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CyberAlert -- 03/15/2000 -- Sudden Wealth Syndrome

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Sudden Wealth Syndrome; NRA Out of Context; Admiring Bradley; "Chug-a-Lug" Bush

1) The upcoming campaign "could be the most expensive, nastiest presidential campaign yet," warned Dan Rather. Forget the campaign, NBC Nightly News explored "Sudden Wealth Syndrome."

2) Network stories left out the support for NRA claims that Clinton is "willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda" and "when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie."

3) On Today Matt Lauer demanded that the NRA's Wayne LaPierre justify his criticism of Clinton but asked Clinton aide Joe Lockhart if he agreed with Al Gore's claim that LaPierre's comment showed "a kind of sickness at the very heart of the NRA."

4) On MSNBC Newsweek's Jonathan Alter admired Bill Bradley for prodding the Democratic Party to "focus more on issues like health care, child poverty, campaign finance reform." If we don't, he quoted Bradley, "future generations will judge us harshly."

5) "He's got a lot of chug-a-lug contests he's got to get to," Tom Brokaw joked on the Late Show about George Bush who he seriously maintained had moved toward "the harder-right."

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Headlines During a George W. Bush Presidency."


1

With Super Tuesday Two having fizzled, of the broadcast networks on Tuesday night only the CBS Evening News even ran a full story directly related to the presidential campaign while NBC Nightly News found time to explore the latest menace in the land: "Sudden Wealth Syndrome."

The March 14 World News Tonight on ABC led with cloned piglets and used the balloting in Florida as a peg for a piece about how in states like Florida, which ban voting by those convicted of a crime, nearly one in three black men are barred from voting.

The matching piglets also topped the CBS Evening News on which anchor Dan Rather warned the upcoming campaign "could be the most expensive, nastiest presidential campaign yet." Bill Whitaker examined the themes emerging from each camp. Gore, he related, is hitting what Whitaker described as Bush's "massive tax cut" and Gore claims Bush does nothing to save Social Security or Medicare. Bush, Whitaker relayed, accuses Gore of hypocrisy over campaign finance reform and reminds audiences of Gore's transgressions. Whitaker asserted that they are the same is some ways: "Both are well-born sons of big name politicians, with no aversion to the political down and dirty."

Escalating violence in Kosovo led the NBC Nightly News which used a Florida judge's ruling against a voucher program as a hook for a piece on how Gore and Bush view vouchers and school choice. Anchor Tom Brokaw soon got to NBC's big scoop of the day, a dangerous new syndrome spreading from California:
"It is no secret, of course, that this economy has generated enormous new wealth in America, sudden wealth that changes lives dramatically, but having it all can generate some unexpected problems that send many of the newly rich running for the therapist."

Reporter Jim Avila explained the alleged disease, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "It's an unusual virus with unusual symptoms. The hot zone, California's Silicon Valley, where experts say sixty new millionaires created every day. Symptoms: Too much money, too much loneliness. After treating many patients, psychologists have a name for it: 'Sudden Wealth Syndrome,' and a center of study."
Joan Di Furia, of something called the "Money, Meaning and Choices Institute," which could only be based in California, listed the indicators: "An array of symptoms may be that they are embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, sometimes in denial of their money."
Avila added: "A sense of isolation, imbalance, brought on by sudden riches and nothing meaningful to do."

Continuing to treat the "syndrome" as a serious subject Avila proceeded to showcase as a victim the current CEO of Northern Light, an Internet search company, who before accepting his current position was bored at being part of the "idle rich."

I have a better syndrome for NBC to explore: "Stupid News Priorities Syndrome." Case in point: NBC Nightly News producers who decided "Sudden Wealth Syndrome" deserved an entire story but have allocated just four seconds to Maria Hsia's conviction.

2

The feud between the NRA and Bill Clinton generated full stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Monday night focusing on the ugly tone of the battle. The argument had gained a "personal note of nastiness," maintained Dan Rather. But in quoting in isolation NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre's soundbite about how Clinton is "willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda," they failed to tell viewers how LaPierre preceded his assertion by explaining how Clinton had rejected a deal on many issues over his disagreement in one area.

