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CyberAlert -- 04/26/2001 -- ABC to Bush: Most Dislike Policies

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ABC to Bush: Most Dislike Policies; MRC's Report Card on the Networks: An F for CBS News

1) ABC's Charles Gibson pressed President Bush about how most say of him, "Nice guy, but we don't like his politics or his policies" and was appalled that Bush had not yet asked Bill Clinton for advice. CBS's Jane Clayson took on Bush from the right, raising with him how an aide had said that eliminating abortion "is not a policy priority." NBC's Matt Lauer demanded to know that if gas hits $3.00, how can he "reassure people sitting out there right now who are afraid they are gonna have to park their cars by the side of the road and go home and sit in the dark?"

2) Media Reality Check. "Grading TV Coverage of Bush's 100 Days: Worst Spin Came From CBS's Four Horsemen of Liberal Bias -- Rather, Gumbel, Schieffer and Roberts." An F to CBS and John Roberts, a C- to ABC and a B- to NBC.


1

In interviews with President Bush taped Tuesday at the White House and aired Wednesday morning, the three broadcast network morning show co-hosts posed some easy questions and allowed Bush to make his case for his successes. But, with the exception of one question about abortion from CBS's Jane Clayson, each came at him from the left on specific policies.

ABC's Charles Gibson pressed Bush about how most say of him, "Nice guy, but we don't like his politics or his policies," argued that most want more spending over tax cuts, seemed appalled that Bush had yet to ask former President Clinton for advice and pushed him repeatedly about his lack of public presence at Whidbey Island or after the Cincinnati rioting.

CBS's Jane Clayson uniquely took on Bush from the right, raising with him how an aide had "said that while eliminating abortion is a moral priority it is not a policy priority, why not?" But she also hit Bush from the left on the environment, mentioning arsenic in the drinking water before inquiring: "Is there a particular problem with the environment and your administration's stand on the environment?"

NBC's Matt Lauer scolded Bush for talking down the economy, telling him "you may have created a sense of panic almost among people and investors and, and made matters worse." Lauer offered up the most bizarre question: "Maybe these are alarmist, that are saying gas prices could reach $3.00 at some point during this summer. How can you reassure people sitting out there right now who are afraid they are gonna have to park their cars by the side of the road and go home and sit in the dark?"

Now, to fill in the details, some excerpts from the interviews aired on April 25:

> ABC's Charles Gibson on Good Morning America, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:

-- Don't understand real needs: "ABC/Washington Post poll, most recent one, very high approval rating, up at 63 percent -- a little lower than your dad had in his first hundred days, but a good approval rating -- and yet less than half the people in the poll say that they approve of policies or feel that you understand their needs, which can be interpreted as saying, 'Nice guy, but we don't like his politics or his policies.'"
President Bush: "Well, you know, for example, the signature piece of legislation is going to be the tax relief plan. I think when it's all said and done, most Americans will appreciate tax relief."
Gibson: "And yet the poll would indicate only a third of them would prefer that; two-thirds say they'd rather be spending the money to meet people's needs."

-- Why haven't you consulted Bill Clinton? "Have you ever -- it just occurred to me -- have you ever, in the first hundred days, consulted or called former President Clinton?"
President Bush: "No, I haven't."
Gibson: "To talk to him?"
President Bush: "No, I have not."
Gibson: "Don't feel the need?"

-- Why aren't you showing empathy like Clinton? "Let me talk to you a little bit about the sense of the presidency that you have. Your predecessor would use the presidency as a bully pulpit a lot on a number of issues to make what points he wanted to do. In things like the school shootings that we've had since you were President and things like the unfortunate situations in Cincinnati, your statements were relatively short or perfunctory. Doesn't the President have an obligation to speak out -- particularly on school shootings, racial situations -- because that defines what we are as a society."
President Bush: "Of course the President does, and there are some times when the President's presence can make an enormous difference and some times where it might make the situation worse...but if I think my presence is going to complicate a situation or try to hog the limelight from somebody who deserves credit, you won't find me there."
Gibson: "Is that why you didn't go to Whidbey Island? Your predecessor would have been there. I suspect President Reagan, I suspect even your dad would have been there."
President Bush: "I chose not to go because I wanted the moment to be between the troops and their families."
Gibson: "Some columnists have talked about that as a, sort of, return to modesty in the presidency. Some have talked about it as, 'Well, he just doesn't get it on some issues.'"

> CBS's Jane Clayson on The Early Show, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd.

-- From the left on the environment: "Let me ask you about the environment, about your so-called reversal on some issues: arsenic in drinking water, carbon dioxide emissions. Is there a particular problem with the environment and your administration's stand on the environment?"

"What about the perception that there is a flip-flop on some of these issues especially among suburban women and independent voters."

-- From the right on abortion: "Abortion, in the campaign you pledged to promote a culture of life and yet last week your Chief of Staff, Andy Card, said that while eliminating abortion is a moral priority it is not a policy priority, why not?"

-- Then back to the usual take from the left: "Is abortion going to be a litmus test for a Supreme Court opening?"

> NBC's Matt Lauer on Today, as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens.

-- Bush created the downturn: "You got some criticism though. As you went out trying to sell your tax relief plan a lot of people said, you know what, in doing so you talked down this economy. And you may have created a sense of panic almost among people and investors and, and made matters worse. How do you answer that criticism?"

