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CyberAlert -- 07/13/2001 -- "Scoundrels" Blocked McCain

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"Scoundrels" Blocked McCain; CBS's Rove "Impropriety"; Condit Suddenly Labeled; Alter Fooled & Called for Condit to Resign

1) In ruing its defeat in the House, NBC's Brian Williams insisted campaign finance reform was "one of the highest profile issues on the agenda in Congress and in the last election." John McCain, Williams passed along, "called the procedural block, quote, 'the last refuge of scoundrels.'"

2) CBS uncovered the "impropriety" of Bush's top policy adviser advising him. The CBS Evening News explored the "controversy" over how Karl Rove met with the Salvation Army. John Roberts divulged the agenda behind the attack: "Some Republicans are increasingly concerned that Rove is catering to the President's conservative base at the expense of party moderates."

3) Nothing less than creation of another entitlement program will satisfy ABC's Charles Gibson. Before pounding away at HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson over the inadequacy of Bush's prescription drug plan, he insisted that 15 million seniors must choose "between buying medicine and buying food."

4) The MRC speaks and the networks jump? Thursday night, after the MRC on Thursday afternoon released a Media Reality Check documenting how in 92 percent of stories the networks have not identified Gary Condit as a Democrat, both ABC's Peter Jennings and NBC's Brian Williams noted Condit's party affiliation -- a first for World News Tonight.

5) The networks insist upon describing Gary Condit's district as "conservative" or "very conservative" even though Michael Dukakis earned 47 percent of its vote in 1988 while Bill Clinton won the most votes in 1992 and 1996. The "political tradition here is Democratic" declared the Almanac of American Politics.

6) Jonathan Alter of Newsweek was fooled by an appearance on Imus by a pretend "Anne Marie Smith" who relayed recollections of Condit asking her to wear a Barney Frank mask, of finding Michael Jackson's hair in his bathroom and a 'Malibu Barbie S&M Collection' under his bed. Alter, who defended Clinton against calls that he should resign, argued that in Condit's case: "Everybody should be calling for him to resign."

7) Letterman's "Top Ten George W. Bush Observations About New York City."


>>> Watch Diane Sawyer skip over "by their Creator" in reciting a portion of the Declaration of Independence during ABC's Independence Day 2001 special last week from Philadelphia's July 4th celebration. Sawyer's version: "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.'"
A RealPlayer clip of the reading is now up on the MRC Web site, thanks to the MRC's Information Systems Department. Go to: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010711.asp#5
Since writing the July 11 CyberAlert item on this I've learned that Saturday's New York Post reported Sawyer's foul-up and ABC's denial that it was intentional. The July 7 "Page Six" column relayed: "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."

1

CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Brian Williams showed their dislike Thursday night for how a House procedural vote discarded the House version of McCain's "campaign finance reform." Without bothering with a counterpoint, Rather relayed how "supporters of an outright ban on unlimited campaign contributions...said the procedures were meant to kill the bill." John McCain, NBC's Brian Williams passed along, "called the procedural block, quote, 'the last refuge of scoundrels.'" Williams insisted that campaign finance reform was "one of the highest profile issues on the agenda in Congress and in the last election."

Only in the minds of John McCain and the media.

ABC's Peter Jennings noted how past supporters backed away when they feared it might actually be enacted. Jennings read this short item on the July 12 World News Tonight:
"On Capitol Hill campaign finance reform is dead for now. Republicans and Democrats could not agree on rules for the debate. Republicans say the Democrats want an issue, not a solution. Democrats say they will keep pressing. The truth is that many politicians who voted for campaign finance reform in the past did not want it to pass this year. They'd like to have the money for their campaigns."

CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather introduced a full story: "On Capitol Hill tonight the push for serious campaign finance reform got to the brink, but not the goal. Opponents were able to block it with a fight over procedures. Supporters of an outright ban on unlimited campaign contributions -- so-called soft money -- said the procedures were meant to kill the bill. Still unclear is whether campaign finance reform is dead. But as CBS's Bob Schieffer reports tonight, the blame game is already in full swing."

Schieffer ran through what happened and how Democrats claimed the GOP used rules to make the "reforms" lose while Republicans countered that Democrats knew they did not have votes. Schieffer also noted how black Democrats who previously backed the Shays-Meehan bill worried about its real impact. He concluded: "I think at this point this version of campaign finance reform, if it's not dead it's close to dead."

