CyberAlert -- 05/25/2001 -- Jeffords: "Principle Over Party"
Jeffords: "Principle Over Party"; Vermonters "Socially Conscious"; Brokaw Saw No Betrayal; NY Times "Middle of the Road" to Rather
1) Republican Party too conservative. ABC and CBS conveyed Jim Jeffords' warning that Bush must listen to "moderates" or he'll be a one-termer. CBS relayed the recommendation of one operative to reach out to "others who feel Jim Jeffords's pain." NBC's Lisa Myers put the burden on Bush: "This new reality will test the President's promise to be uniter and not a divider."
2) The networks assumed Jeffords had only noble intentions as they focused on approval by Vermonters. Bob Schieffer: "He was treated like a rock star." Jim Axelrod claimed Vermont "values principle over party." Tom Brokaw admired how he "embraced a flinty kind of New England independence." Andrea Mitchell called him "perfectly suited" for the state since "Vermonters say they're not liberal or conservative, just socially conscious."
3) Pressed by David Letterman about whether anyone was betrayed by Jeffords, Tom Brokaw rejected the idea: "No...I think he campaigned on the very issues that he said he's leaving the Republican Party for." Brokaw maintained that "those flinty New Englanders, they treasure their independence, and they like someone who stands up for their state and for principle."
5) Dan Rather considers the New York Times editorial page to be "middle of the road," former CBS News colleague Bernard Goldberg revealed in an op-ed in Thursday's Wall Street Journal about how the three broadcast networks anchors "don't even know what liberal bias is."
6) Tom Brokaw lashed out at Bernard Goldberg. Brokaw insisted "the idea that we would set out, consciously or unconsciously, to put some kind of an ideological framework over what we're doing is nonsense." A bitter Brokaw related how he knows Goldberg has "had an ongoing feud with Dan, I wish he would confine it to that."
>>> A Dan Rather who has never been biased. Now up on the MRC home page for your holiday weekend viewing, thanks to MRC Webmaster Andy Szul: A RealPlayer clip of the unveiling on the May 22 Early Show of a wax figure of Rather to be displayed at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York City. You don't have to play the video to see the wax figure since a picture is posted on the MRC home page. Go to: http://www.mrc.org <<<
The broadcast networks delivered the expected liberal spin Thursday night on why Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party. It didn't have anything to do with selfish motivations to gain power, a suggestion picked up by FNC. And none of the broadcast networks bothered to mention those he hurt personally, such as the hundreds of Republican staffers who will suddenly lose their jobs. No, ABC, CBS and NBC blamed conservatives for making the party too right wing for the "moderate" Jeffords.
On Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's Carl
Cameron raised a perspective never considered by the broadcast networks:
Instead, ABC's Dan Harris concluded on World
CBS's Bob Schieffer relayed the same point
on the Evening News: "More and more, he said he found himself at odds
with his party and the President on issues ranging from abortion and
taxes, to energy and defense. He said later he told the President just
CBS also highlighted the odd counsel of GOP strategist Rich Bond, who urged his party to be sure "if there are others who feel Jim Jeffords' pain, that they don't go the way of Jim Jeffords."
After months of Senate Democratic obstructionism, NBC's Lisa Myers concluded by putting the burden on President Bush, pushing him to be an accommodationist: "This new reality will test the President's promise to be uniter and not a divider."
Some more detail on the May 24 CBS and NBC stories, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
-- CBS Evening News. Bill Plante focused on
anger at the White House: "Republicans don't blame the President
for Jeffords' defection as much as they do his staff. A conservative
Republican Senator and Bush supporter tells CBS News, 'The White House
has made everybody up here mad. They don't reach out to anybody, and
frankly, we don't know what the make of it.' Senator John McCain, also
often at odds with the White House, said Jeffords was 'unfairly targeted
for abuse by short-sighted party operatives. It is well past time for the
Republican Party to grow up.'"
-- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers noted Senate GOP
anger at Jeffords before concentrating on his take: "Suggesting the
Republican Party no longer stands for tolerance and moderation, Jeffords
today says he leaves with a heavy heart."
