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CyberAlert -- 09/28/2000 -- Woman's Plight: "Wow, "It Resonates"

Woman's Plight: "Wow, "It Resonates"; Drug Company Profiteering; Unexcited About Bush Lead in Polls; Only FNC Noted Gore Gay Gaffe -- Extra Edition

1) ABC, CBS and MSNBC eagerly hyped the Gore issue agenda promoted by an elderly woman at a Gore event who claimed she has to pick up cans along roadsides to pay for her prescriptions. ABC's Terry Moran enthused about her "poignant" story: "This is the way campaigns are supposed to work. A candidate, a voter and a big issue." MSNBC's Chip Reid: "Wow, is it resonating."

2) ABC's Good Morning America brought the can collecting woman aboard Thursday. Diane Sawyer called her the "new face of outrage against the high cost of prescription drugs."

3) Wednesday night ABC ran another story on the supposed high price of drugs in the U.S. versus Canada where regulation keeps prices lows. NBC relayed claims from a left wing group about how drug prices are so high because of "profits" for drug-makers.

4) A lack of enthusiasm for polls showing Bush now ahead. Peter Jennings grudgingly noted the "latest batch of polls seems to show that George W. Bush has picked up some of the points he lost to Al Gore."

5) The Joint Chiefs of Staff asserted that their branches need more money. ABC and NBC had time for pharmaceutical profiteering and cost stories which support Al Gore's agenda, but not a second for the news which backed George Bush's agenda. CBS buried what the chiefs said and focused on bickering among Senators.

6) Only FNC picked up on how during the MTV forum Al Gore promised he would work to change the law so a gay foreigner who joins in a civic union would be entitled to residency status. Gaffe or evidence of his suppressed liberal views? Not news to ABC, CBS...

7) The broadcast network evening shows continue to ignore the "mole" in the Bush camp allegation, but Wednesday morning both ABC and CBS picked up on it and Wednesday night FNC's Carl Cameron disclosed a woman who was questioned once toiled for...


1

ABC, CBS and MSNBC enthusiastically promoted the issue agenda of the Gore campaign Wednesday night by showcasing a supposedly "spontaneous" anecdote told by a 79-year-old woman at a Gore event in Iowa, complete with video of Gore empathizing by hugging and kissing her.

"Good evening," Brian Williams opened his MSNBC show by leading with her problems as he readily acknowledged how it played into Gore's agenda: "When an elderly woman stood up today and told the Vice President that she collects aluminum cans by the side of the road to help pay for prescription drugs, it was political red meat. The Gore campaign could not have scripted a better moment as their man continues his cross-country pummeling of Texas Governor George W. Bush on the topic of Medicare."

The networks eagerly promoted the cause of Winifred Skinner. Seconds later MSNBC's Chip Reid called her story "spontaneous" and excitedly proclaimed: "Wow, is it resonating." He seriously asserted: "And it wasn't just political. I think most of us in the room thought that he and the entire room really were moved by her very compelling story."

ABC's Terry Moran approved: "This is the way campaigns are supposed to work. A candidate, a voter and a big issue -- the high cost of prescription drugs." Moran tried to pretend that her issue cause matched the agenda of both candidates as he maintained "she got up and told the kind of poignant story both Gore and George W. Bush have heard from voters all year long."

But showcasing her with Gore clearly linked her sympathetic story to Gore and, on the larger issue agenda, ABC's story furthered the standard media practice of using victims to argue for expanded government spending to solve a social need, thus helping to create the public desire for a new spending program that Bush decided he had to meet. The conservative position is against any new prescription drug giveaway program paid for by taxpayers, but you'll never see a network demand that a candidate justify the new burden on a squeezed middle class taxpayer.

Like ABC, CBS's John Roberts tried to pretend the anecdote helped both campaigns as it highlighted a problem faced by elderly voters and "both campaigns are becoming more aggressive in trying to win them over." Roberts oozed: "It was one of those rare moments when an ordinary citizen can convey the importance of an election year issue better than any candidate ever could."