Over on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams hardly delivered a balanced take as he bemoaned: "There is a dead end to report tonight for campaign finance reform, one of the highest profile issues on the agenda in Congress and in the last election. The issue has been derailed tonight by a procedural vote on ground rules that the Republican leadership in the House had for debating the measure. The bill won't have a chance to come up again until fall now, if even then. John McCain, one of the bill's sponsors, called the procedural block quote, 'the last refuge of scoundrels.' GOP Whip Tom DeLay said the measure's supporters simply don't have the votes to pass it."

2

Horror of horrors, controversy of controversies, CBS News has uncovered the "impropriety" of how President Bush's top policy adviser meets with people interested in changing government policy and then he advises the President on whether such a change should be made. What's next for CBS? An expose on how Bush's speech writers write his speeches?

The CBS Evening News, which has yet to utter a word on a weeknight about Gary Condit/Chandra Levy, actually found it worth air time to explore the "controversy" over how Karl Rove met with representatives of the Salvation Army, which wanted the White House to push to exempt them from laws which would force them to violate their religious tenets and hire gays if they participated in Bush's proposed faith-based initiatives program.

The political agenda CBS eagerly advanced became clear when viewers heard reporter John Roberts claim that "some Republicans are increasingly concerned that Rove is catering to the President's conservative base at the expense of party moderates."

Rather set up the July 12 report: "President Bush's top political adviser, his main man behind the scenes, Karl Rove, is at the center of a new accusation about an appearance of impropriety. You may want to mark the words 'accusation' and 'appearance of impropriety.' Last time it was about Rove's talks with business leaders that could have affected his own investments. Rove denied any wrongdoing and still does. CBS's John Roberts reports tonight on this latest controversy."

Roberts relayed how the White House says it was no "no big deal" for Rove to look into a policy change for the Salvation Army to exempt it from laws against discrimination against gays as Ari Fleischer denied any quid pro quo, as if trading policy for support is alien to how Washington works every day.

After noting how the Salvation Army now says its memo stating it had a "firm commitment" of support from the White House for the exemption was overstated, he warned: "But the issue has raised enough questions that House Democrats today fired off a letter to Rove demanding answers and vowed if he wouldn't give them they'd give him a subpoena."
Rep. John Conyers, (D-Georgia): "To find out what Rove and his little gang in the White House have been up to."
Roberts concluded: "It's not just Democrats who are asking questions. Some Republicans are increasingly concerned that Rove is catering to the President's conservative base at the expense of party moderates and that he's giving the impression that every policy decision is wrapped in politics."

As if that wasn't how the previous administration operated.

3

Nothing less than creation of another entitlement program will satisfy ABC's Charles Gibson. Before pounding away at HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson over the inadequacy of Bush's plan, he insisted that 15 million seniors must choose "between buying medicine and buying food."

As caught by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Gibson set up the July 12 Good Morning America segment: "Well, today President Bush is going to take on the soaring cost of prescription drugs. Fifteen million senior citizens have no prescription drug coverage at all, many facing an impossible choice, really, between buying medicine and buying food. But the President now says he has a new way to help, and joining us from the White House to explain is Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson."

Gibson's challenging questions: "I know this is a plan of selling discount cards to seniors and then they can use these to get discounted prescriptions, but I must tell you, I have now read the details of this plan four different times and I don't understand it."

-- "Well, I was just going to say, but Secretary you can buy cards now that get you volume discount on drugs, so what's new here?"

-- "But you know what your critics are saying already, number one, that it is not even a halfway measure toward prescription drug coverage under Medicare, and two, that because it's already in the marketplace, you're taking credit for something that's already there."

-- "One other thing I want to ask you about, the House yesterday passed a measure that would allow people to order drugs through the mail from overseas, getting them at cheaper prices than they can be purchased for in the United States. I know the administration opposes that, but why? The critics say that you're just protecting the drug companies and their high prices."

-- "Aren't they the same drug drugs, though, made by the same drug companies, just sold for less overseas?"

-- "If that House measure became law, would the President veto it?"

I guess it would be too much to expect a network journalist to question why taxpayers should be paying for anyone's prescription drugs, via whatever scheme.

4

The MRC speaks and the networks jump? Thursday night, after the MRC on Thursday afternoon released a Media Reality Check about how the networks have rarely labeled Gary Condit as a Democrat, a finding which MRC President L. Brent Bozell discussed just past 3pm on the Sean Hannity Show on New York City's WABC Radio, both ABC's Peter Jennings and NBC's Brian Williams noted Condit's party affiliation. For ABC, it was the first ever mention on World News Tonight of Condit's party status.

