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CyberAlert -- 03/14/2000 -- NBC: 4 Seconds for Hsia, 6 for LaBella

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NBC: 4 Seconds for Hsia, 6 for LaBella; Bush Sold "His Soul to the Wrong Group"

1) Four seconds on Maria Hsia and six seconds, sort of, on the LaBella memo in the middle of a NBC Nightly News story Monday on how Gore's team thinks campaign finance reform can be "a winning issue for them."

2) MRC's Tim Graham appeared on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor Monday night to discuss why the networks are avoiding the LaBella memo.

3) Dan Rather focused on how Bush is supposedly being hurt by "cozying up to the self-described religious right." Reporter Richard Schlessinger asked: "Did George Bush sell his soul to the wrong group?"

4) How to get your cause onto the CBS Evening News? If you're a liberal group, put out a press release. Last Thursday the show ran three stories prompted by liberal press releases on global warming, harassment of gays in the military and saving fish.

5) The latest edition of the Free Market Project's MediaNomics is now online: NBC's Law & Order Presents Biased View of the Stock Market; CBS Lauds Anti-Corporate Trial Lawyer; Freedom vs. Rollerblades.


>>> Now on newsstands: The March 20 edition of Fortune magazine featuring a column on the study by the MRC's Free Market Project of how the network evening shows covered the tax plans offered by GOP presidential candidates. "TV Networks Tune Out Economists," read the headline over the column by Rob Norton. The subhead: "The nets' coverage of economic issues in the primary season has been pitiful: In six months of newscasts, they didn't put a single economist on camera."
Norton related: "Now, the MRC is a conservative outfit and has its own (pro-tax cut) agenda, so three of the main conclusions it draws from the study reflect its beefs: First, the nets largely ignored Steve Forbes' ambitious flat-tax proposal (unlike in 1996, when they paid it lots of attention). By 'dismissing Forbes,' the MRC says, 'the networks were also excluding the most conservative tax-reduction plan from the news agenda.' Second, George W. Bush's tax-cut plan was repeatedly labeled 'big' and 'huge' and was often accompanied by Democratic criticisms that it was 'irresponsible.' Third, the nets never questioned John McCain's assertion that a smaller tax cut was essential to protecting and preserving Social Security....
"But the study's fourth major conclusion is one that should concern anybody seriously interested in economics and public policy. The MRC found that in all of the 36 economics-related segments, which included 58 'talking head' interviews, not a single economist was quoted during the entire six months....
"It's not that economists are any more boring or inaccessible or incomprehensible than experts in other fields. The most likely reason they've been kept off TV, in the words of Richard Noyes, who directed the MRC study, is that 'the media are much more fascinated by the process of campaign 2000 and less interested in the issues.'"
To read the entire piece, which is not online, go to page 64 of the March 20 Fortune. To read the actual study, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/specialreports/fmp/2000/goptaxexec.html <<<

1

Monday night the NBC Nightly News allocated four seconds to Maria Hsia and six seconds to the Charles LaBella memo in the midst of a piece on how "Gore and his advisors now believe" that campaign finance reform "can actually be a winning issue for them and a critical overture to John McCain's voters."

Four and six seconds was hardly enough time to explain either development, but reporter Claire Shipman's vague six-second reference to "newly leaked Justice Department documents" is still more detail than yet relayed by ABC's World News Tonight. As noted in the March 13 CyberAlert, last Friday the Los Angeles Times disclosed the LaBella memo and its allegations about special treatment of Gore and the Clintons and suggestions that Gore may have misled investigators. All the morning shows skipped it as did the ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows. CBS got to in its Saturday night show bumped by sports from most ET and CT affiliates.

NBC's story aired eleven days after Maria Hsia's March 2 conviction on five counts for money laundering, a development the NBC Nightly News ignored at the time while ABC gave it 19 seconds and CBS dedicated 23 seconds to it, and five days after radio's Don Imus zinged Tom Brokaw by pointing out how NBC News never reported the Hsia convictions. (See the March 13 CyberAlert for details.)

Monday night, March 13, Brokaw introduced the story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"There are big state primaries tomorrow, but the nominations are already wrapped up, so the general campaign is under way, and Vice President Al Gore is picking up John McCain's themes and attacking Texas Governor George W. Bush. Gore is portraying himself as a reformer on campaign finances, and that has outraged many Republicans."

