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CBS Legitimizes Draft Fear, Driving Mom from Bush to Howdy Doody --9/29/2004


1. CBS Legitimizes Draft Fear, Driving Mom from Bush to Howdy Doody
Five weeks before the election, CBS decided to give legitimacy to Internet rumors by devoting a "What Does It Mean to You?" segment to "fears" of a supposedly Bush-supporting mother that President Bush will impose a military draft. Dan Rather intoned: "A mother worries her son will be drafted. Does she have good reason?" Richard Schlesinger focused his piece around how the mother "is petrified about a military draft, and she's not alone. Mass e-mails are circulating among worried parents." Schlesinger pointed out how both Bush and Kerry deny that they'd institute a draft, but the mother is "not buying it. She's a Republican, but she's also a single-issue voter." He asked her: "Would you vote for a Democrat?" She replied: "Absolutely. I would vote for Howdy Doody if I thought it would keep my boys home and safe." Schlesinger concluded with a warning: "She's a Bush supporter today, but if she doesn't like what she hears between now and November, Beverly could easily cross over."

2. Nets Resurrect "Mission Accomplished," Scold Bush for Gaffe
Though President George W. Bush did not endorse the "Mission Accomplished" banner and only told FNC's Bill O'Reilly that he'd "absolutely" fly to an aircraft carrier again to say "thank you" to returning sailors whose mission had been completed, NBC's Matt Lauer and ABC's Charles Gibson on Tuesday morning pounced on Bush's comments as some kind of major gaffe. "Do you think in some ways," Lauer lectured Karen Hughes, "the President is in denial about that event?" Lauer recited the death and violence in Iraq since the carrier event, and then inquired: "Do you understand why some people say the administration's in a bit of a fantasy world?" Lauer argued that after Bush's "bring 'em on" comment "the insurgents did come on," and so he suggested Bush's words have "had deadly consequences." Gibson challenged Bush's distancing himself from the banner: "The President says the message was 'thank you.' That was not the sign. The sign didn't say 'thank you'; the sign said 'Mission Accomplished.'" Gibson pleaded to O'Reilly: "The Secretary of State said on Sunday things are worse right now than they were in Iraq. Do you think George Bush is ever going to admit that?"

3. Only "Grain of Accuracy" in Bush Ads, "Real Truth" in Kerry Ads
Time's Joe Klein insisted, Monday night on CNN's Paula Zahn Now, that there is only "a grain of accuracy" to the Bush campaign claim that John Kerry has changed positions on Iraq, but he maintained that there's "some real truth in what the Kerry ads are saying, which is that George Bush has really made a hash of the war in Iraq."

4. Late Show Mocks CBS News: "We'll Make Something Up by Air Time"
The MRC has created a special Web section devoted to a sequential listing of the MRC's coverage of the Dan Rather/60 Minutes scandal. Meanwhile, CBS's Late Show continues to ridicule the CBS Evening News with fake promos promising campaign coverage based "on stuff we heard from a guy at the Steak n' Shake" and how "we'll make something up by air time" to link Saddamn Hussein to Britney Spears.


Corrections: Item #2 in the September 28 CyberAlert, about how 60 Minutes Executive Producer Josh Howard once worked for left-wing Congressman Solarz, misspelled the former Congressman's name. It is Stephen, not Steven. Item #5 in the same CyberAlert, about how a study documented that ABC, CBS and NBC have given John Kerry the most favorable TV coverage of any presidential candidate since at least 1988, should have been credited to the MRC's Rich Noyes who wrote the article for CyberAlert.

