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CyberAlert -- 12/11/2000 -- SC Handing Election to Their Party

SC Handing Election to Their Party; Florida Ruling Showed No "Split" or "Divide" Like the U.S. High Court

1) George Stephanopoulos accused the U.S. Supreme Court of jumping "right into the middle of a political dispute in a way that will hand the election to the party of the person that appointed them." Steve Roberts asserted the court "appeared to be acting for partisan motives to protect George Bush from those votes being counted. I think they've done themselves a lot of damage."

2) CBS News anchor John Roberts: "Some people have suggested that the court has shown itself to be nothing more than a political entity in it's splitting along at least ideological if not partisan lines."

3) The Florida Supreme Court's 4-3 ruling was not "split" or "divided" according to New York Times and Washington Post headlines, but the headlines in those papers the next day applied those caveats to the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling.

4) The NBC Nightly News devoted a story to how blacks in Duval County have "a lingering question: what happened to their votes?" But every voter, black and white, got the same ballot.


1

Add George Stephanopoulos and Steve Roberts to the list of reporters on TV shows over the weekend denouncing the Supreme Court's Saturday stay order. (The December 10 CyberAlert detailed the Saturday talk show comments from Nina Totenberg, Evan Thomas, Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson.)

On Sunday's This Week, Stephanopoulos, who now serves as both an analyst and a reporter for ABC News shows, accused the U.S. Supreme Court of hypocrisy for violating its "federalism" mantra and has "jumped right into the middle of a political dispute in a way that will hand the election to the party of the person that appointed them."

On CNN's Late Edition, Steve Roberts asserted the court "appeared to be acting for partisan motives to protect George Bush from those votes being counted. I think they've done themselves a lot of damage." When it was pointed out that two Republican appointees opposed the stay order, Roberts insisted: "It just showed that they had some independence."

-- George Stephanopoulos during the roundtable on the December 10 This Week: "Absent a ringing endorsement of manual counts, which I don't think you're going to see from this Supreme Court, it probably is over for Al Gore. But what does this say about the Supreme Court? I mean this Supreme Court which has said, you know, we believe in federalism, we believe in state sovereignty, we believe in judicial restraint has overturned a state law, a state court interpreting state law and it's jumped right into the middle of a political dispute in a way that will hand the election to the party of the person that appointed them."

-- Steve Roberts, a former New York Times reporter now with U.S. News, during the roundtable on CNN's Late Edition: "I think they've made a big mistake. Scalia said that, in his comment, that one of the reasons for staying the count was to avoid creating a cloud over the Bush campaign. I think he's done exactly the opposite. I think staying the count has created the cloud. We saw all those pictures of the voters, of the counting yesterday, those votes are not counted. The Supreme Court is creating a cloud over a Bush presidency because those votes were not counted."

Roberts added: "There's so much hypocrisy here. You had the Republicans attacking the Florida Supreme Court vociferously, four to three, a Democratic court, justices appointed by Democratic Governors, you know doing the work of Gore campaign. Turns around, five justices appointed by Republicans, operating in a clearly political and partisan manner, and suddenly this is wonderful, this is justice at work."
Host Wolf Blitzer pointed out: "Two of those Republican appointed justices voted on the other side."
Roberts decided that meant they show "independence" as he replied: "It just showed that they had some independence. Look, I think there's a lot of damage to the court, I agree with you, and I think the court increased it by what they did yesterday because they appeared to be acting along partisan lines, they appeared to be acting for partisan motives to protect George Bush from those votes being counted. I think they've done themselves a lot of damage."

2

Sunday night on the CBS Evening News, anchor John Roberts proposed to legal analyst Jonathan Turley: "Some people have suggested that the court has shown itself to be nothing more than a political entity in it's splitting along at least ideological if not partisan lines. Has the court's credibility been diminished at all here?"

Turley agreed with the liberal criticism: "I think it has in the eyes of many because of the stay. The question is why give the stay if you're going to resolve this in a matter of days. It looked like you had five justices that were rushing in to sort of muscle through a conclusion. That's unfortunate. I think that many people will have a lingering question about whether this is partisanship that's being revealed in these decisions."

3

The Florida Supreme Court's 4-3 ruling was not "split" or "divided," but the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision deserved such caveats. Compare and contrast the New York Times and Washington Post headlines on Saturday and Sunday, December 9 and 10:

-- New York Times, in all caps in two lines across the width of the front pages.

Saturday:
"FLORIDA COURT BACKS RECOUNT;
BUSH APPEALING TO U.S. JUSTICES"

Sunday:
"SUPREME COURT, SPLIT 5-4, HALTS
FLORIDA COUNT IN BLOW TO GORE"

-- Washington Post, also in two lines across the entire width of the top of the front pages.

Saturday:
"Fla. Supreme Court Orders
Partial Recount Across State"

Sunday:
"Divided U.S. Supreme Court
Orders Freeze on Fla. Count"

4

Raising the race card and seeming to imply that black voters in one Florida county were a lot dumber than white voters. Sunday's NBC Nightly News ended with a piece by Kerry Sanders on how many more votes by black than white voters were disallowed in Jacksonville.

Sanders began his December 10 piece by noting that among a Baptist Church's membership there's "a lingering question: what happened to their votes?" Sanders explained how 27,000 ballots in Jacksonville's black precincts were disallowed, as many as 1 in 3 in some precincts, compared to 1 in 14 in white areas. After a soundbite from local Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Sanders blamed the ballot design:
"Elections officials here admit the ballots themselves may have caused confusion. Instructions on the sample ballots mailed to every voter said 'vote all pages.' The sample showed all ten candidates for President on one page, but the election day ballot was different. Page one had only five candidates for President, page two had the other five [video shot of ballot page with instruction to "Turn Page" above arrow and text reading "to continue voting"]. Anyone who voted on all pages as instructed ended up voting twice in the presidential race. That's called an over-vote. The Justice Department is now looking into the vote irregularities in Florida." Sanders allowed a local canvassing board member to deny any differing treatment for blacks before he concluded by recalling how a Baptist minister raising the subject is a veteran of civil rights fights.

But all voters in the entire county had the same ballot, so it's pretty irresponsible to give credibility to the issue of racial discrimination just because some didn't realize you can only vote for one candidate for President. -- Brent Baker


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