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CyberAlert -- 07/11/2001 -- Worried McCain Will be Disappointed

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"Easier" to Discriminate; Worried McCain Will be Disappointed; Dreaming of Clinton; Sawyer Forgot "Endowed by Their Creator"

1) "Today the White House backed off a plan it was considering which would make it easier for charities to discriminate against gays and lesbians," Peter Jennings asserted in reflecting the media attitude which assumed it's bad to limit government interference with religious beliefs. Dan Rather complained about Bush's "latest bid to win support for funneling more federal tax dollars to what he calls 'faith-based charities.'"

2) NBC Nightly News jumped to highlight another liberal lobbying effort to expand government control of health care, disguised as a study, by Families USA. But at least Lisa Myers accurately described the organization as a "liberal group," though she later reverted to the usual media tag of "consumer group."

3) Jane Clayson of CBS's The Early Show was more concerned about the prospects for passage of the House version on McCain-Feingold than in its merits. She asked John McCain and Marty Meehan if they were worried about blockage by Tom DeLay. Her questions: "How optimistic are you that it will pass?" and "If it doesn't go your way how disappointed will you be?"

4) Diane Sawyer revealed that "after pepperoni pizza and banana milkshakes once, I dreamed about Bill Clinton." Tuesday morning GMA's Charles Gibson mocked Sawyer for highlighting a "study" about how Republicans have more nightmares than Democrats, but Peter Jennings treated it as a serious news item.

5) Diane Sawyer's version of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable Rights, among these Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.'" What did she skip?

6) The July 9 Newsweek shouted its bias from its cover: "The Stem Cell Wars: Embryo Research vs. Pro-Life Politics: There's Hope for Alzheimer's, Heart Disease, Parkinson's and Diabetes. But Will Bush Cut Off the Money?"

7) Gary Condit: ABC and CBS sit out the story in the evening; if you can read between the lines you can figure out from NBC's Andrea Mitchell that Condit is a Democrat; when his party is identified it's with a "conservative' modifier; and ABC stated that Condit is "a personal service Congressman."


>>> Video of new CNN chief Walter Isaacson now online. During a 1997 appearance on Fox News Sunday Isaacson, then the Managing Editor of Time, insisted: "I don't think that there's a bias in the media now the way there used to be." He maintained: "I think that our newsroom at Time and the people who write there are open minded and are not Democrats and liberals as the popular perception is." To view the RealPlayer video clip as posted by the MRC's Andy Szul, or to just see a picture of Isaacson, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010710.asp#1 <<<

1

The latest controversy to ensnare Bush's faith-based initiative idea raised an area of conflict which demonstrates why many conservatives oppose the plan -- because it would allow the government to dictate the internal policies of religious groups -- but in their reporting Monday night the networks saw the issue through a liberal prism, more concerned about furthering discrimination against gays than in freeing religious groups from government dictates. At issue: a Washington Post story on an idea floated to exempt the Salvation Army and other religious groups from having to follow state and federal laws which would force them to hire gays.

"Today the White House backed off a plan it was considering which would make it easier for charities to discriminate against gays and lesbians," Peter Jennings announced in setting up a story he could have approached from the right by saying something like "Today the White House backed off a plan it was considering which would have protected religious groups from government interference with adherence to their religious beliefs."

CBS's Dan Rather declared: "The President's latest bid to win support for funneling more federal tax dollars to what he calls 'faith-based charities' may have backfired over a dispute over laws already on the books concerning discrimination against gays." When last did Rather ever complain about "funneling more federal tax dollars" to a welfare program? "Tonight that image of care and compassion," CBS's Jim Axelrod warned about the Salvation Army, "is taking a back seat to back room politics" as the White House moved "to circumvent state and local anti-discrimination laws in hiring gays."

More details about coverage on Tuesday night, July 10:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings approached from the left in introducing a piece from Terry Moran: "The Bush administration appears to have been caught again in the thorny political issue of gay rights. Today the White House backed off a plan it was considering which would make it easier for charities to discriminate against gays and lesbians. This is one way the Bush administration thought it could win support from religious groups for its controversial faith-based initiative."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened the broadcast: "Two major policy decisions facing President Bush are reaching critical mass. Both involve the combustible mix of politics and religion. The President's latest bid to win support for funneling more federal tax dollars to what he calls 'faith-based charities' may have backfired over a dispute over laws already on the books concerning discrimination against gays."

First, CBS went to John Roberts, who promised: "A confidential report obtained by CBS News is the latest evidence of the promise of embryonic stem cells. Drafted for President Bush by top scientists at the National Institutes of Health...."