The July 12 Media Reality Check, as distributed in a CyberAlert Special yesterday, determined: "From May 14, when Chandra's mother, Susan, appeared on Good Morning America to plead for her daughter's safe return, through July 11, ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news programs aired a total of 179 stories about Gary Condit -- 121 full-length reports or interviews, plus 58 brief anchor-read items. MRC researchers reviewed each story, and found that Condit was labeled a 'Democrat' only 14 times, or in fewer than eight percent of stories."

For the full rundown, access the Media Reality Check on the MRC's home page: http://www.mediaresearch.org

Now compare how ABC and NBC introduced their Condit/Levy stories on July 11 versus July 12:

-- Peter Jennings, July 11 World News Tonight: "Last night police searched the apartment of California Congressman Gary Condit with Mr. Condit's permission..."

Jennings, July 12 World News Tonight: "In Washington today police began searching dozens of abandoned buildings for the missing intern Chandra Levy. They are clearly investigating the possibility that she was murdered. There's also a federal investigation underway into whether Democratic Congressman Gary Condit of California obstructed justice. Late today Bob Barr of Georgia became the first Republican Congressman, the first Congressman in fact, to call for Mr. Condit's resignation..."

Maybe Jennings felt he had to identify Condit's party if he listed Barr's.

-- Brian Williams, July 11 NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. Washington, DC police still insist California Congressman Gary Condit is not a suspect in the disappearance of intern Chandra Levy..."

Williams, July 12 NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. In the nation's capital this was another day of police searches and interviews in the case of missing Washington intern Chandra Levy. And police are now confirming an initial criminal investigation is underway into California Democratic Congressman Gary Condit, concerning whether or not he may have obstructed justice..."

5

Gary Condit's district is so "conservative" that it elected Tony Coelho to Congress before Condit and Michael Dukakis earned 47 percent of its vote in 1988 while Bill Clinton won the most votes in the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections. The "political tradition here is Democratic" declared the Almanac of American Politics 2000 which reported that the walls of "insider law firms" feature "signed pictures of Franklin Roosevelt and Pat Brown, not Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson."

Nonetheless, the networks insist upon describing California's 18th district as "conservative" or even "very conservative." Some examples:

-- Chip Reid on the July 12 NBC Nightly News: "The Central Valley of California, a land of small towns, family farms and conservative values..."

-- Newsweek's Howard Fineman on the July 12 Today: "I've been talking to Democrats in both California and Washington and they say he very well may be finished. He's from a conservative, culturally conservative district in central California. One that voted for George W. Bush in the presidential election. Gary Condit's a conservative Democrat who criticized Bill Clinton for his behavior and his truthfulness back during the Monica Lewinsky affair. It's a very difficult situation. A lot of Democrats there think he's very vulnerable if not finished. And Republicans are lining up to run in that district."

-- ABC's Linda Douglass, on the July 8 This Week, maintained that Modesto "is a very conservative section of California, which is where he represents."

6

[WARNING: Though everything in this item aired during the 8am EDT hour on MSNBC, some readers may be offended by the crude sexual innuendo.]

A gullible Jonathan Alter of Newsweek was fooled by a joke appearance on Imus in the Morning by a pretend "Anne Marie Smith," the flight attendant who says Gary Condit asked her to sign a false affidavit.

Alter, who defended Clinton against calls that he should resign, later argued that in Condit's case: "Everybody should be calling for him to resign, whether he had anything to do with her disappearance or not. In a real serious matter he was not straight-forward."

On Thursday's Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC, during the appearance by phone of a woman pretending to be Smith, she made some pretty wild claims, such as how Condit's blow-dried hair "turned me on," that Condit asked her to take showers with him while she wore a Barney Frank mask as she bent over to pick up soap, that under his bed she found "a limited edition 'Malibu Barbie S&M Collection,'" that she believes black hairs she saw in Condit's bathroom belonged to Michael Jackson, that during sex Condit played Jackson's song 'Billie Jean' while making "high-pitched noises" and that she has an agent working to get her on the next Survivor series.

A few minutes later, Alter scolded the supposed Anne Marie Smith: "She's turning this thing into a farce. It's not like a normal sex case, we're talking about a young woman's life." But he believed "a lot of what she said could very well be true."

MRC analyst Ken Shepherd alerted me to the events on the July 12 show, starting at about 8:15am EDT with an appearance by phone of "Anne Marie Smith" in a not very funny comedy bit during which viewers saw Imus at his New Mexico ranch studio and his on-air colleagues behind microphones at WFAN in New York City.