Now to the complete stories from Wednesday night, September 27:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. After unenthusiastically noting how Gore is no longer ahead in polls (see item #4 below), anchor Peter Jennings simply noted: "Al Gore was in Iowa today campaigning against the high cost of prescription drugs."

Terry Moran then enthused: "This is the way campaigns are supposed to work. A candidate, a voter and a big issue -- the high cost of prescription drugs."
Old woman in audience before Gore: "My name is Winifred Skinner."
Moran explained: "She is 79-years-old, a widow, a retired auto worker from Des Moines and at an open meeting in Altoona, Iowa, designed to showcase the Vice President's plan for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, she got up and told the kind of poignant story both Gore and George W. Bush have heard from voters all year long."
ABC played this lengthy for TV soundbite from Skinner which lasted 20 seconds: "Today I just called in for my prescriptions for this month and they're going to be between $230 and $250 and what I do to put food on the table is I pick up cans. I walk an hour-a-half to two-and-half hours, sometimes three hours, seven days a week."
Moran: "The Vice President asked an awkward question."
Gore: "How much do you earn a week, seven days of picking up cans?"
Skinner: "Not going to tell the government are you?"

The crowd laughed, but instead of playing up her fear of the IRS and taxes, Moran intoned: "And then she told a hushed audience how a passerby mocked her one day."
Skinner: "He looked at me and he yelled back, he says, 'Get a life.' And I thought if I wasn't picking up these cans I wouldn't have a life."
Moran, over video from the rear of Gore hugging and kissing her: "The candidate then kissed Mrs. Skinner several times."

Moran concluded: "That brief exchange shows why both campaigns are spending so much time, energy and money trying to convince the Mrs. Skinner's of the nation that they have the answer to this complex problem."

+++ Watch ABC's story promoting the liberal cause and Gore's agenda of government expansion by sympathetically relaying the plight of a victim. By noon ET Thursday MRC Webmasters Andy Szul and Eric Pairel should have a RealPlayer clip up of a hunk of Moran's story. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather plugged the upcoming story before an ad break: "She's no child, but she belongs on a poster about high drug costs."

Rather soon observed: "Both candidates recognize health care and the high cost of prescription drugs as pivotal issues, especially for older voters and out on the campaign trail today correspondent John Roberts connected with a woman whose day to day existence illustrates why this is so."

Yeah, he alone "connected" with her.

Roberts began by gushing: "It was one of those rare moments when an ordinary citizen can convey the importance of an election year issue better than any candidate ever could."
Winifred Skinner in the audience at a Gore event: "My name is Winifred Skinner."
Roberts: "This was just another campaign event, until Winnie Skinner stopped the room cold by explaining how she can afford her prescription drugs and still eat, by wandering Iowa's highways looking for cans."
Skinner: "I walk an hour-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours, sometimes three hours, seven days a week, and I pick up cans and that's what puts food on my table."
Roberts argued: "Voters like Skinner could turn this election, and both campaigns are becoming more aggressive in trying to win them over."
Gore at another event, outdoors: "The other side is putting out a plan supported by the big drug companies."
Bush, September 5: "The Gore plan forces seniors into a government chosen HMO."

Skinner later after the event, outside to a CBS camera as she stood alone: "If they can lower the price of prescription drugs then I could make it."
Roberts, suddenly on a first name basis, asked but did not really answer a question: "Politics aside, who really has the better plan for Winnie? Between Social Security and a small pension, she brings in $10,900 a year -- $200 a month goes to prescription drugs, $111 for MediGap insurance to cover doctor bills. At her income level Gore's plan would pick up all of her prescription costs by 2002, leaving her to pay just the MediGap. Bush would provide funding to immediately pay her prescriptions and, four years from now, eliminate the MediGap cost as well, saving her more than $300. But the Bush plan relies on states implementing it -- and studies suggest as few as 25 percent of seniors would participate. Winnie wears her self-reliance like a badge of pride, but pride sometimes isn't enough."
Skinner to CBS's camera: "There was a fellow that came along in a pickup truck and I was picking up cans and he yelled at me, 'get a life,' and that hurt."
Roberts concluded by endorsing the effort to create another entitlement program: "That frustration to make ends meet is one of the most powerful forces driving this election. And with 13 million more seniors like Winnie on the line, the battle to court their vote can only intensify."

