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CyberAlert -- 02/01/2001 -- CBS Shocked by Bush Comments

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CBS Shocked by Bush Comments; Simpson Denounced Vouchers & Abortion Order; Clinton Costs Just Like Reagan's; Chavez Distorted

1) CBS jumped on "frank" remarks President Bush made about school vouchers which were picked up by an open microphone. Though the comments were hardly beyond conventional wisdom, John Roberts referred to Bush's "unusually direct language" and highlighted how they "brought a sharp rebuke from members of the Congressional Black Caucus."

2) ABC's Carole Simpson denounced "parental choice" as "bogus." She also tossed in a shot at Bush's executive order on abortion, declaring: "I don't like at all" because it will mean "more women dying from botched abortions."

3) ABC's Aaron Brown contended that those complaining about how Bill Clinton's office space in Manhattan will cost more than the combined price of the space for all the other ex-Presidents, are guilty of "just more Clinton-bashing." He analogized Clinton to how "Republicans said much the same thing when President Reagan was criticized for accepting" a home and speaking fees.

4) Geraldo Rivera proclaimed "I love Denise Rich...She's a wonderful philanthropic person and I think she's very gentle and innocent and naive," but even he conceded that Clinton's "eleventh hour pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich," her husband, "continues to draw incredible heat, much of it deserved.

5) Columnist Jeff Jacoby demonstrated how the television networks and much of the media distorted comments from Linda Chavez to illustrate her supposed "hypocrisy" in taking in an illegal alien while condemning Zoe Baird for employing an illegal alien.


1

CBS treated as big news some supposedly "frank" remarks President Bush made about school vouchers which were picked up by an open microphone. Though the comments were hardly beyond conventional wisdom touted by political pundits and were made in front of an invited group of religious leaders, John Roberts referred to Bush's "unusually direct language" and equated them with Bush telling Dick Cheney during the campaign that a particular reporter was an "asshole." Roberts asserted: "It's not the first time that Mr. Bush has shared his private thoughts with the nation."

Apparently, the comments came after the media were ushered out of the meeting room following the few minutes they got to take pictures at the start of the meeting.

Neither ABC or NBC on Wednesday night considered the comments newsworthy, but Dan Rather jumped on them as he introduced the January 31 CBS Evening News story:
"Mr. Bush was blunt and seemingly unaware that some his remarks were being recorded when he met today with a group of religious leaders. CBS's John Roberts has the audio tapes and puts them into context for you."

Over video showing Bush sitting at a long table with at least ten ministers around him, Roberts began his story as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Meeting Catholic Church leaders today, the tightly packaged image of the President came unraveled for just a moment. A White House microphone accidentally left open picked up Mr. Bush behind closed doors, more frank than he might have preferred on the issue of school vouchers."
George W. Bush in an audio clip with words on screen: "There are a lot of Republicans who don't like vouchers. They come from wealthy suburban districts who are scared to death of irritating the public school movement, and their schools are good."
Roberts: "Catholic schools tend to benefit from a voucher program. In many inner cities, they are the only affordable alternative to public education. Mr. Bush cast his argument for school choice in terms church leaders couldn't miss."
Bush in another audio clip: "You know how it is, it's like the abortion issue. I mean, there is a kind of a built in prejudice against a particular position on both sides, on both issues."
Roberts intoned: "In unusually direct language, the President today claimed parents of children who stand to gain the most from vouchers aren't aware of those benefits."
Bush audio clip: "Many of their leaders have yet to stand up and try to lead and educate them as to the benefits."
Roberts: "That comment brought a sharp rebuke from members of the Congressional Black Caucus."
Congressman Albert Wynn: "I think it's really not a very viable argument to say that we haven't led. We actually understand the system beyond the hype, and that's why we reject vouchers."

Roberts then equated the event with Bush's comment about Adam Clymer which he intended for only Dick Cheney to hear, not a room full of ministers: "It's not the first time that Mr. Bush has shared his private thoughts with the nation. An open mike moment during the fall campaign weighed on the candidate, but today President Bush got the last laugh."
Audio of a meeting participant: "I'm Archbishop Favalora from Miami in the great state of Florida, which I know is near and dear to your heart."
Bush: "So I'm about to name my brother the ambassador to Chad."