The stories also all played a clip from NRA President Charlton Heston asserting in an NRA TV ad: "Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie." ABC's John Cochran insisted that shows how "the NRA continues to make its fight personal." But only NBC's Pete Williams explained the justification for Heston calling Clinton a liar, noting what preceded the Heston soundbite: "The NRA is running TV ads claiming that trigger locks would not have prevented the first grader shooting because that gun came from a house authorities say was used by drug dealers." CBS's Bill Plante did note how the NRA blamed Clinton's refusal to compromise, but offered no details on which laws were therefore not enacted.

Below is a rundown of the March 13 ABC, CBS and NBC stories on the NRA and Clinton followed by the full quote from LaPierre and complete text of the NRA's new TV ad.

-- ABC World News Tonight. Anchor Charles Gibson intoned:
"In Washington today, the unusually bitter feud between President Clinton and the National Rifle Association grew even uglier. The White House called the NRA's attacks on the President outrageous and disgusting. At issue, the insults both sides hurled at each other yesterday when the NRA went so far as to hint that the President didn't mind gun violence because he could use it for political advantage."

John Cochran, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, began with Clinton's retort: "The President said the gun lobby is using smear tactics, especially a claim by an NRA official implying that Clinton refuses to enforce current gun control laws so he can use tragic shooting incidents to argue for more gun control."
Clinton: "He said, 'I have come to believe that Clinton needs a certain level of violence in this country. He's willing to...'"
ABC jumped to Wayne LaPierre from This Week on Sunday to complete the quote: "He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda."

Viewers then heard from Al Gore: "Mr. LaPierre's comment reveals a kind of sickness at the very heart of the NRA."
LaPierre told Cochran: "You know, people shouldn't be scared of tough talk, John. What they ought to be scared of is presidential dishonesty, and sometimes it takes tough talk to make people look at what's really going on."
Cochran cautioned: "But today, even Governor George Bush seemed to think the NRA had gone too far."
Bush: "You know, I think we can have a civil discussion on emotional issues without name-calling."

Cochran put the burden on the NRA: "Behind the name-calling on both sides is a bitter fight over gun legislation, especially over how much time should be required to make background checks on anyone who tries to buy a gun at a gun show. The gun lobby has distributed fliers on Capitol Hill urging members to vote against a measure that would only force discussion of gun control. And the NRA continues to make its fight personal."
Charlton Heston, in NRA TV ad: "Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie."
Cochran concluded: "Privately, many Democrats are overjoyed that the NRA has gone on the attack. Most Democrats believe anything that highlights the gun battle will bring them votes this fall."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather: "The battle over gun control has taken on a new and personal note of nastiness. Among other things, President Clinton today accused the gun lobby, and by inference its Republican allies, of quote 'political smear tactics.' and that was just for starters. CBS's Bill Plante at the White House reports what the NRA said and did to draw such a sharp presidential response."

Plante started his piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "The long running feud between the Clinton administration and the National Rifle Association has escalated to new levels of bitterness. The President wants new gun controls, the NRA charges that the administration fails to enforce the laws already on the books. NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggested over the weekend that Mr. Clinton cares more about playing politics than about gun violence."
LaPierre from ABC's This Week: "I mean I've come to believe he needs a certain level of violence in this country. He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda."
Plante picked up: "The President's spokesman called LaPierre's remarks sick and disgusting. Today Mr. Clinton read them to an audience in Cleveland and delivered his response."
Bill Clinton: "Well he can say that on television, I guess. I'd like to see him look into the eyes of little Kayla Rollins mother and say that. Or the parents of Columbine, or Springfield, Oregon; or Jonesboro, Arkansas."

