CyberAlert -- 02/27/2001 -- NBC Ignored Miami Recount

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NBC Ignored Miami Recount; Tax Cut Not Popular; Gumbel Argued Pardon Probe Should Be Ended; Donaldson Praised Thomas's Rant

1) NBC Nightly News ignored the Miami Herald tabulation of Miami-Dade undervotes which found Gore would not have picked up enough votes to beat Bush. CBS's Dan Rather stressed how the study "suggests" that if Al Gore got what he wanted he still "might" have lost. Morning shows all delivered brief mentions. Last month FNC noticed Bush would have gained votes in a GOP county.

2) President Bush's 55 percent approval shows he "has not connected" yet with the public, Peter Jennings warned as he pointed out how "only 22 percent of people say tax cuts are their highest priority."

3) ABC, CBS and NBC led with Democratic fundraiser Beth Dozoretz's decision to not testify. NBC's Brian Williams worried about how the fallout from Bill Clinton's pardons is "beginning to have a big impact on his wife's political career." Only FNC's Rita Cosby picked up on how a banking chief donated $500,000 to Clinton's library after Clinton pardoned a friend.

4) Bryant Gumbel doesn't see any good purpose in probing Clinton's pardons. He argued: "Bill Clinton is no longer President, his pardons are irrevocable, what's the purpose of the investigation?" Gumbel also demanded: "How is the welfare of the American people served by continuation of this investigation?"

5) CBS's Jane Clayson saw Hillary as a victim, asking Lisa Caputo: "Is she upset about the public's perception of her during this scandal?" And about her brother's deal: "There has to be a sense of betrayal again. Is there?"

6) ABC's Carole Simpson: "When you express shock and outrage at Bill and Hillary's brothers' involvement in the pardon controversy, consider what your own relatives might do if you possessed the power of the presidency."

7) "God love her," Sam Donaldson effused over Helen Thomas for demanding of President Bush: "Why do you refuse to respect the wall between the church and state?...the mixing of religion and government for centuries has to led slaughter."

Monday's NBC Nightly News ignored the Miami Herald/USA Today count of Miami-Dade County ballots for which the machines did not see a proper presidential pick and found that if Al Gore's team had gotten what it wanted -- a liberal hand count that included guesses about dimpled chads -- he would have received a net gain of just 49 votes so George Bush still would have ended up ahead in Florida. Imagine the time NBC would have given the news if the papers discovered Gore would have picked up enough votes to go ahead of Bush? Instead, midway through the newscast NBC made time for a full story on how retirees are going back to work.

NBC Nightly News stood out alone since every other network and show at least gave the story a few seconds.

The CBS Evening News allocated 26 seconds to the development as Dan Rather tried to undermine the meaning of the findings by employing the terms "suggests" and "might." He stressed how the newspaper study "suggests that if Al Gore got the hand count" he wanted "he still might have lost." ABC's World News Tonight ran a more straight forward short item on the news. (Complete Rather and Jennings quotes below)

MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams (Williams also anchored NBC Nightly News), did look at the Miami-Dade count as Williams interviewed Miami Herald Executive Editor Martin Baron about it. CNN's Inside Politics got to the story in its third half hour while both FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume and Fox Report aired full reports.

In the morning, all three shows reported the development, if briefly. On ABC's Good Morning America, news anchor Antonio Mora read brief items during the 7am, 7:30am and 8am news updates, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed. CBS's The Early Show didn't get to it until the 8am news update and then news reader Julie Chen only gave it a few seconds.

NBC Today news reader Ann Curry announced short items during her 7am, 7:30am and 8am news updates. Plus, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, during a third hour interview about the pardons, Katie Couric raised the new count with Mike Barnicle and Chris Matthews. She asked Barnicle: "Switching gears for just a moment, Mike. As you know this Miami-Herald/USA Today recount down in Florida is finished. And using the most lenient standards it found that Al Gore gained only 49 votes. So was all this post-election brouhaha for naught, in your view?" Turning to Matthews, she wondered: "I want to mention quickly those 49 votes were in Miami Dade. But do you think this, the result, Chris, does give George Bush a little more legitimacy now?"