After reporting how Tom Daschle called for "principled compromise" and how in a new Senate Bush's privatization plan for Social Security and missile defense are doomed, she concluded by putting the burden on Bush: "This new reality will test the President's promise to be uniter and not a divider. Bush and the Democrats each have the ability to checkmate each other, but only by working together can they get anything done."
Other than a single brief soundbite or glimpse of a protest sign, on Thursday night the broadcast networks ignored those in Vermont who felt betrayed by Jim Jeffords and assumed Jeffords only had noble intention as they focused on how most in Vermont supposedly approve of his move. NBC's Andrea Mitchell concluded: "Even Jeffords' critics seem to accept his explanation that following your conscience is more important than party loyalty."
"He was treated like a rock star when he went home to explain his reasons for quitting the Republican Party," CBS's Bob Schieffer asserted. CBS colleague Jim Axelrod assigned the best motivations to Jeffords as he claimed Vermont "values principle over party." Axelrod decided that "in Vermont, a state with an independent streak that can blaze as boldly as its leaves, Jim Jeffords appears to be a snug fit from the barber shops on Main Street." NBC's Tom Brokaw admired how Jeffords' "embraced a flinty kind of New England independence." Andrea Mitchell described Jeffords as "perfectly suited" for the state since "Vermonters say they're not liberal or conservative, just socially conscious."
How about "just socialist"?
More on ABC, CBS and NBC assessments from Vermont on Thursday night, May 24 as mostly transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Dan Harris
gushed: "The speech moved Jeffords' communications director to
tears. As for Jeffords' constituents, most political watchers here say
this defection will only boost his popularity."
From Washington, Linda Douglass later painted Jeffords' former GOP colleagues as the bitter ones: "Some Republicans are really bitter about being jilted by Jeffords. Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, who used to sing in that Senate quartet with Jeffords, said today, 'I will not sing with Senator Jeffords anymore.'"
-- CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer raved:
"After 26 years in Congress, Jeffords has become an institution in
Vermont, and he was treated like a rock star when he went home to explain
his reasons for quitting the Republican Party."
From Vermont, Jim Axelrod found more
admiration than condemnation: "For every Vermonter who looks at Jim
Jeffords and sees a traitor."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw admired how "up in Vermont Senator Jeffords is joining a long list of Vermont politicians who have bucked traditional party roles and embraced a flinty kind of New England independence."
Andrea Mitchell highlighted how Jeffords "sings country music with Trent Lott and other conservatives, but voted against impeachment and for Hillary Clinton's health care plan. It's a record perfectly suited for Vermont-the first state to outlaw slavery, elect a socialist to Congress, produce politically correct ice cream, and legalize same-sex unions. Vermonters say they're not liberal or conservative, just socially conscious. And as the state's Republican Party Chairman points out, polls show independents outnumber Democrats or Republicans here two-to-one."
Following a clip of GOP chief Patrick Garahan and
three soundbites from citizens praising Jeffords, Mitchell added:
"Burlington's six-term Mayor, Peter Cabell, elected as a
Tom Brokaw insisted Senator Jeffords did not betray anyone after running for re-election just seven months ago as a Republican. Pressed twice by David Letterman on Thursday's Late Show about whether anyone was betrayed by Jeffords, Brokaw rejected the notion: "No...I think he campaigned on the very issues that he said he's leaving the Republican Party for." Brokaw maintained that "those flinty New Englanders, they treasure their independence, and they like someone who stands up for their state and for principle."
Just not the principle of not changing the election results for your personal aggrandizement.
On the May 24 Late Show, Brokaw inquired of
Brokaw: "What does it mean to people who voted for this guy as a
Republican? Are they, in some sense, betrayed now or is that not a
Letterman pressed again: "Right, did not
really conform. But what about the people? Are people up there now saying,
'Well, hell, I voted for a Republican and now he's a-' I mean, is
that, is that a legitimate, do they have a legitimate point or not?"
