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CBS & NBC Skip Kerry & Edwards Absence on Same-Sex Marriage Vote --7/15/2004


1. CBS & NBC Skip Kerry & Edwards Absence on Same-Sex Marriage Vote
Senate Republicans put a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage on the agenda this week, in part, so they could put the Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates on the record on the issue. But after the vote took place on Wednesday, the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News didn't even mention how John Kerry and John Edwards were the only two Senators to not vote on the issue, nor did a story carried on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. ABC's World News Tonight and CNN's NewsNight did note the absence of Kerry and Edwards from the roll call vote, but only late in their stories.

2. Newsweek on Edwards: "He Speaks to the Crowd, They Speak to Him"
Just a few days after Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas declared that the media "wants Kerry to win" and so "they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic" and "there's going to be this glow about" them, Newsweek's Web site posted an article by one of Thomas' colleagues, Richard Wolffe, who raved about how in the last few days John Edwards, "the redneck son of a mill worker from rural North Carolina morphed into an almost-perfect candidate." Wolffe saw nirvana ahead since "the America that Edwards dreams of is a place where there's no crime, no poverty and no pushing. That place, of course, just happens to be John Kerry's America." Wolffe soon oozed: "He loves the crowd, and the crowd loves him. He smiles at the crowd, and they smile at him. He speaks to the crowd, and they speak to him."

3. ABC: "Sharply Personal Attacks" on Kerry, NYT: "Fierce Attack"
Update: ABC's Terry Moran and Adam Nagourney of the New York Times think alike. To Moran, Bush's remarks at a speech in Michigan on Tuesday were "sharply personal attacks" on John Kerry. In Wednesday's New York Times, Nagourney called Bush's approach "a fierce attack on Senator John Kerry."

4. Couric Poses Some Tough Questions to Edwards, But Also Softballs
Kudos to NBC's Katie Couric for asking John Edwards a few tough questions about the inconsistencies shown by him and John Kerry on the Iraq war and questioning some of his shots at the Bush-Cheney record, but her quizzing of Edwards in a taped interview aired on Wednesday's Today came no where near how Matt Lauer painted Dick Cheney as in extremist in 2000 by incessantly grilling Cheney over his conservative positions. Other than Couric referring to Kerry as a "liberal Democrat from Massachusetts," ideology never came up during Couric's session with Edwards and his wife. Couric asked Edwards: "Do you concede that you have a bit of a problem voting for a war and being one of four Senators who voted against the funding necessary to wage it?" But she treated them as victims of hostility from society: "Why do you think there's so much animus against lawyers?" Couric also cued up the Edwards duo with anti-GOP Democratic talking points: "Do you think the Governor [of Florida] decided the election last go around?"


Clarification: The July 12 CyberAlert stated that Keith Olbermann, "who has been fired within a few months or years by every TV employer he's ever had, complained that Murdoch fired him from Fox Sports because he had reported something Murdoch didn't want disclosed." That was a possible mis-characterization of Olbermann's other career moves. The intended point was that Olbermann never seems to last very long in any job as he has bounced amongst the TV networks in recent years -- from ESPN to MSNBC to CNN to Fox Sports back to CNN and back again to MSNBC.

CBS & NBC Skip Kerry & Edwards Absence
on Same-Sex Marriage Vote

CBS's John Roberts Senate Republicans put a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage on the agenda this week, in part, so they could put the Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates on the record on the issue. But after the vote took place on Wednesday, the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News didn't even mention how John Kerry and John Edwards were the only two Senators to not vote on the issue, nor did a story carried on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. ABC's World News Tonight and CNN's NewsNight did note the absence of Kerry and Edwards from the roll call vote, but only late in their stories.

