CyberAlert -- 01/28/1997 -- Today's Gore Journey

MRC Alert: Today's Gore Journey; ABC Exec on Bias; Latest NQ

1. The Today show finally presses Al Gore about his tobacco hypocrisy, but Katie Couric contradicts some 1996 NBC reporting.

2. ABC News political editor Hal Bruno on the public perceiving liberal bias: "The truth is that I don't care anymore."

3. PBS's Bonnie Erbe scared of House "extremists." Is income inequality rising or falling? Don't ask the New York Times.

4. January 27 edition of Notable Quotables. Dick Armey spews "hot-headed rhetoric," but Al Gore "aspires to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters."

[Correction: The January 27 CyberAlert twice quoted members of the media citing Nellie Bligh as a model for undercover reporting. It's Bly, not Bligh. Nellie Bly was the byline for Elizabeth Cochrane, a crusading reporter in the late 1800s for Joseph Pulitzer's The World newspaper in New York City.]

1) NBC's Today on Friday (January 24) devoted the first half hour to a glowing profile of Vice President Al Gore, concentrating on his humor and dancing skills. In an interview segment, however, Katie Couric got serious and recalled how Gore had cited his sister's death from lung cancer as why he is so opposed to smoking:
Katie Couric: "You're aware that you were criticized for the speech because your family was involved in the growing and selling tobacco until the late '80s. Correct?"
Gore: "That's true."
Couric: "So wasn't it hypocritical in a way."
Gore: "No, I don't think that's a fair charge at all because we, my family, quit growing tobacco."
Couric: "I noticed that your mom seemed to be in visible pain as you were talking about this, and, led me to wonder if you felt you were exploiting your sister's death for political gain at all?"
Gore: "They and my brother in law encouraged this when the time came."

This is quite a U-turn for Today which repeatedly heaped praise on Gore's speech last summer and fall. First, some background. The New York Times reported July 3, 1996 that in 1988, Al Gore told an audience of tobacco farmers: "Throughout most of my life, I raised tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I've hoed it. I've dug in it. I've sprayed it, I've chopped it, I've shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it."

Now, fast forward to Chicago. The morning after Al Gore's convention speech Bryant Gumbel opened the August 29 Today:
"The hall fell silent as the Vice President recalled his sister's death from lung cancer after more than three decades of smoking. It was an emotional attempt to build support for the administration's anti-smoking efforts."
Gore: "And that is why, until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking."

A few minutes later reporter Jim Miklaszewski asserted: "Gore was most effective in his shot at Dole's record on tobacco. Political but poignant, Gore invoked the memory of his sister, a cigarette smoker who had died of lung cancer. With his parents looking on, Gore recounted her agonizing death."
Gore: "And in a very short time her breathing became labored, and then she breathed her last breath. And that is why, until I draw my last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking."
Miklaszewski: "It's a recurring theme, to put a human face on Clinton administration politics and policy."

Then, on October 9, Today featured an interview with Gore. But interviewer Ed Gordon of MSNBC did not broach the tobacco hypocrisy topic. Instead, he posed questions such as: "Many can see that you have indeed been the most powerful Vice President in our history. You satisfied with the role that you played for four years?"

2) The January issue of Dateline, the newsletter published by the Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recounted the comments by Hal Bruno at the SPJ's Christmas party. Bruno, political editor for ABC News, dismissed concern that the lack of excitement in the election fueled talk about liberal bias:
"What were we going to do differently? Pretend that it wasn't static? Take up the slack for Dole? And we certainly can't do anything about the perception that we're too liberal. I thought David Brinkley [in his on air anti-Clinton diatribe] struck a pretty good blow against the feeling that all reporters are liberal Democrats, but it doesn't seem to have changed anything. The truth is that I don't care anymore."

But Bruno is no fan of the Clinton Administration. Dateline newsletter editor Willie Schatz quoted Bruno: "I've never seen anything like the Clinton White House. It's got the arrogance of JFK and the meanness of Nixon with none of the charm and incompetence of Carter."

3) Item #4 today is the latest Notable Quotables, but here are a couple of things that didn't make it but are worth noting.

