CyberAlert -- 06/01/2001 -- Al Gore III's Speeding Ignored
Al Gore III's Speeding Ignored; Networks Pounced on Citations to Bush Daughters; Dan Rather Able to "Understand" Clinton's Lie
1) Last summer, when Al Gore's son was charged with reckless driving, the networks ignored it. But with the exception of CBS, the networks have pounced on the alcohol incident involving the Bush daughters. "Double trouble in Texas" announced NBC's Matt Lauer at the top of Today. Before a segment on it, GMA's Elizabeth Vargas mused: "The question this morning is, is this really anyone's business?"
2) The media's double standard on the Bush daughters compared to Al Gore's kids was noted by the panel on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, though they cited incidents other than the Albert Gore III speeding/reckless driving.
3) "Insofar as it's humanly possible," Dan Rather insisted, he tries to "drain my own biases, whatever they may be, out of it." Rather charged that those who think he's biased to the left have the view that "you either report the news the way we want you to report it, or we're going to punish you" and defended his assertion that Bill Clinton is "an honest man" as he said he's able to "understand" why Clinton lied.
Wednesday night on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, for instance, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noted that Newsweek's Jonathan Alter explained: "I actually think it's a fairly simple issue. There is a zone of privacy which should be respected as it was for Chelsea Clinton and should be for the Bush twins as, as their father suggested, when it does not involve a brush with the law. But the minute somebody in your family has any kind of connection to law enforcement, not just now but forever in American history. Franklin Roosevelt's children, if they had had a brush with the law, you can bet that it would have been in the newspapers. I think any reasonable person can say that's a fair dividing line."
The Gore and Bush offenses are also at a similar level of seriousness. As USA Today reporter Tom Kenworthy noted in a May 31 story, obtaining alcohol at an underage "is typically treated as a minor offense similar to a ticket for a traffic violation."
On Thursday, Jenna Bush was cited by Austin police for using a false ID to obtain alcohol and sister Barbara was cited for consuming an alcoholic drink.
Unlike the case with Al Gore's son, in which
the North Carolina state police officer had no idea who was driving the
speeding car before he pulled it over, the Bush daughters were caught
because restaurant employees recognized Jenna -- which means she was
pretty foolish to think she wouldn't be recognized but also that she was
treated differently than the average 19-year-old in a bar in Austin. Pete
Slover reported in the May 31 Dallas Morning News:
Last summer the Washington Post and New York Times held themselves to one edited AP dispatch on the incident a week after it occurred. The Washington Post reported in full on page A6 on Sunday, August 20, three days after the Democratic convention:
Gore Son Faces Charges in N.C. Speeding Case
CURRITUCK, N.C., Aug. 19: Vice President Gore's son has a court date in North Carolina next month to face charges of speeding and reckless driving last weekend.
Albert Gore III, 17, was arrested and charged Aug. 12 with driving 97 mph in a 55 mph zone and reckless driving, said 1st Sgt. A.C. Joyner of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Joyner said Gore was cooperative during the arrest.
He was driving on a state highway in a rural, sparsely populated area along the Outer Banks just south of Norfolk, authorities said.
Camille Johnston, a spokeswoman for Tipper Gore, said today that the teenager was alone at the time and was heading home to Washington after a family vacation.
The Gore family vacationed on Figure Eight Island farther south in early August.
"The Gores are dealing with this as a family matter," Johnston said.
A court hearing was scheduled for Sept. 13. Possible punishment would be a fine and loss of driving privileges in North Carolina.
Demonstrating the lack of media interest in the case, I could find nothing in Nexis about the disposition of it during the September 13 hearing or since.
On Thursday the New York Times remained consistent and confined the Bush story to an wire dispatch at the bottom of an inside page. The Washington Post, however, increased its attention on the Bush daughters with a story on the front page of the "Style" section on Thursday and another inside today, plus a "Style" front page piece today by media reporter Howard Kurtz about the media's focus on the incident.
Last year the broadcast networks and prime time newscasts on the cable networks all ignored the case involving the son of the sitting Vice President who was running for President, as later noted in a National Review Online piece by Tim Graham, then with the MRC: http://www.mediaresearch.org/oped/news/nro20001105.html
This year, on Wednesday night all the cable networks pounced on the story as both ABC's World News Tonight and the NBC Nightly News ran brief items. (See the May 31 CyberAlert for transcripts of the ABC and NBC items.) Thursday night ABC ran a brief update while NBC made the event its hook for an "In Depth" segment on the behavior of presidential sons and daughters. (See below for details.)
The CBS Evening News has remained consistent, with the Ed Bradley-anchored show not touching the Bush daughter's story either Wednesday or Thursday night. Thursday morning, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noted, CBS's The Early Show held itself to a couple of briefs during news updates.
But the ABC and NBC morning shows devoted entire segments to the Bush daughters on Thursday morning with Today opening the May 31 broadcast with their troubles. At he top of a Good Morning America segment on what happened at the bar, ABC's Elizabeth Vargas ruminated: "Jenna Bush's story is moving beyond the tabloids into mainstream media. The question this morning is, is this really anyone's business?"
Details about Thursday May 31 evening and morning coverage:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings read this short item: "In Texas today the Austin police issued citations to both of President Bush's teenage daughters. Barbara is charged with alcohol possession and Jenna is charged with using someone else's ID to order alcohol."