The 50-48 vote came on a motion to invoke cloture so the Senate could proceed to the amendment. All but six Republicans (McCain of Arizona, Collins and Snowe of Maine, Chafee of Rhode Island, Sununu of New Hampshire and Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado) voted to proceed to consider the constitutional amendment. All but three Democrats (Byrd of West Virginia, Nelson of Nebraska and Miller of Georgia) voted to not consider the amendment. Proceeding required 60 votes. Any eventual vote on an actual constitutional amendment would require 67 votes to pass.

The July 14 CBS Evening News carried only a short item read by anchor John Roberts who suggested to viewers that those in favor of barring same-sex marriage lost big, but he didn't note that success required a super-majority:
"Supporters of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages conceded in advance they would lose an attempt to get it passed in the Senate and they were right. The vote wasn't even close. But they did vow to keep the measure alive as an election year issue."

Over on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams announced: "In Washington, as expected, the gay marriage ban is dead for now at least. Considered a defeat for President Bush, a proposed constitutional amendment got only 48 votes, losing on a procedural maneuver that showed it was far short of the votes it would have needed to pass. But the issue is not going away. Even as the amendment died in the Senate today, over in the House Republicans started pushing new legislation that would make it illegal for a federal court to order any state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states."

ABC's World News Tonight led with the Senate vote. Peter Jennings intoned: "Good evening, everyone. We're going to begin tonight with that ever-contentious subject in America today -- same-sex marriage. The Senate has failed, as predicted, to pass constitutional amendment to make it illegal. But in the process, Republicans, for the most part, have given the debate a fresh airing in the middle of a political season. President Bush said he was deeply disappointed and the defenders of traditional marriage, in his words, should not flag in their efforts to keep it that way. We're going to go first to ABC's Linda Douglass who is on Capitol Hill. Linda?"

Douglass explained: "Peter, Republicans couldn't even muster enough support in their own party, to bring that amendment, banning same-sex marriage, to a vote."

After reporting reaction from Democrats, Douglass noted that "five Republicans voted against their party by refusing to bring the amendment up for a vote."
John McCain on the Senate floor: "Many, if not most Americans have reasoned that there is no overriding urgent need to act at this time. And they are right to do so."
Douglass: "McCain and most Democrats say they oppose same-sex marriage, but do not want to amend the Constitution to ban it. Senators debated that for hours."

Following a bunch of clips from the floor debate, Douglass pointed out how Republicans said they succeeded in making the topic an issue and then, over video of Kerry on a bike, she relayed: "Democrats Kerry and Edwards skipped today's vote. Both oppose the amendment. Democrats concede that could hurt them in the South, but they dispute the significance of this week's debate. Republicans say they plan bring this up again and again, but Peter, they do concede that it is dead for this year."

In the cable world, in a story on Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's James Rosen didn't mention how Kerry and Edwards didn't vote.

At the very end of his story for CNN's NewsNight, Ed Henry related the non-votes of the Democratic presidential ticket:
"Senators John Kerry and John Edwards were absent, saying their votes would not have changed the outcome but Edwards did put out a statement charging that Republicans were trying to use the Constitution as a political tool. A Bush-Cheney campaign adviser responded by saying, in part, 'It takes a special kind of Senator to attack others over a vote that they don't show up for.'"

Newsweek on Edwards: "He Speaks to the
Crowd, They Speak to Him"

Just a few days after Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas declared that the media "wants Kerry to win" and so "they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic" and "there's going to be this glow about" them, Newsweek's Web site posted an article by one of Thomas' colleagues, Richard Wolffe, who raved about how in the last few days John Edwards, "the redneck son of a mill worker from rural North Carolina morphed into an almost-perfect candidate." Wolffe saw nirvana ahead since "the America that Edwards dreams of is a place where there's no crime, no poverty and no pushing. That place, of course, just happens to be John Kerry's America."

Wolffe soon oozed: "He loves the crowd, and the crowd loves him. He smiles at the crowd, and they smile at him. He speaks to the crowd, and they speak to him."