Back to Monday night, February 26, Dan Rather guardedly announced: "A newspaper-sponsored study out today suggests that if Al Gore got the hand count of Miami, Florida, votes he wanted, he still might have lost the election to George Bush. What are called independent accountants reviewed ballots in Miami and found a net gain for Gore of 49 votes. Even adding those votes to Gore gains in three other disputed counties, Gore, they say, would have lost Florida by about 140 votes."

Over on ABC Peter Jennings delivered a much more straight forward account: "Former Vice President Al Gore is in the news today because in Florida two newspapers have finished recounting the presidential votes in Miami-Dade County. This was the county Mr. Gore was counting on to provide him with a margin of victory, but when this recount was over the newspapers -- USA Today and the Miami Herald -- found a gain of only 49 votes for Mr. Gore, which would not have made the crucial difference. Other counties are yet to come but none were seen to be as strong for Mr. Gore as was Miami-Dade."

The Miami Herald recount found that in examining 10,000 undervotes in Miami-Dade County, counting missed "clean punches" Gore gained 4 votes, adding those plus "hanging chads" gave Bush a net gain of 30, adding those two categories plus "pinpricks" put Bush up by 61 and only by adding up those three categories plus "dimpled chads" did Gore gain a net 49 votes. Adding up the hand counts in all four Democratic counties as Gore's team had wanted still left Bush ahead by 140. Here's an excerpt from the February 26 Miami Herald story by Amy Driscoll:

If Secretary of State Katherine Harris had let South Florida counties complete manual recounts before certifying the results of last November's election, George W. Bush likely would have won the presidency outright, without weeks of indecision and political warfare, a review of Miami-Dade County's "undervote" ballots shows.

Al Gore would have netted no more than 49 votes if a manual recount of Miami-Dade's ballots had been completed, according to the review, which was sponsored by The Herald and its parent company, Knight Ridder. That would have been 140 too few to overcome Bush's lead, even when joined with Gore gains in Volusia, Palm Beach and Broward counties -- the three other counties where Gore had requested manual recounts.

Of 10,644 ballots that the Miami-Dade elections office identified as undervotes -- ballots bearing no machine-readable vote for president -- the review found that 1,555 bore some kind of marking that might be interpreted as a vote for Gore. An additional 1,506 bore some kind of marking that might be interpreted as a vote for Bush. There were 106 markings for other candidates....

Only Volusia County had completed its recount by Harris' deadline, resulting in 98 net votes for Gore. Recounts in the other counties were proceeding slowly or had not yet started. Harris told them they didn't have an acceptable reason for being late. When she announced the totals, Bush led by 300 votes. On Nov. 17, several thousand overseas ballots were counted, widening Bush's lead to 930.

And Bush would have stayed in the lead, the review of Miami-Dade ballots suggests, had Harris simply revised her initial certification when recounts came in from the three other counties.

Those results would have given Gore a total of 790 net votes -- 567 from Broward, 174 from Palm Beach and 49 from Miami-Dade. Bush would have been the victor by 140 votes.

END Excerpt

For the complete Miami Herald story, go to:

And those numbers don't even count potential Bush gains in Republican counties. As FNC's Brit Hume reported back on the January 24 Special Report with Brit Hume:
"A hand recount of so-called undervotes in Collier County, Florida -- that's the Naples area on the state's West Coast -- has turned up a net gain for George W. Bush of 226 votes. The counters, including the Naples Daily News, used the same liberal standard as was used in Broward County where any indication, dimples, loose chad or pinprick, was counted as a vote."


Previewing President Bush's address to Congress set for Tuesday night, ABC's Peter Jennings on Monday night emphasized how he "has not connected" yet with the public given his approval rating while "only 22 percent of people say tax cuts are their highest priority."