Some of "Anne Marie Smith's" recollections, starting with how they met on a flight: "I gave him a hot towel and he asked me if I wanted a hot sausage." She found him attractive because "there's something about that blow-dried hair. It just turned me on."

-- "One of his obsessions is with Congressman Barney Frank and I always thought that was a little strange. One time he bought me this rubber mask. Imus, it looked just like him and asked me to take a shower with him wearing this mask. He kept dropping the soap and asking me to pick it up..."

-- Under Condit's bed she found "a limited edition 'Malibu Barbie S&M Collection' and the 'Bend Me Over Ken' line."

-- Imus: "What, what about the hair that you found in the bathroom?"
"Smith": "Okay, I have my own theory about this hair. It's very strange, though. A long black hair, wavy hair. I really think it belongs to Michael Jackson. I mean, let me just say, okay, this sounds weird but he had an obsession with Michael Jackson also. He had all of his albums. 'Billy Jean' is his favorite song. He'd always play it during sex and make these high-pitched noises. It was so weird. And then I found these left-handed gloves that were stained all over the apartment one time..."

-- "And by the way I have been contacted by CBS. I may be going on their next Survivor show. I'm just not sure yet at this point. I've got an agent and you know we're going to see, maybe Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire could call me or I just, you know, I don't know, we'll see."

Ten minutes later, at just past 8:30am EDT, Imus talked with Alter on the phone. Alter's first words: "That was a mind-blowing interview. I mean, I didn't know what to make of it. What did you think?"
Imus: "With Anne Marie Smith?"
Alter: "Yeah."
Imus: "I thought she was jerking my chain on the Barney Frank mask frankly."
Alter: "She wants to go on Survivor?"

Alter soon reprimanded her: "I mean, she's turning this thing into a farce. It's not like a normal sex case, we're talking about a young woman's life."
Imus: "Well, I understand that."
Alter: "It's just very peculiar. But she certainly gave everybody a lot of new angles. Michael Jackson's hair?"
Imus: "Well, I do think that sometimes when people appear on this program they think they have to say funny things. But I do think that most of the other things she had to say were, obviously, I do think we are going to find out before this whole thing is over that some sort of weird sex has something to do with it."
Alter: "A lot of what she said could very well be true..."

Alter proceeded to recount a story in that morning's Washington Post about a minister who claims his daughter had an affair with Condit when she was 18.

Imus then tried to clue in Alter: "Let me ask you something Jonathan. Did you think that was really Anne Marie Smith?"
Alter, realizing he'd been fooled: "Mmmm, no. I wasn't sure. I just caught the end of it to tell you the truth. So, I didn't know what it was. You know, that's the problem with the show, it's hard to know. She's coming forward. She's saying a lot of pretty amazing stuff."
Imus: "It was Kristi (sp?) out in the newsroom, Jonathan."
Alter: "It was Kristi. Alright, you had me. That's what happens when you jump out of the shower."
Imus: "You really are just a moron."

Alter later conceded: "Sorry, you got me. That's what happens when life imitates art in America."

Alter reflected a bit of a different attitude toward Condit than he had toward Bill Clinton: "I just know that at this point, that Condit should resign. Because at a minimum, he was obstructing an investigation."
Imus: "By lying."
Alter: "By lying to the police."

He soon added: "Everybody should be calling for him to resign, whether he had anything to do with her disappearance or not. In a real serious matter, he was not straight-forward."

A new standard for Alter. A couple of years ago a certain politician who was "obstructing an investigation" and was not being "straight-forward" didn't prompt Alter to call for his resignation.

7

From the July 11 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by President Bush's stop in New York City early in the week, the "Top Ten George W. Bush Observations About New York City." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "That rat's big enough to wear a saddle"
9. "You can get a cab from JFK to midtown for only $250"
8. "When are they going to start drilling for oil in Central Park?"
7. "The city seems to have solved its King Kong problem"
6. "New York is the city that never sleeps and I'm the President who sleeps 15 hours a night"
5. "Too many Clintons"
4. "Giuliani gets rid of all the strip clubs and people say I'm dumb"
3. "Foreign guys always buy yellow cars"
2. "There's a giant green lady with a torch! Run for your lives!"
1. "What a friendly town -- 5 ladies in Times Square asked if I'd like to have sex"

Maybe business for #1 is up because of #5. -- Brent Baker


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