In a story carrying Wolffe's byline in this week's issue, the cover of which featured "The Sunshine Boys?" headline over a picture of a smiling Kerry and Edwards, Wolffe, along with Howard Fineman, gushed: "Indeed, Edwards's ingratiating incandescence has already brightened Kerry. The two became a buddy-buddy act, hugging and whispering like Starsky and Hutch after consuming the evidence."

"John Edwards has morphed into an almost-perfect candidate. And his sunny outlook is infecting Kerry, too," trumpeted the headline over the July 14 "Web exclusive commentary" by Wolffe. An excerpt:

It's hard to put your finger on the precise moment. It could be when he steps to the front of the stage, raises his arms in the air and simply basks in the cheers of thousands of adoring fans. Or it could be when he stops in his tracks, shrugs his shoulders and modestly tells the crowd they don't really need to listen to him talking about their lives. But by the time John Edwards reaches the climax of his new stump speech, the realization dawns. The senator who just joined the Democratic ticket is not just good. He's the Stepford Veep.

Somewhere along the way, the redneck son of a mill worker from rural North Carolina morphed into an almost-perfect candidate. Someone streamlined the senator, overhauled every physical flaw and created a paragon of presidential campaigners. And like Stepford itself, the America that Edwards dreams of is a place where there's no crime, no poverty and no pushing. That place, of course, just happens to be John Kerry's America. "We believe, the two of us, in our hearts, to our core, that tomorrow will be better than today," Edwards says, winding up to his grand finale. "That in America, if we put our minds to it, if we are willing to work for it, anything is possible."

It's as if Edwards's main message is his positivity. He loves the crowd, and the crowd loves him. He smiles at the crowd, and they smile at him. He speaks to the crowd, and they speak to him. As he nears his introduction of Kerry (delivered with atomic timing in every stump speech), he becomes almost unbearably upbeat, a near-parody of optimistic campaigning. "I'll tell you something that's going to happen in this campaign-it'll be a wonderful thing for America-between now and November: the American people are going to reject the tired, old, hateful negative politics of the past," he explains. "And instead the American people are going to embrace the politics of hope. The politics of what's possible. Because this is America, where everything is possible ... I give you the man who represents hope. Hope for you, hope for me, hope for our children, hope for your children, hope for the future of America!" Bill Clinton may have been the boy from Hope, but John Edwards has bought the whole town of Hope and is shipping it brick by brick to the Democratic convention in Boston.

This kind of campaigning is infectious, and John Kerry seems to have caught the bug. Where the senator used to punch his fists toward the crowd, he has now adopted Edwards's favorite gesture: the thumbs up....

Through his troubled primary campaign, Kerry proved he was a quick study, shaping up his stump speech and mastering the town hall meeting. Now he needs to study his running mate's style and make it his own in the few weeks left before the general election gets underway. Kerry's challenge this summer is to step into Stepford without surrendering his brain.

END of Excerpt

For the Web-posting in full: www.msnbc.msn.com

On Inside Washington last weekend, a weekend discussion show taped at and run by the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, WUSA-TV, and carried by many PBS stations across the country, Thomas pointed out the boost to the Kerry/Edwards ticket provided by the press corps:
"There's one other base here: the media. Let's talk a little media bias here. The media, I think, wants Kerry to win. And I think they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards -- I'm talking about the establishment media, not Fox, but -- they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all, there's going to be this glow about them that some, is going to be worth, collectively, the two of them, that's going to be worth maybe 15 points."

See view a RealPlayer clip of that, as posted by the MRC's Mez Djouadi: www.mediaresearch.org

ABC: "Sharply Personal Attacks" on Kerry,
NYT: "Fierce Attack"

Update: ABC's Terry Moran and Adam Nagourney of the New York Times think alike. To Moran, President Bush's remarks at a speech in Michigan on Tuesday were "sharply personal attacks" on John Kerry. In Wednesday's New York Times, Nagourney called Bush's approach "a fierce attack on Senator John Kerry."

