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CyberAlert -- 07/16/2001 -- Bush Stole Election

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Bush Stole Election, Not Really; Bring GOP to Center; Schieffer Urged McCain Presidential Run; Nets Didn't Hesitate to ID Packwood

1) The CBS Evening News jumped on how the New York Times would report "that the questionable counting of overseas ballots in Florida may have gained some crucial votes for George W. Bush," a strategy Russ Mitchell rued, "that may have been the deciding factor in winning the White House." In fact, the paper found a less than one percent chance the outcome would have changed.

2) Time's Michael Duffy upset by why Dick Armey and Tom DeLay "steam ahead with a conservative approach...Is there just no, no moderation at all? Is there something that can bring them back to the center?"

3) Al Hunt called Clinton's 1993 tax hike the "most successful piece of legislation" in the past 25 years.

4) NBC's Tim Russert's Sunday theme: "Who is to blame" for Thursday's Shays-Meehan loss? Meanwhile, CBS's Bob Schieffer squeezed in a commentary about how John McCain should run for President. Schieffer's recommended campaign theme: "Both parties are so beholden to the big-money interests, it will take someone else to clean up the mess."

5) The weekday CBS Evening News has yet to mention the Chandra Levy/Gary Condit story, but back in 1992 the weekday CBS Evening News immediately aired a full story on sexual harassment charges against "Oregon Republican Bob Packwood." ABC and NBC were similarly thorough in identifying Packwood's party, in contrast to his year with Condit.

6) July 13 correction in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Several stories in recent days about U.S. Rep. Gary Condit have failed to mention he is a Democrat representing a district in California."


1
In April the CBS Evening News only gave 23 seconds to vaguely relaying how a USA Today/Knight-Ridder hand recount in Florida found more Bush votes and in May the show ignored the Palm Beach Post's discovery that 5,600 felons voted illegally -- 68 percent of whom were registered Democrats. But over the weekend, even before a New York Times story appeared which found nothing which would have changed the outcome, the CBS Evening News jumped to publicize insidious insinuations about what Bush operatives tried to do.

For details about the previous two counts downplayed or skipped by the CBS Evening News, go to:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010405.asp#1
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010606.asp#5

Saturday's World News Tonight on ABC also ran a short item on the Times story and on Sunday's This Week ABC gave George Stephanopoulos nearly four-and-a-half minutes to review the story even though he conceded up front that it uncovered nothing that would have altered the outcome: "The bottom line of this exhaustive account, which comes it at more than 13,000 words, is that Bush won several hundred votes which didn't comply with Florida law, but there's less than a one percent chance that these ballots, on their own, would have swung the election toward Gore."

The night before, Russ Mitchell led the July 14 CBS Evening News by implying the GOP strategy discovered by the Times "may have been the deciding factor in winning the White House," as if the Republican effort to count overseas military ballots was some just uncovered secret. After a lengthy report, CBS's Bobbi Harley admitted that even the expert consulted by the Times found "there was only a slight chance that throwing out those questionable overseas ballots would have put Al Gore in the White House."

Mitchell opened the July 14 broadcast by highlighting what would appear in the New York Times the next day: "More than eight months after election night, there's new fallout from the presidential election of 2000. The New York Times reports in tomorrow's edition that the questionable counting of overseas ballots in Florida may have gained some crucial votes for George W. Bush. Bobbi Harley has more on the war of strategy last fall that may have been the deciding factor in winning the White House."

Harley: "Florida election law is clear when it comes to overseas ballots. They must be postmarked, signed and witnessed. But the six-month-long investigation by The New York Times has found hundreds of those ballots in last year's presidential election did not comply but were counted anyway."
Lance DeHaven-Smith, Florida State University: "Both the letter and the spirit of the law were violated. The letter of the law was clear that you had to have a postmark for it to be a legal ballot, so we were counting the number of ballots here that probably were not legal ballots."
Harley: "George W. Bush won the contested election by only 537 votes. But The Times' investigation uncovered 680 overseas ballots that failed to meet the standard set by Florida law. Three hundred and forty-four showed no evidence they were cast on or before the Election Day. Others had US postmarks. Some had no signatures. Still other voters were not registered. A few ballots came in late. And 19 voters cast two ballots, both of which were counted. Republicans reacting to The Times article that will appear in Sunday's edition denounced the report."
Representative Steve Buyer, Republican Indiana: "But Al Gore needs to have a return, so what happens? The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times go out and they break their article somehow to make allegations against the Bush team. You know what? It's over. Get over it."
Harley: "But while The New York Times found no fraud on the part of either political party, the newspaper contends the Republicans launched a massive behind-the-scenes political and public relations effort to try to count as many military ballots as possible in Bush strongholds, while at the same time trying to block those same ballots in counties likely to vote for Al Gore, and that much of this strategy was discussed in a so-called war room in the offices of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who was also a co-chairperson of Bush's campaign in Florida."
David Host, Florida Secretary of State's office: "Secretary Harris was fair, consistent and even-handed in every action she took. The proof of that's in the article itself, in that both the Bush and the Gore campaigns are quoted as having complained about the law she cited in her public statements."
Harley: "The Republican campaign to count absentee ballots was an effective counterpoint to the Democrats' push for manual recounts in Democratic counties in south Florida. But the Republicans won a public relations campaign by making a challenge to military ballots seem unpatriotic. And then one of the Democrats' own candidates may have foiled his party's legal challenges."
Senator Joseph Lieberman on Face the Nation in November 2000: "Al Gore and I would never countenance, would never tolerate any specific policy by anybody representing us that was aimed at singling out votes from our military abroad."
Harley concluded: "In the long run, none of this may have mattered. A Harvard University expert on voter patterns and statistical models told The New York Times that there was only a slight chance that throwing out those questionable overseas ballots would have put Al Gore in the White House."

