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CyberAlert -- 07/18/2002 -- CBS: "Growing Concern" Over Cheney/Halliburton

CBS: "Growing Concern" Over Cheney/Halliburton; Bush Wants to "Risk" SS Money in Stocks; Donahue: No Liberals on TV; "High-Chair" for Stephanopoulos; Bravo's Liberal Cable News Network

1) Though FNC highlighted how Business Week reported that Halliburton's accounting was not outside the norm, ABC, CBS and NBC ignored that as each highlighted how President Bush commented Wednesday about Dick Cheney and Halliburton. Dan Rather trumpeted "growing concern about the corporate connections, past and present, of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney." John Roberts stressed how "President Bush was stung again today by more questions about his past stock dealings."

2) President Bush still wants to let people "risk" some of their Social Security money in stocks, Dan Rather bemoaned Wednesday night.

3) NBC's Today gave Phil Donahue a soapbox. When Katie Couric cited the concern of those who say we "don't need another liberal" on TV, he retorted: "I'm still looking for this desperately dangerous expression of liberal thought on television." Donahue delivered a tirade about the superiority of liberalism: "We are claiming to be more respectful, in many ways, of the Bill of the Rights than many conservatives who just can't wait to surrender. You know, 'don't, don't sweat Miranda, they're coming after us!'"

4) Sunday, September 15 is when George Stephanopoulos will displace Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts and take over ABC's This Week where, he revealed on Wednesday's Tonight Show, he's been sitting in a "high-chair."

5) The "I-24" cable news channel in Bravo's Breaking News drama looks just as liberal as CNN or MSNBC. A crusading consumer reporter railed against "corporations abusing the trust of the John Q Publics" and the U.S. Vice President who is having an affair is "a family values" guy. Plus, how real-life is this? In order to obtain a snowmobile, a female reporter readily agrees to let the snowmobile rental guy see her breasts.

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Alan Greenspan Euphemisms for Sex."


Correction: The July 17 CyberAlert item about how Matt Lauer suggested to Sigourney Weaver that her new movie Tadpole, about a 15 year-old boy who has sex with a 40 year-old woman, might be considered "strange" by some, an idea to which Weaver quipped "yes probably John Ashcroft would say that," erroneously identified an actor. Ron Rifkin does not play the 15 year-old teen in the Miramax film. He's actually 63 years-old and plays "Professor Tisch." The part of the teenager is played by Aaron Stanford, who is really 25 years-old.

1

CBS's self-fulfilling news agenda. Though FNC highlighted how Business Week reported that Halliburton's accounting was not outside the norm for its industry, ABC, CBS and NBC ignored that as each highlighted how President Bush commented Wednesday on Dick Cheney and Halliburton.

ABC and NBC held themselves on July 17 to short items read by the anchors. The CBS Evening News, however, found a way to justify another full story which covered no new ground thanks to the AP's Ron Fournier. At Bush's press conference with the Polish President, Fournier posed another in a long string of media questions to Bush about releasing SEC documents and he also suggested having Cheney address what happened during his days with Halliburton.

Fournier posed the first question at the noontime event:
"Even while you're calling for transparency in corporate America, you've refused to ask the SEC to turn over documents from its investigation into Harken Energy Corporation, your old company. And the Vice President has answered few questions about his role at Halliburton, his old company, which is now under investigation by the SEC. Why not just clear the air, ask the SEC to release those documents and ask the Vice President to talk about Halliburton in a public forum?"

(As recounted in the July 17 CyberAlert, on Tuesday CNN's Brooks Jackson provided an exhaustive rundown of how the SEC long ago found there was no basis for the oft-repeated charges of wrongdoing by Bush in his 1990 stock sale. Refer back to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020717.asp#4)

Fournier's question and their own poll was all CBS needed for Dan Rather to trumpet "growing concern about the corporate connections, past and present, of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney." Reporter John Roberts stressed how "President Bush was stung again today by more questions about his past stock dealings." Roberts proceeded to relay how a CBS News poll determined that "a majority of Americans think the President and members of his administration are too influenced by big business." Roberts concluded: "President Bush said he's confident the SEC will find that Cheney did nothing wrong, a statement that Democrats immediately jumped on as an attempt to influence the investigation."