Claire Shipman began: "Al Gore today in Florida, again trying to spin weakness into strength, criticizing George W. Bush for not supporting campaign finance reform, challenging him to a joint ban on soft money -- unregulated political contributions."
Al Gore: "All he has to do is say yes."
Shipman: "Bush hits back with what his advisors say will be a central campaign theme -- that Gore is a hypocrite."
George W. Bush: "This guy's gonna say anything to get elected. I read the newspaper yesterday where all of a sudden he's for campaign funding reform."

Shipman then got to her very brief references to Hsia and the LaBella memo, though she never uttered the name LaBella nor explained what he revealed:
"Given the Democratic fundraising scandal of 1996, and Al Gore's controversial appearance at a Buddhist temple, and the recent conviction of Democratic fundraiser and Gore friend Maria Hsia, and the fact that newly leaked Justice Department documents raise more questions about what Gore knew and when, it does seem unlikely he would make campaign finance a key campaign issue. But Gore and his advisors now believe that it can actually be a winning issue for them and a critical overture to John McCain's voters. The first step, learning something from McCain's willingness to embrace mistakes."

(You had to read carefully to catch the two references. I measured this at four seconds for Hsia: "and the recent conviction of Democratic fundraiser and Gore friend Maria Hsia." And I measured this at six seconds for LaBella: "and the fact that newly leaked Justice Department documents raise more questions about what Gore knew and when.")

To illustrate how Gore is following McCain's script she then showed some clips of Gore admitting mistakes, before continuing:
"And Gore aides say he's determined to try now because he's committed to the issue, he's supported reform legislation, and is tired of being embarrassed by 1996. He wants to send a signal to Bush that he's not afraid of any issue, and aides say it's better to remind voters of scenes like these now [video of Gore at Buddhist temple] than just before election day, and finally, he and his team think that Bush, who hasn't embraced reform, is vulnerable. Campaign finance reform advocates say both Gore and Bush have a lot to prove."

Scott Harshbarger, President of Common Cause, served as Shipman's sole expert even though he's a biased player in the process who favors a liberal regulatory scheme to limit free speech: "Gore has the right policy. He's gotta show that it really means something, that he's different from Clinton on this, that he will actually make it happen. Bush has to show that he cares at all."

Shipman concluded: "A critical question, does the public care? Only a small group of voters considers it a priority. In this NBC poll, the issue ranks well below health care and Social Security, for example. Still, in a tight race, which both sides say this will be, even a small group of voters can prove decisive."

More of the public might care if more of the masses who are casual news consumers who rely on network news heard a bit about convictions and Justice Department cover-ups and less about campaign strategies.

Incredibly, the combined ten seconds on Nightly News about Hsia and LaBella is still more time than Today has spent on either subject as the show has ignored both through Monday morning. In a March 13 Today story observed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, reporter David Gregory raised Bush's criticism for Gore over fundraising but failed to take the opportunity to tell viewers about Hsia or LaBella even though Gregory specifically mentioned the Buddhist temple fundraiser which Hsia organized.

After a soundbite from Bush, Gregory noted: "Though Gore now openly apologizes for campaign finance excesses of the '96 campaign including the Buddhist Temple fundraiser, Bush advisors say the Vice President remains an easy target. Said one, Gore is picking the wrong issue to take a stand as a reformer."

2

The MRC's Tim Graham appeared Monday night on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor to discuss why the broadcast networks have refused to cover the disclosure of the Charles LaBella memo. Up against host Bill O'Reilly, who attributed the problem to network executives not wanting to rock any boats and who maintained he never saw any liberal bias during his years at ABC News, Graham held his own and offered several examples of the media's disparate treatment of Gore and Bush.

If you missed the show, Tuesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a portion of the interview, in RealPlayer format, on the MRC home page: http://www.mrc.org

3

The CBS Evening News has yet to run a story on how Al Gore's alliance with the far-left race-baiter Al Sharpton could hurt him with the wider electorate, but Monday night, without identifying a single issue on which George W. Bush has moved rightward from his at best moderately conservative positions, CBS stressed the downside of Bush's supposed "cozying up to the self-described religious right." Serving as CBS's lead experts: Opportunistic New York Congressman John King and Scott Reed, who ran Dole's disastrous 1996 campaign.