CBS Legitimizes Draft Fear, Driving Mom
from Bush to Howdy Doody

CBS News Five weeks before the election, CBS decided to give legitimacy to Internet rumors by devoting a "What Does It Mean to You?" segment to "fears" of a supposedly Bush-supporting mother that President Bush will impose a military draft. Dan Rather intoned: "A mother worries her son will be drafted. Does she have good reason?" Richard Schlesinger focused his piece around how the mother "is petrified about a military draft, and she's not alone. Mass e-mails are circulating among worried parents." Schlesinger pointed out how both Bush and Kerry deny that they'd institute a draft, but the mother is "not buying it. She's a Republican, but she's also a single-issue voter." He asked her: "Would you vote for a Democrat?" She replied: "Absolutely. I would vote for Howdy Doody if I thought it would keep my boys home and safe." Schlesinger concluded with a warning: "She's a Bush supporter today, but if she doesn't like what she hears between now and November, Beverly could easily cross over."

Earlier, Schlesinger had given credence to her fear: "The machinery for a draft is already in place, and the acting director of Selective Service believes he could start drafting people quickly."

Dan Rather teased at the top of Tuesday's CBS Evening News, with the heading "Draft Fears" beneath video of the soon-to-be profiled Philadelphia mother at the dinner table with her two sons: "A mother worries her son will be drafted. Does she have good reason? We'll tell you where the presidential candidates stand on the draft in the election series, 'What Does it Mean to You?'"

Rather set up the eventual story, as checked by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth against CBS's posting of the text: "It's no secret, the all-volunteer U.S. military, especially the Army, Marines, and many Reserve units, are stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what about bringing back the draft? A lot of Americans are worried about that. Where do the presidential candidates stand? CBS's Richard Schlesinger tells you in the 'Eye on America' election series 'What Does it Mean to You?'"

Schlesinger began, over video of Beverly Cocco working as a school crossing guard: "Beverly Cocco has spent most of her life protecting children in Philadelphia. She usually worries about other people's kids. But as Election Day approaches, it's her own two grown sons who Beverly is most worried about."
Beverly Cocco, identified on screen as a "Pennsylvania voter," inside her home: "I go to bed every night and I pray, and I actually get sick to my stomach. I'm very worried. I'm scared. I'm absolutely scared. I'm petrified."
Schlesinger: "Beverly is petrified about a military draft, and she's not alone. Mass e-mails are circulating among worried parents. But neither President Bush nor John Kerry has said he will re-institute the draft. In fact, they both say they will not."
John Kerry, in May: "I will give us a foreign policy that absolutely makes it unnecessary to have a draft for this country."
Schlesinger: "Kerry says he'll try to get allies of the U.S. to send troops that could relieve American soldiers in Iraq. The Bush administration says that is pure fantasy. The President wants to train more Iraqi troops to take over for the Americans."
George W. Bush: "The war on terror will continue. It's gonna take a while. And no, we don't need a draft."
Schlesinger: "But Beverly's not buying it. She's a Republican, but she's also a single-issue voter. Would you vote for a Democrat?"
Cocco: "Absolutely. I would vote for Howdy Doody if I thought it would keep my boys home and safe."
Schlesinger: "In fact, there are at least three votes in this house riding on the draft: Beverly's and her sons Carmen and Nick. Are you guys worried about being drafted?"
Nick Cocco, college senior, inside their home: "Yeah, it's the talk, there's the talks there, and though people aren't actually coming out and saying it, it's there."
Schlesinger: "The machinery for a draft is already in place, and the acting director of Selective Service believes he could start drafting people quickly."
Jack Martin, Selective Service system: "I think that we could do it in less than six months if we got the call."
Schlesinger: "This time there would be no long deferments for college students, and a lot more people could be eligible for the draft than ever before -- men and women aged 18 to 26 could be called up. Of course, there hasn't been a draft since 1973. But that's not much comfort to Beverly Cocco. So she's keeping a sharp eye on the political traffic. She's a Bush supporter today, but if she doesn't like what she hears between now and November, Beverly could easily cross over. In Philadelphia, I'm Richard Schlesinger for 'Eye on America.'"