Second, Rather returned to the Salvation Army story: "As for President Bush's widely-publicized faith-based initiatives plan, the Salvation Army became ground zero today in a dispute over what Mr. Bush is willing to give religious charities to get their backing for it."
Jim Axelrod began: "Providing help to 39 million people a year, the Salvation Army likes to call itself America's most popular charity. But tonight that image of care and compassion is taking a back seat to back room politics. According to the Washington Post, this Salvation Army document details a 'firm commitment' from the White House to circumvent state and local anti-discrimination laws in hiring gays."

-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams introduced a full report from David Gregory: "There's late political news tonight. The Bush administration has just this evening reversed itself on what began as a report in the Washington Post and as the day went on was becoming increasingly controversial. At issue: the separation of church and state. It involved a possible plan to exempt religious charities from having to hire gay Americans."

The night before, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, Williams had plugged the Post story on his The News with Brian Williams on MSNBC: "The Washington Post has their hands on what will be a big story tomorrow. They're reporting the Bush administration is working with the Salvation Army to make it easier for government-funded religious charities to discriminate against gay people in their hiring practices. The Post is citing an internal Salvation Army document it obtained. It says the White House would issue a regulation protecting the charities from state and city efforts to prevent hiring discrimination against gays. It also suggests the President is willing to use federal regulations to achieve goals that are too controversial to survive the legislative process in Washington."

And "too controversial to survive" network portrayals.

2

NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night jumped to highlight another liberal lobbying effort to expand government control of health care, disguised as a "study," from Families USA. But at least Lisa Myers accurately described the organization as a "liberal group," though she later reverted to the usual media tag of "consumer group."

As noted in the June 21 CyberAlert, the night before World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas led the show by claiming health insurance executives receive exorbitant compensation while "patients in many of those health plans are being denied coverage." ABC News reporter Linda Douglass soon benignly identified the source of the numbers: "The report was compiled by a consumer group, Families USA, a critic of HMO cost cutting."

Back to Tuesday night, July 10, Lisa Myers opened her NBC Nightly News piece: "Today's report by the liberal group Families USA, based on records the companies filed with the government, finds that last year eight of nine top drug companies spent nearly twice as much on marketing, advertising and administration, as on research and development of new drugs. Also for six of those companies, last year's profits exceeded spending on drug research."

Near the end of the piece, which did allow a pharmaceutical industry spokesman to deny the claims, Myers added: "Today's report by the consumer group was part of a campaign to enact some sort of drug price controls."

3

Jane Clayson of CBS's The Early Show was more concerned Monday morning about the prospects for passage of the House version on McCain-Feingold than in the merits of the regulatory scheme. Other than one question to Senator John McCain about accusations that he is "bullying" House members into backing his bill, Clayson spent the entire interview with McCain and Democratic Congressman Marty Meehan offering prompts for them to describe their bills and questions such as: "How optimistic are you that it will pass?" and "If it doesn't go your way how disappointed will you be?"

Clayson set up the July 9 segment, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
"This week the House takes up the issue of campaign finance reform. Congressman Martin Meehan is the co-sponsor of a House bill that closely mirrors the Senate version which passed in April which was written by Senator John McCain. Both men are in Boston this morning. Congressman Meehan and Senator McCain, good morning. Senator McCain, let me start with you. House Majority Whip Tom Delay says he will stop this campaign finance reform bill at any cost, do you worry that he will?"

-- "Well, the word is that he's even threatening House Republicans with their committee assignments for voting against his version of campaign finance reform. That must be of some concern to you."

-- "Members of your own party, Senator, specifically House Speaker Dennis Hastert, accuse you of bullying House members to get them to go along with your campaign finance reform as sort of a quid-pro-quo you might say for campaigning for them during last year's election. Have you been bullying people, Senator?"

-- "Congressman Meehan, let me turn to you. Word on the Hill is that your bill is in serious trouble, how optimistic are you that it will pass?"

-- "Essentially, as you mentioned, your bill would ban soft money which is described as unlimited, unregulated, unreported contributions, correct?"

-- "By my accounts, $500 million out of $3 billion in the last campaign was soft money. How will the average American notice a difference in the process if your bill passes?"

-- Back to McCain: "I've just got 30 seconds left, Senator, I was going to ask you, you've worked so hard on campaign finance reform, if it doesn't go your way how disappointed will you be?"

-- "In a line, what are your chances, Senator?"

