ABC/WPost Word Poll Question to Get Desired Result on Filibuster --4/26/2005
2. Morning Shows Treat as Scandalous Frist at a Religious Event
3. WashTimes Really Runs Article on MRC's "DisHonors Awards" Gala
ABC and the Washington Post touted how a new poll found two-thirds opposed to a rule change to end Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees, but the language of the question led to the media's desired answer. "An ABC News poll has found little support for changing the Senate's rules to help the President's judicial nominees win confirmation," World News Tonight anchor Charles Gibson trumpeted Monday night. The Washington Post's lead front page headline, over a Tuesday story on the poll, declared: "Filibuster Rule Change Opposed." But the questions in the poll failed to point out the unprecedented use of a filibuster to block nominees who have majority support while they forwarded the Democratic talking point that "the Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush" and painted rules changes as an effort "to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees," not as a way to overcome Democratic obstructionism.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson set up an April 25 story on the media's sudden concern about mixing politics and religion, specifically Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist addressing the "Judicial Sunday" broadcast, by highlighting one answer in a new poll:
An on-screen graphic read: "ABC News/Washington Post poll "Change Senate rules to help President Bush's judicial nominees win confirmation?" "Support: 26% "Oppose: 66%"
For the ABCNews.com summary of the poll: abcnews.go.com
"Filibuster Rule Changed Opposed," announced the Tuesday Washington Post's top front page headline over the subhead: "66% in Poll Reject Senate GOP plan to Ease Confirmation of Bush's Judicial Nominees." An excerpt from the start of the article by Richard Morin and Dan Balz:
As the Senate moves toward a major confrontation over judicial appointments, a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush's court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
GOP leaders are threatening a rule change to prohibit the use of filibusters to block judicial nominees and have stepped up their criticism of the Democrats for using the tactic on some of Bush's nominees to the federal appellate courts. They say they are prepared to invoke what has become known as the "nuclear option" to ensure that Bush's nominees receive an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
But by a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush's nominees. Even many Republicans were reluctant to abandon current Senate confirmation procedures: Nearly half opposed any rule changes, joining eight in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 political independents, the poll found....
END of Excerpt
For the April 26 news story in full: www.washingtonpost.com
-- "The Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to block these nominations?" Right: 48 percent; wrong: 36 percent.
-- "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?" Support: 26 percent; oppose: 66 percent.
For the full rundown of all of the questions in the poll, see this PDF (scroll down to question #34): www.washingtonpost.com
-- "In a change from long Senate tradition, Democrats have employed the threat of filibusters to block the confirmations of ten federal appeals court judges who would win majority support in an up or down vote. Do you think the Senate Democrats are right or wrong to use such tactics?"
-- "Would you support or oppose restoring the Senate's traditional procedures which provide for a majority vote of Senators to confirm judicial nominees?"
All three broadcast network morning shows jumped early Monday to treat as a scandal Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's taped remarks against judicial filibusters on a "Justice Sunday" simulcast from an evangelical church in Kentucky. The networks didn't apply heat on Democrats who've held up some federal judicial picks since 2001. ABC's Charles Gibson tried to make the conservative organizer seem as extreme as possible as he highlighted how Tony Perkins charged that "the federal courts pose a greater threat to representative government than terrorist groups." CBS used four conservative labels without any liberal labels (or liberal soundbites) as reporter Joie Chen declared that Christian conservatives were "seething" in their church seats. NBC's Matt Lauer put Frist in the worst light as he insisted that "Frist took part in a conservative Christian TV broadcast last night that questioned the religious faith of some Democrats." Chip Reid then warned that unlabeled "critics" called the GOP's proposal to end judicial filibusters "radical," as Democrats opposed "some of President Bush's most conservative, anti-abortion nominees to the federal courts."
[The MRC's Tim Graham, based on transcripts provided by the MRC's Jessica Barnes, Brian Boyd and Geoff Dickens, submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
To conservatives, it's amazing that federal appeals court judge nominees like Texas judge Priscilla Owen can be held up since being nominated by President Bush back in May of 2001, but the liberal media find the heat of scandal to be focused only on Senator Frist and the religious right.
In the first feature segment after the opening newscast on the April 25 Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson explained: "We're going to turn next to the showdown over the courts. Evangelical Christians held a high-tech rally in Kentucky last night -- you may have heard about it -- and then they simulcast it to churches nationwide. They claim the federal courts are dangerously liberal and that Democrats are making things worse by blocking some of President Bush's nominees for the federal bench. ABC's Linda Douglass has a report from Washington."
Douglass explained: "Christian conservative leaders urged evangelicals to demand that the Senate approve all of President Bush's judicial nominees...They lashed out at Democratic Senators who have threatened to filibuster, debate endlessly, to block ten of Mr. Bush's judicial appointees, especially those who oppose abortion rights."