For the CBSNews.com version of the story, with pictures of the Cocco family: www.cbsnews.com

Nets Resurrect "Mission Accomplished,"
Scold Bush for Gaffe

ABC's Good Morning America Though President George W. Bush did not endorse the "Mission Accomplished" banner and only told FNC's Bill O'Reilly that he'd "absolutely" fly to an aircraft carrier again to say "thank you" to returning sailors whose mission had been completed, NBC's Matt Lauer and ABC's Charles Gibson on Tuesday morning pounced on Bush's comments as some kind of major gaffe. "Do you think in some ways," Lauer lectured Karen Hughes, "the President is in denial about that event?" Lauer recited the death and violence in Iraq since the carrier event, and then inquired: "Do you understand why some people say the administration's in a bit of a fantasy world?" Lauer argued that after Bush's "bring 'em on" comment "the insurgents did come on," and so he suggested Bush's words have "had deadly consequences." Lauer also contended that Bush could be tagged a "flip-flopper."

ABC's Good Morning America brought aboard O'Reilly to discuss his interview with the President. Gibson challenged Bush's distancing himself from the banner: "The President says the message was 'thank you.' That was not the sign. The sign didn't say 'thank you'; the sign said 'Mission Accomplished.'" O'Reilly noted that Bush would say, "I didn't put the sign up and it was a morale booster," to which Gibson claimed: "But they did put the sign up. I mean, his campaign put the sign up." Later, an exasperated Gibson pleaded: "The Secretary of State said on Sunday things are worse right now than they were in Iraq. Do you think George Bush is ever going to admit that?"

NBC's Matt Lauer -- NBC's Today, September 28. The MRC's Geoff Dickens took down Lauer's questions to Bush advisor Hughes who was outside in the dark in Crawford, Texas. Lauer set up the 7am half hour segment prompted by Kerry's attacks on Bush's comments to O'Reilly:
"On Close Up this morning the race for the White House. With President Bush and Senator Kerry aiming verbal volleys at each other, their first debate just a couple of days away. Karen Hughes is a top adviser to the President."

# Lauer: "You know that the President sat down with Bill O'Reilly on Fox for an interview and he was asked about that, that flight onto the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May of 2003 under the 'Mission Accomplished' banner. Let's play a portion of the interview and I'll ask you to comment, okay."
Bill O'Reilly to Bush inside White House: "Would you do it again?"
Bush: "You mean have the sign up there?"
O'Reilly: "No, no but go in there with the flight jacket-"
Bush: "Absolutely."
O'Reilly: "You would?"
Bush: "Of course I'm saying to the troops on this carrier and elsewhere, thanks for serving America. Absolutely."
Lauer to Hughes: "Do you think in some ways Karen, do you understand why some people think the President is in denial about that event?"
Hughes: No, these troops had accomplished their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush said hard work ahead, these troops were coming home.

# Lauer: "On that same day the President also said, and I'm quoting, 'The U.S. and our allies have prevailed,' end quote. And when you think of the fact that 900 Americans have died in Iraq since he made that statement and we've got daily car bombings and kidnappings and beheadings and we've got some provinces of Iraq that aren't under our control and where fair elections according to impartial observers can't be held, do you understand why some people say the administration's in a bit of a fantasy world?"
Hughes: Remember that battle for Baghdad, that was supposed to be huge, was over, removal of Hussein had been accomplished. Kerry now says wrong war as if Zarqawi would turn peaceful.

# Lauer: "You talk about Zarqawi being a trained killer. Two months after the trip to the USS Abraham Lincoln, the President, in July of 2003, said this, quote, 'There are some who feel like the conditions are such,' talking about Iraq, 'that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on.' Well the insurgents did come on. Do you think that was a bad choice of words? They've had deadly consequences."
Hughes: Bush was trying to send strong signal of support for the troops.

# Lauer: "The President has had some fun at the expense of John Kerry in preparation for the debate saying it's hard to prepare for a debate against John Kerry because he has so many positions and he could debate himself for 90 minutes. Here's what Kerry had to say."
John Kerry at campaign event: "I've had one position steady all the way folks. That I thought we ought to stand up and hold Saddam Hussein accountable but I thought we ought to do it the right way. And doing it the right way means having the patience and the maturity to bring allies to our side."
Lauer: "Karen on certain issues like steel tariffs and the 9/11 commission and nation building the President's view has evolved during the four years of his presidency. Does that make him a flip-flopper?"