If she "wears her self-reliance like a badge of pride," then why is she demanding that the government resolve her problem?

-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams. Following the show opening quoted above in which Williams readily admitted "the Gore campaign could not have scripted a better moment as their man continues his cross-country pummeling of Texas Governor George W. Bush on the topic of Medicare," Chip Reid delivered.

From NBC's Washington, DC studio he crusaded for Gore's effort to find just the right victim: "They have been trying for weeks to have this Medicare issue really resonate with the American people. Al Gore has told stories about people who chose between food and medicine, people who didn't take their pain medication and lived in pain because they couldn't afford it, because they had to buy food, a woman who bought nothing but macaroni and cheese for weeks and ate nothing else because she had to buy her medicine. But those were all scripted by the Gore campaign. This one was spontaneous and wow is it resonating."

It sure is with reporters.

Following a lengthy soundbite from Skinner, Reid suggested he was in Iowa earlier in the day, as over video of Gore kissing and hugging her he raved: "It was a very powerful moment in that room and if you thought Tipper got the kiss treatment from the Vice President at the convention, she got five from the Vice President! And it wasn't just political. I think most of us in the room thought that he and the entire room really were moved by her very compelling story. There have been a lot of people we've seen out there who really struggle to pay for their prescription drugs but her story really resonates."

He said it twice, so then so will I: It sure does "resonate" with reporters.

On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume reporter Jim Angle also played a soundbite from Skinner, but he uniquely pointed out how at her low income Skinner would equally benefit from both the Bush and Gore plans and in setting up the exchange where she asked Gore to not tell the IRS how much she makes from picking up cans, he pointed out: "But as a sympathetic Gore asked questions, she also talked about government and taxes in a way that would have brought a smile to George Bush's face."

2

Winifred Skinner featured Thursday morning on ABC's Good Morning America. While writing this CyberAlert I noticed her GMA appearance, which Diane Sawyer introduced:
"We turn now to the woman, who as we said, has become the new face of outrage against the high cost of prescription drugs. With indomitable spirit she told how she makes a little secret extra income by picking up cans to pay for food and medicine."

Skinner revealed she has a son who knows about how she walks along highways to pick up cans and "admires me for it."

If he admires her for it then why should we all feel guilty about it?

And if she has a son shouldn't the responsibility be on him to slip her a twenty dollar bill once a week and not on the rest of society to resolve her problem?

3

In addition to making Winifred Skinner the poster woman for the cause of creating another entitlement program, Wednesday night ABC's World News Tonight ran another story on the supposed high price of drugs. NBC skipped Skinner, but devoted its "In Depth" segment to how pharmaceutical companies are "gouging" Medicare and to relaying the claims from an unlabeled left wing group about how drug prices are so high because of "profits" for drug-makers.

Keyed to a hearing on the price of prescription drugs, ABC's Linda Douglass reported that Republicans know they must do something. Douglass recounted how a woman in Bangor, Maine drives to Canada where she pays $400 for what would cost $1,000 in the U.S. Douglass asserted: "Canadian prices are much lower because they are regulated by the government. Republicans here are feeling the pressure."
Rep Gil Gutknecht, R, Minn: "We do not have stupid tattooed across our forehead. We are not going to allow this to continue."
Douglass: "Some Democratic candidates have been taunting Republicans by busing seniors to Canada so they can be seen buying cheap prescription drugs."

Douglass laid out the GOP plan to allow the re-importation of drugs from abroad, but let a pharmaceutical industry spokesman express concern about the safety of the practice.

NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw set up pieces which promoted the liberal anti-business agenda: "As Al Gore and George W. Bush trade charges on prescription drugs plans for Medicare the question is what's behind the high price of those drugs? First those drugs that are covered by Medicare. Right now almost 40 million older and disabled Americans are Medicare recipients. It's estimated that number could rise to 77 million by the year 2030. Now new information on how drug companies may be gouging Medicare, leaving older Americans and all the taxpayers with the bill."

