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ABC: 21-Week Preemie 'May Change What People Think About Life' --2/21/2007


1. ABC: 21-Week Preemie 'May Change What People Think About Life'
ABC's World News led Tuesday night with an unusual spin, one favorable to conservatives: the survival of a baby born in Florida last October just 21 weeks and six days after conception, the least time ever spent in the womb by an infant who has survived. Anchor Charles Gibson teased: "A tiny miracle that raises big questions in the debate over abortion." Setting up his top story, Gibson acknowledged the impact on the abortion debate: "The fact that she has survived and grown to more than four pounds, and is about to go home, is a miracle, yes, but a miracle that may have an effect on the debate over abortion. And it may change what people think about life." Reporter Dan Harris soon outlined how "anti-abortion activists" are using her: "For anti-abortion activists, Amillia is a national poster child. Today they promised to hold her up as an example in future debates over restricting abortion." Leading into a soundbite from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Harris noted that "only one state, North Carolina, explicitly prohibits aborting a fetus as the point at which Amillia was born." Harris, however, countered Perkins by stressing how "bio-ethicists we spoke with today argue that Amillia is a miracle baby, and that it's unwise to change public policy based on miracles."

2. Chris Matthews Concedes: Barack Obama Appeals to 'the Kid in Me'
Interviewing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's senior strategist, David Axelrod, MSNBC's Chris Matthews made a pitch to get Obama on his Hardball College Tour. On Monday's edition of the show, Matthews made this syrupy plea to Axelrod: "I think it's a great, it's a great platform for a guy who, clearly, according to my kids, and maybe me too, the kid in me, appeals to the youth of America and the young at heart."

3. NBC's David Gregory: 'Are the Clinton Haters Mellowing?'
Tuesday's Today show asked: "Conservatives Softening On Hillary?" Clearly lifting generously from David Kirkpatrick's New York Times story, NBC's David Gregory examined the theory that "Clinton-haters are mellowing" as they realize Bill Clinton wasn't such a bad President. Leading off the piece, Gregory portrayed those who opposed the Clintons during the '90s in the kookiest light possible as he cast them as mere "attention-seekers" and then ran a clip of the infamous Clinton Chronicles video. After the clip, Gregory aired a soundbite from a clearly bored with the topic Christopher Ruddy, as he asserted that among conservatives: "There's a view now that Bill Clinton was not only not so bad, he was pretty good," and that they "don't have the same level of anger towards her that they once had towards him." Gregory also quoted unnamed conservatives: "Some conservatives credit Mrs. Clinton for working to shed her liberal image dating back to her push for universal health care. They also note her stand on the Iraq war which has made her a target for liberals, not conservatives. Her aides insist something else is going on." Gregory then threw it to Clinton aide Howard Wolfson to brag that the Clinton years were "a whole lot better" than the Bush years.

4. Maher: Bush 'a Gilligan Who Cannot Find His Ass with Two Hands'
To laughter, cheers and applause from the Burbank audience of NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Bill Maher on Tuesday night issued a litany of denigrating insults at the intelligence of President George W. Bush, as if his decisions are not in accord with many experienced experts. Maher pointed out how MSNBC's "Joe Scarborough did a whole week of panel discussions on whether he was an idiot." Maher elaborated: "The people who were defending him were saying, 'well, he's just inarticulate.' But inarticulate doesn't explain foreign policy. I mean, it's not that complicated. The man is a rube. He is a dolt. He is a yokel on the world stage. He is a Gilligan who cannot find his ass with two hands. He is a vain half-wit who interrupts one incoherent sentence with another incoherent sentence." AUDIO&VIDEO See & Hear the Bias - Audio & Video Clip Archive

5. 'Top Ten Surprises in Barack Obama's 60 Minutes Interview'
Letterman's "Top Ten Surprises in Barack Obama's 60 Minutes Interview."


ABC: 21-Week Preemie 'May Change What
People Think About Life'

ABC's World News led Tuesday night with an unusual spin, one favorable to conservatives: the survival of a baby born in Florida last October just 21 weeks and six days after conception, the least time ever spent in the womb by an infant who has survived. Anchor Charles Gibson teased: "A tiny miracle that raises big questions in the debate over abortion." Setting up his top story, Gibson acknowledged the impact on the abortion debate: "The fact that she has survived and grown to more than four pounds, and is about to go home, is a miracle, yes, but a miracle that may have an effect on the debate over abortion. And it may change what people think about life."

