2. Consensus: "Jack-in-the-Box" Bush Better, But Kerry Better Still
3. Kerry's Anti-Tax Pledge Appalls Russert & Brokaw, Redolent of 41
4. ABC: Bush Distorts More than Kerry, So Must Be Held to Account
5. NBC Analysts Praise Questions, Russert: "I loved the Questions!"
6. MSNBC's Chris Matthews Shares How He Gave Up Sex Before Boxing
7. Nets, Especially CBS, Paint 96,000 New Jobs as Bad News for Bush
8. CBS's Julie Chen Calls Woman Ex-Convict a "Political Prisoner"
9. CBS Catches With Story on U.S. School Diagrams Found in Iraq
10. "Top Ten Questions Audience Not Allowed to Ask During Debate"
Post-debate polls from both ABC and CNN made John Kerry the winner of Friday night's town meeting-style presidential candidate debate at Washington University in St. Louis. ABC's survey of 515 registered voters polled three percentage points more Democrats than Republicans and Kerry was assessed the winner by that margin, 44 percent to 41 percent. CNN's same number of respondents picked Kerry over Bush by 47 percent to 45 percent, but as Bill Schneider was quick to point out, in CNN's universe Republicans outnumbered Democrats so, he argued, "for those debate watchers to say...that Kerry won by two points means Kerry made some progress."
Unlike after the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate, CBS News refrained from running one of their ridiculous polls via the Web of 180 "uncommitted" people. Instead, James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine came aboard to review with Dan Rather the best and worst moments for each candidate.
At about 10:51pm EDT/9:51pm CDT, Jennings reported ABC's poll results, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson, with matching on screen graphics for the numbers:
For the posted rundown of the ABC News poll: abcnews.go.com
CNN's posted results listed the party breakdown as: 38 percent Republican, 32 percent Democratic and 30 percent independent. See: www.cnn.com
Anchor Aaron Brown asked Schneider: "And one more question -- well, actually, I have two, but let me get you on the issues first. Did we break this down on Iraq and the economy and the like?"
Schneider soon acknowledged the media's role in shaping public perception of who won a debate: "What happened in the last debate was very interesting. Immediately after the debate, as we just reported, by a sixteen-point margin, people thought that Kerry had won the debate, but by the end of the weekend after that debate, people thought Kerry had won by a 38-point margin; more than 60 percent said Kerry had won. That became the reality, so the spin matters, the analysis matters, because in the next couple of days, people are going to be forming very significant impressions that they're not really sure of yet."
The consensus of the night from the television network reporters and analysts who offered an opinion: George W. Bush did much better than in the first debate, but may have been too animated, so John Kerry, utilizing his superior debating skills, won the debate on points. NBC's Tim Russert remarked that Bush "flew off the chair several times without being recognized, almost like a jack-in-the-box." FNC's analysts scolded Bush for missing "a great chance" to point out how Kerry opposed the Gulf War which had UN approval and a large alliance, just the conditions he chastises Bush for not achieving. Kerry got chided from the left on MSNBC by Ron Reagan who complained that "Kerry could have done a better job in pointing out the moral incoherence of Mr. Bush's position" on embryonic stem cell research.
On FNC, Fred Barnes suggested that "if you cupped your ear, you could hear Republicans all over the country and Bush supporters and the White House staff all giving a great sigh of relief because the President did so much better than he did in the first debate."
Over on CBS, John Roberts insisted there was "no question that President Bush was amped up tonight, and that plays well to partisans, the party faithful out on the campaign trail." But, he wondered, "How is it going to play with the undecided voter, though? I mean, is it the sort of thing that, you know, little kids are going to jump behind the couch and hide from him?"
In prime time, ABC's George Stephanopoulos described Bush as "much improved over the last time," but he reminded viewers that "Senator Kerry's been studying debate, I think, since high school."
Later, on Nightline, Stephanopoulos opined: "My gut tells me that President Bush helped himself personally by having an improved performance, but that Senator Kerry's campaign is helped more overall because the issues are trending in his direction."
Ever insightful, CBS's Bob Schieffer, the moderator of the next presidential debate, concluded: "So I think who you thought won will depend a lot on who you liked going into this."
Also of note from post-debate prime time coverage: On ABC, George Will observed how "we had the conservative Republican from the state of Texas boasting about the prescription drug entitlement, which is the largest expansion of the welfare state since 1965, and the liberal Senator from Massachusetts complaining about deficit spending." Peter Jennings charged: "This whole business of being absolutely Red and Blue America is a crock."