Robert Hager outlined how "congressional investigators" found pharmaceutical companies make deals with doctors but the doctors then get reimbursed by Medicare for the much higher wholesale price.

Next, Anne Thompson looked at "sticker shock" at the drug store, focusing on a Minnesota man and wife who at $400 a month pay more for medicine than for food. Thompson declared: "As one of 13 million older Americans with no prescription drug coverage he wonders how they will manage if they need more medicine."

Without identifying their ideology, Thompson passed along how a Families USA study found prescription prices soared 48 percent from 1992 to 2000. She asked: "Why do drugs cost so much? Doctor Stephen Schondelmeyer says Americans are paying for profits and advertising."
Dr. Stephen Schondelmeyer: "Pharmaceutical companies have been America's most profitable industry and they've been America's most profitable industry since 1982."
Thompson: "He says for every dollar drug companies take in 23 cents goes to producing the drug, 21 cents to research and development, eight cents to taxes, 18 cents to profit and 30 cents to marketing, advertising and administration."

Thompson squeezed in how "the drug industry points out it takes 15 years and $500 million to bring a drug to market. Only one out of three turn a profit and it argues that drugs are still cheaper than the alternative," such as surgery.

So just who is the unidentified Dr. Stephen Schondelmeyer? A check of the Families USA Web site found his name on the last page of their report, "Still Rising: Drug Price Increases for Seniors 1999-2000." He's the first name under "Special Thanks to:" He's listed as: "Stephen Schondelmeyer, Pharm.D., Ph.D."

As for the Families USA agenda which NBC News didn't find worth alerting viewers to, a September 5 press release was headlined: "BUSH PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLAN 'DISAPPOINTING'; Lack of broad coverage and defined benefit, limited financial commitment cited."

The Families USA Web site: http://www.familiesusa.org

4

Do you sense a lack of happiness here? Check out how the ABC and CBS anchors Wednesday night reported, sort of in ABC's case as Peter Jennings cited no numbers, how Bush now leads Gore in national polls. Both these short September 27 items led into the Winifred Skinner stories, so the ends of the quotes were already cited in item #1 above.

-- Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight: "In presidential politics today, the latest batch of polls seems to show that George W. Bush has picked up some of the points he lost to Al Gore in recent weeks. In California today Mr. Bush said he would work to apply the high standards and zero tolerance enforced in parochial schools in public schools. Al Gore was in Iowa today campaigning against the high cost of prescription drugs."

-- Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News: "In the presidential campaign many recent polls have indicated Democrat Al Gore might be ahead. Now some have switched back and again say that Republican George Bush appears to be pulling into a lead, including a poll in today's Los Angeles Times. It shows, nationally, Bush with 48 percent of likely voters to 42 percent for Gore. For whatever this or any other poll might be worth, both candidates recognize health care and the high cost of prescription drugs as pivotal issues, especially for older voters and out on the campaign trail today correspondent John Roberts connected with a woman whose day to day existence illustrates why this is so."

At least Rather cited an actual poll, unlike Jennings. And at least ABC and CBS suggested Gore might not still be ahead, unlike NBC Nightly News which Wednesday night passed along nothing about poll standings.

5

The Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared before a Senate committee Wednesday to make the case that their branches are over-extended and they need more money. ABC and NBC had time for pharmaceutical profiteering and cost stories which support Al Gore's agenda, but not a second for the news which backed George Bush's agenda on the need to rebuild the military.

CBS delivered a story on the military's needs, but concentrated on partisan bickering among Senators and so didn't get to the main point made by the chiefs until the last sentence of its story. CNN provided a straight-forward report.

Dan Rather set up the September 27 CBS Evening News piece: "George Bush has been sharply critical of the Clinton-Gore administration for allowing what Republicans say is a dangerous decline in American military readiness. Today the nation's top military officers went to Capitol Hill to have their say on the matter, but as David Martin reports they didn't get to do much talking."

