CyberAlert -- 10/02/2000 -- Gore's "Teeny-Weeny Exaggerations"
Gore's "Teeny-Weeny Exaggerations"; More Bush/Big Oil; Columnist Documented Bias; Ex-Reporter Suggested How to Avoid Bias
3) CBS promised an examination of the energy policies of both candidates, but only hit Bush: "Al Gore called it mostly a short-term fix, a long-term environmental threat and evidence, he said, of Bush's deep ties to big oil." CBS added that a Bush donor has been indicted for clear air violations.
4) Bush and Gore didn't get the same standardized test on education from GMA. Unlike Gore, Bush was pressed with follow up questions and pestered about not wanting to spend enough money, but the show did not make Gore address the expense of his plans.
6) Columnist Charles Krauthammer documented the bias in the New York Times. "'Gore Offers Vision of Better Times For Middle Class.' It's the kind of headline Pravda used to run for Brezhnev's presidential campaigns."
7) If you believe the media are biased, cancel your subscriptions and rely on C-SPAN and the Internet. So recommended in USA Today the former reporter who oversaw the survey which found 89 percent of top Washington reporters voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.
"Where is the Balance? How the TV Networks are Covering Up for Al
Gore." That's the heading over an ad produced by the MRC's Bonnie
Langbourgh which appears in today's New York Post. To view it as a
quick-loading HTML reproduction, go to:
ABC's World News Tonight has yet to inform viewers of Al Gore's fabrications about hearing as a child a union lullaby not created until he was 27 or of how a prescription drug costs more for his mother-in-law than for his dog, but ABC knows about them.
In a Sunday World News Tonight story previewing Tuesday's debate, John Yang acknowledged: "As a debater, Gore is known for having a command of the issues, but recently he's been caught embellishing personal stories. Another pitfall could be his aggressive debating style."
Caught by everyone but ABC News.
Maybe Nina Totenberg of NPR, who also contributes stories to ABC's Nightline, had an influence on ABC's news judgments. By her reasoning, all Al Gore has done is pass along "teeny-weeny exaggerations."
On Inside Washington over the weekend, she
maintained the media are holding Gore to too high a standard:
Bush proposed, Gore deposed and CBS helped out. Friday night Dan Rather loaded up his introduction to the Evening News campaign story with Al Gore's criticism of Bush's energy policy. Ending the subsequent report, Bill Whitaker noted how a Bush donor has been indicted for clean air violations.
Rather declared: "It's 39 days to Election Day, and energy policy became a hot topic again today as an early frost overnight hit parts of the Northeast and the Midwest. In Michigan today, George Bush put out a plan that would allow oil drilling in a US wildlife refuge. Al Gore called it mostly a short-term fix, a long-term environmental threat and evidence, he said, of Bush's deep ties to big oil. CBS's Bill Whitaker looks past the rhetoric on both sides to their real substantive policy differences."
But Whitaker only really looked at Bush. He began his September 29 piece by relaying Bush's charges: "With oil prices high and the election fast approaching, George W. Bush today blasted Vice President Al Gore as an environmental extremist without a clue and, most critically, part of an administration without a plan.
Bush: "They have had seven and a half years to develop a sound energy policy. They have had every chance to avoid the situation that confronts us today."
Whitaker elaborated: "Seeking to capitalize
on consumers' oil anxiety, the Texas governor and former Texas oilman
went to the upper Midwest to lay out his supply-side energy plan. He
called for more money for low-income Americans to buy home heating oil
and for a home heating oil reserve for the Northeast. He said he'd
streamline regulations so industry would build more pipelines,
refineries and boost electric production. And he said he'd work with
our oil-producing allies to boost production. His most controversial
proposal: to open up a portion of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge to oil exploration. The spectacular, 19-million-acre preserve
was put off limits to oil drilling by Congress two decades ago."
Whitaker turned to the other side: "Al Gore
and running mate Joe Lieberman responded quickly."
Without a word about the Gore proposals, Whitaker concluded with a jab at Bush: "Meanwhile, a federal grand jury indicted one of Bush's major contributors for clean air violations. Koch Industries, which has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the GOP and Bush, was charged today with emitting hazardous benzene from one of its Texas oil refineries. The Bush campaign said if the company is found guilty, it should be punished."
Bush and Gore were held to unequal standards on education last week by ABC's Good Morning America. Inaugurating a series of separate interviews with Bush and Gore about just one subject, George W. Bush appeared on GMA last Monday to discuss education and on Friday the show talked about the same topic with Al Gore.
