this was a question to him on "Good Morning America" from Diane Sawyer: "However brave a stand campaign-finance reform may be, members of your own party have rejected it. What's the matter with them? Why don't they get it?" A New York Times story on McCain's tax proposal began this way: "After decades in which Republican presidential candidates have reflexively promoted tax cuts as the key to prosperity and electoral success, Senator John McCain of Arizona is betting that there is a more potent issue this time around: Social Security." Note the word "reflexively." A reflex is a nonrational response to stimuli. People who act reflexively are not acting thoughtfully. In contrast, McCain...

END Excerpt

The GMA interview took place on September 27. The MRC recounted the question in the September 29 CyberAlert and October 4 edition of Notable Quotables.


cyberno8.gif (1522 bytes)Eleanor Clift's hope or a goal for the media? Here's the prediction delivered at the end of this past weekend's McLaughlin Group by the Newsweek contributor:

"Hillary Clinton will be beating Rudy Giuliani in the polls by Spring."

That gives Clift and her media colleagues a few months of biased reporting to sway public opinion. -- Brent Baker

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