Reporter Dan Harris soon outlined how "anti-abortion activists" are using her: "For her parents, Amillia's story is a personal and emotional one. But for anti-abortion activists, Amillia is a national poster child. Today they promised to hold her up as an example in future debates over restricting abortion." Leading into a soundbite from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Harris noted that "only one state, North Carolina, explicitly prohibits aborting a fetus as the point at which Amillia was born." Harris, however, countered Perkins by stressing how "bio-ethicists we spoke with today argue that Amillia is a miracle baby, and that it's unwise to change public policy based on miracles."

AP story on the baby: news.yahoo.com

[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Tuesday's NBC Nightly News didn't mention the case and the CBS Evening News, anchored by Russ Mitchell, aired a very short item read by Mitchell that was without any connection to the abortion debate.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the February 20 story on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

Charles Gibson, in opening teaser: "Welcome to World News. Tonight, a baby born after just 21 weeks in the womb survives. A tiny miracle that raises big questions in the debate over abortion."

Gibson led his newscast: "Good evening. We begin tonight with the birth of a baby -- a tiny baby. Amillia Taylor was born last October after just 21 weeks and 6 days in the womb. That, we believe, is a shorter period of gestation than any other infant that has ever survived. The fact that she has survived and grown to more than four pounds, and is about to go home, is a miracle, yes, but a miracle that may have an effect on the debate over abortion. And it may change what people think about life. ABC's Dan Harris joins me tonight. Dan?"

Dan Harris: "Charlie, good evening. Until now, the story of tiny Amillia Taylor has primarily been a medical and human interest story. But today it became a political story as well. When Amillia Taylor was born in October, she was roughly the length of a ball-point pen, her feet were smaller than a thumb, and she weighed less than 10 ounces. But she was clearly scrappy."
Dr. William Smalling, Baptist Children's Hospital in Kendall, Florida: "She told us early on from the start that she was a fighter and she wanted to be here."
Harris: "This is Amillia now. She weighs four pounds, and, despite the fact that she's had some respiratory and digestive problems, her doctor says Amillia's prognosis is excellent."
Sonja Taylor, mother of premature baby: "I guess I'm still in amazement. I really am, even looking at her now. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that she would even get this far."
Harris: "For her parents, Amillia's story is a personal and emotional one. But for anti-abortion activists, Amillia is a national poster child. Today they promised to hold her up as an example in future debates over restricting abortion. Only one state, North Carolina, explicitly prohibits aborting a fetus as the point at which Amillia was born; 12 states permit abortion at that point; 23 states leave it to a doctor to decide whether the fetus is viable; and in 14 states, there are no laws on the books that would prevent such an abortion."
Tony Perkins, Family Research Council: "As we see, with the advancement of medical technology, we have children surviving outside the womb younger and younger. And it really brings into focus how valuable and how precious this human life really is."
Harris: "Bio-ethicists we spoke with today argue that Amillia is a miracle baby, and that it's unwise to change public policy based on miracles."
Professor Arthur Caplan, University of Pennsylvania: "We don't have new treatments. There isn't anything to be done differently to try and save 21-week-old premature infants. And so, I think it would be wrong to just say, because this one made it, we ought to treat everyone when we don't have any new treatments."
Harris: "Amillia was scheduled to be released today from Baptist Children's Hospital in Florida. But her doctors decided to hold her for a few more days as a precaution, they say. And once she does go home, she will, Charlie, still be followed very closely by her doctors."

Chris Matthews Concedes: Barack Obama
Appeals to 'the Kid in Me'

Interviewing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's senior strategist, David Axelrod, MSNBC's Chris Matthews made a pitch to get Obama on his Hardball College Tour. On Monday's edition of the show, Matthews made this syrupy plea to Axelrod: "I think it's a great, it's a great platform for a guy who, clearly, according to my kids, and maybe me too, the kid in me, appeals to the youth of America and the young at heart."

[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters: newsbusters.org ]

The following is the full exchange as it occurred on the February 19 edition of MSNBC's Hardball.