Now, a more extensive sampling of post-debate analysis and comment, from Friday night, October 8, starting at about 10:38pm EDT/9:38pm CDT. ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS ran coverage until just before 11pm EDT, Fox cut out within five minutes, CNN and FNC stayed live until 1am EDT and MSNBC until 2am EDT. Of the broadcast network anchors, only NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert traveled to St. Louis.
-- ABC News, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson based on tips from the MRC's Rich Noyes.
# Stephanopoulos: "But you also saw tonight, I think, that Senator Kerry's been studying debate, I think, since high school, and he's had more than 70 town meetings this year, and you saw him putting those skills to work here tonight: addressing the audience members by their first name; working in Missouri in several answers -- of course, this is in St. Louis; as you said, confronting President Bush, and also laying out his plans.
# George Will: "On domestic policy, we had the conservative Republican from the state of Texas boasting about the prescription drug entitlement, which is the largest expansion of the welfare state since 1965, and the liberal Senator from Massachusetts complaining about deficit spending. The conservative from Texas then used the 'L' word, said this is a liberal we're dealing with, and the liberal promptly identified himself with Nancy Reagan, John McCain, welfare reform, faith-based initiatives, and 100,000 policemen on the street. Now, the world has been turned upside down."
# Ted Koppel, on Nightline: "Forget about the poll for a moment, what does your gut tell you about this second debate?"
# Bob Schieffer: "It was interesting, I thought the President did a little better tonight than he did in the first debate, but John Kerry is a very good debater, Dan."
# John Roberts: "Dan, we saw a very different President Bush up on the stage in this town hall style meeting tonight. This was a President Bush who was exactly tonight in this hall as he is on the stump, very energetic, very confident, making his points as if he was making them to a partisan audience. You know, prior to this debate just before the debate happened, Vice President Dick Cheney said that President Bush was going to, quote, 'woop on John Kerry,' and there's no question that the President certainly wasn't letting any dust settle on him. You could see his foot tapping sometimes as he was listening to John Kerry's answer, just itching to get up there and respond. The President did keep the grimacing under control tonight. A couple of times, he actually chuckled at John Kerry as he was making his statements, though that might seem to be somewhat pejorative as well. And I saw him a couple of times flash that famous wink at a couple of people who were in the audience for this town hall. I mean, no question that President Bush was amped up tonight, and that plays well to partisans, the party faithful out on the campaign trail. How is it going to play with the undecided voter, though? I mean, is it the sort of thing that, you know, little kids are going to jump behind the couch and hide from him on or is it the sort of thing that is going to sink in and people will say, 'Hey, here's a guy who's got some conviction'? Dan, I think that that's a very, very personal decision, and it's difficult for us, I think, at this point, to really assess how it's going to play. I couldn't tell you who won this. And I think that who won this debate is going to be a decision that's made on an individual sort of basis."
# Bob Schieffer: "I think that John Kerry is very comfortable in this kind of a setting. He's a very good debater. He's able to marshal facts. He seems cool. He makes his arguments. The President does not seem as comfortable as a debater. Democrats will say that John Kerry won this tonight. Republicans will say, look, Ike Eisenhower wasn't a great debater, but he was a very good leader. So I think who you thought won will depend a lot on who you liked going into this, Dan."
# Dan Rather wrapped up CBS's 20 minutes: "And so it comes to an end. Millions tonight saw the face-off between President Bush and Senator Kerry. It's to be expected that supporters of President Bush will say he won and that Senator Kerry's supporters will say he won, as Bob Schieffer pointed out earlier. In St. Louis tonight, a group of everyday citizens asked the candidates a wide range of questions, but the one question that may well decide the election 25 days away is this: Whom do truly independent and swing voters, especially those in about 15 states still up for grabs, including Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, whom do they believe is best qualified to lead the United States for the next four years?"
# CNN political analyst Carlos Watson: "I think when all is said and done, John Kerry ultimately will be perceived as the winner of this debate, although the President gave a stronger performance. But I think particularly among those who are undecided, the specificity I think will be important and I think we'll hear a lot about that in days to come."
# Bill Kristol: "I don't think the President was as effective as he might have been in reminding people about Senator Kerry's record in the Senate on defense and national security issues. I don't think we learned from President Bush that Senator Kerry voted against the first Gulf War."
# Fred Barnes: "You know, he missed, you mentioned the Gulf War, he missed a great chance to point out Kerry's vote on the Gulf War when Kerry was praising General Merrill McPeak of the Air Force for directing the air war during the Gulf War, and the President Could have stepped out and said, 'He did do a good job, but that was a war you voted against.'"