But they didn't get the same standardized
test, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed. Bush was pressed with
multiple questions, and made to defend himself, while Gore was just
And having asked Bush, "Was school hard for you, any part of it?", four days later the show posed the same question to Gore.
Here's how the two interviews unfolded, in date order:
Diane Sawyer handled the September interview with George W. Bush on education:
-- "There are a lot of people who think
that it's going to take a revolution to fix the American public
education system. Are you a revolutionary and is that what it's going
-- "What about the Gore campaign's proposal
that after a certain amount of time, you bring in a whole new
administration, but you keep the money inside the public education
-- Sawyer: "In Texas, you increased teacher
salaries 33 percent, you reduced the size of rooms. A lot of things
that you're not proposing nationally, and the Gore campaign, again,
says they're giving money, a lot of money to teachers' salaries -- $8
billion over 10 years -- and that they're going to ensure that room
sizes are smaller, and yet you're not doing something that worked in
-- Sawyer: "On a personal level, what did
you learn about education that you are acting on now, when you were in
At the end of the week on Friday, September 29, Jack Ford questioned Al Gore, but he got a lot fewer follow ups.
-- "Do you think we're in the midst of an
education recession in this country, as Governor Bush has
-- "There are some that would look at your
position on vouchers and they'd say, your parents had the luxury of
choice, deciding whether to send you to private school or public
school. You had the luxury of choice with your children. Why then
should a family with a child in a failing school not have that same
luxury of choice?"
As one of the hosts of MTV's Tuesday night Choose or Lose 2000 special with Al Gore, Time reporter Tamala Edwards held a microphone so audience members could pose questions, but she couldn't resist herself, pressing Al Gore to satisfy the demand for Hillary-style universal health care as soon as possible.
The MRC's Tim Graham caught the exchange which began with student Sam Dobson asking on the September 26 broadcast: "I spent the last year studying in Spain, and something I noticed there is that every citizen has access to health care. And I got to thinking, that we're a superpower, and we're a world leader, why can't we do the same thing?"
Gore then listed all the liberal health initiatives he would support: "I think we should. I think we should move step by step toward universal health care for all of our people. And there's a difference between the step-by-step approach and just trying to tear down what he have and start over from scratch. 85 percent of our people do have health insurance, and the majority of them like what they have. I think that means for one thing, we should build on some of the good things we have, the highest quality of health care in the world, and then reach out to the ones who do not have health insurance, and make sure they get it. I would start by giving every single child in America full health insurance within the next four years. And then the parents of those children, when the family is poor, or when the family income is up to two and a half times the poverty rate. I'd give business owners in the small business sector big tax credits to make it easier for them to give their employees health insurance. I think we need to help families that are dealing with long-term care. I think mental health care needs to be on an equal basis with other diseases, just because it's a behavioral disorder or rooted in the brain, instead of some other part of the body, that discrimination should not be allowed. I think that these are the kinds of steps that can get us to universal health insurance."
Edwards jumped in and insisted: "But Mr.
Vice President, a lot of these kids are working part-time jobs or
creative fields, they're on their own, maybe married, so they don't
have kids, ultimately getting covered themselves, and I think they
wonder, how long before they get some coverage?"
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer took up the issue of liberal media bias in his latest offering, serving up New York Times front page headlines on the campaign as his evidence.
Here's an excerpt from his column as it ran in Friday's Washington Post:
When the subject of liberal bias in the media is brought up, particularly during an election campaign, journalists tend to roll their eyes and groan "there you go again" at this recrudescence of an old right-wing shibboleth. This pose, while convenient, was shaken by a famous Roper poll of 139 Washington bureau chiefs and correspondents. It found that in 1992 they had voted 89 percent for Clinton, 7 percent for Bush. Regular Americans had voted Clinton over Bush, 43 percent to 38 percent. The country went marginally for Clinton; the journalists went for him 13 to 1.
In other words, for every seven Bush voters among the American people, there were eight Clinton voters. But for every seven Bush voters in the Washington media, there were 89 for Clinton. Margins of victory that lopsided are rarely seen this side of Syria. Party registration numbers were just as impressively lopsided: 50 percent Democratic, 4 percent Republican.
The standard response is that these affiliations or predilections do not influence coverage. For some journalists with superhuman self-control, I'm sure this is true. Most journalists, alas, are not superhuman. Which is why the bias issue keeps recurring....
The most notorious example occurred in the New York Times. It has been widely cited...for its astonishing editorial decision to put on the front page a two-week-old story about the RATS commercial. On the other hand, the Times relegated Gore's concoction about his mother-in-law, arthritis medicine and his dog -- part of his anti-Big Pharm demagoguery -- to Page A18. And that story opens: "The Republicans continued a sharp assault yesterday on Vice President Al Gore..."