See item below for for Tom Brokaw's angry reaction to Goldberg.
The voting record of Jim Jeffords makes him far more liberal than moderate, earning 55 percent approval in 2000 from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action and only a 36 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, with a mere 27 percent over his entire career, but Thursday morning NBC's Today insisted upon referring to him as an "independent thinker" and a "moderate."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught these misleading labels from the May 24 Today:
-- Matt Lauer to Andrea Mitchell: "Andrea, let's talk a little bit about what lead up to this. You mention he's an independent thinker..."
-- Tim Russert: "His fellow moderate Republican Senators went and pleaded with him."
Dan Rather considers the New York Times editorial page to be "middle of the road," former CBS News colleague Bernard Goldberg revealed in an op-ed in Thursday's Wall Street Journal about how the three broadcast networks anchors assume liberal positions are mainstream and so they "don't even know what liberal bias is." Goldberg recounted how after he wrote an op-ed piece in 1996 about liberal bias at CBS News, "Dan was furious and...indicated that picking The Wall Street Journal to air my views was especially appalling given the conservative views of the paper's editorial page."
Web Update: On June 4, Goldberg appeared on MSNBC's Barnicle to discuss his May 24 Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Seemingly spurred by denials of bias by Peter Jennings and Rather in recent weeks documented by CyberAlert, Goldberg, who departed CBS News last year, penned an op-ed titled, "On Media Bias, Network Stars Are Rather Clueless." Here's an excerpt of the May 24 column which he started by noting how during a book tour Rather has been denying he has a liberal bias:
....It's the same old story as far as Dan is concerned. The right thinks he's an unapologetic liberal who slants the news leftward -- not because he is, but because his critics are so hopelessly biased themselves that they wouldn't know straight news when they saw it. As another evening star, Peter Jennings, told Larry King recently, bias often is in the eye of the beholder. And since Tom Brokaw also has publicly denied a liberal bias, it's official. There is none. It's all a figment of the reactionary imagination. Case closed.
Except, as just about everyone who lives between Manhattan and Malibu knows, there is a leftward tilt on the big-three evening newscasts....
So how can three otherwise intelligent, worldly men be so delusional when it comes to their own business? One possibility, of course, is that they're not delusional at all. They know they're slanting the news and they're simply doing what a lot of people do when caught red-handed. They're denying it.
But that's not it, as far as I can figure. I'd bet that if you hooked Dan and Tom and Peter up to a lie detector and asked them if there's a liberal bias on their newscasts, they'd all say "no" and they'd all pass the test.
That leaves one other possibility. Messrs. Rather, Brokaw and Jennings don't even know what liberal bias is. I concede this is hard to believe, but I'm convinced it's why we keep getting these ridiculous denials, such as Mr. Rather's response to Geraldo Rivera the other night. Geraldo said, "What I can't figure out is why you rub the right so wrong." Dan thought it was because some people "subscribe to the idea either you report the news the way we want you to report it, or we're gonna tag...[a] negative sign on you."
The problem is that Mr. Rather and the other evening stars think that liberal bias means just one thing: going hard on Republicans and easy on Democrats. But real media bias comes not so much from what party they attack. Liberal bias is the result of how they see the world.
Consider this: In 1996 after I wrote about liberal bias on this very page, Dan was furious and during a phone conversation he indicated that picking The Wall Street Journal to air my views was especially appalling given the conservative views of the paper's editorial page. "What do you consider the New York Times?" I asked him, since he had written op-eds for that paper. "Middle of the road," he said.
I couldn't believe he was serious. The Times is a newspaper that has taken the liberal side of every important social issue of our time, which is fine with me. But if you see the New York Times editorial page as middle of the road, one thing is clear: You don't have a clue.
And it is this inability to see liberal views as liberal that is at the heart of the entire problem. This is why Phyllis Schlafly is the conservative woman who heads that conservative organization but Patricia Ireland is merely the head of NOW. No liberal labels necessary. Robert Bork is the conservative judge. Laurence Tribe is the noted Harvard law professor....