# Barnes: "Here's what I think was important, you know, some time, I think, moving into about the third half-hour of this debate, if you cupped your ear, you could hear Republicans all over the country and Bush supporters and the White House staff all giving a great sigh of relief because the President did so much better than he did in the first debate. I mean, he simply was better. He was more lively. He actually had some pretty good answers at times. And while Kerry wasn't quite as good, still good, but not quite as good, and Bush was much better, I think it comes out a tie."
# Tim Russert: "Tom, hats off to these questioners. They framed this election and this debate better than I've ever seen before. The list of questions you just laid out could not have more clearly defined the differences between these candidates. George Bush will be seen by Republicans as more energetic, more focused, more direct than the previous debate. And, in fact, he flew off the chair several times without being recognized, almost like a jack-in-the-box. John Kerry also energetic, forceful, playing to his base. The question tonight, on the differences on Iraq, the differences on tax cuts, the differences on stem cell, the differences on the environment, where do those undecided voters come down? They couldn't have a clearer choice tonight. This debate was very, very important for everyone."
# Ron Allen checked in from Allentown, Pennsylvania with a group of six undecideds, and they remained so: "We have three Democrats in the front row, three Republicans in the back row. The back row voted for President Bush, the front row voted for Al Gore last time around. And they are still all undecided. Fair? Some more undecided."
# Ron Reagan: "Yeah John Kerry could have done a better job in pointing out the moral incoherence of Mr. Bush's position. He tried to, when he, when he said, well you know, 'if, if you regard these cells as human life how can you, how can you be for experimenting on any of them?'"
More about NBC and MSNBC in items #3, #5 and #6 below.
NBC's Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw were appalled by John Kerry's pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $200,000. Appearing in MSNBC in the 11pm EDT/10pm CDT half hour, Russert rued to MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews: "I never thought I'd see another, 'Read my lips, no new taxes,' Chris. Never in my lifetime." Brokaw chimed in: "Especially with the deficits with the size that they are today." Brokaw suggested that Kerry may have remembered how George H.W. Bush, 41, won the presidency on an anti-tax hike pledge but, Brokaw warned, "he paid the penalty later." That penalty was not for making the pledge, but for unnecessarily breaking it.
The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this exchange amongst Matthews, at MSNBC's outside location, and Brokaw and Russert inside the venue:
Matthews: "Do you expect that the pledge that John Kerry was forced to make tonight on television before maybe 50 million people that he wouldn't raise taxes in the course of a one or two-term presidency on people who make less than $200,000 a year. Will he get an unfortunate headline out of that?"
ABC News to deliberately correct Bush more often than Kerry? In an internal memo which was given to the Drudge Report, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin declared that "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done." Halperin told his colleagues: "We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that." He also bemoaned the "stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage," claiming it "is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible." ABC's post-debate fact check matched Halperin's advice with two corrections for Bush to one for Kerry.
An excerpt from the text of the October 8 memo posted by the DrudgeReport.com:
....The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.
Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.
We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.
I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.
It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.
END of Excerpt
For the full Drudge posting: www.drudgereport.com
An October 8 posting by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch.org site, looked at the New York Times article praised by Halperin: "Only one side makes political exaggerations on the campaign trail, judging by Friday's Times report from Adam Nagourney and Richard Stevenson, 'In His New Attacks, Bush Pushes Limits on the Facts.' The cut-out line attempts to smear the Bush campaign with an old liberal bogeyman: 'Taking a page out of the Lee Atwater campaign book.'" The Times duo claimed:
ABC's post-debate fact check matched Halperin's advice with two corrections for Bush to just one for Kerry.
Peter Jennings began the fact checking at about 10:50pm EDT, 9:50pm CDT: "First of all, there was this question of the President being accused by Senator Kerry of owning a timber company, or having a part interest in a timber company and taking $84 in a tax rebate. Mr. Bush looked up and said, 'I own a timber company?' We all sort of looked at one another and said who was right? Well, it turns out Senator Kerry was right and here's how he figured it out, that under the Republican definition and based on the President's federal income tax returns of 2001, he reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise. He shifted it in 2002 and 2003 when he reported his timber income as royalties on a different tax schedule."
Turning to Jake Tapper, Jennings pointed out how "the President said twice that 75 percent of al-Qaeda had been brought to justice or captured. Right or wrong?"
The NBC team loved the questioners in the St. Louis audience. "Hats off to these questioners," Tim Russert gushed on NBC immediately after the debate concluded. He maintained: "They framed this election and this debate better than I've ever seen before." Later, on MSNBC, Tom Brokaw cited the "great value of having these voters ask those questions" and Russert exclaimed: "I loved the questions! They were right to the point. They came from the heart..." Characterizing the questions as "highly sophisticated," Chris Matthews didn't say much for his television audience as he declared: "They're obviously newspaper readers."