Plante noted: "In a TV advertising campaign, NRA President Charlton Heston charges that is was not the NRA but President Clinton who blocked tougher gun laws, because he was unwilling to compromise and he all but calls the President a liar."
Heston in TV ad: "Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong it's a mistake, when you know it's wrong that's a lie. Remember?"
Plante moved to a larger political point: "One reason each side blames the other for gun violence, they believe that recent shootings have turned more suburban women toward tighter gun controls."

After a supporting soundbite from a political analyst, Plante concluded: "And the Congress could yet give the public some action on gun control before the election. But the White House and the NRA are fighting over who gets the blame at the polls the next time there's a gun rampage in a school."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw stressed the Clinton-Gore reaction: "Tonight President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore with some of their strongest comments ever about the NRA, the National Rifle Association. This after the Executive Vice President of the NRA charged over the weekend that President Clinton is willing to accept a certain level of violence to further his own political agenda. Well that brought heated and pointed responses today from the President and from Vice President Gore whose making gun control a primary theme of his own presidential campaign."

Pete Williams opened, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "The President who wants to make more gun control part of his legacy today answered back at the National Rifle Association as the debate takes on an unusually bitter tone. Responding to the NRA's accusation over the weekend that the President is willing to accept some killing to help push for more gun laws the White House called that quote, 'outrageous and disgusting.' And Mr. Clinton dared the NRA spokesman to repeat the statement to the parents of recent shooting victims including the Michigan first grader."
Bill Clinton: "I'd like to see him look into the eyes of little Kayla Rolland's mother and say that. Or the parents at Columbine or Springfield, Oregon or Jonesboro, Arkansas."
Williams continued: "The Clinton White House has been saying for two weeks now that the recent shootings help make the case for laws requiring background checks for sales at gun shows and trigger or safety locks for new gun sales. In response the NRA is running TV ads claiming that trigger locks would not have prevented the first grader shooting because that gun came from a house authorities say was used by drug dealers."
Heston in TV ad: "His solution is to give crack house drug dealers safety locks? Mr. Clinton when what you say is wrong that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong that's a lie."

Williams moved on: "As the President attacked the gun lobby today in a speech in Cleveland the NRA refused to repeat its accusation made over the weekend while continuing to say that the White House is playing politics. Failing to work harder at enforcing gun laws already on the books."
Wayne LaPierre: "This administration has provided, presided over a shameful and disgraceful lack of enforcement of any of those existing federal gun laws."
Williams: "But Vice President Gore says today that by using such harsh rhetoric the NRA has lost its credibility."
Al Gore: "I believe that Mr. LaPierre's comment reveals a kind of sickness at the very heart of the NRA."
Williams ended with the same point made by ABC's Cochran: "Tonight some White House aides are actually welcoming the NRA's attacks, believing they'll help draw even more attention to the gun issue."

-- ABC's Good Morning America on Monday ran a piece by Andrea McCarren, which began: "It was the most contentious battle yet between the National Rifle Association and President Clinton."
President Clinton: "I just think that their kneejerk reaction to any gun safety measure is wrong."
Wayne LaPierre: "I've come to believe he needs a certain level of violence in this country, he's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda."
McCarren: "The heated exchange follows a series of new NRA ads which assault the President's character."
Charlton Heston, in ad: "Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie."

-- The full quotes. Now compare the implications and meanings you gathered from the shortened soundbites above with what you learn from reading the context for the words extracted in the network story soundbites:

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson tracked down from the March 12 edition of ABC's This Week the full context for LaPierre's criticism of Clinton:
"I mean, Cokie, let me define the level of dishonesty that this man is capable of. And I've been in this town for 20 years through the political storms. He could have had a bill last summer that included mandatory safety locks with the sale of every gun; included checks at all gun shows on all gun sales with a 24-hour delay; included juvenile Brady, where violent juveniles would be forever prohibited from owning guns; would even have included Dianne Feinstein's import ban on high-capacity magazines; and he killed it all over the issue of a 72-hour wait. I mean, I've come to believe he needs a certain level of violence in this country. He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda."

