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CyberAlert -- 11/09/2000 -- Gore Aide: "We've Won the Election"

Gore Aide: "We've Won the Election"; Florida "Irregularities"; Impact of Bad Exit Polls Ignored; Scrap Electoral College -- Extra Edition

1) The presidential election consumed all but a few seconds of the ABC and CBS evening shows and nearly all of NBC's. Tom Brokaw stressed up front "the confusing lineup of candidates" on one county's ballot.

2) "We've won the election. Whether we get inaugurated is another deal," NBC's Claire Shipman quoted a Gore campaign aide in defining a win based on popular vote over the Electoral College.

3) The networks furthered the Democratic camp's effort to undermine the legitimacy of the Florida vote. Peter Jennings asked about "voter fraud." All three highlighted one county's "confusing" ballot, but didn't point out how 268,000 still voted for Gore. A CBS story stressed how some "voting offices resembling crime scenes" while NBC found it suspicious that the libertarian "got 309 votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians."

4) Three different recitations from ABC, CBS and NBC about Gore's phone call withdrawing his concession, the call in which he told Bush he didn't have to get "snippy."

5) ABC, CBS and NBC looked at their bad Florida calls, but none considered the impact on West coast voting. NBC's Andrea Mitchell asserted: "Many people say that the real issue isn't why projections...are sometimes wrong, but the archaic vote counting system that often leads to mistakes and even fraud."

6) Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw concluded their newscasts with some deep thoughts about the meaning of the still undecided election. Rather: "In a democracy voting is not only a right but a responsibility, one too many Americans elect to ignore."

7) Al Gore hasn't conceded so the heavens aren't crying yet for Bryant Gumbel who pressed Bill Daley about the integrity of a re-count in a state headed by George Bush's brother and he raised suggestions about "scrapping" the Electoral College.

8) "I think the fact that they can say they won that popular vote, I think they believe will have most of the public on their side," ABC's George Stephanopoulos suggested of the Gore spin.

9) The illegitimacy of Electoral College became the topic of the early morning hours on NBC on Wednesday as soon as the anchor team realized Gore would win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College. Tom Brokaw: "After this election my guess is that it's gonna be yanked out of there."

10) Senator-elect Hillary: "It's the best news ever...it's such a total victory I think for women all over America."


1

So much coverage of what Dan Rather dubbed "the biggest election story of our lifetimes," it's hard to know where to begin, but to provide a flavor of the broadcast network spin and priorities, below is how ABC, CBS and NBC led their evening newscasts Wednesday night. ABC and CBS dedicated their entire programs, with the exception of a few seconds on the make-up of the new House and Senate, to the presidential election. NBC offered a full story on the new Senate and Hillary's election as well as one non-presidential election story on how Yemen is holding suspects in the USS Cole bombing.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened: "It is not over until it is over. The presidential election is still too close to call and we may not know who the 43rd President is for the next ten days at least. Today we are, as deep as ever, in the realm of party politics and a possible legal challenge from the Democrats to the election process."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced the cold open: "This is the CBS Evening News. Straight to the biggest election story of our lifetimes. Dan Rather reporting from CBS News election headquarters in New York, good evening. The presidency of the United States is just beyond the reach of two men tonight after an election unique in American history. It's among the closest ever. 24 hours after the polls closed we still don't know who won..."

He soon added: "One more wrinkle in this story: Gore leads Bush in the nationwide popular vote by more than 100,000 ballots."

-- NBC Nightly News. Up front Tom Brokaw highlighted the supposed controversy over the design of a ballot: "Good evening. Yes, we're still here, and it's still too close to call. A determined Vice President Al Gore continues to hold a lead in both the national popular vote and in the electoral college, but Texas Governor George W. Bush remains confident he'll win the state of Florida after a re-count, and that will put him over the top in the electoral college, making him the President-elect. Here are the numbers. First, the national popular vote with Al Gore holding a steady lead over Governor Bush. In the electoral map, Governor Bush with victories in 29 states for a total of 246 electoral votes, Vice President Gore 19 states and the District of Columbia, for a 260 electoral votes, but the big prize still to be claimed, Florida, 25 electoral votes. This is a Florida ballot that is being re-counted tonight, and the confusing lineup of candidates may have led to still more problems in that state."

2

NBC's Claire Shipman attached some credibility to the Gore team's spin putting the popular vote ahead of the Constitution. She concluded her report from Nashville for the NBC Nightly News by relating how Gore aides "say that his win of the popular vote gives him the authority to proceed right now. And, Tom, they also say that popular vote win is giving him some personal comfort in the face of a loss. As one aide said, 'we've won the election. Whether we get inaugurated is another deal.'"