Just past 10pm CDT, from NBC's location inside the hall, Brokaw observed on MSNBC: "I thought it was the most useful debate that I've seen in a long, long time. Tim and I have been talking here about the great value of having these voters ask those questions, Tim."
Matthews soon added: "Tom, it seemed to me the questioners were highly sophisticated. They're obviously newspaper readers, they keep up with events."
(Unlike the last several town meeting-formatted presidential debates where, as documented in an October 8 MRC Media Reality Check, the questions posed skewed left, the questions on Friday night were ideologically balanced. The MRC's Rich Noyes broke down the 18 questions posed: eight from the left/pro-Kerry, eight from the right/pro-Bush and two ambiguous/neutral. The 1992, 1996 and 2000 town meeting debates included 23 informational questions, 17 liberal questions, and six from the right. See: www.mediaresearch.org )
TMI: Too much information. Seconds before the debate began, MSNBC analyst Ron Reagan analogized the event to a "prize fight," leading Chris Matthews to quip that the debaters don't have to give up sex. Then, to Andrea Mitchell's discomfort, he decided it was a good time to share that when he was a teenage boxer he gave up sex before bouts.
The MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed that at 9:01pm EDT/8:01pm CDT, leading into Charlie Gibson opening the debate, this exchange took place amongst MSNBC's panel on their outdoor set at Washington University in St. Louis:
Ron Reagan: "This is like a prize fight. I mean you know? Like I said before somebody's gonna lose."
The broadcast networks on Friday night portrayed the gain of 96,000 jobs in September as bad news, but CBS was the most negative and most pointed in tying Bush's political health to the latest jobs report. "Tonight, where are the jobs?", Dan Rather demanded at the top of the CBS Evening News before driving home the political implications: "A disappointing report on the economy is out just weeks before the election." Rather asserted, in setting up his lead story, that "what's troubling is the number of jobs the economy did and did not create. CBS's Anthony Mason reports it's far fewer than expected, far fewer than needed." Mason relayed how an economist who "likens the latest jobs numbers to a bloop single in the bottom of the ninth when your team is way behind. They might offer some hope, he says, but they're not going to win the game." Introducing a second story, Rather stressed: "It's the first net job loss on a President's watch since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression of the 1930s."
In fact, whether he wins or loses the election, President Bush has nearly four more months in which to have job growth credited to his term.
ABC's World News Tonight also led with the employment numbers. Betsy Stark contended that "economists generally agree, this was another surprisingly weak jobs report." Stark rued: "What troubled economists is that September marked the fourth straight month of anemic gains."
Both the ABC and CBS pieces featured dour assessments from the same economist, Bill Cheney of MFC Global Investment Management.
NBC's Tom Brokaw led with the beheading in Iraq, but when he arrived at the unemployment report he emphasized the negative: "Employers' payrolls grew by 96,000 in September. That's much weaker than analysts had expected. The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 5.4 percent last month as more than 200,000 job seekers dropped out of the labor pool. Both campaigns today were trying to put their own spin on the numbers as they get ready for tonight's debate." NBC Nightly News proceeded to deliver each candidates' spin on the employment numbers.
Now, a full rundown of October 8 CBS and ABC coverage:
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased: "Tonight, where are the jobs? A disappointing report on the economy is out just weeks before the election. It puts President Bush in a tough position tonight but also gives him new opportunity as he faces Senator Kerry in their second televised showdown."
Rather led his broadcast: "Good evening. President Bush and Senator Kerry are about to go head to head for the second time in a joint appearance tonight that will focus in large part on the economy, an economy that is still struggling to create jobs. The Labor Department reported today that the unemployment rate remained at 5.4 percent in September. What's troubling is the number of jobs the economy did and did not create. CBS's Anthony Mason reports it's far fewer than expected, far fewer than needed."
Mason asserted, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "The U.S. economy may be growing, producing more goods and reaping more profits, it's just not creating enough jobs. 96,000 new jobs were added to the economy in September. That may sound like a lot, but we need 150,000 every month just to keep up with population growth."
Rather introduced the second story of the night: "While the economy has created nearly two million jobs in the past year, President Bush still goes into the election with 821,000 fewer jobs in the nation than when he took office. It's the first net job loss on a President's watch since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression of the 1930s. CBS's Jim Axelrod reports Senator Kerry is ready to play that up in tonight's town meeting face-off."
Axelrod observed: "First, John Kerry landed in St. Louis. Then the jobs numbers arrived. For Kerry, perfect timing."
