CyberAlert -- 08/10/2001 -- Dan Rather: Replace CBS With a Newspaper
"Very Limited Research" Rued; Dan Rather: Replace CBS With a Newspaper; Limbaugh Naysayers; "Dying" vs. "Abortion Opponents"
1) Post-Bush speech analysis. ABC's Charles Gibson and CNN's Aaron Brown both characterized Bush's decision as allowing just "very limited research." Conservatives are "really going to be upset" and outraged, ABC's John Yang insisted. But FNC's Jim Angle contended: "Anti-abortion forces should be somewhat heartened by the President's words." Forrest Sawyer, on MSNBC, heard from Bush "a thoughtfully posed analysis."
2) Dan Rather's advice: "If you're really interested in this you'll want to read in detail one of the better newspapers tomorrow," because stem cell research is "the kind of subject that, frankly, radio and television have some difficulty with because it requires such depth into the complexities."
3) Before Bush's speech, the CBS Evening News pushed for him to allow unlimited research. Profiling a Lou Gehrig's Disease sufferer, Elizabeth Kaledin lectured Bush about how for the victim "it's not about politics or ethics...it's a matter of life and death." A doctor warned that "people will die needlessly if there is a delay in getting federal funding into this area."
5) The networks recognized that Bush's decision could be seen as breaking a campaign pledge. NBC featured a clip from one Republican who portrayed restricting research as "deciding to go with the Rush Limbaugh's and the other naysayers."
7) Rosie O'Donnell expounded on Good Morning America about how her depression was fueled by how "the bad guys were winning" on guns and that men like Tom Selleck "could decide that it was alright to, everyone to have guns because they get to make money and own the gun companies and kill all the innocent kids."
Substantively, the post-speech analysis in some ways matched across the networks and in other ways was in conflict. Below are highlights from every network but CBS (which gets its own item, #2 below), followed by more extensive quotations from the August 9 prime time coverage:
> "Very limited research." ABC's Charles Gibson employed the phrase "very limited research" three times to describe Bush's decision as he approached it from the left. CNN's Aaron Brown agreed, referring to the "very limited embryonic stem cell research" that Bush will allow.
> Scientists will be "disappointed," ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson maintained. On MSNBC, Robert Bazell echoed: "Most of the scientists who are on the front lines in doing stem cell research say this is a severe restriction."
> A fair and thoughtful speech. FNC's Tony Snow asserted: "He presented both sides pretty fairly, I think it's fair to say." On MSNBC Forrest Sawyer described it as "a thoughtfully posed analysis of the conundrum that is brought by embryonic stem cell research."
> Outraged conservatives will
"really" be "upset by this" -- or will they? On ABC,
John Yang predicted: "We already know that the conservatives, the
conservative wing of the Republican Party that supports him so much, is
really going to be upset by this. There is going to be a lot of
outrage." In contrast, FNC reporter Jim Angle forecast:
"Anti-abortion forces should be somewhat heartened by the
Now, more extensive recitations of the post-speech analysis gathered with the assistance of MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC News. Charles Gibson: "The President announcing that he will accept very limited stem cell research..."
John Yang, from Crawford: "Well, we already know that the conservatives, the conservative wing of the Republican Party that supports him so much, is really going to be upset by this. There is going to be a lot of outrage. House Republicans have already said they will try to stop the funding, and abortion rights opponents have said that they will raise a ruckus about this."
Gibson turned to Dr. Tim Johnson: "As I
heard the President, he is accepting very limited research in these areas.
He said 60 lines of cells here exist that can be used, embryos that have
already been destroyed, and those are all that can be experimented upon.
Is that the way you heard it?"
Gibson next asked: "So, can you give me
some sense of what the reaction might be now from the scientific community
that was hoping they would be able to go ahead with embryonic stem cell
Gibson wrapped up with his recitation of the "very limited" theme: "Just to repeat, the President has said that he will accept -- and proceed with great care -- federal funding for very limited research on embryonic stem cells and you heard him spell out his reasons. They'll be more on World News tomorrow and on Good Morning America. I'm Charles Gibson in New York. Good evening."
