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CyberAlert -- 07/16/2002 -- Only Worried About "Weaker" House Bills

Only Worried About "Weaker" House Bills; More Focus on Cheney; Coulter's Strange GMA Experience; ABC Countered Good Child Poverty Numbers; Brian Williams Now "Unbiased"; Bravo's Cable News Drama

1) With unanimous Senate votes crying out for scrutiny over whether the bills are going too far, the networks didn't air a contrary syllable. Instead, ABC, CBS and NBC only worried about how the Senate bills could be hurt by being merged with the "weaker" House bills. CBS's Bob Orr: "The Senate version must be reconciled with the weaker House package. And with some Republicans and the accounting lobby already promising a fight, it's unclear at the moment how tough the final reforms will be."

2) CBS devoted a story Monday night to vague allegations against Vice President Dick Cheney as Dan Rather suggested they undermine Bush's claims about a "hangover" from the 1990s: "President Bush said Wall Street is suffering from a quote, 'hangover,' from what he called the 'economic binges of the 1990s.' He said that even as questions are being raised about the role of his now Vice President as an oil company executive in those years."

3) Ann Coulter was confronted with a Good Morning America interviewer who didn't seem to grasp basic conservative points. When Coulter ran down names of corporate figures involved in scandal who are big Democratic supporters, Woodruff seemed clueless as he asked Coulter to explain the "conspiracy against Martha Stewart?" And when she joked that the New York Times publisher should release his SAT scores, he didn't get it.

4) ABC made sure that good news about child poverty in America was undermined by a bunch of anecdotes. Anchoring World News Tonight/Saturday, Bob Woodruff noted how "the National Institutes of Health this week said the poverty rate among kids is holding steady at 16 percent," the lowest level since 1979, but without citing the source, he countered that "according to a recent study, that's still higher, in many cases much higher, than in 18 other wealthy countries."

5) After six years, NBC has suddenly decided to advertise The News with Brian Williams as "unbiased." Sounds like they are a little jealous of FNC's success in touting itself as "fair and balanced."

6) On Wednesday night Bravo debuts Breaking News, a drama series about a cable news channel that was intended for AOL Time Warner's TNT. But was the show with employees who "will do anything to get a scoop," and in which "the manufacturing of news events is an ongoing theme," too close to CNN for AOL Time Warner's comfort?


Correction: The July 15 CyberAlert stated that as of July 15 the 9pm EDT "Hardball will no longer air on CNBC where it will be replaced by a show hosted by Maria Bartiloma." First, her name is spelled "Bartiromo." Second, After Hours with Maria Bartiromo will run only on Mondays. Capital Report will air Tuesday through Thursday at 9pm EDT. Both shows will be repeated at 12am EDT/9pm PDT. For CNBC's new evening line-up, which begins Monday-Thursday with The News with Brian Williams at 7pm EDT, check:
http://moneycentral.msn.com/Content/CNBCTV/TV_Info/Schedule.asp

1

On Friday and again last night, the Senate passed anti-corporate corruption/new regulation and criminal penalty bills with unanimous votes of 97 to zip, but just when you need the media the most to play its role as a check on government power, the networks didn't air a syllable from anyone concerned the Senators might be going too far in the heat of the moment.

On Monday night, July 15, ABC, CBS and NBC didn't take any time to express any concern about whether the new laws might have a negative effect in causing fear amongst investors of over-regulation of business. Instead, the networks only worried about how the Senate bills could be watered down when they go to conference with the "weaker" House-passed bills.

The networks attribute the stock market performance only to the President's words, not to any actions on Capitol Hill. NBC's David Gregory, for instance, held only George W. Bush culpable: "The market's tumble since last Tuesday, when the President gave his speech on corporate responsibility, is striking. Since Mr. Bush spoke, the Dow is off 457 points."

-- ABC's World News Tonight. From Capitol Hill, Linda Douglass summarized the bills before worrying about what will happen when they are integrated with the "weaker" House bills:
"The Senate has moved with stunning speed to pass this very, very tough legislation, legislation that never would have even been possible a few weeks ago. Lots of criminal penalties for such things as giving false stock tips or signing a deceptive financial report, long jail terms, and a very strong new board to oversee the accounting industry. The question now, Peter, is what will happen to this. Will it become law? The House passed a much weaker version, and the lobbyists are swarming over Capitol Hill to try to get the House to water down what the Senate has done. But the House is under pressure to act before they go home in August. That pressure from both investors, voters, and the markets."

-- CBS Evening News. Bob Orr began his story by mimicking the Senate talking points: "Right now the Senate is voting and is expected to shortly overwhelmingly pass the most sweeping accounting reform in 70 years -- a crackdown on corporate fraud aimed at restoring consumer confidence."