Dan Rather announced late in the March 13 broadcast:
"One issue that is sure to come up in the fall campaign that has already surfaced is Bush cozying up to the self-described religious right, including the Reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. CBS's Richard Schlessinger has been digging into this campaign 2000 story line, chapter and verse."

How much "digging" was necessary? This has been the media line for weeks. And as you'll see, there was not a single new thing in his story.

Over video of Bush on stage at Bob Jones University greeting the college's President, Schlessinger began: "If it's McCain voters the candidates want, this hug could be the kiss of death for the Bush campaign. His appearance at Bob Jones University, a bastion of the Christian right, helped Bush win, but at what price?"
Peter King, Congressman, R-NY: "George Bush certainly allowed himself to get too close to the elements of the Christian Right, which are gonna scare off people in other parts of the country."
Schlessinger beefed up King's credentials as a conservative: "He might not sound like it, but New York Congressman Peter King is a Republican. He supported John McCain, but he has a 100 percent approval rating from, of all groups, the Christian Coalition. Still, he worries about the GOP's alliance with the reverends of the right, including Jerry Falwell."
King: "It certainly hurts us in areas like the Northeast and the Midwest because we're viewed as being intolerant. There's a self-righteousness to their religious fervor."

Schlessinger then asserted without citing any actual data: "Polls show the Christian right contributed to the defeats of George Bush's father and Bob Dole. Dole's campaign chairman recommends George W. Bush stay away from Pat Robertson."
Scott Reed, former Dole campaign manager: "He is a bad symbol right now for George W. Bush as he-"
Schlessinger jumped in: "I can't believe I'm hearing a big Republican strategist say that. How times have changed."
Reed: "Surprise, surprise."
Schlessinger: "But Haley Barbour, who ran the Republican Party when Dole ran for President, remembers a kinder, gentler Christian Right that was, above all, loyal."
Haley Barbour: "One of the good things I like about working with them is once we have a nominee, even if it's not who they've supported in the primary, they usually unify behind our nominee."

Schlessinger warned: "Candidates have always jogged to the left and to the right and back to the center on their way here. The trick is finding your way back to the center, and a lot of people think Bush will have a tough time doing that."
Reed: "Bush has managed to get himself into a little bit of a bind right now. It looks like his back is up against the wall as these self-appointed leaders attempt to be calling all the shots on how the campaign should be run."

Could they do a worse job than Reed in 1996?

Schlessinger concluded with this shot: "Pollsters and pundits and politicians like to describe the primary season as a search for the soul of a party. Now the question is: Did George Bush sell his soul to the wrong group?"

Again, "sell his soul" by selling what? Bush is hardly any kind of, in CBS's terms, "hard-right" Republican.

I'd observe this one story was more than four times longer than the 23 seconds this same show allocated to Maria Hsia's conviction.

CBS's story also reminded me to offer another plug for the MRC's study released last Friday in our Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check: Over just eight nights network reporters referred to Bush tilting toward the right on 15 occasions, "but not one evening news report described John McCain's attack on the religious right as 'liberal' or 'going to the left.'" Go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2000/20000310.html

4

It's easy to get a liberal agenda issue promoted on the CBS Evening News. Just put out a press release. Last Thursday night's show provided an illustrative example of CBS's news judgment as the program ran three stories generated by announcements or claims from liberal groups. Conservative groups can only dream of such uncritical media acceptance.

-- Story #1: Dan Rather opened the March 9 show, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "CBS News has new and exclusive information tonight about important changes in the climate. U.S. weather experts will officially report tomorrow that winter 2000 is the warmest on record in the USA and a record warm winter for the third year in a row."

Jim Axelrod went first to liberal environmental advocate James Baker, who now runs NOAA, who claimed: "This winter, the last December, January, and February which just ended is the warmest winter on record in the United States. Every state in the country for this past winter was warmer than normal."

Axelrod then went to his left-wing source: "It hasn't been just this year, the last three winters are the three warmest on record. A trend that's raising concerns as well as temperatures."
Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists: "I think it's one of the most fundamental challenges that faces us in the 21st century."
Axelrod: "Alden Meyer sees more than just La Nina. In the climbing temperatures he sees damage done by factory and automobile emissions, global warming he says that requires a global warning."
Meyer: "It affects everything from the environment to food production, to human health, to the way we grow our food, the way we transport our goods and services, the way we live our lives basically."