So much for plugging Nightline, which did focus on the issue.
-- CNN. Aaron Brown, until recently of ABC
News, made his CNN debut from New York City last night, though he only got
a few minutes of face time -- a couple of minutes both before and after
Bush spoke. Afterward, he observed:
John King soon checked in from the White House. He suggested Bush had successfully avoided angering conservatives: "Some in the pro-life, the anti-abortion community, likely to say lives were destroyed to create those stem cells, but the President, avoiding the biggest round of criticism from the Republican right, Christian conservatives and the Catholic Church, that would have been if he had allowed the broader research on those embryos still sitting in fertility clinics."
-- FNC. Anchor Tony Snow's assessment: "It was an interesting speech in that the President seemed to go back and forth. He presented both sides pretty fairly, I think it's fair to say. And people who had a rooting interest in either side probably found their hopes both raised and dashed several times during the President's address."
From Crawford, Jim Angle noted: "Scientists will be disappointed, saying it will hamper medical research. Anti-abortion forces should be somewhat heartened by the President's words."
-- MSNBC. Anchor Forrest Sawyer, also formerly
of ABC News, echoed Angle's theme that Bush can't win as he praised
the thoughtfulness of the address:
Sawyer asked reporter Robert Bazell:
"Some 60 odd cell lines, says the President, are presently available
for research. Is this enough for there to be significant federally funded
-- NBC News. Anchor John Seigenthaler got 45
seconds to summarize before NBC went to a Will & Grace repeat for EDT
and CDT viewers:
Dan Rather gets his own category today not for liberal bias but for giving up on reporting as he advised CBS News viewers to go buy "one of the better newspapers tomorrow" if they want to learn about embryonic stem cell research and the implications of Bush's decision.
Here's what CBS viewers heard from Rather
following Bush's August 9 address to the nation:
Elapsed time: 53 seconds. Exactly 1:25 after Bush had concluded by saying "God Bless America," CBS started Big Brother 2 for EDT and CDT viewers. (In between Rather's quote above and the start of Big Brother viewers heard Rather plug upcoming CBS News shows and the announcer give the usual line about CBS's "interactive partner" AOL.)
CNN at least tried to explain the subject to viewers. About five minutes after Bush finished, anchor Aaron Brown promised: "We said at the outset tonight that this was an enormously complicated decision. Over the next several hours we here at CNN will try and un-complicate it some."
Hours before President Bush's address, the CBS Evening News campaigned for him to allow unlimited research on embryonic stem cells. Profiling a Lou Gehrig's Disease sufferer, Elizabeth Kaledin lectured Bush about how for the victim "it's not about politics or ethics. She says it's a matter of life and death." Kaledin featured one doctor who ominously warned that "people will die needlessly if there is a delay in getting federal funding into this area."
"For Shelby Oppenheimer it's not about politics or ethics. She says it's a matter of life and death," declared Elizabeth Kaledin in opening the one-sided piece which looked only at the benefits of embryonic stem cell research.
After explaining how Lou Gehrig's
Disease will eventually leave Oppenheimer unable to walk, talk or breath,
Kaledin pointed to a solution: "Scientists like John Gearhart believe
embryonic stem cell research could help people like Shelby."
Kaledin maintained embryonic stem cells
"hold the most promise" to scientists because they can reproduce
indefinitely into stem cell lines and can become any cell type in the
body. "To do the research necessary," Kaledin noted in rejecting
the policy later proposed by Bush, "scientists say they need at least
fifty stem cell lines. Doctor Neil Theise is concerned a compromise
limiting the number of cell lines could also limit progress."
