July's "Electrifying" Democrats vs. Nasty Republicans of August --8/31/2004
2. ABC and NBC Suggest a Second Bush Term Means Another War
3. Charles Gibson Scolds "Divisive" and "Partisan" Rudy Giuliani
4. ABC Sees "Fighting Laura Bush," CBS Sees "Secret Moderate"
5. Good Morning America Ignores Band-Aids that Upset Stephanopoulos
"Electrifying" Democrats vs. Nasty Republicans. Even though Republican delegates enthusiastically cheered both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani's speeches Monday night, the Tuesday morning shows on ABC and CBS provided bland summaries of GOP convention activities, at least compared with their take on the opening night of the Democratic convention five weeks ago.
And while the reporters complained about Giuliani's attacks on John Kerry Monday night, ABC and CBS did not complain about the negativity from Al Gore, Bill Clinton and especially Jimmy Carter on the first night of the Democratic convention.
Here's how CBS's Hannah Storm opened the July 27 Early Show: "Good morning. I'm Hannah Storm in Boston where former President Bill Clinton brought down the house last night at the opening of the Democratic national convention. We'll have complete coverage."
After the opening credits rolled, Storm continued to gush: "In this sports mad town, it was like the Celtics were playing in a championship game here at the Fleet Center last night. It was absolutely electric. Good morning to all of you. It was just rocking here last night."
On the July 27 Good Morning America, ABC's Charles Gibson was just as jazzed by the Democrats' opening night: "As you know, it is exciting to come to conventions. I've been coming to conventions now since 1968, and I know they're controlled and they're scripted, but you can tell a lot about how energized a party is. And Monday night, for a convention, was rocking here. People were juiced like I don't think I've seen at a convention ever before. This place really was moving last night."
For more on how the network morning shows covered the first night of the Democratic convention, go to: www.mrc.org
Now, fast-forward to the August 31 Early Show. Storm was off, so a subdued Harry Smith began the show: "I'm Harry Smith at Madison Square Garden in New York where First Lady Laura Bush delivers her speech at the Republican national convention tonight. And she'll join me this morning for an interview."
After the credits, Smith continued his businesslike approach: "Tonight, the Republican convention delegates will get more of a personal take on the President when they hear from First Lady Laura Bush. But at last night's opening session the focus was on the President's leadership in the war on terror. CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante is here in Madison Square Garden with more. Good morning, Bill."
Plante's opening focused on the Republicans' negativity: "Harry, good morning to you. Last night the man who led this city in the aftermath of the 9/11 disaster, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, led the President's praise of the record, and took a lot of pot-shots at John Kerry."
Over on Good Morning America, Gibson also focused on the attacks: "This morning, the rallying cry. The Republican National Convention opens with memories of 9/11 and attacks on John Kerry."
After the theme music played, co-host Diane Sawyer told Gibson that the Republicans "tried to begin with a bang last night." Gibson zeroed in on Giuliani's speech: "Well, they did indeed. A very partisan speech, a rather fiery speech from the former New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani." In an interview, Gibson scolded Giuliani for making "sharply critical" remarks about John Kerry and asked whether talking about 9/11 at a political convention was "divisive."
(For more about the networks' adverse reaction to Giuliani's speech last night, see item #3 below.)
An hour later, beginning the 8am segment of the show, Gibson characterized the evening as "a night of attack after attack on John Kerry and references to 9/11."
Another term, another war? As ABC and NBC continued showing excerpts from their previously taped interviews with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the reporters seemed to presume that re-elected Bush would launch new military action. NBC's Matt Lauer asked the President if nuclear renegade Iran wasn't "a great candidate" for a pre-emptive war, while ABC's Claire Shipman asked Cheney: "Should Americans expect that a second Bush-Cheney term would mean another war?"
Shipman also darkly pointed out that a "psychological profile test" indicated that Cheney is well-suited to work as an "undertaker."
On Tuesday's Today, MRC's Megan McCormack noted how Lauer reminded President Bush that Iran supported terrorism and was pursuing a nuclear bomb:
Over on ABC's Good Morning America, Claire Shipman continued her interview with Vice President Cheney, whom she called "one of the principal architects" of the Iraq war.
The interview was taped several days ago at a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Shipman dramatically noted how "even here in Wyoming, the echoes of war are never far away," as Cheney related how he spoke early in the day on a conference call with President Bush.
"Should Americans expect that a second Bush-Cheney term would mean another war?" Shipman wondered, suggesting, "A couple of other countries out there, Iran and North Korea, look like they might be our next target."
Shipman also posed this question to Cheney: "I read you once took a psychological profile test, and it said the position you're most suited for is undertaker?"
Rudolph Giuliani drew tough questions on ABC and CBS this morning. ABC's Charlie Gibson called his speech "more partisan" and "sharply critical of John Kerry," and he worried that any mention of 9/11 was inappropriate and "divisive." CBS's Harry Smith complained that some Republicans would call Giuliani a "RINO, Republican in name only," and warned, "the party is controlled by the more socially conservatives [sic]...the support that the President is starting to lose is among moderate Republicans and liberal Republicans." While they had no harsh words, FNC's Fox & Friends mistakenly suggested that Giuliani had endorsed Bill Clinton.