-- Bush harangued for not following the liberal line on the environment: "If you're gonna get close to what you ask for in the campaign in terms of taxes there's an issue of the environment. Where you promise during the campaign that you were going to reduce or support the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Shortly after taking office you backed away from that pledge. Why should environmentalists trust you on this subject?"
Bush: "Well, let me, let me first say that we are gonna work to reduce CO2. I just wasn't for mandatory caps like those imbedded in the Kyoto Treaty. Because I, one, I didn't think they were achievable without wrecking our economy. And secondly I think there's a better way to do it. I think we need more technologies. We can use more market oriented solutions to reduce-"
Lauer: "But is that the way you said it during the campaign?"

-- Having castigated Bush for daring to put economic interests ahead of environmentalism, Lauer then demanded to know what Bush would do to make sure gasoline prices don't rise: "A lot of your environmental policy deals with energy. Finding new sources of energy. You've got some big problems in the next couple of months. People are worried about the power being shut off in certain regions of the country. They are looking at gas prices Mr. President and there are some reports, and maybe these are alarmist, that are saying gas prices could reach $3.00 at some point during this summer. How can you reassure people sitting out there right now who are afraid they are gonna have to park their cars by the side of the road and go home and sit in the dark?"

If that scenario were to occur, Matt Lauer and others in the media who have put environmental extremism and distortion ahead of reasonable policy debate about environmental issues, would bare much of the responsibility.

2

The networks are grading President Bush as he approaches 100 days in office, so the MRC decided to grade the big three broadcast networks. Below is the text of a Media Reality Check distributed by fax this morning, titled, "Grading TV Coverage of Bush's 100 Days: Worst Spin Came From CBS's Four Horsemen of Liberal Bias -- Rather, Gumbel, Schieffer and Roberts." Rich Noyes, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, put together the report with the assistance of MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey.

The pull-out box in the center of the faxed page gave our evaluations:

Grading the Networks, First 100 Days

ABC: C-
CBS: F
NBC: B-
Best White House Reporter: David Gregory
Worst White House Reporter: John Roberts

Now the text of the April 26 Media Reality Check:

Television's self-styled experts on everything are busily producing flashy retrospectives of the first 100 days of George W. Bush's presidency -- Nightline has a four-night mini-series this week -- but how good a job have the networks done? MRC analysts went back to the videotape, identifying the best and worst coverage from ABC, CBS and NBC from the past three months:

-- Biased CBS Gets an F: As Dan Rather might say, you'd find more liberal spin on CBS than blackberries at a bake-off in Altoona. Rather himself frequently denigrated Bush's policies, calling his tax program a "gamble" and a "cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax cut plan." Early Show host Bryant Gumbel tried in vain to convince a market expert that "the Bush White House has done very little about this [stock market decline] with the exception of seemingly adding fuel to the fire with talk of a worsening economy." Instead of holding liberals equally accountable, Bob Schieffer's "Real Deal" segments typically blandly relayed only the anti-Bush complaints of partisans like Tom Daschle as on March 21: "The President reversed a campaign promise to require power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and delayed a ban on logging and road building on a third of federal lands. But Daschle says the canceling of the protections for drinking water is the worst of all."

-- CBS's John Roberts was the most biased White House correspondent of the first 100 days. Uniquely, he sought out a liberal activist to show how bad Bush's policies would be: "Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice can't forget the last time Congress went on a tax cut spree in 1981; America is still paying the bill." Roberts also showcased two tax cut critics from Omaha to illustrate negative public reaction to Bush's budget speech in late February -- despite CBS's own post-speech poll showing wide support. The Evening News never reported the pro-Bush findings of that poll.

-- ABC Ekes Out a C-minus: This network had plenty of biased moments, too. Peter Jennings wondered aloud whether the Bush administration's "very militant" rhetoric had worsened the early April stand-off with China. Reporter Linda Douglass blamed Bush's allegedly tough tactics for ruining Washington's tone (always so pleasant during the Clinton years): "So much for bi-partisanship," she griped on World News Tonight. White House correspondent Terry Moran oddly complained about Bush's use of the phrase "energy crisis," although ABC used those exact words the next night in a promo for an upcoming story. But Moran was at least fair-minded enough to report on February 8 that the liberal spin that Bush's tax cut favored the rich was only true using one set of statistics; presented another way, the tax cut gave more benefits to lower- and middle-income earners.

-- B-minus for NBC: In an interview shown Wednesday morning, Today's Matt Lauer demanded Bush "look me in the eye and say that you are a President committed to cleaning up the environment." Lauer's power trip notwithstanding, NBC was actually fairer than either ABC or CBS. Meet the Press host Tim Russert, for example, challenged California's Democratic governor, a Bush critic: "If you don't cut taxes, Governor Davis, won't Congress spend the money?"

-- By process of elimination, NBC White House reporter David Gregory was least imbalanced -- although that's a lot like saying Kermit is the cutest frog in the swamp. Compared to Moran and Roberts, he took fewer liberal swipes, and he even defended Bush's tax cut on February 5, sort of: "What about the charge that the plan mostly benefits the rich? Not so, say some experts."

The networks weren't just being tough: they complained only about conservative aspects of Bush's program and didn't haze the freshman President on any of his new spending or regulation plans. During Bush's first 100 days, the networks were cops who mainly patrolled just the left side of the street.

END reprint of Media Reality Check

For more complete descriptions of each network, go to
"Report Card on the Networks," at http://www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker


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