The July 14 CyberAlert reported: Arguing they "show how much trouble the President's in politically," ABC's Terry Moran on Tuesday night contended that, in a visit to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, President George W. Bush delivered "sharply personal attacks" on Democratic contender John Kerry. But the two soundbites from Bush at a rally which ABC played hardly matched Moran's description as particularly sharp personal attacks.

Moran featured these soundbites from Bush:
-- "We stand for institutions like marriage and family which are the foundations of our society. [edit jump] Yet on these positions that so many Americans share, my opponent is on the other side."
-- "Members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them and then brag about it."

For the MRC's TimesWatch.org site, Clay Waters on Wednesday wrote up this item about a July 14 New York Times story. The TimesWatch item in full:

Nagourney vs. "Fierce" Bush

Adam Nagourney is apparently very sensitive to any sign of Bush campaign rhetoric. Reporting Wednesday from the campaign trail in Minnesota, Nagourney notes: "President Bush swept across three states that he narrowly lost in 2000 on Tuesday with a vigorous defense of his record and a fierce attack on Senator John Kerry, his Democratic rival. Mr. Bush portrayed Mr. Kerry as a liberal Washington insider who voted against paying for troops in Iraq and supported Hollywood entertainers out of touch with 'the heart and soul' of America...The burst of activity occurs as Mr. Bush's aides prepare to lose the spotlight to Mr. Kerry, who heads to Boston for his nominating convention as Mr. Bush heads to his ranch in Crawford, Tex. With the president's aides worried that Mr. Kerry would enjoy a large increase in popularity, Mr. Bush went to lengths and used often harsh language in trying to discredit Mr. Kerry in what will be one of his last swings before the convention."

Just what was Bush's harsh language? This apparently, from Nagourney's next paragraph: "'He voted for the Patriot Act,' Mr. Bush said. 'He voted for NAFTA. He voted for the No Child Left Behind Act and for the use of force in Iraq. Now he opposes the Patriot Act. He opposes NAFTA. He opposes the No Child Left Behind Act and the liberation of Iraq.'" Nagourney then gave the Kerry campaign two paragraphs to rebut Bush.

Nagourney fretted in similar terms back in March: "With a fierce campaign of attacks led by President Bush, an orchestrated barrage of criticism by Republican elected officials and an imminent sweep of hard-hitting television advertisements, the White House is moving with unusual speed and force to try to discredit John Kerry, the president's likely Democratic challenger."

For the rest of Nagourney on the "fierce" Bush: www.nytimes.com

END Reprint from TimesWatch

For a daily update on bias in the New York Times: www.timeswatch.org

Couric Poses Some Tough Questions to
Edwards, But Also Softballs

Kudos to NBC's Katie Couric for asking John Edwards a few tough questions about the inconsistencies shown by him and John Kerry on the Iraq war and questioning some of his shots at the Bush-Cheney record, but her quizzing of Edwards in a taped interview aired on Wednesday's Today came no where near how Matt Lauer painted Dick Cheney as in extremist in 2000 by incessantly grilling Cheney over his conservative positions. Other than Couric referring to Kerry as a "liberal Democrat from Massachusetts," ideology never came up during Couric's session with Edwards and his wife.

Couric asked Edwards: "Do you concede that you have a bit of a problem voting for a war and being one of four Senators who voted against the funding necessary to wage it?" She also raised how the high cost of medical malpractice insurance is preventing doctors from practicing, but she began with a very open-ended question: "There's been a lot made of the fact that you've made a lot of money on personal injury lawsuits. And trial lawyers, sort of, has become a dirty word or two dirty words in some circles. Why is that?" Turning to Mrs. Edwards, Couric treated them as victims of hostility from society: "Why do you think there's so much animus against lawyers?"