If you are interested in seeing how it took the New York Times so long so say so little, you can read their massive July 15 story: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/15/politics/15BALL.html

2

The House Republican leadership is just too conservative for the sensibilities of Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy. On Friday's Washington Week on PBS, he pleaded: "Is there just no, no moderation at all? Is there something that can bring them back to the center?"

Just after a discussion about conservative opposition to Shays-Meehan, on the July 13 show Duffy asked Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin: "The thing I'm curious about is why Dick Armey and Tom DeLay just seem to steam ahead with a conservative approach. They've been like this for a couple of years. Is there just no, no moderation at all? Is there something that can bring them back to the center? Can George Bush do it?"
Eilperin lamented: "Well, it's hard to see how he can. When you look at the House Republicans they're overwhelmingly conservative. In fact, DeLay in particular saw this election as a mandate. He basically feels like the Republican vision won in 2000, regardless of Florida and what people might say about Al Gore, and the fact that Republicans at that time controlled both the legislative and the executive branch gave him carte blanche, in his opinion, to pursue anything he wanted to do...."

I want know why Time magazine steams ahead with a liberal tilt. Is there just no moderation at all? Is there something that can bring them back to the center?

3

What is the "most successful piece of legislation" in the past 25 years? By the reasoning of Wall Street Journal Executive Editor Al Hunt it wasn't anything pushed or signed by President Reagan, or anything somewhat right of center acceded to by President Clinton, such as welfare reform. No, it was Clinton's 1993 tax hike.

On Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN, even after National Review's Kate O'Beirne pointed out how "there would be no surplus if there hadn't a Republican Congress where early in the Republican takeover they did care about fiscal restraint," Hunt rhetorically asked host Mark Shields:
"Mark, do you remember what the budget deficit was in 1993? Do you remember what the unemployment rate was? Do you remember what the stock market was? I mean. I rest the case. That's all you have to do. You can do any measure you want but basically that is the most successful piece of legislation, maybe in the last 25 years."

Yes, tax cuts cause innumerable problems while tax hikes can be credited with anything positive which occurs.

4

One good thing about the network interest in Chandra Levy is how it has not left as much time for crusading for "campaign finance reform" and fawning over John McCain. But on Sunday morning Tim Russert offered a hint of the Washington press corps' concern about wanting to know "who is to blame" for Thursday's Shays-Meehan loss while CBS's Bob Schieffer squeezed in a commentary to put out a trial balloon about how McCain should run for President. Schieffer recommended a campaign theme: "Both parties are so beholden to the big-money interests, it will take someone else to clean up the mess."

-- Meet the Press, July 15. After plugging several segments related to Chandra Levy, Russert opened the show with an appearance by Senator John McCain: "But first, John McCain's crusade for campaign finance reform has been derailed. Who is to blame? In the legislation now dead?"

-- Bob Schieffer devoted all of his Face the Nation to Chandra Levy, except for his end of show commentary which he dedicated to arguing that the House rejection of McCain's pet cause gives him a good reason to run for President:
"And finally today on a totally different subject, have I not seen this movie before? Campaign finance reform, which would have cut off those unlimited, back-door contributions called soft money, got derailed again last week. Neither party wants public credit for killing it. It's better politics to blame the other party, which both parties are doing. Republican leaders have never liked these reforms, and Democratic support began to melt when it looked as if the reforms might actually become law. Now by killing reform with parliamentary tactics on a procedural vote in the House last week, they have the best of all worlds. The money will keep rolling in, and they can blame the other side. And they finally got even with John McCain, who has made enemies in both parties by pushing reform for so long.
"But here's the irony. McCain has been saying all along he has no plans to run for President as a third-party independent candidate. But doesn't this give him the perfect excuse? The script writes itself. Both parties are so beholden to the big-money interests, it will take someone else to clean up the mess, and on and on and on. Now I have no idea what McCain will do, but you could make the case that the only person who came out of this stronger politically than he went in is McCain because it gives him that issue to run on. I'm not sure that's what opponents of campaign finance reform had in mind."