3

The networks, especially CBS and NBC, Wednesday night ran with complaints about voting "irregularities," the Democratic camp's first step in trying to undermine the legitimacy of the Florida vote. ABC's Peter Jennings bizarrely characterized a supposedly confusing ballot design as an example of "voter fraud." All three networks highlighted that county ballot in which about 3,700 voted for Pat Buchanan, but failed to explicitly point out how 268,000 voters in that county managed to figure how to vote for Gore.

A CBS Evening News story found some "voting offices resembling crime scenes" and the how supposed problems are growing on "a list that's adding up as fast as the votes are being re-counted," but all reporter Bobbi Harley offered were anecdotal complaints about snafues that could be made about every election every year everywhere. "Libertarian Harry Browne got 309 votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians," NBC's Kerry Sanders asserted in listing a problem, as if only official members of a party ever vote for that party's candidate.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Erin Hayes reviewed the re-count procedure and made a brief reference to the Palm Beach County ballot: "Trouble is brewing here already. Three Palm Beach County residents have hired lawyers to help them seek a look election in that county."

Picking up on that case of voters possibly punching the wrong hole between Gore and Buchanan in a two column listing, the only voting problem cited by ABC, so it must have been to what Peter Jennings was referring when he asked Dean Reynolds with the Bush campaign: "And what about these allegations of voter fraud?"

-- CBS Evening News. Byron Pitts in Florida highlighted how "Democrats have already made allegation of criminal wrongdoing."
Pitts played a soundbite from Bob Poe, Chairman, Florida Democratic Party: "We have been flooded with calls from across the state of voter irregularities, voter intimidation, all sorts of allegations that are quite troubling to us."

Next, reporter Bobbi Harley compiled a list of complaints about "irregularities." She began:
"While the vote re-count continues on, reports of voting improprieties are now coming in from across the state, with some of those voting offices resembling crime scenes. Here in Volusia County, police tape surrounds the elections office. That's because in this county alone the Socialist Workers candidate, James Harris, got 9,888 votes. He only received 19,507 nationwide. Elections officials say it may be a computer glitch, but it's only one potential problem on a list that's adding up as fast as the votes are being re-counted."

Then, over video of a few people on the side of a road holding up Gore-Lieberman signs and one imploring "Honk for Gore," Harley announced: "In West Palm Beach, voters were protesting what they say was a confusing ballot, and they want to vote again." Over a shot of the ballot, Harley made their case: "Al Gore's name appeared on the left, Pat Buchanan's slightly above on the right. Some say when they went to select Gore they mistakenly bunched Buchanan."
Without bothering to point out how over 268,000 people were not confused and voted in the county for Gore compared to just 3,700 for Buchanan, Harley played a clip from a woman who whined: "Many, many thousands of votes were lost. We need those votes back."

Harley moved on to an anecdotal complaint that would have had equal impact on both sides: "In Broward County, dozens of voters claim they were turned away when their names didn't turn up on the voter rolls despite valid registration cards."
Nancy Johnson, Florida voter: "It collapsed. It did not work. It was not foolproof and their excuse is 'too bad, you don't get to vote.'"
Harley slyly concluded: "Florida doesn't have a squeaky clean record, reputation that is, when it comes to polling problems. In fact it was just a few years ago that problems with voter fraud cost Miami's mayor his position and sent other public officials to jail."

My calculation: Number of Palm Beach County Buchanan votes (3,407) minus number of people who genuinely meant to vote for Buchanan = number of stupid liberals in the county. Not casting aspersions here on most liberals since 268,000 in the county figured out how to follow an arrow.

-- NBC Nightly News dedicated a whole story too the supposed problems, but Kerry Sanders delivered some pretty weak examples based on speculation. He started his piece from Florida, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well Tom, tonight NBC News has learned the Gore campaign has contacted Florida's most powerful law firm to explore the possibility of a challenge to the Florida vote, a vote so close that under Florida law it must be re-counted."