Roberts concluded: "The joking aside, the President predicts a tough fight over school vouchers, admitting behind closed doors today that there is serious heat against the voucher issue on Capitol Hill not just from Democrats, but Republicans as well."

Neither Rather or Roberts employed the term "gaffe," but that's how they treated Bush's comments, which just demonstrates how to some in the media saying the obvious is considered to be a gaffe.

2

Another force against vouchers: the news media. ABC News anchor Carole Simpson, in her weekly online commentary, provided the latest evidence of hostility. Her commentary also demonstrated how reporters react to Bush. Just like during his father's term, they will praise him when he does things liberals like, such as advocating higher spending, and condemn him whenever he pushes policies with which liberals disagree.

In her January 28-posted ABC News.com "On My Mind" commentary, Simpson offered "kudos" to Bush for proposing more education spending, but called his "parental choice" idea "bogus," arguing that school vouchers would "take money away from public schools that are already struggling for cash and turn it over to religious schools. Isn't that a violation of the separation of church and state?" She also tossed in a shot at Bush's executive order on abortion, declaring: "I don't like at all" because it will mean "more women dying from botched abortions."

Here's an excerpt of her online analysis:

Kudos to President Bush for devoting his first week in office to tackling the sorry state of public education. He campaigned vigorously for school reform, and true to his word, he made education the first major initiative of his presidency. That I like.

However, I should point out that the very first official act he undertook on his first working day at the White House was to reverse a policy that President Clinton put into effect during the first days of his presidency.

Bush will now deny federal aid to overseas agencies that provide family planning and abortion counseling to the world's poorest women. I am uncomfortable with abortion, but I am more uncomfortable about the prospect of more women dying from botched abortions, or bringing more children than they can feed into the world. That I don't like at all. But that's a done deal, so let's examine Bush's education plan

Most Americans don't know just how bad some of the nation's schools are. If you were to go to some of the worst communities in our major cities and poor rural schools in the south - as I have - you would be shocked by the conditions under which millions of our children are being asked to learn....

In his $47.6 billion education proposal to Congress and the people, the president basically wants to hold schools accountable for student performance, give local school districts greater control in how they use federal aid, and teach all children to read by the third grade. There are incentives for teachers and standards for testing, and provisions for making schools safer.

But then President Bush and I have a parting of the ways. He proposes school vouchers. His administration has lately been avoiding the use of the "v-word" because it's become a loaded term. So now they talk about "parental choice.

In effect, the President wants to give $1500 vouchers to the parents of students in public schools that have been deemed failures for three years in a row, allowing children to attend private schools and religious schools. On its face, it would seem a generous and humanitarian gesture to poor parents whose children are stuck in bad schools. But in fact, it's bogus.

What school vouchers would do is take money away from public schools that are already struggling for cash and turn it over to religious schools. Isn't that a violation of the separation of church and state? I say it would go to religious schools because $1500 toward private school would scarcely cover lunch money for a year. I know that in the Washington, D.C. area, non-parochial private schools can cost between $10,000 and $15,000 a year.

Furthermore, how many parents will be able to receive the stipend? Some educators fear only a few will....

Already, it's doubtful the voucher program will pass Congress. There are reservations about it on both sides of the aisle. It looks like most parties agree that it's not the right thing to do. Don't abandon the public schools. Make them work.

But considering the reforms he proposes -- with the exception of vouchers -- George W. Bush may prove to be the "man with the plan "that can save public education.

END Excerpt

For Simpson's entire commentary, go to: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/WorldNewsTonight/onmymind010128.html

3

Anyone who dares to complain about how Bill Clinton's office space in Manhattan will cost more per year than the combined price of the office space leased by former Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush combined, is guilty of "just more Clinton-bashing," ABC's Aaron Brown contended Wednesday night. He analogized Clinton to Reagan's privately funded receipts: "Republicans said much the same thing when President Reagan was criticized for accepting" an expensive home from friends and large speaking fees from the Japanese.

Tuesday night's NBC Nightly News devoted a whole story by Andrea Mitchell to Clinton's $650,000 annual lease for a full floor of a Manhattan office building and while she included the Clinton staff's defense of it, she did not try to equate the situation with Reagan or dismiss concern as mere generic criticism that all ex-Presidents must endure.