First, writing a point/counterpoint column (with Washington Times Managing Editor Josette Shiner) Bonnie Erbe of NBC Radio/Westwood One news and host of To the Contrary on PBS declared:
"My Walter Mitty fantasy for 1997 is the same as it was for 1996: an end to extremism in American politics. Perhaps the 1996 elections were an indication that we are getting there. The year 1995 was one of extremism at its worst from the slash-and-burn attitude of the Republican congressional 'revolution' to the rise in activity by militia groups, to that horrendous outburst of terrorism in Oklahoma City. As bad as 1995 was, I take solace in the fact that in 1996, Americans appeared to begin to disavow extremists and extremism in all its forms."

Second, MRC news analyst Clay Waters noticed a bit of a contradiction in two New York Times stories. In a January 7 story headlined "Clinton Seeks Help for the Nation's Spirit," reporter Alison Mitchell wrote: "Mr. Clinton noted that recent statistics showed crime rates falling, pregnancy rates among teenagers dropping and wage inequalities narrowing."
Two days later the Times ran a piece on Labor Secretary Robert Reich's departure, headlined "The Last Liberal (Almost) Leaves Town." Reporter David Sanger began: "One of the lonely liberals of the Clinton Administration, Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, leaves Washington this week declaring that the government must lead a campaign to narrow a growing gap between rich and poor..."

But I thought Clinton already solved the income gap problem.

-- Brent Baker (Notable Quotables below)

4) The latest edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. Many of these quotes have already appeared in previous CyberAlerts, but I urge you to check out the quotes beneath the "U.S. News Under Jim Fallows: More Liberal Bias More Often" heading. It's a very illuminating contrast caught by MRC news analyst Jim Forbes.

January 27, 1997 (Vol. Ten; No. 2)

Spoiled Spin on Tainted Meat

"A federal jury in North Carolina ordered ABC television today to pay the Food Lion supermarkets five and a half million dollars in punitive damages. That's in connection with an undercover news investigation that proved to be true...Important to note that the truth of the report was never at issue in the lawsuit, not even challenged, only the journalistic techniques."
-- Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, January 22.

Reality Check:
"Food Lion claimed 'the unedited footage provides an extraordinary look at how a network news magazine can create false impressions,' and that 'ABC producers and editors used a combination of staged events and selective editing to fit a preconceived story line and systematically fabricate a story to deceive the public.' In one specific instance, Food Lion claims that when ABC used hidden-camera footage of a Food Lion employee talking about how she had cooked a batch of out-of-date chicken, it edited out the part where she says she brought the matter up with her manager, who directed her to throw the chicken away."
-- New Republic media columnist William Powers, January 20.

U.S. News Under Jim Fallows: More Liberal Bias More Often

"But there's another reason why all but nine of the 225 House Republicans backed Gingrich: deep reservations about the man next in line, the hard-right majority leader, Dick Armey. Just as Dan Quayle's lack of gravitas led many Republicans to pray for the health of George Bush, Armey's ideological stubbornness and hot-headed rhetoric inspire in his colleagues protective optimism about Gingrich....In a House brimming with mean-spirited rhetoric, Armey stands out."
-- U.S. News & World Report Senior Writers Kent Jenkins Jr. and Paul Glastris, January 20 issue.
"Gore's commitment to the world of big ideas is no pose. Unlike John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson, who became darlings of the highbrow set without fully earning the honor, Gore is truly engaged in the life of the mind...Had the younger Gore not become a Congressman at 28, a Senator at 36, and Vice President at 44, he might have become the sort of essayist who aspires to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters."
-- U.S. News Senior Writer Timothy Noah, January 27 issue.

Absolving Clinton

"There's been a lot of talk lately, as you know, printed and so forth, about the Lincoln Bedroom and the people who stay here. And obviously a lot of them are your friends. And I don't think anybody would begrudge somebody having guests in their own house. Some of them, though, it seems apparently you didn't know quite as well. And we're wondering if you might feel let down a little bit by your staff or by the DNC in their zeal to raise funds?"
--Question from Washington Post reporters in interview published Jan. 19.

Hillary's White House Hell

CBS reporter Martha Teichner: "Health care was just the beginning. She has been the subject of a non-stop, ceaseless litany of investigations. Three at the moment being conducted by Whitewater special counsel Kenneth Starr. Speculation she may be indicted continues."
Hillary Clinton: "I expect this matter to drag out as long as it is to anyone else's advantage to drag it out and then it will end. I mean no one likes to be accused of having done anything improper or wrong. It becomes frustrating when you know that people are saying things that aren't true, but you just learn to live with it and you just go on day after day and..."
Teichner: "But how do you do that though in the climate of a non-stop four- or even eight-year bashing?" -- January 19 CBS Sunday Morning. Teichner and Hillary were classmates at Wellesley College.)