On ABC's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings announced: "President Bush said today at a news conference that regulators are not going to find any wrongdoing by Vice President Cheney as they probe the company he used to run. Halliburton is being investigated for questionable accounting. Mr. Bush called Mr. Cheney a fine business leader and the President refused again to release documents about his own past business dealings."

Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw asserted: "President Bush commented today for the first time on the ongoing SEC investigation into the energy company Halliburton, which was run by Vice President Dick Cheney. Asked if he were confident the SEC would find Cheney did nothing wrong, the President said quote, 'yes I am' and called the Vice President a fine business leader. Democrats jumped at the comment, accusing the President of trying to influence the SEC inquiry."

But on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, viewers learned from Jim Angle that Halliburton "confirms it is under SEC investigation, though it says it used widely accepted accounting procedures that require any cost increases in construction contracts to be counted as revenue before the client actually pays, a practice used by ten of the 15 largest construction companies."

During the panel segment later in the show, Fred Barnes pointed to a Business Week article overlooked by the rest of the non-business media as the source of Angle's fresh angle.

An excerpt from an article in the July 22 edition of the magazine by reporters Mike McNamee Stephanie Anderson Forest:

Despite all the political flak Cheney is taking, Halliburton's shift may actually have improved its bookkeeping. But the timing raises questions: Without the change, Halliburton's already depressed 1998 profits would have fallen far short of Wall Street's targets. And the SEC can't overlook the delay of more than a year before Halliburton told investors that its accounting had changed.

At issue is how Halliburton accounts for cost overruns and changes on its billion-dollar contracts to build such projects as offshore drilling platforms or liquid natural-gas plants. Until 1998, the company wouldn't report revenue from such claims until the customer agreed to pay -- which could take years. But since 1998, Halliburton has estimated how much of the disputed costs it expects to collect and booked the not-yet-received payment immediately. For 1998, Halliburton booked $89 million in pretax revenue as unpaid claims. Similar claims added $43 million to revenue in 1999 and $102 million in 2001; there was no impact in 2000.

While it's aggressive, Halliburton's switch is supported by a 1981 accounting rule because it helps meet accountants' goal of matching revenues with associated costs as they occur, says Douglas R. Carmichael, an accounting professor at Baruch College. Ten of the 15 largest construction companies use the method Halliburton adopted in 1998, says Halliburton CFO Douglas L. Foshee....

END of Excerpt

Roberts began his July 17 CBS Evening News piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "With hopes building on Wall Street that the pain may finally be easing, President Bush was stung again today by more questions about his past stock dealings. At a press conference with the Polish President, Mr. Bush was asked why he won't clear the air by asking the SEC to release its entire file on his sales of stock as a board member of Harken Energy. He ducked the question and instead took another shot at boosting confidence in the markets."
George W. Bush: "The key thing for the American people is to realize that the fundamentals for economic vitality and growth are there."
Roberts: "But are investors, many of whom have been hard hit by the corporate fraud and accounting scandals, buying the pitch?"
Greg Valliere, Charles Schwab: "The President is right that the economy is in good shape, but he may not be the strongest salesman. Stories about Harken Energy, or Halliburton with his Vice President, don't make his case any easier."
Roberts: "The view from Wall Street is echoed on main street. Our CBS News/New York Times poll found while President Bush still enjoys high overall job approval ratings, a majority of Americans think the President and members of his administration are too influenced by big business. And while people are split over whether Mr. Bush is more interested in protecting large corporations or ordinary Americans, there is no question they feel his staff comes down on the side of corporations. Democrats, desperate to find an election year issue, must have seen the same numbers in their polling because today they came out swinging."
Richard Gephardt, House Minority Leader: "Who's on whose side? Who cares about investors? Who cares about employees? Who cares about well-run businesses? I would say it's Democrats."
Roberts: "In the Senate they even threatened to launch their own investigation into Vice President Cheney's dealings while CEO of Halliburton, but now say they'll let the SEC look first."
Roberts concluded: "When asked about that today, President Bush said he's confident the SEC will find that Cheney did nothing wrong, a statement that Democrats immediately jumped on as an attempt to influence the investigation."

On screen graphics offered more detail about the poll findings. Bush's approval stood at 70 percent. For the question of what "Bush is more interested in protecting," 42 percent said "large corporations" and the same percent responded "ordinary Americans." For the is the "administration more interested in" question, 61 percent thought "large corporations" while 27 percent believed "ordinary Americans."