Setting up a preview piece by Terry Moran, Jennings put a damper on Bush: "There is some indication today that President Bush has not connected, or had a chance to connect with the public yet, at least not as positively as he had hoped. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll just completed Mr. Bush's job approval rating is at 55 percent, which is the lowest for any President at this early point in his term since Dwight Eisenhower. And Democrats can also take some heart, when the budget battle is really under way. Only 22 percent of people say tax cuts are their highest priority when it comes to the way the government handles the budget surplus."

Of course, if given a chance to choose more than one thing to do with the surplus a lot more would list a tax cut. And Dwight Eisenhower managed to get re-elected.


ABC, CBS and NBC all led Monday night with the announcement from Democratic fundraiser Beth Dozoretz that she will refuse to testify at Thursday's House hearing into the pardons. NBC anchor Brian Williams worried about how "there is evidence" the fallout from Bill Clinton's pardons is "beginning to have a big impact on his wife's political career."

CNN, MSNBC and FNC also ran full stories on Dozoretz, but only FNC's Rita Cosby picked up on news that the Chairman of the Bank of America donated $500,000 to Clinton's library after Clinton pardoned a NASCAR team owner on whose behalf the banker had written a letter to Clinton.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened the February 26 show: "President Bush unveils his first budget tomorrow and makes his first major address to the new Congress. It's going to make for very interesting debate. And it is, we think, unlikely that tomorrow night at this time the whole business of Mr. Clinton's last-minute pardons will overshadow him. But it's not the case today. Today a second key witness who a congressional investigating committee wants to hear from has taken the 5th amendment, invoking her constitutional right against self-incrimination."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "A second key figure is now invoking Fifth Amendment rights in declining to answer questions about President Clinton's last minute pardon of Marc Rich, then a fugitive from justice. This comes as the Republican-controlled Congress is set to hold new hearings this week looking wider and deeper into the pardons of Rich and others. The central question: Were any of the pardons bought? CBS News correspondent Bob Orr has the latest on who's not talking."

-- NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams announced: "Tonight the spin-off damage is piling up from Bill Clinton's last-minute flurry of pardons before leaving office. And tonight there is evidence it's expanding and beginning to have a big impact on his wife's political career. And a second potential witness has decided not to talk to a congressional committee investigating all of it."

Lisa Myers detailed the Dozoretz decision and her role in the Marc Rich pardon before turning to the impact on Hillary Clinton: "Also today, signs this scandal is taking a heavy toll on Senator Hillary Clinton. 55 percent of New York voters do not believe her claim to know nothing about her brother being paid $400,000 for two pardons. Even worse, her ratings: 56 percent approval on election day, now plummeting."
Pollster John Zogby put her job approval at just 22 percent and he pointed out that's the level President Nixon had when he resigned.

On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume reporter Rita Cosby uniquely picked up on questions about another pardon:
"Details are emerging about yet another pardon with possible ties to large donations. This pardon was granted at the end of December to NASCAR racing team owner Rick Hendrick, who was convicted for mail fraud in 1997 and is close friends with Hugh McColl, the Chairman of Bank of America, who wrote a letter to then-President Clinton recommending a pardon for Hendrick. On December 7, McColl announced that his bank will donate $500,000 to the Clinton presidential library fund. Two weeks later, Clinton pardoned Rick Hendrick."

Cosby moved on to a development with Hugh Rodham which CNN also noted on Inside Politics. Cosby explained: "Meantime, Clinton's brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham, appears to have had more involvement with pardons than previously thought. Nora and Eugene Lum, who had been convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Democrats, also got help in their pardon request from Rodham. Sources close to him tell Fox News that he spoke to attorneys in the White House Counsel's office urging them to endorse a pardon for the couple, which ultimately did not happen. Rodham's attorney says her client never represented the Lums or advocated on their behalf."


Bryant Gumbel doesn't see any good purpose in investigating Bill Clinton's pardons. He spent an entire interview segment Monday morning arguing with Republican Congressman Chris Shays about the need for any probe. Gumbel wanted to know: "Bill Clinton is no longer President, his pardons are irrevocable, what's the purpose of the investigation?" And Gumbel demanded: "How is the welfare of the American people served by continuation of this investigation?"