Couric also cued up the Edwards duo with anti-GOP Democratic talking points, something Cheney did not get in the opposite direction in 2000. Couric, for instance, wondered: "Do you think the Governor [of Florida] decided the election last go around?"

Back in 2000, on the July 27 Today, Dick Cheney wasn't given such softballs. Amongst Lauer's inquiries in the form of mini-polemics:

-- "People are talking about your conservative record while a Congressman from Wyoming and saying that perhaps that conservative record will not help to attract swing voters like minorities and women. Let's talk about some of those votes you took on abortion. You were opposed to federal funding for abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Do you still feel that way?"

-- "On the subject of equal rights, you voted against the Equal Rights Amendment. You consistently opposed funding for Head Start programs and I read something yesterday and this was not a bill, this was a resolution. But you voted against a resolution that would have recommended freeing Nelson Mandela from a South African prison. Why'd you do that?"

-- "You have opposed almost all gun control measures. You were one of only 21 members of Congress in 1985 to vote against a ban on the so-called 'Cop Killer' bullets. Can you explain that for me?"

For a complete rundown of all the questions posed to Cheney on the July 27, 2000 morning shows, including a RealPlayer excerpt from the Lauer/Cheney session: www.mediaresearch.org

Now, to Wednesday's Today which featured two segments of Couric's session with John and Elizabeth Edwards taped Tuesday in a living room setting. The MRC's Geoff Dickens put together the transcript.

Couric set up the playback run in the 7am half hour of the July 14 program: "On Close Up this morning John Edwards. I sat down with the Democratic vice presidential candidate and his wife Elizabeth on Tuesday for an exclusive interview. Despite a nationwide bump in the polls after John Kerry picked Edwards as his running mate I asked the North Carolina senator why a new poll in his home state shows the Kerry/Edwards campaign down by as many as 15 points there."
John Edwards: "I'm no poll expert, I'll tell you that. I've seen, I've also seen a number of polls that show the race is basically a dead heat in North Carolina. What I do know is that, as we move forward, and as people in North Carolina, I believe embrace the idea of me being on a national ticket, somebody who's represented them and, and they feel a real closeness and affinity to. And as they know more about John Kerry I think they'll embrace this ticket."
Couric: "Really? A liberal Democrat from Massachusetts?"
John Edwards: "Good try," a "hero in Vietnam."
Couric: "Florida with its 27 electoral votes was the epicenter of the election, of course back in 2000. Do you have a Florida strategy?"
John Edwards: wife's family lives there
Couric: "That's 20 votes for you...In fact I know Mrs. Edwards you have made a point of saying that you were born, I guess, in Jacksonville, your parents were married in Pensacola, they live in Sarasota now. You have a sister in Bradenton. Did I do my homework or what?"
Elizabeth Edwards: "You did."
Couric: "You have family all over the state. Family ties are great but doesn't George Bush have the ultimate family tie, with his brother, the Governor?"
Elizabeth Edwards: That helped last time.
Couric: "Do you think the Governor decided the election last go around?"
Elizabeth Edwards: Had a pretty big role.
Couric: "Do you agree with that?"
John Edwards: Yes.
Couric: "On Monday Vice President Dick Cheney said, 'When Congress voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards both voted yes. Now it seems they've both developed a convenient case of campaign amnesia.'"
John Edwards: VP wrong. Give authority was right vote, Saddam gone is good, but authority abused by Bush and that hurt us around world.
Couric: "Well let me go back for a minute, Senator, if I could because you knew that, that the coalition wasn't that strong when you voted. You knew that there wasn't a firm exit strategy in place and yet you still authorized the United States to invade Iraq. Don't you have a responsibility when you vote yes to make sure those things are in place? I mean how can you look back and say, 'well this wasn't happening, this wasn't happening, and this wasn't happening, but I voted yes, anyway?'"
John Edwards: I didn't have control over what Bush did, didn't do the planning. Wanted President to have authority, but Bush responsibility to implement policy.
Couric: "Let's talk about the $87 billion appropriation bill which you voted against along with Senator Kerry. There's been a change of tactic on the campaign trail. Senator Kerry is now saying he's proud that the two of you voted against this because you knew the policy had to be changed. In the past Mr. Kerry said he voted against the bill because he thought it should be financed by rolling back the Bush tax cuts. So which one was it? Was the policy problematic or the financing of it? And, and do you concede that you have a bit of a problem voting for a war and being one of four senators who voted against the funding necessary to wage it?"
John Edwards: "No Mam. I did what I think was right." On $87, no allies, no plan to win peace, vote would have been stamp of approval, stood up to say we have to change course.
Couric: "What would be the exit strategy in a Kerry/Edwards administration in Iraq?"
John Edwards: Quicker training of Iraqis.
Couric: "With all due respect, why would John Kerry be able to do any better of a job than George Bush?"
John Edwards: Because Bush team didn't plan.
Couric: "Let me ask you about Dick Cheney. Do you know him well?"
John Edwards: "No."
Couric: "What do you think of him?"
John Edwards: Always been cordial and polite. Out of touch with lives of most Americans, so hard to provide vision and hope, I came from a mill, etc.
Couric: "You don't think Dick Cheney wants to provide opportunity-"
John Edwards: Don't see any sign of it if it's true.