He elaborated: "Tonight, high security and intense scrutiny as each of Florida's 67 counties begins a mandatory vote re-count, six million voters. This while voting irregularities are alleged in some counties around the state. Florida's Republican Governor Jeb Bush with Florida's Democratic Attorney General, reassuring the nation that the re-count will be honest."
Jeb Bush: "Voter fraud in the state, in our state is a felony, and guilty parties will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Sanders went first to the most complained about case: "In Palm Beach County, on Florida's east coast, Democrats charge a confusing ballot layout led voters to think they were punching the ballot for Al Gore when they were actually voting for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. Mark Andrews among those who now thinks he voted for Buchanan when he meant to vote for Gore."
Mark Andrews: "I feel like I've been totally had."
Sanders at least, unlike CBS's Harley, told viewers how many did figure out how to vote for Gore and that the person who approved the ballot is a Democrat: "Buchanan's vote is three times higher in Palm Beach County than his next highest total in Pinellas County. And Gore gets 270,000 votes with this ballot. Why this ballot layout? The supervisor of elections, a Democrat, says she designed it so older voters would be able to read the larger print."

After a soundbite from her, Sanders continued: "Local Democratic officials say they will challenge the entire county's results. And in Osceola County in Central Florida, Democratic Party officials charge the vote totals are invalid and illegal. They accuse the elections department of using faulty voting booths. Allegedly ballots did not fit properly into the slots. They say that misalignment shifted votes away from Al Gore. Their evidence: Libertarian Harry Browne got 309 votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians."

Now that's weak. Did Nader's vote not exceed the membership level in the Green Party?

Sanders then passed along mere speculation and rumor-mongering: "In Volusia County in central Florida, even more confusion. A poll worker shows up to the elections office this afternoon with a bag of ballots. Why are they showing up now? The supervisor of elections says it was a mistake but that the ballots were counted last night. Now an election official in Volusia County tells NBC News there were some irregularities in the vote count in that county, but state officials say the system worked and that people should be warned not to over-read anything into this until the entire vote for the state is re-counted, and then they can make their judgments."

The networks have already "over-read" much into scattered election complaints which are common in every election everywhere.

4

One event, three different recitations. ABC, CBS and NBC reporters Wednesday night each recounted the second phone call of the early morning between Al Gore and George Bush, the one in which Gore told Bush he had changed his mind and would not concede, but each network's version was slightly different.

-- Jackie Judd on ABC's World News Tonight: "Gore calls Bush for a second time. Bush is incredulous, disbelieving. He tells Gore, 'do what you have to do.' Gore at some point tells Bush he doesn't have to be 'snippy.' A contentious call ends."

-- Bill Whitaker on the CBS Evening News: "Now that second conversation apparently was heated. At one point Governor Bush said, 'Let me make sure I understand, you're calling me back to retract your concession?' Vice President Gore responded, 'Let me explain something. Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this.' The conversation apparently ended abruptly."

-- David Gregory on the NBC Nightly News: "The Vice President calls George Bush again, this time to recant his concession. 'The circumstances have changed...I need withdraw my concession until the situation is clear,' Gore says in what quickly becomes a tense call. Bush is said to be indignant."
Bush at the Governor's Mansion Wednesday: "I thought it was interesting comment he made. I felt like I was fully prepared to go out and give a speech thanking my supporters and he withdrew his earlier comments."
Gregory: "Sources close to Gore recall Bush saying his brother Jeb assured him he'd won. Gore responds: 'Your little brother does not have the last word on this.' Also, Gore is heard to say, 'Well, you don't have to get snippy.'"

5

The broadcast networks all acknowledged big mistakes during election night coverage in calling Florida for Gore, recanting that, then at 2:18am ET declaring Bush the President-elect, only to retract that also about 60 minutes later. But none considered the impact on West coast voting of their call (at 4:50pm PT, 5:50pm MT), that Gore had won Florida.

Peter Jennings, in fact, insisted on Wednesday's World News Tonight: "We cannot get to the end of this broadcast without looking at what role we in the media played last night, though we are not certain what affect, if any, our mistaken projections in Florida had."
Robert Krulwich reported "two rare mistakes" occurred in the "almost always accurate" system because exit poll numbers matched early results, but the first precincts were not typical.

Dan Rather offered song lyrics instead of any examination of the impact: "There's an old song that might have been written about this unprecedented and still undecided election: 'First you say you do and then you don't, they you say you will and then you won't.' Understandably, many American felt just that way overnight as the news media, including CBS News with the most accurate record in the business, made calls in an election we now know was too close to call."

Kathy Frankovic, Director of CBS News polling offered her vague explanation of the problem: "There were some exit polling data that might not have been as good as they could have been. There may have been some precinct data that wasn't been as good as it should have been. And then later on we got some tabulated vote that was a simply human error data entry problem."