Through the media's prism, in the embryonic stem cell debate, there's a diverse crowd all for it battling "conservatives" who oppose it. That skew is apparent in some of the quotes listed in item #1 above as well as in Thursday night stories on the broadcast network evening shows.
On ABC's World News Tonight, John Yang noted
how "social conservatives" protested outside White House. Over
on the CBS Evening News, John Roberts twice applied ideological labels to
David Gregory reported on the August 9 NBC Nightly News: "At issue is federal support for research on cells extracted from embryos that are left over from fertility treatments or embryos that could be created for their stem cells. Supporters see cures for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Opponents, including anti-abortion conservatives, insist it is wrong to use human embryos for research because they are destroyed in the process."
The networks acknowledged on their evening shows that Bush's expected decision could be seen as breaking his campaign pledge to conservatives. And NBC featured a soundbite from one Republican who portrayed Bush's choice as between putting "meat on the bones of compassionate conservatism" and "deciding to go with the Rush Limbaugh's and the other naysayers."
ABC's John Yang somewhat condescendingly remarked on World News Tonight: "During the election, candidate Bush flatly opposed federal funding for the research. Since then President Bush has found the issue more complicated."
Dan Rather opened the August 9 CBS Evening News: "Good evening. President Bush has made what could be one of the most important decisions of his presidency, and CBS News breaks the story. In what some may interpret as the breaking of a campaign pledge, the President apparently will support some federal funding for some embryonic stem cell research with what he calls 'strict limits.' The President will make the official announcement in an address to the nation tonight. This is a decision with huge implications -- medical, ethical, and political. Supporters say the research offers the possibility of developing new life-saving treatments for disease. Opponents believe stem cell research on human embryos involves taking a human life."
On the NBC Nightly News David Gregory
played a clip of White House spokesman Scott McClellan talking about how
stem cell research is on the cutting edge of science. From that, Gregory
suggested: "The statement points to a modification of Bush's
campaign pledge to oppose any research that led to the destruction of
embryos. It's a decision even some Republicans believe will define the
The "dying" versus those darn "abortion opponents." That's how MSNBC news reader Monica Novotny on Thursday framed the policy debate as she previewed Bush's upcoming address.
She announced in starting the 3pm EDT news update on August 9: "In just a few hours the nation will hear President Bush's decision on an issue that's pitted Republicans against Republicans and the sick and dying against abortion opponents."
Daytime TV Talk show host and anti-gun rights crusader Rosie O'Donnell contended on Thursday's Good Morning America that the Columbine shooting drove her into depression. She even claimed that her three-year-old asked her: "You want to watch Rugrats? Mommy, there's no guns in it." O'Donnell recounted how she saw those with which she disagreed on guns, such as Tom Selleck, as people who want to "kill all the innocent kids."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down some of
O'Donnell's comments to Diane Sawyer on the August 9 ABC morning show.
Discussing her battle with depression, O'Donnell maintained:
She described her breakdown: "I couldn't
go to work, I was crying during the show, I was crying during meals and at
dinner. There was one Friday, I remember, I was sitting in my room all
day....And my son crawled in my bedroom and said, 'You want to watch
Rugrats? Mommy, there's no guns in it,' because he knew I was so upset
about guns -- he was only three or four, but he knew."
Sounds like one angry white woman. So much for finding common ground.
For more about the infamous Selleck appearance on her TV show and/or to view a RealPlayer clip of the encounter, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/1999/cyb19990521.asp#4
Latest peril in America: An addiction to Internet shopping. This is not a joke. On Thursday afternoon a quite serious MSNBC anchor assured viewers a celebrity "is recovering from an addiction to shopping on the Internet."
Just before 3pm EDT, after viewers
watched a taped interview with tennis star Venus Williams conducted by
MSNBC anchor Rick Sanchez, the new deep-voiced guy, he relayed this item
about Venus's sister:
Will we soon need a Jeff Bezos Clinic modeled after the Betty Ford Clinic? -- Brent Baker
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