4

Tuesday morning Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson mocked his colleague Diane Sawyer for highlighting a "study" about how Republicans have more nightmares than Democrats, but Tuesday night World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings treated it as a serious item worthy of air time. Sawyer also revealed that "after pepperoni pizza and banana milkshakes once, I dreamed about Bill Clinton."

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that near the end of the July 10 GMA Diane Sawyer intoned: "So, there's a study out which shows that even though ideology by day separates Democrats and Republicans a lot, it separates it even more by night. The new study shows that members of the GOP have nearly three times more nightmares than any Democrats do. So, unless they're all named Bill Clinton, what can it mean?"
Charles Gibson: "No. The Republicans have three times more nightmares than the Democrats?"
Sawyer: "Their theory, of course, is that Republicans, by virtue of being more conservative, are more concerned about threats to the status quo, so they're dreaming at night about anything that can impede or injure or change the status quo. I don't know -- ask Dr. Freud! What do I know?"
Gibson: "Do you put great validity in this study, Ms. Sawyer?"
Sawyer: "Well no, but I do know-"
Gibson: "Then why do you report it to the American public?"
Sawyer: "After pepperoni pizza and banana milkshakes once, I dreamed about Bill Clinton, but no, I don't know what it means, or whether we take it seriously or not, but it does seem sort of intuitive, I believe."
Gibson: "I want to announce that there is a new study that has just been done by a team of scientists that proves whatever you want it to prove. We'll be back. Stay with us."

Gibson's mocking of the story didn't dissuade Peter Jennings. A few hours later on World News Tonight he relayed: "There's one other item in the medical file we couldn't resist. A study being presented at the University of California-Santa Cruz finds that Republicans are nearly three times more likely than Democrats to have nightmares. Researchers speculate that Republicans are very attuned to dangers in the world."

Maybe conservatives get scared by network news stars who dream about Bill Clinton after eating pepperoni pizza with a banana milkshake.

5

Diane Sawyer skipped over "endowed by their creator." During ABC's hour-long "Independence Day 2001" special from Philadelphia's July 4 celebration, Sawyer read the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Well, most of it.

She announced: "You know, it's hard to imagine now that it was such a shocking idea at the time, these words: 'We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable Rights, among these Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.'"

I was in New Hampshire last week where neither the Boston or Manchester ABC affiliates carried live the 10pm EDT broadcast hosted by Sawyer and Charles Gibson (they showed the concert from Boston's Esplanade which featured Peter Jennings reading historic passages), but Northern Virginia free-lance writer Steve Allen alerted me to the incident.

Here's the preamble in full: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson reminded me it's not the first time Sawyer has offered an unusual take on God. Back on the September 9, 1999 Good Morning America, after Bill Gaither and his choir in Tennessee sang "Good morning, America," this exchange occurred:
Charles Gibson: "That is one of the fine gospel groups in this country, and they have a new album called, 'God is Good.'"
Diane Sawyer: "Yes, she is. I can confirm it."
Gibson, laughing: "Smattering of applause around the studio."

[WEB UPDATE: The "Page Six" column in the July 7 New York Post reported Sawyer's foul-up and ABC's denial that it was intentional: "Was it a flub, or was the script written without the Lord to make for better cadence? An ABC spokeswoman said in a prepared statement: 'This is a non-story. At certain points, Diane Sawyer read excerpts from the historic document. By no means did we edit the Declaration of Independence.' Celebs including Michael Douglas, Renee Zellweger, Winona Ryder and Whoopi Goldberg went on to read the full text of the declaration -- and Kathy Bates clearly mentioned the 'creator' when her turn came."]

6

Catching up with another item from last week, the July 9 Newsweek shouted its bias from its cover which declared: "The Stem Cell Wars: Embryo Research vs. Pro-Life Politics: There's Hope for Alzheimer's, Heart Disease, Parkinson's and Diabetes. But Will Bush Cut Off the Money?" As National Review's Washington Bulletin e-mail asked, "why didn't the magazine just go all the way? 'Science vs. Pro-Life Fanatics: Will Bush Condemn Millions of People to Lingering, Painful Deaths?'"

Since National Review did such a good job summarizing the bias in the cover story pieces, below is an excerpt of NR's Washington Bulletin from July 3 by John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru:

The cover of the latest issue of Newsweek is pretty remarkable.... What's remarkable is that the cover more or less announces the bias of the cover story.

From top to bottom, the cover text reads: "The Stem Cell Wars: Embryo Research vs. Pro-Life Politics: There's Hope for Alzheimer's, Heart Disease, Parkinson's and Diabetes. But Will Bush Cut Off the Money?" Why didn't the magazine just go all the way? "Science vs. Pro-Life Fanatics: Will Bush Condemn Millions of People to Lingering, Painful Deaths?"