A run-down of this morning's interviews:
# ABC. Just minutes into Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson seemed quite disappointed in Giuliani's performance: "A more partisan speech, I think, than people anticipated from you. You were sharply critical of John Kerry. Are you saying that the Democratic nominee is not strong enough, not resolute enough to lead the War On terror?" Giuliani said his point was that Bush would be a better leader.
Gibson then asked about September 11 exploitation: "Does 9/11, because it was the theme last night, belong as a political issue in this country? Both you and John McCain made the point last night, harkening back to the days after 9/11 when we were a united nation -- when we were just Americans, not Democrats and Republicans. By making it a political issue, isn't that, in and of itself, divisive?"
Giuliani unloaded, laughing: "Well, they made it one before we did. You're ignoring the Democratic primary [sic]. Months and months, $70 million of ads attacking President Bush, a lot of it over his leadership with regard to September 11th. Michael Moore, who became a big feature of this convention last night, was a major hero at the Democratic convention. He did a $110 million movie about what a horrible job President Bush did, in his estimation, with September 11th. So how do we as Republicans defend the President that we think has done a good job with September 11 without mentioning it? This would be like, wouldn't even be a fight with one hand tied behind your back; this would be a fight with two hands tied behind your back. And John Kerry and John Edwards and Teddy Kennedy and Michael Moore could all attack the President -- they just about called him a liar and all kinds of other things -- but we can't say anything because it's September 11th. So I think there's a double standard that's being utilized here...."
Gibson then tried to take Bush's interview with Matt Lauer yesterday and pin him as a flip-flopper, asking Giuliani: "And President Bush yesterday said we cannot win this war, which was an interesting comment. Just a month ago, he had said he had a clear vision and a strategy for winning the war; yesterday he said we can't win it. Is that a change of position, the kind that you'd criticize Senator Kerry for?" Giuliani disagreed.
# CBS. In the 7:30 half hour of the show, Harry Smith echoed Gibson in tagging the Republicans as divisive: "You talked about unity last night and you talked about right after 9/11 when there were no Democrats and there were no Republicans, that the country was all on the same page. It seemed then that the country would follow George Bush just about any place, maybe except into Iraq. Why has that been so divisive?" He also asked "Could the war on terrorism have been fought without fighting in Iraq?"
Then Smith turned into his own divisive line of questioning: "Last night you quoted everybody from Winston Churchill to Abraham Lincoln, and were trying to show your bona fides as a Republican here. Some people would suggest Rudy Giuliani is a RINO -- Republican in name only."
Giuliani joked: "Rhino? I've been called a lot of things..."
Smith insisted: "Republican in name only, because you're moderate on a lot of social issues. Was this [speech] really a platform for you to say, 'You know what? Maybe you guys ought to be thinking about me four years from now'?" Giuliani said no, but that there are lots of moderates in the party.
Smith countered: "But the power in the party is controlled by the more socially conservatives [sic]. That's what the platform is all about. And if you look at the front page of the USA Today, the support that the President is starting to lose is among moderate Republicans and liberal Republicans." Giuliani pointed out that Kerry and Edwards voted for the Iraq war, and 95 percent of the delegates in Boston opposed it.
# Fox News Channel. By contrast with the other networks, Fox & Friends hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade voiced no objections to the criticisms of Kerry in the speech, and Doocy suggested it's hard to avoid mentioning 9/11 in discussing the war on terror. Doocy addressed Giuliani's place among Republicans:
"Mr. Mayor, you know, I think it would be safe to say you're not a typical Republican. You look back at your history. You didn't even go to the '96 convention. You endorsed Bill Clinton at one point. But what is it about this guy, this 'W' guy that has just lit you on fire?"
Giuliani objected: "No, no, I never endorsed Bill Clinton.I endorsed Mario Cuomo when he was running for governor in 1994. And that was the one time I endorsed a Democrat."
ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC, and NBC all interviewed Laura Bush this morning, and some networks differed quite a bit from their interviews last month with Teresa Heinz Kerry. ABC asked about the "new fighting Laura Bush," whereas last month they asked Mrs. Heinz Kerry "Are we too polite in politics?" CBS laid down feminist praise last month, but pressed Mrs. Bush if she was the "secret moderate" of the Bush family. NBC asked the First Lady about the gender gap and Kerry's greater popularity with females. They failed to ask Mrs. Heinz Kerry about Bush's greater popularity with males.
# ABC. On Tuesday, July 27, during the Democratic Convention in Boston, after a tough Jake Tapper piece recounting the "shove it" incident and old quotes from Teresa Heinz Kerry against Ted Kennedy, Charles Gibson asked Mrs. Heinz Kerry, "Are we too polite in politics?"