Gumbel began his February 26 Early Show interview with Shays, who appeared in studio, by asking: "To your mind what would be the benefits of combining the investigations of the House and the Senate?"

Then Gumbel turned confrontational, as shown in the questions and exchanges transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "Give me the basis for this in a nutshell. Bill Clinton is no longer President, his pardons are irrevocable, what's the purpose of the investigation?"

Shays explained how it is the job of Congress to provide oversight and exposure of wrongdoing, to which Gumbel countered: "You have suggestion of impropriety. You're not suggesting you have found any evidence of illegalities though?"
Shays: "Oh, no. But that's the purpose of an investigation to find out whether there is or isn't. But what we do know is, that people were pardoned and we can see no justification for it, none whatsoever. Give me one reason why Marc Rich should be pardoned."
Gumbel: "That's not for me to say. But it is within the President's authority to do so, you don't deny that?"

Soon Gumbel argued: "But when there's no evidence of illegality how do you justify, for example, your committee chairman Dan Burton subpoenaing the records of the presidential library foundation for everybody that donated $5,000 or more? Why isn't that anything more than what attorney Kendall calls a classic fishing expedition?"

Shays reminded Gumbel that Denise Rich, who exercised her 5th Amendment right, gave a lot of money to the library, prompting Gumbel to wonder: "Are you suggesting there was quid pro quo?" Shays said there "may have been" one.

Gumbel next made himself the guardian of the public's best interests: "How is the welfare of the American people served by continuation of this investigation?"
Shays: "How is the welfare of the American people served by these pardons? That's what we want to know."
Gumbel: "But you don't question the power of the President to pardon, you don't question that it's absolute, you don't question it's irrevocable?"

Finally, Gumbel asked Shays what he expects to learn at the hearing from Clinton's aides and if they will call Bill Clinton to testify. Answer: "Possibly."


Hillary as innocent victim. That's how CBS Early Show co-host Jane Clayson treated her Monday morning in an interview with Hillary Clinton's former press secretary, Lisa Caputo. Clayson set up the segment by pointing out how a Zogby poll of New Yorkers found that when asked "is Hillary Clinton telling the truth about pardons?" 58 percent said no, 33 percent responded yes.

But instead of probing why the public would think she's lying and what evidence there is to support doubts about her word, Clayson assumed she was a victim of misperception. Clayson's first question to Caputo: "You've spoken with Mrs. Clinton recently. Is she upset about the public's perception of her during this scandal?"

Clayson's second inquiry assumed she had nothing to do with her brother's deal: "She's been through things like this before obviously, as you mentioned, but there has to be a sense of betrayal again. Is there?"
Caputo followed the party line spin about how she was "completely blindsided by news of her brother," though "'disappointment' is a better word."

Over video, but no sound, of Hugh's Saturday rant, Clayson wondered: "Hugh Rodham, as we see here, had a strange, angry encounter with reporters over the weekend, did Mrs. Clinton encourage that?"
After Caputo maintained he did it on his own, Clayson's ended the segment by seeking assurance Hillary will be able to overcome what has happened to her: "Can Mrs. Clinton distance herself from this and is it a good way to start a Senate career?"


In her latest online commentary, Carole Simpson, anchor of ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday, defended Bill and Hillary Clinton over problems with their relatives by recalling how previous Presidents were embarrassed by things their relatives did. But in bringing up Billy Carter's public urination, Donald Nixon's "Nixonburgers" and how Patty Davis denounced her father's policies, Simpson overlooked the key difference: Bill and Hillary Clinton enabled their relatives to have policy impact. Hugh Rodham didn't pardon anybody, President Bill Clinton did.

Here's an excerpt from Simpson's February 24 "On My Mind" commentary posted over the weekend and brought to by attention by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:

....While the Clintons deny knowledge of their brothers' lobbying practices, it suggests more shady dealings by the Clinton White House, and raises questions about what kind of people they are.

But the story is also a reminder that the Clintons -- like most families in America -- have relatives that can and do cause them embarrassment....