After a story which ran through the provisions of the bills passed and which featured soundbites from Democratic Senators Max Cleland and Ted Kennedy along with Republican Senator Robert Bennett, Orr concluded by worrying about how "tough" the final bill will be: "The Senate version must be reconciled with the weaker House package. And with some Republicans and the accounting lobby already promising a fight, it's unclear at the moment how tough the final reforms will be."

-- NBC Nightly News. Making it three-for-three, Tom Brokaw referred to the "weaker" House measure: "Late tonight the Senate passed 97 to nothing a bill aimed at shoring up investor confidence by creating harsh new penalties and jail terms for corporate fraud. Also tightening the accounting oversight system, ending the industry's long tradition of self-regulation. The bill would also impose new responsibilities on corporate officers and directors and strengthen financial disclosure to potential investors. The Senate version now must be squared with a different, weaker measure, that's already been passed by the House of Representatives."

The networks don't see how any Senate action could cause fear amongst investors about over new regulations could hurt the economy, but they have no problem making a connections between Bush's words and the stock market. On Monday's NBC Nightly News, for example, David Gregory asserted in a story pegged to Bush's Monday speech in Alabama:
"Cable networks like MSNBC showed a startling split screen: As the President speaks, the Dow falls. At the White House, meanwhile, advisers carefully tracked the Dow slide but rejected the notion that it amounted to a no confidence vote on the President's economic policies or his response to corporate scandal, calling such suggestions simplistic. And in fact by day's end the Dow rebounded strongly. Still, the market's tumble since last Tuesday, when the President gave his speech on corporate responsibility, is striking. Since Mr. Bush spoke, the Dow is off 457 points."

2

CBS devoted a whole story Monday night to vague allegations against Vice President Dick Cheney as anchor Dan Rather suggested they undermine President Bush's claim that the stock market is suffering "hangover" from the "economic binges of the 1990s."

Rather announced on the July 15 CBS Evening News: "President Bush said Wall Street is suffering from a quote, 'hangover,' from what he called the 'economic binges of the 1990s.' He said that even as questions are being raised about the role of his now Vice President as an oil company executive in those years."

After a piece about the stock market's performance Monday (Rather rhymed, "the opening bell was a signal to sell"), Rather turned to Cheney: "There's more to report now about how President Bush and Vice President Cheney are trying to distance themselves from and blame their predecessors for these market upheavals and corporate wrongdoing. CBS's Bill Plante at the White House reports what their election strategy is and what they're up against."

3

Bob Woodruff, not the most politically astute bulb at ABC News? A little under three weeks ago Ann Coulter got into a bit of an argument with Katie Couric on the Today show over Coulter's book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. While Couric may have been inaccurate in saying that Coulter was wrong to assert that on three mornings Today picked up on the description of former President Reagan as an "airhead," Couric clearly understood the conservative points Coulter otherwise made in the interview. For details about that June 26 Today interview: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020626.asp#4

On Monday's Good Morning America, however, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that Coulter was confronted with an interviewer who didn't seem to grasp basic conservative polemical points. She was interviewed not about her book, but about the media-fueled scandals around Bush and Cheney, by Bob Woodruff, the anchor of World News Tonight/Saturday, who is filling in this week for Charles Gibson.

When Coulter ran down a bunch of names of corporate figures involved in scandal who are big Democratic supporters, Woodruff seemed clueless to Martha Stewart's political donation record as he seriously asked Coulter to explain her charge: "Let's talk about Martha Stewart for a second. That's a conspiracy against Martha Stewart?"

At another point, in response to Woodruff's assertion that Bush should release the Harken Energy records "if in fact there's nothing there," Coulter quipped, "Well, I don't know, why doesn't the publisher of The New York Times release his SAT scores?" Missing the joke, Woodruff followed up with this non-sequitur: "You've never called on the editors of conservative publications to release any information when you're calling on Bill Clinton, for example, to release information about his past."

In a moment of standard liberal reasoning, Woodruff declared as fact of Bush's Harken stock sale: "This is very relevant for a President who is now trying to crack down on insider trading."