Illegal Taping? Don't Let It Distract from Nailing Newt

"I'm not trying to minimize the offense here, though I would have to suggest that the ones of Speaker Gingrich look considerably more severe than Mr. McDermott's."
-- Chicago Tribune reporter Ellen Warren on CNN & Company, January 16.

"As a political matter, the Republicans managed brilliantly on the last two weekends of television talk shows to keep the focus where they wanted....Of course, they could not have done it without the Democrats' giving them a clear field. The first weekend the Democrats had available a Time magazine article suggesting that the leadership, possibly waving campaign money, put pressure on two ethics committee members to write an extraordinary letter telling colleagues to vote for Mr. Gingrich for Speaker. The Democrats hardly brought it up. Then last weekend the Democrats effectively failed to make their case that the taped conversation, whatever its ancestry, showed that Mr. Gingrich had broken his promises to the ethics committee."
-- New York Times reporter Adam Clymer, who first reported the contents of the GOP cellular phone conversation, in a January 16 "news analysis."

"The New Republic points out this week that the book [To Renew America] leans heavily on copyrighted materials developed for Newt's college course by the tax-exempt group that is at the center of his current problems. That could well be a violation of IRS rules that prohibit tax-exempt organizations from transferring assets to private individuals. It also calls into question Gingrich's claim that he's no Jim Wright -- the Democratic Speaker whose ouster he spearheaded -- because he never sought to line his own pockets. After taxes, his royalties would have stuffed his pockets with something like $300,000 -- the amount of his fine. Maybe he should hand it over. If nothing else, it would prove that even when you can't count on the rule of law in Washington, there's always poetic justice."
-- Conclusion to Time Senior Editor Richard Lacayo's story, January 27 issue.

Shaw Fawns

"A very, very special day for this President when you recall that four years ago he came to this city, he was expecting so much. His mother was at his side there at the Inaugural. She passed away a year later. And when you look at what was besetting the United States, a four trillion dollar deficit, budget problems, foreign policy problems. The budget deficit now has decreased. There seems to be relative peace in Bosnia. The Middle East, the breakthrough of the Hebron agreement, a lot has gone on in four short years."
-- Bernard Shaw during CNN Inauguration coverage, January 20.

God, I Admire You

"Tribe's detractors think his arrogance is finally catching up with him. 'He was his usual glib self,' one veteran practitioner sniffed after the argument. But Tribe has a lot to be arrogant and glib about. There is still no one better on his feet, no one better able to respond to questions from the justices with a fully developed and usually persuasive response. But sometimes he seems too nimble, too cerebral, too able to see contradiction and ironies and nuances light-years before the justices and other mere mortals are able to. Especially coming in the last quarter of a two-hour argument, he seemed to make the justices' heads hurt. Baryshnikov probably has had the same effect on dance aficionados -- too much dazzle to take all at once. Maybe Tribe needs to slow down and simplify his routine the next time out -- and dance the macarena instead of Swan Lake."
-- USA Today reporter Tony Mauro in the January 13 Legal Times.

CBS: Clueless Broadcasting System

Larry King: "I'm told by our producers, that a lot of calls, so rather than make it microscopic here, are complaining about advocates being hired by television stations. [Robert] Shapiro was on one side in the Simpson trial, he's hired. [George] Stephanopoulos is now at ABC -- that we're not getting balance."
Dan Rather: "I think that's a valid criticism. I'm concerned about it. Look, a Bill Moyers came out of the Lyndon Johnson White House and became one of the great journalists of all time."
King: "But a major liberal, self-confessed."
Rather: "Ah, is he? I don't want to get into that, but he was terrific. I do think, personal opinion, it's gone too far."
--Exchange on Larry King Live, January 13.

-- L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham, Editors

-- Geoffrey Dickens, Gene Eliasen, James Forbes, Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters; Media Analysts

-- Kathy Ruff, Marketing Director; Carey Evans, Circulation Manager; Brian Schmisek, Intern

-- Brent Baker