2

President Bush still wants to let people "risk" some of their Social Security money in stocks, Dan Rather bemoaned Wednesday night, as if the government's Social Security house of cards is secure.

On the July 17 CBS Evening News Rather intoned: "Despite the turmoil on Wall Street, President Bush today stood by his proposal to allow younger Americans to risk some of their Social Security payroll deductions in stocks. Through a spokesman, the President said it is the right long-term policy for Social Security."

3

NBC's Today on Wednesday gave new MSNBC prime time host Phil Donahue a soapbox from which to pontificate, a forum MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, who monitors Today, does not recall the show ever giving to Alan Keyes when he launched his since-cancelled show in January.

The interview was a breakthrough for Katie Couric as it got her to mention liberal media bias, if grudgingly: "Many charge, many, whatever that means, that, that there is a liberal bias in the media."

When Couric cited the concern of those who say "we really don't need another liberal spouting his views on national television," Donahue retorted: "Well I'm still looking for this desperately dangerous expression of liberal thought on television."

He must not watch much television.

Donahue then launched into a lengthy tirade about how liberalism has been inaccurately tarnished: "We are as proud of America as anyone else. In fact we are claiming to be more respectful, in many ways, of the Bill of the Rights than many conservatives who just can't wait to surrender. You know, 'don't, don't sweat Miranda, they're coming after us!' We seem to be cashing in on all those fundamental American principles that we sent so many people in past wars to die for."

Donahue began the July 17 segment with his views on the "under God" controversy: "I just think this whole issue of church-state and the flag and God and all those people running to the Capitol building, 'Under God!' they couldn't, you know like God is gonna reward the loudest voice. I think, I think we are probably, we are the most religious nation on earth. We don't need to bridge the wall. And there is a reason the framers built that wall. I'm the conservative. I support the Framers, I don't want to-"
Couric helpfully chimed in: "You're a strict constructionist in this area."
Donahue picked up: "Thank you, thank you. You know, my vocabulary isn't that large. But I will say that, I will say that I believe that the separation strengthens religion and the State. We are the most religious nation in the history of the world. It's working here. Let's let it alone. Don't bring the state into your synagogue, your church, your mosque. Keep it separate."
Couric: "Let's talk about, you say you're a conservative but of course you are an unabashed liberal and, and many charge, many, whatever that means, that, that there is a liberal bias in the media."
Donahue: "Yes they do."
Couric: "What do you think of that and, and a lot of people might say, 'gosh we really don't need another liberal spouting his views on national television'?"
Donahue delivered a lengthy defense of liberalism while mocking conservatives: "Well I'm still looking for this desperately dangerous expression of liberal thought on television. It's easier to be conservative Katie. People brag about growing up in a conservative neighborhood, a conservative church. Nobody says, 'I grew up in a liberal neighborhood.' Somehow the 'L' word has become somehow not something you get elected claiming to be. And I think that's a shame. Because what it does is it discourages voices from all parts of the political spectrum. C'mon that's the whole point. Let's hear all sides. Don't be afraid of liberals. Some of them are my best friends and they, they're. You can call us names, you can picket us but you cannot take our flag. We are as proud of America as anyone else. In fact we are claiming to be more respectful, in many ways, of the Bill of the Rights than many conservatives who just can't wait to surrender. You know, 'don't, don't sweat Miranda, they're coming after us!' We seem to be cashing in on all those fundamental American principles that we sent so many people in past wars to die for. C'mon we have people in harm's way now. They're entitled to dissent, to hear from everybody. Otherwise what is this Bill of Rights, First Amendment all about? Is it a quaint idea that only works when we are having a wonderful time? Is it, it's sort of becomes, what, no good when we are frightened? C'mon. 'He who,' uh, 'He who swaps security for,' or 'freedom for security will have neither.' James Madison. Thank you for letting me orate."
Couric wrapped up: "You're welcome. Phil Donahue. Good luck with the show. It's great to see you and of course people can watch more of you orating at 8pm on MSNBC."

Or not.

4

Sunday, September 15 is when George Stephanopoulos will displace Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts and take over ABC's This Week where, he revealed on Wednesday's Tonight Show, he's been sitting in a "high-chair."