# Lauer: "But quickly I'm saying is when a politician changes views on issues like steel tariffs or the 9/11 commission does that mean they've evolved in those issues or that their flip-floppers?"


-- ABC's Good Morning America, September 28. During the 7am half hour, Charles Gibson interviewed Bill O'Reilly about the Bush interview O'Reilly conducted last week and which is airing in three parts this week on his FNC show.

The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught this part of the exchange in which Gibson seemed befuddled by Bush's comments: "You asked him about this appearance that he made some time ago when the active fighting had ended, when he landed on the aircraft carrier and there was that big sign that said 'Mission Accomplished.' Let's hear the exchange."
O'Reilly to Bush: "The 'Mission Accomplished' statement in May 2003, if you had to do it all over again, would you not have done it?"
Bush: "Well, first of all, the statement said, 'Thank you for serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thank you for being on one of the longest cruises in our nation's history. Thank you for serving our country and we've still got tough work in Iraq.' Now, I'm going to go and thank our troops every chance I get."
John Kerry at a campaign event: "If he had it all to do over again, he'd go land on that aircraft carrier in that same flight suit, and stand up there and say, 'mission accomplished,' and he'd say that at a time when only 150 of our young men and women had died. Since he's said that, over 900 have given their lives for the country. The mission was not accomplished when he said it. He didn't know it and didn't understand it."

Back on live with O'Reilly, Gibson charged: "John Kerry responding to what the President said in your interview, but the President says the message was 'thank you.' That was not the sign. The sign didn't say 'thank you'; the sign said 'Mission Accomplished.'"
O'Reilly: "Well, I mean, you can debate that all day long. He's going to say, 'I didn't put the sign up and it was a morale booster.'"
Gibson: "But they did put the sign up. I mean, his campaign put the sign up."
O'Reilly: "Do you know that for a fact?"
Gibson: "There's been a lot of debate about that."
O'Reilly: "Okay, I don't know if it's a fact. If you know it for a fact, then you got him, but he's going to say that 'I did this for the troops,' and he's not going to say anything else. You can hit him, you can shake him, you can jump on him, that's what he's going to say, and Kerry's going to say, 'he didn't know what he was talking about, he mismanaged the war,' and then the voter is in the middle and the voter has to decide which guy has the better argument."
Gibson: "There's an interesting disconnect in the polls here -- Dan Harris just mentioned it in his piece. Fifty-one percent of the country, in the ABC/Washington Post poll, now says the war was a bad idea. 'Do you think the war was worth fighting?' Fifty-one percent say no, but when you ask which of the candidates can do a better job on Iraq, the vast majority says George Bush."
O'Reilly: "But that's not hard to figure out -- John Kerry hasn't defined what his strategy is yet. Now, we expect him to do it in the debate because if he doesn't, he loses. So everybody expects Kerry to go into the debate Thursday night and say 'this is what I'm going to do in Iraq, this is how we're going to win it.' If Kerry goes into the debate, and I hope he's watching Good Morning America -- I know he's a big fan of yours -- if he goes into the debate and just smacks Bush about screwing up, Kerry's going to lose. Kerry has to, just by the very nature that people don't know him, has to convince the folks -- I mean, we're talking about the people in the middle -- that he's got a better idea."
Gibson: "And that's his problem. He says 'I have a plan.'"
O'Reilly: "He's got to have a better idea."
Gibson: "He gives a four-point plan, and the White House says, with some justification, 'that's exactly what we're doing.'"
O'Reilly: "So the ABC News poll is accurate in the sense that the independents and the undecideds are waiting for a better idea from Kerry. If they don't hear it, they're more likely to go for the optimistic President Bush."
Gibson: "The Secretary of State said on Sunday things are worse right now than they were in Iraq. Do you think George Bush is ever going to admit that?"
O'Reilly: "Well, what's the point of him admitting it? What's the point? He vets everything that Powell says, he knows what Powell is going to go out and say. Everyone knows that between now and the elections in Iraq, that all the terrorists, Zarqawi and all of these guys are going to do everything they can to disrupt the election. Why is that a news bulletin? It's not; that's what they're going to do. So, that's a fact of life, it's going to get worse in the short term, and people have to process, it's very simple: you either believe Bush when he says things will get better or you don't. That's it!"
Gibson: "Interesting interview. Bill O'Reilly, airing for three nights on The O'Reilly Factor."