As for daring to suggest Clinton is a liar, here's the context for that ending line in one of at least two NRA ads running in the Washington, DC media market which feature Charlton Heston:
"When a six-year old in a crack house finds a stolen gun and shoots a schoolmate, the President doesn't demand gun theft prosecution or busting drug dealers. He demands safety locks. Don't get me wrong. Nobody supports safety locks more than the NRA. But his solution is to give crack house drug dealers safety locks? Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, that's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie."

3

Challenging LaPierre, setting up Lockhart. The NRA's Wayne LaPierre and White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart appeared in the same segment on Tuesday's Today, but while interviewer Matt Lauer demanded that LaPierre defend NRA claims he asked Lockhart if he agreed with Gore's attack on the NRA.

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed the contrast and took down the March 14 questions:

-- Matt Lauer to Wayne LaPierre: "Let me read you what you said, quote where you said, President Clinton is quote, 'willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda.' Do you really believe that?"
"But the statement, let me go back to the statement, though Mr. LaPierre. Do you think he accepts the killing to further his political agenda?"
"Let me play you what the President said in response to your comment Mr. LaPierre. Here it is."
After a clip of Clinton challenging LaPierre to make his criticism to the parents of the child killed in Michigan: "What would you say, Mr. LaPierre, to the parents of those who've been killed by gun violence in this country?"

-- Lauer then moved to Lockhart: "The Vice President said recently that Mr. LaPierre's comments quote reveal 'a kind of sickness at the very heart of the NRA.' Would you agree with that?"
"So what you are saying is there isn't a sickness at the heart of the NRA that there is just this verbal attack or verbal barrage taking place now because of political reasons."

-- Back to LaPierre: "Let me go back to Mr. LaPierre. What about that? You fought tooth and nail to stop the Brady Bill and now you're complaining the Brady Bill is not being enforced."

-- And over to Lockhart: "Let's let the White House answer that. Mr. Lockhart go ahead."

-- Finally, back to pressing LaPierre: "Mr. LaPierre let me ask you real quickly. Do you think the President is lying when he talks about the NRA's record. In a new ad Charlton Heston says, he's the President of the NRA, that when you say something wrong that's a mistake, when you know it's wrong that's a lie. Referring to President Clinton's comments about the NRA. Is the President lying?"

4

Newsweek reporter and NBC News analyst Jonathan Alter criticized the mechanics of how Bill Bradley ran his campaign, but admired his liberal goals. Catching up with an item from last Thursday when Bill Bradley dropped out of the presidential contest, MRC intern Ken Shepherd took down Alter's words as uttered on MSNBC just after Bradley's 11am ET announcement.

In his March 9 analysis Alter praised Bradley for prodding the Democratic Party to "focus more on issues like health care, child poverty, campaign finance reform." Alter admonished: "In his speech today he indicated something very important -- that future generations will judge us harshly if we don't use this prosperity more aggressively to deal with some of these long range problems."

Here's the full quote from Alter: "He didn't have the nimbleness that you sometimes need on one of these campaigns to be kind of loose on the court which he was in basketball but wasn't as much in this campaign. But Chris, I think that that and his failure to fight back early and the other tactical mistakes that he made kind of obscure some of the larger issues that he was trying to raise and he's a decent man who was trying to change the Democratic Party in a more compassionate way. And I think in the larger sweep of history his tactical mistakes will seem smaller than the fact that he tried to get the Democratic Party to focus more on issues like health care, child poverty, campaign finance reform and in his speech today he indicated something very important -- that future generations will judge us harshly if we don't use this prosperity more aggressively to deal with some of these long range problems."

Anchor Chris Jansing wondered: "But realistically how much influence can he have? I mean the general perception is that the two Democratic candidates in truth were not that far apart on most of the issues."