The January 31 World News Tonight ended with the piece by Aaron Brown on Clinton's office in "prime real estate in the most expensive market in the country." He explained how at $650,000 a year it will cost taxpayers more than rents for all other living ex-Presidents combined.

Aaron then rationalized the expense and seemed to suggest that Clinton is a victim of constant carping:
"He [Clinton spokesman] also suggested criticism of the lease, like the criticism of the gifts the Clintons accepted or their new homes is in effect just more Clinton-bashing. Republicans said much the same thing when President Reagan was criticized for accepting a two and a half million dollar home from California friends, and made $2 million for a pair of brief speeches in Japan just after leaving office. It is part of the post-presidential experience these days and by settling on a huge office in a lavish building in a city New Yorkers at least believe is the center of the universe, Bill Clinton has left himself open again."

One little difference between Reagan's house paid for by friends and speaking fees paid by the Japanese compared to Clinton's office space: Reagan's friends paid for his house and some Japanese companies paid him a speaking fee. Taxpayers are footing the bill for Bill Clinton to get a floor of a posh Manhattan skyscraper.

4

Geraldo Rivera proclaimed "I love Denise Rich...She's a wonderful philanthropic person and I think she's very gentle and innocent and naive," but even he conceded that Clinton's "eleventh hour pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich," her husband, "continues to draw incredible heat, much of it deserved." But in admitting that, Rivera couldn't resist insulting Dan Burton in a January 30 diatribe on CNBC's Rivera Live taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens.

Rivera asserted: "This whole issue. And you know, everybody knows, and I have made no bones about the fact that I adored the former President, the 42nd President. I thought him very unfairly besieged by political hacks who wanted only to, to diminish him. But this pardon of the ex-husband of a dear friend of mine has really caused me over the last week or so some real pains in the pits of my stomach."

After clip of Dan Burton, he declared: "Every time I see Dan Burton he gives me the willies. I can't get over the image of him shooting that melon in his backyard to prove that, the, Hillary's friend, what was his name the White House aide who killed himself?" After a guest reminded him it was Vince Foster, Rivera continued his rant: "That he was really was murdered not...anyway. He's a card carrying Clinton-hater, Congressman Burton is. He can't let go of the ex-President. But let's face it ladies and gentlemen. Whether you loved the guy or hate the guy Bill Clinton certainly handed all of his longtime enemies a whole bunch of new ammunition on his very last day in office. The outgoing 42nd President's eleventh hour pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich continues to draw incredible heat. Much of it deserved."

5

In a column earlier this week Jeff Jacoby demonstrated how the television networks and much of the media distorted comments from Linda Chavez to illustrate her supposed "hypocrisy" in taking in an illegal alien while condemning Zoe Baird back in 1993 for employing an illegal alien. In fact, as Jacoby showed in his January 29 Boston Globe column, which is also syndicated, she did not attack Baird over the illegal alien case.

As detailed in the January 9 CyberAlert, on the night of January 8 both ABC and NBC picked up on the same 1993 soundbite to illustrate Chavez's alleged hypocrisy in letting illegal alien Marta Mercado live with her.

On World News Tonight, ABC's John Yang reported: "And if Mercado was employed, Chavez would have been required to pay Social Security taxes for her, an issue that sank Zoe Baird, President Clinton's first choice to be Attorney General. At that time, Chavez was critical."
Linda Chavez, December 21, 1993 PBS NewsHour: "I think most of the American people were upset during the Zoe Baird nomination that she had hired an illegal alien. That was what upset them more than the fact that she did not pay Social Security taxes."

Over on the January 8 NBC Nightly News, Lisa Myers insisted: "In fact, while Mercado was living with Chavez, Bill Clinton's first nominee for Attorney General, Zoe Baird, was done in by revelations she employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny and failed to pay Social Security taxes. Chavez said this then:"
Chavez on the PBS MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on December 21, 1993: "I think most of the American people were upset during the Zoe Baird nomination that she had hired an illegal alien. That was what upset them more than the fact that she did not pay Social Security taxes."

Actually, in context, Chavez was not attacking Baird, as Jacoby discovered by going back and checking the full transcript of PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.

Here's an excerpt from his January 29 column, titled: "A closer look at Chavez's 'hypocrisy.'"