This is no isolated case. Here are the Times' Gore-Bush front-page headlines of the first two weeks of September:
Sept. 1: "Bush Approves New Attack Ad Mocking Gore; Democrats Say G.O.P. Has Turned Negative."
Sept. 2: "Bush Defends Ad That Assails Gore; Governor Maintains He's Only Engaging in Self-Defense."
Sept. 4: "Bush Adapts and Goes On the Attack." "A Confident Gore Sets Off on a Grand Tour." "Bush Puts Forth Alternative Plan for 3 TV Debates."
Sept. 5: "TV Networks Jilted By Bush; Won't Take Part in 2 Debates."
Sept. 6: "Bush Spells Out Major Overhaul in Medicare Plan."
Sept. 7: "Gore Offers Vision of Better Times For Middle Class." "G.O.P. Leaders Fret at Lapses in Bush's Race."
Sept. 8: "Bush Planning to See Voters, And to Be Seen."
Sept. 9: "A Populist Pitch Helps Gore Woo Back His Party's Base."
Sept. 11: "Gore Takes Tough Stand on Violent Entertainment."
Sept. 12: "Democrats See, and Smell, Rats in G.O.P. Ad."
Sept. 13: "Poll Shows Gore Overcoming Voter Concerns on Likability."
Sept. 14: "Bush Tax Cut Loses Appeal for Republicans in Congress."
It would take a mollusk to miss the pattern. Particularly striking is the front-page echo of the substance of a Gore charge (the RATS ad) vs. the front page portrayal of the "negativity" of Bush's charges....
My favorite is the headline of Sept. 7: "Gore Offers Vision of Better Times For Middle Class." It's the kind of headline Pravda used to run for Brezhnev's presidential campaigns.
Why is this important? Because the Times front page is the epicenter of the media echo chamber. It is the primary text for those who compose the evening news on the three networks. The night that the Times put the RATS commercial on page one, the story -- dormant for 15 days since first revealed on Fox News Network -- ran on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news. What are the odds?
The Times does not determine election results. If it did, we'd be looking back fondly on the Mondale and Dukakis administrations. But because it both reflects and affects general media coverage of campaigns, it matters. It tilts the playing field. This year, the angle is particularly steep.
To read the whole column, go to:
Speaking of the survey cited by Charles Krauthammer in item #6 above, which found 89 percent of Capitol Hill correspondents and Washington bureau chiefs voted for Clinton in 1992, the man who oversaw the project for which the poll was commissioned has recommended that the public avoid the bias by relying on C-SPAN and the Internet for their news.
"Does reporters' work reflect their personal biases?" read the headline over a September 28 op-ed in USA Today by Don Campbell, a former Gannett and USA Today reporter, editor and columnist.
Campbell began by summarizing how an Editor & Publisher poll "found that 44 percent of regular newspaper readers perceive bias in news coverage. More than half of those who identified themselves as George W. Bush supporters said they detected bias, and four of five said the bias favored Gore. About three in 10 Gore supporters also said they detected bias, and more than a third of those agreed that the bias was in Gore's favor."
For more on the E&P survey, go to:
Campbell then lamented: "It's a subject that intrigues me because I bear some responsibility for giving credibility to the complaint that mainstream journalists are politically suspect."
He explained: "In 1995, while directing a
study by The Freedom Forum, a journalism foundation, of how the media
cover Congress, I proposed some survey questions that would probe the
political leanings of several groups important to the study, including
journalists assigned to cover Congress.
He ran through some of the discoveries:
"The findings about political persuasion were these: 89 percent
of the correspondents and bureau chiefs said they voted for Bill
Clinton in 1992, 7 percent voted for President Bush, 2 percent for
Ross Perot and 2 percent for 'other.'
The exact number: Two percent said "conservative."
Campbell recalled how "when our report was issued in 1996, conservative columnists and talk-show hosts spotted those numbers and went nuts. Everything else in this million-dollar piece of careful research virtually was ignored. So you can blame -- or credit -- me for confirming long-held suspicions about where Washington journalists are coming from."
Campbell contended "that those convinced that they see political bias in mainstream reporting should act on their convictions." His suggestions:
-- "First, stop reading the coverage. This
brings instant gratification, even if it doesn't solve the larger
Campbell concluded: "That's the marketplace at work. Even liberal Democrat editors understand that."
To read the entire op-ed, go to:
I especially like the third idea. By reading CyberAlert you're already following his fourth suggestion. -- Brent Baker
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