The complete transcript of the in-studio interview which led the 7:30am half hour on July 15:

Woodruff: "We begin this half hour with a woman who is always provocative, always evocative, and we want to talk to this person who has the number one book in the country right now. We want to focus on the President and Vice President and their stock deals that they have made before coming to the White House with the administration. They are now calling for much tougher penalties for companies and executives who cook their books. And joining us this morning is the conservative political pundit and the author of Slander, Ann Coulter. Welcome to the broadcast."
Coulter: "Thank you."
Woodruff: "Let me just start quickly. Do you believe that this scandal that we are now seeing is politically motivated?"
Coulter: "I think pretty much everything other than the media reporting floods and tornadoes is a political vendetta. All the other news is, so yeah, I mean, the Democrats are trying to use it that way. It plays off something that, I think, is one of the liberal lies about conservatives and that is that conservatives are the party of the powerful and Democrats are the party of the people -- au contraire! I mean, just look at the people involved in this, or the red states and the blue states, or the richest members of the United States Senate."
Woodruff: "Now, in your book, let me just give a quote that you said: 'The New York Times gave up harping about Bush's handling of the war and gave its full attention to attacking Enron.'"
Coulter: "Right."
Woodruff: "At the time your book came out you hadn't seen what had happened afterwards. Given the events now, what we know about Enron and other companies, do you still believe that's the case?"
Coulter: "Oh, yes. Now they're attacking, you know, all of these corporations as if it's the Republican Party that stands for these bigwigs. What, like Martha Stewart, Sam Waksal, you know, Global Crossing? No, I'm sorry. I mean, by and large, corporations-"
Woodruff: "Let's talk about Martha Stewart for a second. That's a conspiracy against Martha Stewart?"
Coulter: "Oh, no, no, no. What I'm saying is that despite, you know, 50 years of contrary evidence, people still seem to associate Republicans as the powerful and Democrats the party of the people. Well, Martha Stewart was one of Bill Clinton's biggest supporters. Corporations generally are whores, you know. They give equally to the Republicans and the Democrats, but I happen to notice that in these scandals, well, an awful lot of them are huge friends of Bill."
Woodruff, displaying circular reasoning: "But see, these scandals have been focusing largely on what particular players in the administration have been doing. President Bush sold 200,000 shares, made $800,000 on stock he sold at Harken Energy."
Coulter: "Right."
Woodruff declared as fact: "This is very relevant for a President who is now trying to crack down on insider trading."
Coulter: "I don't think so. I think it's another one of these phony media scandals, as I describe in my book, through liberals' childlike fascination with the law. They toss about these legal terms like proprietary interest, conflict of interest, but when you actually go to the trouble of figuring out what it's about, there's nothing there, there's nothing there at all. I mean, only liberals could slander through boredom. No one can follow this story, but when you look, there's nothing there. It's just, you know, Bush's name, it's exactly like I said about Enron and the power of repetition: it's just Harken, Harken, Harken, Harken -- it's all anyone knows."
Woodruff: "If in fact there's nothing there, why doesn't he release the entire SEC file as so many, even Orrin Hatch has called on him to release the file."
Coulter, trying to make a bit of a joke: "Well, I don't know, why doesn't the publisher of The New York Times release his SAT scores? There are a lot of things I'd like to see more than this idiotic -- I mean, we know what happened, but if I start describing it, we're going to lose half the viewers. That's what I say about how boring it is. He sells his stock-"
Woodruff followed up with an impossible to comprehend question: "You've never called on the editors of conservative publications to release any information when you're calling on Bill Clinton, for example, to release information about his past."
A befuddled Coulter: "Um, what?"
Woodruff: "Well, I mean, this is the President of the United States."
Coulter: "No, I wasn't."
Woodruff: "He needs to reveal information to the people."
Coulter, referring to Clinton: "We just wanted him to stop committing felonies!"
Woodruff: "But you're saying that The New York Times should release information about what they did?"
Since Woodruff wouldn't let it go, Coulter took advantage to expound on the SAT point in a serious way: "Oh, right, about his SAT scores. Yeah, that's because I don't attack every political opponent for 50 years going back to, you know, Calvin Coolidge by saying, 'He's stupid, he's stupid, he's stupid.' I mean, if that's going to be The New York Times's primary argument against every Republican presidential candidate, I think we should see their SAT scores. As it turns out, you know, despite all of the media calling Bill Bradley 'cerebral, cerebral, cerebral' for 20 years, it seems like it was his first name. He got a 485 on the SAT scores -- that's cerebral for a Democrat? I mean, these are just terms to slander one side and promote the other. 'Bush is stupid': you know, he went to Yale, got an MBA from Harvard, but Bradley, 485 on the SATs, that's cerebral."
Woodruff: "What about the Vice President, Dick Cheney? He has been completely silent about Halliburton and that is a company that's under investigation and he made a lot of money on the stock, too. Should he reveal the information about his activities with Halliburton?"
Coulter: "What information? I think it's revealed and we are at war here. No, I think he should not comply with something that is just a synthetic media scandal and I think the American people are getting tired of it, just the power of repetition, over and over and over again. And like I said, if the viewers really care, go to the trouble and look it up and you'll see there's nothing to it."
Woodruff: "Well, let me give you a quote from Newsweek here about Dick Cheney. It's from the current CEO of Halliburton David Lesar. He says that Dick Cheney was a hands-on leader and, quote, 'was aware of who owed us money and he helped us collect it.' Isn't that relevant?"
Coulter: "Um, no. I mean, I don't know what that is supposed to prove. People run businesses."
Woodruff: "Don't we want to know what he knew and when he knew it?"
Coulter: "About who owed them money and collecting it? Isn't that just capitalism? Somebody owes you money and you -- there's nothing criminal in what you've described. I mean, this is what I mean about just-"
Woodruff jumped in: "There are allegations of wrongdoing."
Coulter: "Well, there are always allegations of wrongdoing -- they're Republicans! Of course there are allegations. A tone of voice, saying something, you know, and tossing about these legal terms doesn't, is not evidence of a criminal offense. It is not, technically, as yet, criminal to be a Republican in this country."
Woodruff: "Alright, Ann Coulter, thank you very much for joining us. As always, it's good to have you here. Thank you very much."
Coulter: "Thank you."