The image on the cover is of a three-day-old human embryo. Most people will look at that image and think, "That doesn't look like a human being at all." (This reaction, while understandable, is irrational: In fact, the embryo looks exactly the way a human being looks three days after conception.) It's perfectly fair and reasonable for Newsweek to use the image. We would note only that it is unimaginable that Newsweek would use an image that loaded in the opposite direction. A story on abortion would be much more likely to be illustrated with a coat-hanger than a sonogram of a five-month-old fetus. (Let alone a dismembered fetus.) The stories inside the magazine are exactly what you'd expect, given the cover and Newsweek's general proclivities. The lead story, by Sharon Begley, is the longest. It summarizes the science well and, as far as we can tell, fairly. Proponents of stem-cell research get to make their case at length. Opponents are quoted too: They get exactly two words (eleven letters) in. And that quote is immediately rebutted, unlike any of the pro-research quotes. Here's how the piece concludes: Not funding stem-cell research would amount to "squelching what is, more than anything, a quest for knowledge. We simply don't know how embryonic cells might help people who are suffering and dying today. By banning the research, we uphold the most extreme view of the sanctity of life, but at a price: foreclosing the possibility of doing all we can to improve the lot of the living."

Set aside that bit about extremism. Any research, including research on humans that most people would find objectionable, can legitimately be described as "a quest for knowledge." And the reference to "the living" skates right by the actual subject of the dispute-whether the embryos are in fact living human beings. (They're not dead, and they're not inanimate.)

Next come three pages on the politics of the research from Evan Thomas and-uh oh-Eleanor Clift. Subhead: "The president is trapped between religion and science over stem cells." Here's a flavor of what the article is like: "Pure politics helps explain why the White House has long been expected to ban federal funding for research on stem cells extracted from human embryos....And yet Bush is clearly discovering that the politics and ethics of stem-cell research are more complicated than a simple 'no' from the federal government. By a 3-1 margin, the public wants to go forward with research that has the potential to provide magical [!!] cures for a host of neurological and other diseases." The article concludes with some helpful suggestions on how President Bush can betray stem-cell opponents without suffering too much political damage.

Finally, a note of fairness: The magazine's religion correspondent, Kenneth Woodward, has a short piece on the ethics of stem-cell research that doesn't have a conclusion to pound us over the head with....

END Excerpt

For the latest Washington Bulletins, go to: http://www.nationalreview.com

7

Gary Condit notes: ABC and CBS sit out the story in the evening; if you can read between the lines you can figure out from NBC's Andrea Mitchell that Condit is a Democrat; when his party is identified it's with a "conservative' modifier; and ABC stated that Condit is "a personal service Congressman."

-- Despite the assumption that all the networks, morning and evening, are pursuing the Condit story, two shows are avoiding it. While it led the NBC Nightly News on both Monday and Tuesday night, after airing stories over the weekend, ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News have given it a total of 11 seconds on Monday and Tuesday night. Specifically, neither uttered a syllable Monday night, July 9, and on Tuesday night, July 10, CBS ignored it again while ABC's Peter Jennings took 11 seconds to note how the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police have taken up Condit on his willingness to have his apartment searched.

-- On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News Andrea Mitchell only implied that Condit is a Democrat: "When Congress returned from vacation today Condit is a no show at a briefing by conservative Democrats." And: "No matter what Condit decides about his political future, as of today he has a Republican challenger."

-- When labeled, add the "conservative" modifier. Last week, on the July 5 Today, NBC News reporter George Lewis checked in from Condit's district: "Still Condit, a popular conservative Democrat, had plenty of support in spite of his absence."

Condit has a lifetime 52 percent rating from the Americans with Democratic Action and a 48 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, so he's hardly a flaming liberal, but he's significantly more liberal than several House Democrats from the South and West. "Moderate Democrat" would be a more accurate description.

-- An implication a reporter probably didn't intend in the wake of the confirmation that Condit had an intimate relationship with missing constituent Chandra Levy. The MRC's newest analyst, Patrick Gregory, caught this line from ABC reporter Brian Rooney on the July 9 Good Morning America. Between soundbites of Condit constituents praising his work for their district, Rooney managed to link Condit to the GOP: "Condit is a Democrat who often votes with the Republican opposition but also is popular as a personal service Congressman."

"A personal service Congressman." Fill in your own quip. -- Brent Baker


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