Gibson then interviewed liberal former Clinton aide Paul Begala, of the supposedly canceled but still airing CNN show Crossfire, and Reverend Joe Watkins, who has recently appeared as a guest host opposite Begala on the CNN show.
Gibson began with a challenge to the liberal premise: "Paul, let me start with you. Why is this any different? Evangelical Christians hold a rally against activist judges, broadcast it around the country. Why is that any different than any other lobbying group doing the same? The AARP, for instance." Begala answered for 55 seconds.
Gibson then started a series of questions to Watkins underlining the unfairness of conservatives: "Alright, let me take this to Reverend Watkins. Take Paul's comments and also the editor of the Sojourner, who said there that Republicans, religious words, questioning the faith of their opponents. Fair criticisms?" Watkins maintained "this is not even about religion," but the Senate's duty to confirm or reject nominees on an up or down vote.
Gibson interrupted: "But they're doing more than that. They're not only questioning these judges, they're also saying, overall, the courts are going too far and they need to be called to account for this....Well, the organizer of this event, a fellow named Perkins, said, and I'm going to quote him, 'the federal courts pose a greater threat to representative government than terrorist groups.' That's inflammatory isn't it, Reverend?"
Watkins replied without defending Perkins or questioning the quote, which appeared in Frank Rich's column in the Sunday New York Times. Rich cited for his source of the quote the liberal magazine The American Prospect, but ABC had no credit line for the quote as it pasted it on the screen for about seven seconds. To read the American Prospect piece by journalist Rob Garver, see: www.prospect.org
Gibson then turned to Begala: "Alright, let me go back then to Paul Begala. Is it as benign as Reverend Watkins would indicate?" That enabled Begala to go on for almost a minute about how conservatives "have no idea, I don't think Dr. Dobson is able to actually peer into my soul and see why I oppose these ten millionaire judges. And on what religion -- the leader in the Senate for my party is Harry Reid. He's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, so I guess we can't be against Mormons. The leader of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee is Teddy Kennedy. He's a Catholic, so I guess we can't hate the Catholics either. Joe Lieberman, Reverend Watkins mentioned, he's an Orthodox Jew, very observant, we can't hate them. Hillary Clinton is a Methodist and a Protestant -- who am I supposed to hate, Joe?"
Now that's a scoop: Paul Begala says he and other Democrats "love everybody and without conditions."
Chen began by finding a flock of seething Christian conservatives: "Thousands of Christian conservatives gathered in Kentucky, seething over what they call the 'filibuster against faith,' and spoiling for a political fight...In a broadcast called Justice Sunday aired on Christian stations across the country, the Senate's top Republican, Majority Leader Bill Frist, sent a message of support...Frist's appearance is heating up growing tensions in the tug-of-war between religion and politics. Inflamed by the role of federal judges in Terri Schiavo's final days, by the debate over abortion, by rulings on gay marriage. Conservative Christians are now determined to take a stand against what some have called a judiciary run amok and against what they see as Democratic efforts to block conservative nominees from the federal bench."
Chen ended by noting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was "dismayed by what he sees as political intrusion on the judiciary...Still, when you look at the history of federal judiciary appointments, things haven't changed all that much. Presidents Clinton and Reagan had about the same number of nominees blocked here as President Bush has in Congress, ten so far."
Over on NBC's Today, Matt Lauer began: "On Close Up this morning, God and politics on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist took part in a conservative Christian TV broadcast last night that questioned the religious faith of some Democrats. NBC's Chip Reid has more."
Viewers might have gotten the impression from Lauer that Frist in his remarks "took part" in questioning the religious faith of Democrats, which even ABC's Douglass noted he did not. For a transcript of the Frist remarks, go to: frist.senate.gov
Today viewers then saw a taped piece from reporter Chip Reid:
Hearing that might make you wonder whether ABC's Charles Gibson would find all this "blow up the Senate" talk from Democrats a bit "inflammatory."
"Hoots and jabs at liberal bias" read the headline over a Tuesday Washington Times "Party Lines" story on the MRC's "2005 DisHonors Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2004," which was held Thursday night. Reporter Christian Toto asserted that "nailing ideologues left and far left is the Center's specialty" and, after recounting some of the wining quotes, suggested: "The MRC couldn't have written this stuff themselves."
Update: While this story was posted on Monday, contrary to what the Monday CyberAlert reported, it did not appear in the Monday newspaper. It is, however, in the Tuesday newspaper.
The online version does not include a picture which accompanies the article (of Brent Bozell, Sean Hannity and former MRC staffer Sara Harris), so to see that you'll need to pick up a hard copy of the April 26 Washington Times, where the article appears on page B-8, the back page of the Metropolitan section.
For the MRC's Web site page on the awards ceremony, with RealPlayer videos of all of the nominated quotes, and clips of the presentations and acceptances in jest, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Brent Baker