Matthews: "Let me ask you, David Axelrod, let me just try to make a proposition to you. On behalf of our producers here and everybody that works at MSNBC, we would like a lot to have your candidate, Barack Obama, to sit, the junior senator from Illinois be our guest, our special guest on a town meeting with college students at some college, perhaps, of his choice. Certainly a good college. And we'd love him in the round with the students for an hour, like we did with John McCain and we've done with other candidates, including Hillary Clinton in the past, and, and Rudy Giuliani and the others. We've tried to get everybody. We would really like to get Barack Obama. You don't have to answer today."
David Axelrod, senior strategist for Barack Obama: "Well, I appreciate the offer. And I, because we, we're spending a lot of time on college campuses, a lot of the energy is coming from young people here. So it's a great invitation and I am going to, I'm gonna get right out of there and pass it along."
Matthews: "Well, we will pay for it, and it is very expensive, but it will be a well-lighted room and he get a chance to answer questions for a full hour in front of students, and they'll get involved with him. And I think it's a great, it's a great platform for a guy who, clearly, according to my kids, and maybe me too, the kid in me, appeals to the youth of America and the young at heart. There's no doubt what you say is true. He does draw on something deeply good about this country. And we will have to see whether he can really deliver. Anyway, thank you very much, David Axelrod."

NBC's David Gregory: 'Are the Clinton
Haters Mellowing?'

Tuesday's Today show asked: "Conservatives Softening On Hillary?" Clearly lifting generously from David Kirkpatrick's New York Times story, NBC's David Gregory examined the theory that "Clinton-haters are mellowing" as they realize Bill Clinton wasn't such a bad President. Leading off the piece, Gregory portrayed those who opposed the Clintons during the '90s in the kookiest light possible as he cast them as mere "attention-seekers" and then ran a clip of the infamous Clinton Chronicles video. After the clip, Gregory aired a soundbite from a clearly bored with the topic Christopher Ruddy, as he asserted that among conservatives: "There's a view now that Bill Clinton was not only not so bad, he was pretty good," and that they "don't have the same level of anger towards her that they once had towards him."

For the February 19 New York Times article, "As Clinton Runs, Some Old Foes Stay on Sideline," go to: www.nytimes.com

Gregory also quoted unnamed conservatives: "Some conservatives credit Mrs. Clinton for working to shed her liberal image dating back to her push for universal health care. They also note her stand on the Iraq war which has made her a target for liberals, not conservatives. Her aides insist something else is going on." Gregory then threw it to Clinton aide Howard Wolfson to brag that the Clinton years were "a whole lot better" than the Bush years.

Eventually, at the end of the piece, Gregory did air a more accurate reflection of conservative sentiment towards Hillary. NBC's new political director Chuck Todd noted that "anti-Hillary fervor is hibernating," and conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie claimed a Hillary candidacy "would focus our mind and attention."

[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following is a complete transcript of the segment as it occurred during the 7am half-hour on the February 20 Today show:

Meredith Vieira: "Let's turn to the race for the White House now. Senator Hillary Clinton has always been a favorite target of the right but now some prominent critics may be reconsidering. NBC's chief White House correspondent David Gregory takes a look. Good morning, David."

[On screen headline: "Decision 2008, Conservatives Softening On Hillary?"]

David Gregory: "Good morning, Meredith. Well opponents are counting on the idea that Hillary Rodham Clinton is too polarizing to be elected President but are the Clinton-haters mellowing? At the height of her husband's impeachment scandal Hillary Clinton labeled the movement aligned against him."
Hillary Clinton: "-is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for President."
Gregory: "That movement targeted both Clintons and included investigations and attention-seeking claims from corruption to murder. Some aired in films like The Clinton Chronicles."
Judge Jim Johnson, former Arkansas State Senator: "I've never felt that Clinton consciously or unconsciously was hemmed in with morality."
Gregory: "A lot of the money behind efforts to discredit the Clintons then came from Richard Mellon Scaife, the heir to the Mellon banking fortune. Chris Ruddy, who co-owns an online magazine with Scaife, Newsmax.com, says there has been a reappraisal of the Clinton years, particularly on domestic policy."
Christopher Ruddy: "There's a view now that Bill Clinton was not only not so bad, he was pretty good."
Gregory: "What does that mean for the potential second President Clinton?"
Ruddy: "They don't have the same level of anger towards her that they once had towards him."
Gregory: "Some conservatives credit Mrs. Clinton for working to shed her liberal image dating back to her push for universal health care. They also note her stand on the Iraq war which has made her a target for liberals, not conservatives. Her aides insist something else is going on."
Howard Wolfson, Clinton Communications Director: "The whole country's looked at the Clinton years, they've looked at the Bush years and they found the Clinton years to be a whole lot better in many areas."
Gregory: "But is Senator Clinton really any less polarizing than before?"
Chuck Todd: "I think the anti-Hillary fervor is hibernating and I think right now until the conservatives get their house in order and feel like they can be on offense again, right now they've been on defense and that's why it feels like it's gone."
Gregory: "Conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie insists the vast right wing conspiracy lives."
Richard Viguerie: "The conservatives would see the possibility of a President Hillary Clinton as a impending hanging and it would definitely focus our mind and attention."
Gregory: "But the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency raises questions about what the former President would do. Some of his friends are speculating publicly, according to reports, that he, the former President Clinton could actually take over her Senate seat. We'll see, Meredith?"
Vieira: "Alright David Gregory, thanks a lot."