You don't appreciate Lisa McRee until something like this.

For a bio and picture of Woodruff:
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/WorldNewsTonight/woodruff_bob_bio.html

4

Countering reality with anecdotes. Speaking of Bob Woodruff, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed that he made sure that good news about child poverty in America was undermined by a bunch of anecdotes. Anchoring World News Tonight/Saturday, Woodruff noted how "the National Institutes of Health this week said the poverty rate among kids is holding steady at 16 percent," the lowest level since 1979, but without citing the source, he countered that "according to a recent study, that's still higher, in many cases much higher, than in 18 other wealthy countries."

In a one-sided story reporter Lisa Sylvester proceeded to pass along anecdotes about families with children still living in poverty thanks to welfare reform.

Sylvester ominously concluded: "With the economy now in a slump and unemployment rising, more children may be at risk of falling below the poverty line, joining the 12 million who are already there."

Woodruff set up the July 13 story: "New numbers about America's poorest children seem to suggest that things are improving. The National Institutes of Health this week said the poverty rate among kids is holding steady at 16 percent. It's the lowest level since 1979, but according to a recent study, that's still higher, in many cases much higher, than in 18 other wealthy countries. ABC's Lisa Sylvester looks at some of the kids behind the numbers."

The piece began with a soundbite from a woman: "Two p.m.: You wish you could go home, but then you realize that home doesn't exist."
Sylvester explained: "Sasha Bowers's journal holds memories a 13-year-old shouldn't have: the shame of being hungry and recently homeless."
Sasha Bowers: "The hardest thing is moving around a lot, because you make new friends and it's hard and you got to go to different schools."
Sylvester: "Like many who have moved from welfare to work, Sasha's mom, Linda, still has trouble supporting her family. For 40 hours of work, she takes home about $170 a week."
Linda Bowers: "And we go home, you'd be so tired and exhausted, you're like, count your money. Where is it, you know? I need help. I have bills."
Sylvester: "Twelve million children, that's one out of six in the U.S., live below the poverty line. For a family of three, that's an income of less than $14,000 a year. For minorities, the numbers are much higher: 28 percent of Hispanic children and 30 percent of all African-American children live in poverty."
Angela Lariviere, Youth Empowerment Program: "People who are struggling are working families. They're parents with jobs. They're parents that are trying to balance all of these things: health care, child care, transportation."
Sylvester: "All of these kids at one time or another have been homeless, including 16-year-old Rachel Easley."
Rachel Easley: "Sometimes, we don't have any food, and if it wasn't for my mom's boyfriend, we wouldn't have a lot of the things we have. People think it's really easy and it's just not. It's really hard."
Sylvester: "Poverty becomes a cycle. Children from poor families are twice as likely to have serious physical and mental disabilities, 11 times more likely to drop out of school than kids from wealthy homes, and only 17 percent will graduate from college."
Deborah Weinstein, Children's Defense Fund: "Poor children start out with the hopes and dreams that every child does, but poverty does have a way of knocking some of these dreams out of them."
Sylvester ominously concluded: "With the economy now in a slump and unemployment rising, more children may be at risk of falling below the poverty line, joining the 12 million who are already there."

Given the soundbite from someone at the Children's Defense Fund, I'd bet that group is the source of the "study" ABC based its story upon. If so, that means ABC's news judgment was to undermine a study from a respected government research agency with the claims of a left-wing advocacy group, a group ABC News didn't even bother to label.