After announcing that he will take over solo hosting duties on September 15, Stephanopoulos conceded to Leno that he did request a special chair, explaining: "As you know, I'm not the biggest guy in the world. So I have to make sure I'm kind of pumped up there a little bit."

That prompted Leno to wonder: "Are you going to sit higher than the guests, kind of a throne?" Pumping his fist, Stephanopoulos boasted: "Exactly. Yeah. That intimidation factor."

Leno marveled: "Was that a problem on the show before. Was your chair higher than the others?" Referring to his chair, Stephanopoulos disclosed as he held his fingers a couple of inches apart: "I had special legs." A gleeful Leno exclaimed: "Really? Did you have special legs?" Stephanopoulos nodded in affirmation as Leno suggested what that really meant: "So you had a high-chair!"

5

Just another day at CNN, FNC or MSNBC? The Wednesday night debut of Bravo's Breaking News, the drama about the "I-24" cable news channel which was originally produced for AOL Time Warner's TNT, delivered a crusading consumer reporter who railed against "corporations abusing the trust of the John Q Publics"; the star anchor arguing that the network should report how the Vice President is having an affair since "a family values guy like" him "is ripe for blackmail"; and, in between, in order to obtain a snowmobile, a female reporter readily agrees to let the snowmobile rental guy see her breasts.

As reported in the July 16 CyberAlert, the show has been on the shelf since it was shot in 2000 for TNT. After AOL Time Warner decided not to air it, Bravo picked up the 13 episodes. For more: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020716.asp#6

Tuesday night on CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, actor Tim Matheson, who plays star anchor "Bill Dunne," recalled with Williams how he followed Williams around for a few days in 2000 to learn what a cable news anchor does.

Matheson probably has nothing to do with the scripts, but if he did you might think Williams' liberalism rubbed off a bit given how the debut episode's two political points matched how liberals see the world.

First, John Ritter plays a crusading consumer reporter who is a bit too high strung. He tapes a piece about a furniture-maker which sells a recliner advertised as reclining 80 degrees when it only reclines by 50 degrees. After he rants about "deceptive marketing," he goes to the manufacturing plant where he spouts off: "When I think of these corporations abusing the trust of the John Q Publics who fill their coffers!"

On the up side, that character could easily turn into a parody of consumer reporters.

Second, most of the show is about the Vice President of the United States getting caught in an avalanche while skiing in Colorado during a visit to the home of "an Internet mogul."

Before the "I-24" staff learns if he's a alive or dead, a woman gives them a video of the VP having sex with another woman who she claims is at the house in Colorado. Naturally, the VP is a "family values" guy. As the News President, a producer and anchor "Bill Dunne," played by Matheson, argue over whether to go on the air with the story, the Matheson character contends:
"Of course we're going to go with this. The Vice President is sleeping with an actress. That's a national security issue. Who knows how many of these tapes are floating around out there. A family values guy like Watson's ripe for blackmail."

The News President's decision: They'll go with it if they don't have confirmation in an hour that the VP was killed. In the end, no story since they soon learn the VP died in the avalanche.

In the midst of all this, a twenty-something woman reporter and her male producer try to rent a snowmobile so they can get behind police lines and up to the search area. When a twenty-something guy at the rental place refuses to rent them one because of the avalanche, the producer offers him $92 in cash. The guy, having recognized the woman reporter ("Jamie Templeton" played by Rowena King), counters, and remember, this is during the family hour: "How about $92 and she shows me her tits?"

She readily agrees to show them for "five seconds" before he adds another demand: "And I get to keep the bra."

I never realized what the women of CNN, FNC and MSNBC do to get the story.

Another episode will air at 8pm EDT, repeated at 11pm and 2am EDT, next Wednesday night.

The Web page for the show: http://www.bravotv.com/breakingnews/

6

From the July 17 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Alan Greenspan Euphemisms for Sex." Late Show Web page: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/

10) "Depleting the Federal Reserve"

9) "Acquiring some assets"

8) "A mid-afternoon rally"

7) "Opening an account with Fannie Mae"

6) "Improving your long-term growth"

5) "Doing a little business on the floor"

4) "Getting yourself in the red"

3) "Lump-sum distribution"

2) "Liquefying your holdings"

1) "Merging with Pfizer"

So that's what he says to his wife, NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell. -- Brent Baker


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