Of course, most climatologists don't believe the Earth is really warming, but they can't get their press releases turned into CBS stories.

-- Story #2: Later in the show Rather plugged a "report" from a liberal advocacy group he failed to identify: "Under the U.S. Defense Department's official don't ask don't tell policy gays in the military are supposed to be allowed to serve as long as they don't reveal their homosexuality. But a new report offers evidence that it may not be working out quite that way and President Clinton says he is quote, 'concerned.'"

David Martin passed along an anecdote about a female sailor harassed by shipmates for being a lesbian: "She complained through Navy channels but nothing happened....Fearing for her safety, she admitted she was gay and was kicked out of the service."

C. Dixon Osburn of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the apparent source of the "report," asserted: "Service members are coerced into telling, they're hounded, they're harassed, they're chased out of the service."

Martin relayed the claim in the report but did not cite the group's name: "The Pentagon says it will not tolerate harassment, but a new report by a gay rights group says there were nearly 1,000 cases of gay harassment in the military last year. Double the year before."

-- Story #3: A few minutes later Rather wrapped up CBS's liberal trilogy by highlighting a complaint from an unnamed "environmental group." Rather announced: "There was another unwanted prize today for a majestic river of the Pacific Northwest. Once the happy hunting ground for Native Americans and traveled by legendary explorers Lewis and Clark. For the second straight year, an environmental group calls the Snake this nation's most endangered river with a dwindling salmon population. Keeping the fish from extinction calls for a radical solution."

Jerry Bowen explained how environmentalists in Oregon and Washington wish to tear down dams along the Snake River which have impeded the migration of salmon to spawning areas, but that would leave the river "too low for the barges and power plants to run, too."

Bowen explained how Oregon's Governor has devised a plan to ensure those hurt by the elimination of the dams are compensated. Bowen then continued with the liberal environmental agenda: "The Snake River dams are the biggest targets in a campaign to remove unneeded or environmentally harmful dams from America's rivers. The Matilija here in California is also on the list. But it would cost an estimated $80 million to dismantle it just so fish can migrate freely upriver again. Proponents argue it will cost much more if the dams remain, especially the Snake River dams."

Bowen concluded: "Environmentalists were lobbying hard in Washington today but a final proposal by the Army Corps of Engineers isn't likely until after the elections. Meanwhile, the clock is running for the fish and dams alike. Massive structures the salmon can't live with, and some people claim they can't live without."

While Bowen didn't mention them, his story appeared the very day a group called American Rivers held a press conference in Washington, DC to name the Snake River the most endangered in the country.

5

The March 10 MediaNomics, a report from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP), is now online. The articles researched and written by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

-- NBC's Law & Order Presents Biased View of the Stock Market. NBC's Law & Order, a gritty police and legal drama set in New York City, advertises the fact that it often presents cases "ripped from the headlines" -- dramatic episodes based on current news topics. But in a recent episode of the Wednesday night program, the writers seemed intent on presenting the market as a risky and terrifying place. The stock market itself was portrayed as a gambling casino rigged by insiders, while brokers were shown as coldly calculating greed machines who bilk customers with "pump and dump" Internet stock frauds.

-- CBS Lauds Anti-Corporate Trial Lawyer. The difference between a tough interview and a puffball interview is whether or not the questioner confronts the interviewee with the words of his worst critics, or just sits back and lets them tell their own story. When CBS's Dan Rather recently profiled trial lawyer Dickie Skruggs on 60 Minutes II, it was definitely not a tough interview.

-- Freedom vs. Rollerblades. On Sunday, March 5, Washington Post business columnist Michelle Singletary weighed in with her own observations of the case of Elian Gonzalez, the youngster who has lived in the United States since late November, when his mother and nine other people died while fleeing Cuba. Her column, written after a visit to the Communist-controlled island, is noteworthy for the completeness with which she missed the point of the entire controversy.

To read these stories, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/fmp/medianomics/2000/welcome.html

If you find these kinds of articles interesting, you can sign up to get them via e-mail. Check the bottom of the page at the above link and the bottom of each article for instructions on how to sign up for Rich's FMP e-mail list.

So far, Rich only has 0.3 percent as many subscribers as does CyberAlert, so consider giving him a boost. -- Brent Baker


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