Stark maintained: "Well, Peter, the politicians are still debating how to interpret today's numbers, but economists generally agree, this was another surprisingly weak jobs report. The Labor Department put some of the blame for last month's poor performance on all those hurricanes. What troubled economists is that September marked the fourth straight month of anemic gains."
Friday morning on CBS, just as Martha Stewart was checking herself into the Alderson Federal Prison Camp for Women, The Early Show's Julie Chen turned to a former inmate in the prison for insight into what Stewart can expect inside, but Chen introduced her guest as "a political prisoner." Claire Hanrahan, however, was not locked up for holding dissenting beliefs, but for repeatedly trespassing on an Army base as she joined leftists such as actor Martin Sheen in protesting the now-closed military training center, the School of the Americas, in November 2000.
[The MRC's Rich Noyes submitted this article for CyberAlert.]
During the 7am half hour of the October 8 program, Chen, in Los Angeles, began her interview with Hanrahan, who appeared from Asheville, North Carolina: "Later today Martha Stewart will turn in her designer duds for a prison issue uniform. She's scheduled to spend the next five months at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp for Women in West Virginia. And what will her life be like there? Claire Hanrahan is a former inmate at Alderson. Good morning, Claire...You served six months at Alderson as a political prisoner about three years ago. Based on your experience there what can Martha expect when she shows up later this afternoon?"
Unknown to Chen and the rest of the media, Stewart had in fact already checked into the prison by the time the morning shows came on the air at 7am EDT. Hanrahan, a far-left-wing anti-war activist, has also recently appeared on ABC's Good Morning America, MSNBC, CNN and the Fox News Channel to talk about life inside the Alderson prison. But none of those networks held Hanrahan up as "a political prisoner" as did CBS's Chen.
Hanrahan has exploited the media's appetite for information about Martha Stewart's prison conditions as a chance to bash the American judicial system as unjust. On Thursday October 7, for example, Hanrahan appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: "I was quite surprised by the faces of the women, of America's imprisoned mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers, these disenfranchised women of Alderson. And their stories, the stories of what brought them to prison are a really sad tale of how our justice system fails."
When she was in the Alderson prison, Hanrahan wrote an article for the quarterly magazine Peace News deploring CNN for its post-9/11 coverage, complaining of their Afghan war coverage: "The attempt to 'manufacture consent' riles me." An excerpt:
Now the networks she once deplored are showcasing Hanrahan as someone with useful insight into the goings on at Stewart's new home in Alderson prison.
For Hanrahan's left-wing prison screed, go to: www.peacenews.info
Update. On Friday, the CBS Evening News caught up with ABC's World News Tonight and ran a story about how several local schools in the U.S. were warned that layout diagrams for their schools were found with insurgents in Iraq. The October 8 CyberAlert relayed how on Thursday night ABC's Brian Ross reported how "law enforcement officials tell ABC News that someone described as a captured Iraqi insurgent had downloaded school floor plans...from elementary schools and high schools" in six U.S. states. CBS's Dan Rather picked up the same story about a warning issued to schools, but held it to a brief item in which he managed to not mention how floor plans were found with the enemy in Iraq.
The Ross story re-played on Friday's Good Morning America, but neither the Thursday or Friday NBC Nightly News mentioned the find. (Saturday's Today aired a story and interview segment.)
Dan Rather introduced CBS's Friday story: "Something discovered in Iraq has led U.S. authorities to advise schools across America to be more vigilant, though they stress there is no specific threat against any school." Alfonsi began by noting that "because of bullies a half world away," a New Jersey mother kept her son home from school when she "learned this morning that back in July, information about her son's New Jersey school was found on the computer disk of an Iraqi man with ties to Saddam Hussein's government. Blueprints and photos of schools in California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon were also on the disk."
For the October 8 CyberAlert on Thursday ABC and CBS coverage: www.mediaresearch.org
10) From the October 8 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions Audience Members Were Not Allowed to Ask During the Debate." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Who's a better one-term President -- you or your father?
9. Is it annoying being married to a woman who always smells like ketchup?
8. With oil at $50 a barrel, why aren't we looking into cheaper barrels?
7. Which best describes your economic policies: "Preposterous lies" or "Absolute crap"?
6. Senator Kerry, what impact do you think your large, canoe-shaped head will have on the economy?
5. What is your favorite episode of "Sanford and Son"?
4. Do you prefer flipping or flopping?
3. Which one of you is Dukakis?
2. Do you think John Edwards would be interested in dating a New Jersey Governor?
1. If either of you win, will you pardon Martha?
-- Brent Baker, with the overnight team of Geoff Dickens, Jessica Anderson and Brad Wilmouth