Back on the Today set, Couric previewed part two: "And you can see more of my conversation with Senator and Mrs. Edwards later in the program. Find out what he thinks about U.S. intelligence failures, the economy and why lawyer has become a dirty word for many people. Meanwhile, tomorrow, he and Elizabeth Edwards will talk about their relationship, their children and the special way they celebrate their wedding anniversary every year. You might be surprised."

Part two ran during the 9am half hour. Couric introduced it: "Now more of my exclusive interview with vice presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth. When I sat down with them in Washington on Tuesday I asked the Senator about the recent highly critical Senate report on intelligence failures leading up to the invasion of Iraq."
John Edwards: Bush administration never recognized problem with intel.
Couric: "Let's talk about the economy. The mantra of the Clinton campaign as you remember was, 'It's the economy, stupid.' But it seems like the economy is actually improving. Are you concerned that if the economy does get better people will have fewer reasons to vote for you and John Kerry?"
John Edwards: Quality of jobs declining, new ones pay $9,000 less on average than jobs they are replacing. Families on edge of "going off the cliff." We can do better.
Couric: "How?"
John Edwards: Job plan, strengthening middle class, improving schools, helping people save, fix health care.
Couric: "Since you're both lawyers let me ask you about the whole trial lawyer issue. There's been a lot made of the fact that you've made a lot of money on personal injury lawsuits. And trial lawyers, sort of, has become a dirty word or two dirty words in some circles. Why is that?"
John Edwards: I am proud of fighting for kids and families.
Couric: "But shouldn't the system be reformed in some way though, Senator Edwards, because I know that, for example, there are doctors who can't practice in some states because their medical malpractice insurance has skyrocketed....and they have to either move or they have to switch professions. I mean isn't something wrong with this picture?"
John Edwards: Yes.
Couric: "Well isn't it because these big, huge, massive lawsuits?"
Elizabeth Edwards: No.
John Edwards: Solution is to keep cases out of system, have lawyers determine if case has merit.
Couric: "Isn't that like the fox guarding the hen house?"
John Edwards: No.
Couric: "Or that it's frivolous."
John Edwards: Vast majority should never have been in legal system.
Couric: "Why do you think there's so much animus against lawyers?"
Elizabeth Edwards: Just an easy target, driven by politics.

Couric wrapped up: "And tomorrow we'll have much more with Elizabeth and John Edwards. They'll tell us about their family, the unique way they celebrate their anniversary and what their kids think of their dad being voted People magazine's 'Sexiest Politician.'"

Sorry I missed that this morning.

-- Brent Baker