And that's why the media stars can so easily talk about "right wing" Republicans and "right wing" Christians and "right wing" Miami Cubans and "right wing" radio talk-show hosts. But the only time they utter the words "left wing" is when they're talking about an airplane.
Conservatives must be identified because the audience needs to know these are people with axes to grind. But liberals don't need to be identified because their views on all the big social issues -- from abortion and gun control to the death penalty and affirmative action -- aren't liberal views at all. They're simply reasonable views, shared by all the reasonable people the media elites mingle with at all their reasonable dinner parties in Manhattan and Georgetown....
The media elites can float through their personal lives and rarely run into someone with an opposing view. This is very unhealthy and sometimes downright ridiculous, as when Pauline Kael, for years the brilliant film critic at The New Yorker, was completely baffled about how Richard Nixon could have beaten George McGovern in 1972: "Nobody I know voted for Nixon." Never mind that Nixon carried 49 states. She wasn't kidding.
If there is one group that is uniquely unqualified to comment on liberal bias it's the big-time media stars. So Dan and Tom and Peter: Stop telling us that we're the problem, and start thinking about what liberal bias really means.
To read Goldberg's entire piece, go to:
For details about the 1996 op-ed to which Goldberrg
referred, read the February 1996 MediaWatch article about it:
Tom Brokaw reacted with anger to Bernard Goldberg's Wall Street Journal piece naming him as guilty of not knowing "what liberal bias is." Asked about the piece by C-SPAN's Brian Lamb on Thursday morning's Washington Journal, Brokaw insisted "the idea that we would set out, consciously or unconsciously, to put some kind of an ideological framework over what we're doing is nonsense."
Brokaw directed his fire at Goldberg: "We anger liberals as much as we do conservatives. And the fact is, Mr. Goldberg, that I've heard a lot more, on a regular basis, from liberals complaining about the kind of coverage that they've gotten than I have from conservatives." A bitter Brokaw related how he knows Goldberg has "had an ongoing feud with Dan, I wish he would confine it to that, frankly."
Brokaw appeared on C-SPAN to plug his new book of life stories from World War II vets, but Lamb asked him about Goldberg's piece, reciting a lengthy excerpt, concluding with the line: "Liberal bias is the result of how they see the world."
Brokaw was not pleased, responding, as transcribed by MRC intern Lindsay Welter:
"I was, uh, I guess, uh bemused is the appropriate word by that column. I now know the meaning of the word strawman is, I've been set up and knocked down by Bernard Goldberg without any specific references to anything that I've done, that I know about. We haven't used the phrase, 'right-wing,' or 'left-wing,' in a long time. Occasionally we will say that someone is conservative or a liberal. I think, can't rewind the tape completely, but when Tim Russert and I were talking last night about the changes in Washington, we did talk about conservative chairman being replaced by liberal chairman, for example, as we identified some of them. Pat Leahy is certainly more liberal than Orrin Hatch, who is a conservative is the chair of the judiciary committee. Look, everyday we struggle with the business of trying to give an accurate reflection of what is going on in this country, across the board. It is a complex culture that we cover. The idea that we would set out, consciously or unconsciously, to put some kind of an ideological framework over what we're doing is nonsense, it's also self-destructive. People believe that we've got a liberal bias, do you think this country, which has a lot of conservatives in it, would turn in any regard to what're doing. We anger liberals as much as we do conservatives. And the fact is, Mr. Goldberg, that I've heard a lot more, on a regular basis, from liberals complaining about the kind of coverage that they've gotten than I have from conservatives. I only know him a little bit professionally. I know that he's had an ongoing feud with Dan, I wish he would confine it to that, frankly."
In the hours after Goldberg's op-ed appeared, Brokaw did employ some liberal labels. On Thursday's NBC Nightly News he noted: "Today's change in control puts a liberal Democrat in charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee." On CBS's Late Show, taped an hour before, he told David Letterman how "Pat Leahy, a much more liberal Senator from Vermont," would assume the Judiciary Committee chairmanship.
Coincidence? -- Brent Baker
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