Provoked by my recent column in defense of Linda Chavez -- her only offense, I wrote, was to show compassion and generosity to an abused and homeless woman -- Joseph N. undertook to set me straight.

"Chavez engaged in the politics of destruction...against Zoe Baird," he e-mailed. "Her hypocrisy was on record for all to see when she attacked [Zoe] Baird for employing an illegal alien."

In fact, Chavez didn't attack Baird. But Joseph N. can hardly be blamed for thinking she did. During the controversy over her nomination as labor secretary, the media repeated that canard endlessly and appeared to back it up with Chavez's own words. The result was to add insult to injury: Not only was her nomination sunk, but she was defamed as a hypocrite....

The news about Marta Mercado, the formerly illegal immigrant who lived with Chavez and her family in 1992-93, broke on Sunday, Jan. 7. The next morning, The Washington Post headlined its Page 1 story "Chavez Is Under Fire Over Illegal Immigrant; Guatemalan Lived In Designee's House." After laying out the facts, reporters Thomas Edsall and Manuel Roig-Franzia mentioned the 1993 ruckus over Baird, Bill Clinton's first nominee for attorney general.
Then came this:
"Chavez was sharply critical of Baird. On Dec. 21, 1993, she appeared on PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and said: 'I think most of the American people were upset during the Zoe Baird nomination that she had hired an illegal alien. That was what upset them more than the fact that she did not pay Social Security taxes.'"

This, it seems, was the source of the "hypocrisy" charge. The fallout spread swiftly. On Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos, paraphrasing Chavez, made the accusation explicit: "Back in 1993, when Zoe Baird...was being hit for hiring an illegal immigrant, Linda Chavez, a commentator at the time -- and these words often come back to haunt you -- said, 'Listen, I think most of the American people were upset...over the fact that she hired an illegal alien....' Getting caught in that kind of hypocrisy makes her an easy target."

On NBC, Tim Russert made the same point: "When Zoe Baird was put forward by Bill Clinton back in 1993, Linda Chavez was extremely critical of Zoe Baird for hiring an illegal nanny."....

The evening newscasts aired the video of Chavez speaking those words. And the next morning, the quote was in The New York Times, with the by-now familiar observation, "At the time, Ms. Chavez was critical of the Baird nomination."

Only she wasn't.

Chavez's comments on MacNeil/Lehrer were not condemnation, they were explanation: She was pointing out that what fueled the uproar over Zoe Baird's housekeeper was not the nonpayment of Social Security taxes but the fact that the woman wasn't a legal immigrant. Chavez wasn't judging Baird, let alone denouncing her; she was simply clarifying why the case had caused a commotion.

And why did a panelist on MacNeil/Lehrer need to spell out the reason for the controversy over Baird?

Because at the time Chavez spoke, the Baird controversy had been over for nearly a year.

Baird's nomination collapsed on Jan. 21, 1993. Chavez appeared on MacNeil/Lehrer on Dec. 21 -- 11 months later. The topic that day wasn't Baird, it was Bobby Ray Inman -- Clinton's choice for defense secretary after Les Aspin resigned. Inman, it turned out, had also failed to pay Social Security taxes for a housekeeper, but the revelation set off no sparks. Jim Lehrer pointed this out, then asked Chavez why Inman wasn't being treated the way Baird had been.

"There are some real important differences here," she replied. "I think most of the American people were upset during the Zoe Baird nomination that she had hired an illegal alien. That was what upset them more than the fact that she did not pay Social Security taxes. And I think that that was a reaction to that. And this" -- Inman's housekeeper -- "is an American woman."

What a difference a little context makes. Chavez didn't attack Baird -- not then, not ever. On the contrary, she has long called for repealing the sanctions U.S. law imposes on employers who give jobs to illegal aliens; it was one of the first recommendations of
her think tank, the Center for Equal Opportunity....

Journalists are entitled to scrutinize a nominee's record, but they are also obliged to be careful. Inaccuracy can stain a reputation -- sometimes indelibly. Chavez has her faults, but she's no hypocrite. Where does she go to collect her apology?

END Excerpt

To read the column in full, go to: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/029/oped/A_closer_look_at_Chavez_s_hypocrisy_+.shtml

If the Boston Globe ever suspends Jacoby again he's proven that he's a top notch news media analyst capable of joining the MRC team. -- Brent Baker


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