Martin devoted his story to back-and-forth points by Republican Senator John Warner and Democratic Senator Carl Levin about whether Clinton or Reagan-Bush are to blame for cutbacks. Wrapping up, Martin got to what the chiefs actually told the Senators: "By the way, the Joint Chiefs testified that while the front line troops are ready for combat the back up force have been neglected with the result that the risks of executing the national military strategy are increasing."

On CNN's The World Today, Jamie McIntyre put his priorities in order, reporting: "Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton labeled as clearly inadequate the current Pentagon procurement budget of $60 billion a year."

McIntyre added: "The Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs all indicated they needed roughly $10 billion more a year, a total of at least $30 billion annually, roughly what the Congressional Budget Office estimated in a recent report."

Only after getting out those basic facts did he show conflicting soundbites from Warner and Levin assigning blame.

6

Al Gore would change the law so a gay foreigner who joins in a civic union would be entitled to residency status? Whether a gaffe or evidence of his suppressed liberal views, or both, you'd think such a controversial policy recommendation would be newsworthy. But not a word about this Gore assertion, made during Tuesday's "Choose or Lose 2000" forum on MTV, has aired on ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC or NBC. Only Fox News Channel cared.

Wednesday morning on Today, news reader Ann Curry reported only: "And making a pitch to young voters, Gore appeared on MTV last night telling the twenty-somethings to call him Al."

In a piece aired on Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume, Jim Angle showed Gore at the September 26 MTV town meeting, and noted: "Gore told a gay man he does not support gay marriage but does support civic unions of gays that afford the same legal rights. Then Gore was asked if those legal rights should also apply to immigration."
MTV host: "Would you favor the INS relaxing its rules to include the same sex couples?"
Gore at the MTV forum: "I think that the rights afforded on an American who gets married to someone from another country should be afforded under a legally protected civic union in the same way."
Angle translated: "In other words, a gay foreigner who comes to the U.S. to join in a civic union with an American would be entitled to residency status and eventually citizenship."
Gore on MTV: "I think there is a difference between marriage as the institution has traditionally been known and celebrated and recognized and civic unions, but I think the legal protection should be on an equal par."
Angle passed along the campaign's clarification: "But a senior Gore aide says that won't work, that immigration authorities can't recognize gay spouses without a federal statute recognizing gay unions. And Gore aides shudder at the thought of leading a battle in Congress over something that controversial. So despite Gore's assurances, he will not try to change immigration laws."

I bet that when George W. Bush needs his staff to explain how he didn't really mean what he promised a voter, we'll hear about it from more than just FNC.

7

The "mole" in the Bush camp allegation has yet to see light on a broadcast network evening show, but Wednesday morning both ABC and NBC picked up on it and Wednesday night FNC's Carl Cameron added a intriguing bit of info about the Democratic activist background of a woman who was questioned.

Bush media advisor Mark McKinnon appeared on ABC's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed. She explained: "Well, this morning high political intrigue. A new development in the investigation into who sent George W. Bush's top secret debate preparation materials, including a videotape of Bush rehearsing, to a Gore campaign advisor. Well, the Bush campaign is crying foul, accusing the Justice Department of playing politics with the investigation by leaking the name of a target of the investigation."

Sawyer asked: "As we know, on the surveillance tape in a Post Office, according to these sources, is Yvette Lozano, who works in your office, mailing a package on the day that the package could have been and probably would have been mailed to the Gore campaign. What was she mailing?"

He insisted she was returning pants for him to The Gap.

Nice to know he has employees handling his personal errands.

After a few follow up questions, she raised the Gore team's spin: "You know that there's one theory, however out there it might be, that the Bush campaign itself mailed it in order to try to catch the Gore campaign and then accuse them of dirty tricks."

Over on NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Ann Curry introduced a story: "Now to scene seemingly out of a mystery movie, who sent a videotape of George W. Bush preparing for the presidential debates to the Gore campaign? A top Bush aide is lashing out at the FBI's handling of the case."

FNC's Carl Cameron filled in Yvette Lozano's resume, disclosing on Wednesday night's Special Report with Brit Hume that "she's a Democratic activist. She in fact worked for former Democratic Texas Governor Ann Richards."

As Austin Turns. -- Brent Baker


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