She promised that "you learn from your mistakes." Rather gratuitously added: "In fairness to Dr. Kathy Frankovic and her highly professional CBS News survey team, we'd like to point out that her final CBS News poll before yesterday's election, came closer to the actual popular vote than any other national survey."

NBC's Andrea Mitchell, in a Nightly News look back at what happened, blamed an "incredibly close race and some bad numbers." Mitchell recalled other bad calls in presidential elections past, then concluded by snidely transferring blame from the networks to the "fraud" in the American election system:
"Many people say that the real issue isn't why projections, often involving paper ballots, are sometimes wrong, but the archaic vote counting system that often leads to mistakes and even fraud."

6

Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw concluded their Wednesday newscasts with some deep thoughts.

Rather: "So, in a country in which the government derives its power from the consent of the governed, we are reminded the great power the people of this country hold in their hands and exercise through their votes. Even a single vote can make a huge difference. In a democracy voting is not only a right, but a responsibility, one too many Americans elect to ignore."

Brokaw admired respect for the rule of law: "It was a bitterly contested election, but it will not be resolved by troops and tanks, by mass protests and boycotts, but instead by the Constitution and reasonable people working out their differences by a commonly accepted set of rules. That remains the most enduring and reassuring part of a remarkable evening, one for the ages."

7

Al Gore hasn't conceded so the heavens aren't crying yet for Bryant Gumbel who pressed Bill Daley about the integrity of a re-count in a state where George Bush's brother is Governor and raised suggestions about "scrapping" the Electoral College.

Gumbel set up a Wednesday CBS The Early Show interview: "As one of the Democratic Party's most stalwart figures the Reverend Jesse Jackson has stayed on the campaign trail well into the 11th hour, pushing hard for the Vice President particularly in keystone state of Pennsylvania. He's in Nashville right now. Reverend Jackson, good morning."
Jackson replied: "The heavens are crying."
Gumbel corrected him: "Well, not yet."

MRC analyst Brian Boyd also detected Gumbel's agenda coming through in his interview with Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley. Gumbel's questions:
-- "You and I are old Chicagoans so we know how funny these things work sometimes. Are you comfortable with the people in charge of the re-count and confident that it will conducted fairly?"
-- "Let me be more blunt about the fairness thing that we were talking about. You have any problems at all with the fact that the opposition's brother is the Governor of the state where the challenge is?"
-- "There's a lot of talk this morning about scrapping the electoral process, that it's antiquated. Do you have any problems with it at this hour?"

8

"I think the fact that they can say they won that popular vote, I think they believe will have most of the public on their side," ABC's George Stephanopoulos suggested on Wednesday's Good Morning America. But MRC analyst Jessica Anderson also noticed that he conceded "we've had this system for 200 years. Everyone knows it's a state by state election."

Charles Gibson raised a point made in an earlier interview: "I was very interested in talking to Mark Fabiani about something he said a number of times: 'We won the popular vote.' They're trying to establish something here."
Stephanopoulos: "No question about it. They're trying to create political space for the challenges they need to make in Florida. Listen, as our polls showed yesterday, most people think whoever wins the popular vote ought to be President of the United States, and I think they think by repeating that -- and you'll hear that from Democrats over the next few days -- that will give the Gore campaign the space they need, the time they need to make sure that every vote in Florida is looked at and if challenges need to be made, people will say, 'Well, of course he has the right to challenge. After all, he won the popular vote.'"
Gibson: "Right. They're worried that they will be seen as disruptive by the public if they challenge things in Florida."
Stephanopoulos: "Disruptive, sore loser, you know, fighting the process, but I think the fact that they can say they won that popular vote, I think they believe will have most of the public on their side."
Gibson: "George, you just mentioned the fact that most of the public thinks that the winner of the popular vote wins the election, and so this difference, possible difference between who wins the popular vote and who wins the Electoral College will shake this country up. Now the way the networks called the states is going to shake things up, but that even more should shake things up about the difference between the winner of the popular vote and the winner of the electoral vote, if there turns out to be a difference."
Stephanopoulos: "In theory, although, it really shouldn't. We've had this system for 200 years. Everyone knows it's a state by state election. There's some fundamental sense of fairness, I think, if you just ask people the question, 'Oh yeah, we want the popular vote winner to win.' But listen, everyone knew the rules going in. Both sides knew the rules going in, and I think that the political system, the Congress will accept whatever decision comes out."

But will liberals in the media?

9

The illegitimacy of the Electoral College became the topic of the early morning hours on NBC on Wednesday as soon as the anchor team realized Gore would win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens was still sober and awake enough to observe at about 4am ET.