But on Tuesday in New York, Diane Sawyer began her interview with Laura Bush with an opposite take: "A number of people have said, 'We think we detect a change in tone from the First Lady, that in recent days she's called one of John Kerry's accusations absurd and ridiculous, told Time magazine that you didn't think the Swift Boat ads were unfair given what had been said about her husband.' Is this the new fighting Laura Bush?" Mrs. Bush replied: "I don't think so. I think it's the same old Laura Bush." (Mrs. Bush told the New York Post it was "absurd" for the Kerry camp to attack President Bush for sitting for seven minutes in the elementary school in Florida after learning of the World Trade Center attacks.)
Sawyer added: "No change in tone tonight? Are we going to hear from you a specific attack on John Kerry?" Sawyer also asked about her husband's statement on NBC about not being sure you can win the war on terror in four years: Did the President say to you that he misspoke, or did he say what he meant to say?" In Boston, Gibson never raised any John Kerry speech or statement with Teresa, merely saying "This town in fascinated with him, obviously, everybody here, Democrats this week."
# CBS. Harry Smith treated Laura Bush like she was chief economist: "Among the things that you've been talking about is the rebounding economy. You've been talking about job growth and the economy rebounding, but last week new numbers came out that suggested that there are now more than 35 million Americans living in poverty. The number of people who are living without health insurance in America is now over 45 million. If your husband gets credit for the rebounding economy, should he also take responsibility for the numbers on the downside?"
Smith then jumped to trying to divide Mrs. Bush from her husband's views on social issues:
Mrs. Bush replied: "Sure, absolutely....Do we see eye to eye on every issue? Of course not. But do we understand each other's view point? Absolutely."
Smith unloaded his theory: "Are you the secret moderate in the family?"
In Boston, Hannah Storm's Tuesday morning interview with Mrs. Heinz Kerry was centered around her "shove it" comment, with no policy questions. Storm did ask: "How does one reconcile being a strong, smart, independent, accomplished woman with maybe what is perceived to be proper decorum for a First Lady? How do you bring those two worlds together?"
# NBC. On Today, Matt Lauer began with praise: "First Lady Laura Bush has been an eloquent advocate for issues that our near and dear to our heart. Literacy, heart disease, and the plight of women in Afghanistan." He asked mostly personal questions, and ended with one about the length of the war on terror, but in one question, he highlighted the old gender gap: "I've got a sticker here that's for sale here at the convention, it says George W. Bush, the W is for women. The reality is there is a gender gap here. That the Democrats tend to poll better with women. John Kerry about 5 to 12 percent better with women than your husband. Why do you think that is?"
In Boston, Katie Couric interviewed Mrs. Heinz Kerry and asked mostly personal questions (including two that touched very lightly on her large foundations), but never asked her why her husband has trouble attracting a majority of male voters.
# CNN. In Boston, American Morning co-host Bill Hemmer took Mrs. Heinz Kerry carefully through her "shove it" gaffe, pin-pointing what was said. With Mrs. Bush, Hemmer also discussed her remarks, first the Time magazine quote where she denied the Swift Vet ads were unfair in comparison to anti-Bush ads, and then her New York Post comments on the President's classroom decision. He also asked her impressions about the New York protests. Unlike the other networks, Hemmer concluded with a new newspaper poll on the wives: "The opinion that you have of Laura Bush: favorable, 63 percent. That's better than your husband. The L.A. Times also points out: Who better fits your idea of a First Lady? Laura Bush, 56 percent, Teresa Heinz Kerry, 26 percent. Your reaction to those numbers?"
# Fox News Channel. E.D. Hill asked Mrs. Bush a set of personal questions this morning, including if she was upset by the Iraqi soccer team's complaints about a Bush commercial. Mrs. Heinz Kerry did not appear on Fox & Friends in Boston.
For more on how the networks treated Teresa Heinz Kerry five weeks ago, go to: www.mrc.org
Last night, ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Peter Jennings were aghast that Republican delegates would wear band-aids with little purple hearts on them, meant to make light of John Kerry earning Purple Hearts in Vietnam for superficial wounds. But this morning's Good Morning America made no mention of the controversy that so bothered ABC the night before.
In coverage shown Monday night on ABC News Now, the all news service from ABC News available via the Internet and a few cable TV systems, George Stephanopoulos lectured a veteran about how John McCain has called the attacks on Kerry "'dishonest and dishonorable.' Why do you think it's okay to wear a bandage like that?" Stephanopoulos couldn't believe anyone would doubt Kerry: "Do you really believe he didn't earn his medals or his purple hearts?" Peter Jennings turned to Newt Gingrich: "Did you squirm a little when you saw the guy wearing the purple heart?" Gingrich: "No, I think it's funny."
Reviewing this morning's Good Morning America, MRC's Jessica Anderson found no mention of the band-aid controversy that so captivated the ABC News team last night. For more on what Jennings and Stephanopoulos said, and to see still a picture of delegates wearing the anti-Kerry band-aids -- which also upset some of CNN's reporters -- go to: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Tim Graham and Rich Noyes, with the help of MRC's daytime crew of analysts Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd and Megan McCormack