Only "Grain of Accuracy" in Bush Ads,
"Real Truth" in Kerry Ads

Time's Joe Klein insisted, Monday night on CNN's Paula Zahn Now, that there is only "a grain of accuracy" to the Bush campaign claim that John Kerry has changed positions on Iraq, but he maintained that there's "some real truth in what the Kerry ads are saying, which is that George Bush has really made a hash of the war in Iraq."

The MRC's Ken Shepherd caught this exchange, which took place during a look at campaign ads on the September 27 Paula Zahn Now on CNN:

Zahn: "You and I eat, drink and sleep with this stuff. The average person watching a television commercial is not privy to all of these details. How much distortion are they seeing on the air from both camps?"
Klein: "All that -- all you want to do with a political ad is send one tight message. Bush has been doing it all along, that John Kerry is a flip-flopper. They had one this ad last week, probably the most effective ad that I've seen so far, the wind surfing ad, because it was funny. It was something different."
Zahn: "Was it accurate?"
Klein: "None of them are exactly accurate. But I think that there is a grain of accuracy in the fact that John Kerry has turned himself into a pretzel when it comes to Iraq this year. There's also some real truth in what the Kerry ads are saying, which is that George Bush has really made a hash of the war in Iraq."
Zahn: "Even members of the president's own party agree with that assessment. Senator Hagel.
Klein: "That's right."
Zahn: "He thinks we're losing the war. "
Klein: "But the Bush campaign has been very clever in this regard, because they've conflated the war on terror with the war in Iraq, which are two very separate things. And the public thinks that they're one and the same."

Late Show Mocks CBS News: "We'll Make
Something Up by Air Time"

The MRC has created a special Web section devoted to a sequential listing of the MRC's coverage of the Dan Rather/60 Minutes scandal. Meanwhile, CBS's Late Show continues to ridicule the CBS Evening News with fake promos promising campaign coverage based "on stuff we heard from a guy at the Steak n' Shake" and how "we'll make something up by air time" to link Saddamn Hussein to Britney Spears.

Last week the MRC's Rich Noyes collected the MRC's coverage of the Rather scandal and wrote up brief summaries for each article we've done, mostly in CyberAlerts, but also in our Worst of the Week reports. Plus, a link to the MRC's Web section with a rundown of Rather's worst bias from the late 1980s through early 2003. The MRC's Mez Djouadi on Monday posted the compilation page, "Dan Rather in Crisis." To access the well-organized outline of the scandal as documented by the MRC: www.mediaresearch.org

CBS's Late Show with David Letterman on Monday and Tuesday night featured mocking promos for the CBS Evening News, complete with a real CBS Evening News on screen graphic and a realistic-sounding announcer.

Monday's: "Tonight on the CBS Evening News: The latest on the presidential campaign, based on stuff we heard from a guy at the Steak n' Shake. Only on the CBS Evening News."

Tuesday's, over matching photos: "Tonight on the CBS Evening News: What do Saddam Hussein, Ralph Nader, Britney Spears and these chickens have in common? We don't know, but we'll make something up by air time. That's tonight, only on the CBS Evening News."

Not exactly a vote of confidence for the staff of CBS News when one of the shows on your own network finds you a ripe target for ridicule.

60 Minutes airs tonight at 8pm EDT/PDT, 7pm CDT/MDT, the first airing since the September 15 edition when Dan Rather featured Marian Carr Knox to boost his contention that the memos accurately reflected Jerry Killian's lack of respect for George W. Bush.

-- Brent Baker