But it's what members of the media are hoping for.

5

The weekday CBS Evening News has yet to mention the Chandra Levy/Gary Condit story, never mind informing viewers that he's a Democrat, but back in 1992 the weekday CBS Evening News immediately aired a full story on sexual harassment charges against "Oregon Republican Bob Packwood." This year, not until the fourth story on the CBS Evening News, on a weekend, did the show identify Condit's party affiliation.

CBS certainly has no internal consistency. During the week The Early Show regularly covers the Chandra Levy/Gary Condit case, but not a syllable has aired yet on a weekday edition of the CBS Evening News. But on weekends, the CBS Evening News covers the story and this past weekend all but the final commentary on Face the Nation dealt with the Levy situation.

Friday night the CBS Evening News under Executive Producer Jim Murphy and anchor Dan Rather ignored Levy, but found time for stories on how anthrax is killing deer in Texas, another shark attack update and even 19 seconds to recount how the guy who threw a dog into an oncoming car received a three year prison sentence.

Saturday night, July 14, the weekend editions of the CBS Evening News arrived at their fourth story, but anchor Russ Mitchell avoided labeling Condit as he set up the piece: "Representative Gary Condit's attempt to quiet speculation about his conduct in the investigation of missing intern Chandra Levy by taking a lie detector test may have backfired..."

Deep within the subsequent story, however, reporter Lee Cowan uttered the first CBS Evening News identification of Condit: "D.C. police had asked to conduct their own polygraph test of Gary Condit, a California Democrat who police sources say admitted to an affair with Levy...."

As the MRC documented last week in a study, from when the Levy story first broke onto the networks on May 14 "through July 11, ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news programs aired a total of 179 stories about Gary Condit -- 121 full-length reports or interviews, plus 58 brief anchor-read items. MRC researchers reviewed each story, and found that Condit was labeled a 'Democrat' only 14 times, or in fewer than eight percent of stories."

To read the study, go to the July 12 Media Reality Check:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2001/20010712.asp

But back on Monday, November 23, 1992, the day after a Sunday Washington Post story had first revealed claims by several women that Senator Bob Packwood, a liberal Republican, had accosted them with unwanted touching and kisses, all three broadcast network evening shows ran full stories which identified Packwood as a Republican.

-- The weekday CBS Evening News has yet to even mention the allegations swirling around Condit, but on the Monday, November 23, 1992 show, the day after the Washington Post story, Dan Rather introduced a report: "One of the better known names in the U.S. Senate is caught up in accusations of sexual harassment. And with a record number of women Senators coming into the new Congress, this could be an early test of how much politics in the Senate is destined to change. Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has the story."
Schieffer wasted no time in highlighting Packwood's party, starting his piece: "For Oregon Republican Bob Packwood, the November election was sweet. He won a fifth term after one of his toughest campaigns ever. But suddenly, it has all gone sour over allegations of sexual harassment..."

-- This year ABC's World News Tonight took until its seventh story to identify Condit as a Democrat, but Peter Jennings showed no such hesitation in 1992, intoning on the Monday, November 23, 1992 show, after a story about Clinton campaigning for Georgia senatorial candidate Wyche Fowler:
"Elsewhere in the country today, several women's groups are calling for a full Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the conduct of Republican Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon. This weekend, The Washington Post published allegations from 10 women, most of them former members of Packwood's staff, that the Senator made sexual advances towards them. The seriousness with which these new charges are being taken is a pretty clear indication that this year sexual harassment is being viewed in a different way on Capitol Hill. Here's ABC's Cokie Roberts."

-- Not until its 12th story this year did the NBC Nightly News call Condit a Democrat, but on November 23, 1992, after an item about Paul Tsongas being hospitalized, Tom Brokaw announced: "A sitting Senator meanwhile is out of sight tonight. Oregon's five-term Republican Senator Robert Packwood issued a statement through his office, but otherwise would not respond to a long list of sexual misconduct charges."

+++ So you can see how the CBS Evening News is capable of reporting on and listing the party of elected officials involved in charges of misconduct, today the MRC's Web team will post a RealPlayer clip of the above-quoted excerpt from the November 23, 1992 CBS Evening News. Go to: http://www.mrc.org

6

Correction of the week, brought to my attention by an alert CyberAlert reader. From the July 13 Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Several stories in recent days about U.S. Rep. Gary Condit have failed to mention he is a Democrat representing a district in California."

If only the networks realized that error. Neither Sunday's NBC Nightly News story, nor stories Saturday or Sunday on ABC's World News Tonight, identified Gary Condit as a Democrat. -- Brent Baker


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