-- NBC Nightly News used the event for an
"In Depth" segment on life in White House spotlight. Andrea
Mitchell began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Elizabeth Vargas set up the May 31 segment, as observed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "For the second time in two months, President and Mrs. Bush are dealing with a problem many parents know all too well: a teenager, their daughter, in a brush with the law involving alcohol. With this second incident, Jenna Bush's story is moving beyond the tabloids into mainstream media. The question this morning is, is this really anyone's business?"
Vargas added: "The White House had no
comment, calling it a family matter. but Jenna's new brush with the law
raises new questions: Is it an alcohol problem? Is it teenage rebellion?
More importantly, is it anybody's business?...Wayne, I'd like to start
with you, if I may. You say that Jenna's brushes with the law is the
public's business. Why?"
Vargas turned to former Hillary Clinton aide
Lisa Caputo: "The President has made it clear that he expects the
press to respect the privacy of his daughters. Should that include
incidents like this where it is involving breaking the law?"
-- NBC's Today. Matt Lauer opened the
broadcast: "Good morning. Double trouble in Texas. President Bush's
19 year old daughter, Jenna, brought her twin sister Barbara along when
she allegedly tried to buy a drink at a local restaurant. Her second brush
with the law. She's under investigation for underage drinking today,
Thursday May 31st, 2001."
Today made the case its "Close Up" segment, starting with a full report from reporter Jim Cummins who recalled: "There was another incident involving Jenna back in February. The sheriff in Ft. Worth, Texas claimed Secret Service agents in a black Chevy Suburban came to the county jail late one night to pick up this man, 18 year old William Bridges, who was under arrest for public intoxication. Deputies say Bridges claimed to be Jenna's boyfriend and they were told she was in the black Suburban."
Next, Matt Lauer talked with Marshall Maher,
Editor of The Daily Texan at the University of Texas in Austin. Lauer's
questions, which included raising the possibility that Jenna had been
But Today wasn't done as it used the Bush daughters as a hook for one more segment. Katie Couric set it up: "The most recent investigation of President Bush's 19 year-old daughter Jenna for allegedly trying to buy alcohol illegally has brought even more attention to underage drinking. That combined with the results of University of Michigan survey that has found in the past two weeks almost one third of twelfth graders have had five or more drinks in a row. Well that all makes it a good time for parents to talk with their kids about drinking. Here with some help is psychologist Dale Atkins."
The media's double standard on the Bush daughters compared to Al Gore's kids was noted by the panel on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, though they cited incidents other than the Albert Gore III speeding/reckless driving. The discussion, however, is what prompted me to recall the speeding incident.
Over a shot of the glaring front page covers
of the New York Daily News and New York Post, Hume asked on the May 31
Jeff Birnbaum of Fortune replied, as taken down my MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "I don't think so. I covered the Clinton White House for the Wall Street Journal and went, from the very beginning, and we were asked, all the press were asked to lay off Chelsea Clinton, and the same thing was thought of the Gore children, as well. And we did, for the most part, and I think that's admirable. I mean, these are children, they did not run for office, and they do not deserve this kind of scrutiny."
Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard suggested the media should not touch the lives of offspring unless their name "gets on the police blotter."
That prompted Hume to cryptically recall: "Now, there was an incident, and we didn't report it at the time, and I'm not going to go into any detail about it here, involving a member of one of the first families of the land in recent years, who was in serious trouble at school, it involved drugs, it was a serious matter. Nobody reported it. Now, I don't know whether the police were involved, but it certainly involved an alleged offense. Question: Is a different standard applied then than is being applied now?"
Roll Call's Morton Kondracke answered:
"Well, I'm not exactly sure what the, in one case, and both of
these stories, by the way, there were two of Al Gore's children did get
in trouble, and each case, there was a story. One in the Washingtonian
magazine, way down buried."
I don't know about the Daily News, but I'm pretty sure the New York Post put Albert Gore III on its cover last August.
Catching up with an interview with Dan Rather, last week on FNC's The Edge with Paula Zahn he maintained that "I try to be an honest broker of information" since, "insofar as it's humanly possible," he tries to "drain my own biases, whatever they may be, out of it." Rather charged that those who think he's biased to the left have the view that "you either report the news the way we want you to report it, or we're going to punish you, Dan Rather," and defended his assertion made the week before that Bill Clinton is "an honest man" as he said he's able to "understand" why Clinton lied.
Pressed about that assessment, Rather oddly argued that because he and others lie it would be wrong to describe Clinton as a liar: "I certainly didn't approve of Bill Clinton lying. I think it was very serious. But I'm not going to be hypocritical and say I've never lied in my life." He affirmed that "my own belief is, yes, you can be an honest person and still sometime in your life, maybe several sometimes in your life, have lied about something."
For background, see two previous CyberAlert items:
-- Dan Rather on Bill Clinton: "I think he's an honest man....I think at core he's an honest person....I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things." Go to: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010515_extra.asp
-- Dan Rather sees himself as a martyr for telling the truth about Watergate and Vietnam. Rejecting any responsibility for being seen as liberal, Rather told Geraldo Rivera the liberal bias charge is made by those who "subscribe to the idea either you report the news the way we want you to report it, or we're gonna tag some...negative sign on you." Go to: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010522.asp
Now to the May 22 The Edge with Paula Zahn on FNC:
Paula Zahn: "Peter Jennings in an
interview suggested back in March, that quote, 'There are not enough
conservative voices in mainstream broadcasting.' What's your response
Zahn then raised his Clinton as "an
honest man" assessment made on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor. Rather
Unlike Rather, I am able to "understand" his bias. -- Brent Baker
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