Well, he won't have as much influence as Alter would like, as he regretted: "That is correct. I don't think that he will have any profound influence on the party platform. But what he will do is he will be a kind of a constant prod I think even after, if Al Gore is elected President, a prod saying there from the sidelines, hey can't we move a little more aggressively on poverty, can't we move a little faster on children's health and to say, look, aim higher. That was really the point of his whole campaign was to try to have us do better. And even though he messed up the mechanics of his campaign, he made a lot of mistakes, that basic message I think will be a part of the debate from here on in."

5

George W. Bush was lucky he won on Super Tuesday because "it's the keg season, he's got a lot of chug-a-lug contests he's got to get to," Tom Brokaw joked on the Late Show with David Letterman last Friday night. He later took a milder poke at Al Gore for being "like one of those kids who believes everything that his parents wrote about him in the Christmas newsletter."

In between, Brokaw very seriously assessed the campaign and naturally didn't see anything liberal about Gore but insisted Bush had moved toward "the harder-right within the Republican Party and get identified as a Pat Robertson Republican." Yeah, "identified" that way by NBC News.

In the middle of talking about the John McCain-Maria Shriver confrontation in which McCain told her to "please get out of here," Brokaw joked: "And it was important for George Bush to have won on Super Tuesday to put that behind him because the Spring is coming on, it's the keg season, he's got a lot of chug-a-lug contests he's got to get to."

Returning to McCain on the March 10 show, Letterman wondered what all the fuss was about over McCain's comment. Brokaw also came to McCain's defense: "In fact it was understandable that he would behave that way. In fact you don't want your leaders to be all milquetoast, you want them to have honest emotions and he'd not had an easy day, they'd been campaigning a long time. They knew that it was over..."

Letterman next queried: "What do you think about the guys we are left with now. It looks like it will be Gore, it looks like it will be George W. for sure I guess. And a friend of mine, a friend of your's told me on the phone the other day that Al Gore would beat George W. like a drum."
Brokaw offered a political assessment which matched liberal conventional wisdom: "I think it's too early to say that. I think that one of the advantages that Al Gore has right now is that he's a unified Democratic Party and George Bush to get the nomination had to move in a direction that he didn't want to, which was to move to the harder-right within the Republican Party and get identified as a Pat Robertson Republican. John McCain was out there picking off the independents and the moderate Democrats in the crossover primaries. Now Bush has got to find a way to get McCain into his tent and get those people back if he's going to have an even start against Al Gore.
"But you know the thing about Al Gore, I described him earlier this year, he's like one of those kids who believes everything that his parents wrote about him in the Christmas newsletter. I mean you know, he has the most revised sense of history."

++ See Brokaw's pokes at Bush and Gore and hear the audience's reactions. Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of Brokaw on Letterman. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

6

From the March 8 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Headlines During a George W. Bush Presidency." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "President Streaks Supreme Court"
9. "President Fails In Shoe-Tying Bid"
8. "President To Nation: 'Do These Non-Prescription Eyeglasses Make Me Look Smarter?'"
7. "Bush To Hussein: 'I'm Telling My Daddy On You'"
6. "President Cancels Meeting With Pope After Discovering He's Catholic"
5. "Bush Remembers Setting Nuclear Football Down At The Mall, Doesn't Know What Happened To It"
4. "America Under Siege: Day 16 of President's Head Stuck In Banister"
3. "Even Dumber George Bush III Preparing For 2012 Election"
2. "President Completes 3 Month 'Goodwill Tour' Of Amsterdam"
1. "President Trades America For 'Magic Dog'"

If you're wondering why I featured this list, other than the fact that it's humorous and the MRC is a non-partisan foundation which has run past Letterman Top Tens on Gore, it's to illustrate the public perception of one of the two major party candidates. Comedians like Jay Leno and David Letterman may strengthen public opinion by portraying a public figure in a certain way, but they never tell jokes they don't believe match already formed images of persons or events. The fact that Letterman would showcase a Top Ten list about Bush as a lightweight and a bumbler demonstrates that is how much of the public now sees him.

The question for the next few months will be is that more because of reality or media bias. -- Brent Baker


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