5

After six years, NBC has suddenly decided to advertise The News with Brian Williams as "unbiased." Sounds like they are a little jealous of FNC's success in touting itself as "fair and balanced."

The MRC's Rich Noyes noticed the new promise in an ad promoting the fact that the show is now airing only on CNBC and no longer on MSNBC.

The ad, in Monday's Wall Street Journal, featured a picture of Brian Williams under the title of his show and the sub-title of "The Time is Right." It promised: "Respected. Unbiased. In-depth. That's what makes The News with Brian Williams the most important news in cable."

The program now runs on CNBC at 7pm, 10pm and 1am EDT.

6

Was a TV show about a cable news network in which, as the Boston Globe reported, some "employees will do anything to get a scoop, and the manufacturing of news events is an ongoing theme," too close to CNN for the comfort of AOL Time Warner?

On Wednesday night the Bravo cable channel will start airing a weekly series, Breaking News, about a cable news operation. Thirteen episodes of the program were produced two years ago and were intended to air on AOL Time Warner's TNT channel, but the show was never scheduled. In a July 4 piece, Boston Globe TV reviewer Matthew Gilbert speculated: "It's possible that AOL-Time Warner also disliked the similarities between I-24, the news channel on Breaking News, and its own CNN."

Breaking News will debut on Bravo with two back-to-back hour-long episodes at 8pm EDT on July 17 with the two-hour package repeating at 11pm EDT and 2am EDT (that's 5, 8 and 11pm PDT).

Tim Matheson plays "the I-24 network's star anchor," in a role he filmed before becoming the Vice President on The West Wing.

The plot summary provided by Bravo for the first episode:
"Meet the ensemble cast who make up I-24, a 24-hour news network with the motto 'Around the Clock, Around the World.' In the show's first episode, Peter Kozyck, I-24's recently hired news director, must decide how far he'll go to pursue an exclusive which will put this fledgling network on the map."

The chief of the fictional cable news channel does sound Ted Turner-ish: "Clancy Brown plays Peter Kozyck, the news division president. He is a smart over-achiever with great news instincts. Never married and Gatsby-esque in character, he is convinced he didn't get into Princeton and was forced to go to Villanova because he did not have the proper pedigree. He still feels the need to overcompensate for this middle-class background, believing that acting the part of the social elite means buying designer clothes, over-priced cars and weekend homes in the country."

The July 31 episode sounds like it's copied from the Matthew Shepard murder: "In the wake of agreeing to 'take things down a notch' in their personal relationship, reporter Jamie Templeton and producer Julian Kerbis are assigned to cover the murder of a gay man in a small town..."

Bravo's Web page for the show: http://www.bravotv.com/breakingnews/

In a July 4 review, the Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert wrote:
"The slow journey Breaking News has taken to the small screen is unusual, in that backstage shenanigans are generally the stuff of the 'big four' networks. The series was originally created for TNT in 2000, as that channel's attempt to move further into the original-series market....But after investing $20 million in 13 episodes of Breaking News, and then repeatedly postponing its premiere for two years, TNT finally backed out of the series altogether. It set the show free, but waited long enough to almost guarantee that the cast members -- including Tim Matheson, Patricia Wettig, and Scott Bairstow -- would no longer be obligated to Breaking News and would have moved on to other projects....
"Financial fallout from the AOL-Time Warner merger inevitably played a role in the debacle, since the conglomerate owns TNT. But it's possible that AOL-Time Warner also disliked the similarities between I-24, the news channel on Breaking News, and its own CNN. And that would be a tribute to Breaking News, since it may have managed to press a few buttons. While it is more of a conventional drama than a scathing satire, it doesn't idealize or sanitize the working of the TV news business. Some of the I-24 employees will do anything to get a scoop, and the manufacturing of news events is an ongoing theme."

For Gilbert's piece in full:
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/185/living/_Breaking_News_is_the_best
_show_few_will_see+.shtml

This isn't the first attempt at a series about cable news. For a few weeks in June and July of 2001 ABC aired a series called The Beast. As recounted in CyberAlert at the time, in one episode of that short-lived program, a reporter blasted conservatives. "Alice" screeched: "If you think a woman doesn't have the right to control her own body, if you think that freedom means that you can carry an assault weapon with armor piercing bullets, then yes, yes, yes, [shouting] I think you're a fascist." To watch a RealPlayer clip of that great moment in ABC programming:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010627.asp#5

> Tonight in the first hour of prime time CBS will repeat the JAG about the U.S. soldier prosecuted in Saudi Arabia for violating restrictions on female dress. -- Brent Baker


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