Go back just a few years and you may remember Billy Carter, the good ol' boy, beer-drinkin', joke tellin', hell-raisin' younger brother of President Jimmy Carter.

He was seen urinating in public at the Atlanta airport. He made anti-Semitic remarks, and he hosted a tour of the U.S. for Libyan businessmen close to Col. Muammar Khaddafi. Billy went on an all-expenses paid trip to Libya and accepted more than $200,000 dollars in "loans" from the outlaw nation....

As if President Richard Nixon didn't have enough trouble with Watergate, he had major problems with his younger brother, Donald, who ran a small chain of fast food restaurants selling "Nixonburgers."

He used his family connection to get a loan from Howard Hughes, made a commercial sale to Aristotle Onassis, and became close friends with fugitive financier Robert Vesco....

And who can forget the anguish the Reagans expressed publicly when daughter, Patty Davis, wrote books opposing her father's views on many issues and suggesting Nancy, was a cold woman who showed love only to her "Ronnie", and not her children.

I had to hit the history books to find out that Lyndon Johnson's only brother, Sam Houston Johnson, was sickly, had erratic behavior, and was allegedly an alcoholic.

During his five-year presidency, Mr. Johnson kept his brother a virtual prisoner on the third floor of the White House; a Secret Service agent was assigned to keep him under constant surveillance.

I didn't go through all 43 presidents of the United States, but you get the idea. In every family there are people and situations you would just as soon keep from others.

So, when you express shock and outrage at Bill and Hillary's brothers' involvement in the pardon controversy, consider what your own relatives might do if you possessed the power of the presidency.

I have no doubt what mine would do. Some would try and take advantage. That would not only be embarrassing. It would make me angry.

END Excerpt

But would you become complicit in their attempt to abuse presidential power?

To read her entire commentary, go to:


Hours after Helen Thomas rudely demanded of President Bush "why do you refuse to respect the wall between the church and state? And you know that the mixing of religion and government for centuries has to led slaughter," ABC News veteran Sam Donaldson praised her for posing the first "real question" of the press conference and declared of Thomas's history of asking those kinds of questions: "God love her."

Donaldson's kudos to Thomas occurred last Thursday night, just hours after Bush's first presidential news conference. He introduced her as she won an award at the National Press Foundation awards dinner, an event shown Saturday night on C-SPAN.

Arriving at the podium at the February 22 dinner at he Washington Hilton, Donaldson immediately recounted her statement in the form of a question, a bit of liberal advocacy which was quoted in the February 23 CyberAlert. MRC intern Julie Hall took down Donaldson's animated gushing:
"Well I was sitting there watching television this afternoon, watching our President pick his way through the English language and convict the spy and all of that. And I was listening to reporters ask very politic questions, 'sir would you please tell us why this,' and 'may we ask that,' when all of a sudden this banshee, I mean this Harrodite arose. May I just quote what I saw. Maybe some of you saw it too: 'Mr. President, why do you refuse to respect the wall between the church and state? And you know that the mixing of religion and government for centuries has to led slaughter. I mean the very fact that our country has stood in good stead by having this separation. Why do you break it down?' The President looked at Helen, embarrassed at having suddenly been confronted with a real question and replied, 'Well, I strongly respect the separation of church and state.' To which the reporter cut in: 'Well, you wouldn't have a religious office in the White House if you did.'"

Donaldson continued: "There followed another colloquy in which it ended by saying the President said, the reporter said, 'you are a secular official.' And the President said, tongue quieted, tail between his legs I suppose, I mean no disrespect sir, 'I agree I am a secular official.'"

Donaldson then recalled how she had once asked Jimmy Carter: "Was it worth it to you to cause some de-stabilization of the dollar, the demoralization of the federal government, spreading doubt throughout the land in order to repudiate your cabinet?"

Referring to both inquiries, Donaldson approved: "Helen Thomas has been asking those kinds of questions. God love her."

Yes, "God love her" for saying that "for centuries" belief in God "has to led slaughter."

-- Brent Baker

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