Maher: Bush 'a Gilligan Who Cannot Find
His Ass with Two Hands'

To laughter, cheers and applause from the Burbank audience of NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Bill Maher on Tuesday night issued a litany of denigrating insults at the intelligence of President George W. Bush, as if his decisions are not in accord with many experienced experts. Maher pointed out how MSNBC's "Joe Scarborough did a whole week of panel discussions on whether he was an idiot." Maher elaborated: "The people who were


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defending him were saying, 'well, he's just inarticulate.' But inarticulate doesn't explain foreign policy. I mean, it's not that complicated. The man is a rube. He is a dolt. He is a yokel on the world stage. He is a Gilligan who cannot find his ass with two hands. He is a vain half-wit who interrupts one incoherent sentence with another incoherent sentence."

Maher appeared as a guest to plug his weekly Friday night HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, which returned last week to the pay-cable channel. On his program the Friday before the 2006 election, Maher warned his viewers that if they vote Republican then "you vote to enable George Bush to keep ruling as an emperor -- a retarded child emperor, but an emperor." The November 5 CyberAlert, with video: www.mrc.org

[This item was posted late Tuesday night, with video, on the MRC's NewsBusters blog. The audio/video will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert. But in the meantime, to listen to the MP3 audio of Maher's litany of insults for Bush, or to watch the Real or Windows Media video, go to: newsbusters.org ]

The comments on the February 20 Tonight Show, picking up after Leno insisted Democrats are no harder to make fun of than are Republicans:

Bill Maher: "Political comedy is effective in inverse proportion the competence of the leader."
Leno: "Well, that's true. That's true."
Maher: "In other words, the bigger the fool, the easier for us. And this man, come on, let's get real. I mean, Joe Scarborough did a whole week of panel discussions on whether he was an idiot [audience laughter ]. Seriously. And when you've lost Scarborough Country, I mean -- and I think the science is in on this question."
Leno: "Yeah, yeah."
Maher: "I mean, I think he is -- the people who were defending him were saying, 'well, he's just inarticulate.' But inarticulate doesn't explain foreign policy. I mean, it's not that complicated. The man is a rube. He is a dolt. He is a yokel on the world stage. He is a Gilligan who cannot find his ass with two hands [audience applause]. He is a vain half-wit who interrupts one incoherent sentence with another incoherent sentence [cheers and applause]. And I hope I'm not piling on, Jay."

Maher soon added: "Okay, and this is the problem with the Democrats, is that the alternative actually would've been a better President both times. Al Gore would have been a better President. John Kerry would have been a better President. Not because they are Democrats. Because they read."

'Top Ten Surprises in Barack Obama's
60 Minutes Interview'

From the Late Show Newsletter for the week of February 19, "an exclusive un-aired Top Ten for newsletter subscribers," the "Top Ten Surprises in Barack Obama's 60 Minutes Interview." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. Interview took place in a car as Obama stalked a hunky astronaut

9. Kept calling Steve Kroft "Doctor"

8. Criticized Bush for not doing anything to prevent "Norbit"

7. Announced plans for a lavish Broadway musical "Obama Mia!"

6. Vowed to reduce Al Gore's pants size by 2012

5. Unsubstantiated claims he's "bagged" two of the Dixie Chicks

4. Andy Rooney wandered in to complain that there aren't enough candidates named Chet

3. At one point, excused himself to TiVo Late Show Ventriloquist Week

2. Confessed to switching to Geico after seeing those charming caveman commercials

1. He's voting for Hillary

Not hard to see why that list didn't make it onto the show.

-- Brent Baker