In the time-filling conversations between about 3:30 and 4:45am ET, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter kept getting slapped down by Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, but while Russet maintained a defense of the system, Brokaw eventually predicted: "What I am quite confident of, this is the last we'll hear of the Electoral College. After this election my guess is that it's gonna be yanked out of there. Nobody wants to go through this again....I think the country is gonna get sufficiently aroused by this."

The conversation started with Alter, as quoted in the November 8 CyberAlert Special, contending Gore "will be elected President" because if Gore won the popular vote "the political pressure would mount very quickly to, to certify Al Gore as, as the winner. Especially since you have a potential conflict of interest here with the Governor of the state that is handling the re-count being the brother of Governor Bush."

Russert countered: "I mean everyone has said straight out, 'whoever wins 270 votes in the Electoral College is the next President of the United States."
Brokaw agreed: "It seems to me that the challenge itself, Jonathan, would throw that into great chaos. More than any re-count or anything else. That if you had a clear cut Constitutional rule that everyone understood when they began the campaign and there was great discussion about it in the closing days of this campaign that Al Gore would be seen as a big spoil sport of some kind and a guy who got in the way of history. That the time to change it would be after the election."
Alter argued: "I'm not, I'm not talking about changing the rules or having the popular vote somehow supercede the electoral. I'm talking about as a practical political matter. If the re-counts could be assured to be totally accurate and if everybody agreed on the re-counts then there wouldn't be this problem. But that's not the way re-counts work. If you look at the history of close re-counts in, in congressional races they are always disputed. You go precinct by precinct. And then people say this re-count wasn't fair, we have to do it again. And the result, after weeks, would be a lot of pressure to say, instead of trying to sort out who really won Florida let's, let's end this thing."

Alter was remarkably in tune with Democratic thinking. Brokaw proposed: "So Jonathan let me just take you through this. If you think at the end of the recall that, that Governor George W. Bush is ahead by 1500 votes."
Alter: "The Democrats go right into court."
Brokaw: "And?"
Alter: "And they'll try to get another re-count and they'll start canvassing by, by precinct and county and they'll challenge the whole re-count process. And pretty soon you are into litigation land. And the American people will be saying, 'Hey wait a minute! Al Gore won this election. What is all of this about?'"
Brokaw: "Alright, well he's building a foundation in the popular vote, Jonathan, for your theory, which I still don't buy into, by the way. But we'll see what happens."

Later, Alter ruminated about Gore piling up votes in California: "Let's say he opens up a 400,000 vote lead with that last five percent. Does that increase the political pressure then for Governor Bush?"
Brokaw: "I think absolutely it all increases the political pressure on Governor Bush. But what I'm saying is that if we are a nation of laws those were the laws. We talked about this. It wasn't the first time that this has been raised. We didn't wake up on election morning and [slaps forehead] and say 'The Electoral College, I forgot about that!' It's been there from the very beginning."
Russert: "And when people look at that map some will suggest, 'My God, Governor Bush won 30 states. Al Gore only won 19 or 20. Why shouldn't that figure in the calculation?"
Brokaw: "We spent the last 10 days talking about where they've been going just because of the Electoral College."
Alter: "I think the tricky thing is when a court gets involved. If you have some local judge in Florida who is going to determine the entire presidential election based on his analysis of the re-count that's where a lot of folks are gonna get off the bus on this Electoral College business."
Brokaw saw the end of the Electoral College: "Well my guess is that they ought to expedite the whole thing into the Federal Court system and maybe even run it all the way up to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible. And do it swiftly in the interests of getting this thing resolved. Both sides ought to agree to some kind of a path that they would be happy to have it resolved with and, and then go from there. And then what I am quite confident of, this is the last we'll hear of the Electoral College. After this election my guess is that it's gonna be yanked out of there. Nobody wants to go through this again."
Russert: "It will take a Constitutional amendment."
Brokaw: "I know but I think the country is gonna get sufficiently aroused by this. You know we are in a whole new political climate."

Aroused with a little media encouragement.

10

Hollywood celebrities are thrilled by Hillary's victory. Wednesday's Access Hollywood caught actress Uma Thurman walking into the Talk magazine/Miramax election party in New York City. She gushed:
"It's the best news ever. Yeah, it's the best news ever. Hillary has won, it's such a total victory I think for women all over America and for her and for New York. I'm thrilled as a New Yorker."

Another CyberAlert this afternoon with how David Letterman's audience booed Hillary's victory and his "Top Ten Things Overheard Last Night at the Florida Election Commission." -- Brent Baker


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