***MRC CyberAlert: From San Diego***
Women Scared by GOP Policies | Reporters claim GOP members are "Extemists" | Bias from Byrant Gumbel | The GOP and Taxes | Response to Kay Bailey Hutchison | Who they didn't Cover | GOP accused of insensitivity on the rape issue
Quote of the Day
"It was grand TV, well- scripted, well-staged, craftily designed for a broadcast image of tolerance and diversity that's starkly at odds with reality."
ABC News reporter Jim Wooten talking about Colin Powell's speech, August 13 World News Tonight.
This daily analysis of television network coverage of the party conventions is part of the Media Research Center's Media Reality Check '96 project. Our goal is to document and counter the media's liberal bias during the campaign.
Each day of the two political conventions the MRC will produce this newsletter documenting any bias in network coverage, specifically in the use of labels and the agenda of questions and topics raised. Much of our Media Reality Check '96 material, including this daily newsletter and newsletters from our news division, entertainment division, and Free Market Project, is available at the MRC Web site. Go to: http://www. mediaresearch.org. Other Media Reality Check '96 projects:
Women Naturally Scared by Republican Policies
Morning Lectures on Tolerance
Supposed GOP intolerance and how Republican policies scare women dominated interviews on Tuesday's Today and Good Morning America.
Talking to Susan Molinari, Christine Todd Whittman and Kay Bailey Hutchison, GMA's Charlie Gibson laid out why women are turned off by Republicans: "It was the Republican Party that did take the lead on ending federal welfare payments as they have been traditionally paid over the last 50 to 60 years and the prime beneficiaries of that are women. It is the Republican Party that took the lead on reducing the rate of growth in Medicare and Medicaid. It is the Republican Party now that is trying to make an issue of denying education and benefits to the children of illegal immigrants. It is the Republican Party that has rejected in the last week or so, tolerance language on abortion in the platform."
Then he asked: "There was an attempt by some in the platform hearings to get language included in the platform that simply asked for toleration of dissenting views particularly on abortion. It was language that Bob Dole wanted in the platform. The party rejected him, it rejected your views, all three of you in this, is this a tolerant party, do you feel comfortable in it with its position on tolerance?"
Quizzing Colin Powell on Today, Katie Couric queried: "Does the party platform trouble you? Does the fact that that some of these governors opted not to speak because they were told they could not discuss their views on abortion, do all those things make you basically doubt that this is a big tent here?"
Tom Brokaw wondered: "Gen. Powell, the difference between having a position in your heart and campaigning on something as Jack Kemp now is going to be forced to do, is going to say to a lot of black Americans and a lot of people who feel that they are denied full access to the privilege of being a citizen in this country, `that's just utter hypocrisy.' What is there in this platform or in this party tonight that says to the rest of the African- Americans out there, come on in, there's a place for you?"
Reporters Stick to "Extremist" Labels on Republicans
Media Echoes of Clinton Consultants
Using the description "extreme" to tar the Republican party did not begin in the convention aisles of San Diego, but in the sullen liberal reaction to the Republicans' electoral sweep in 1994. Clinton consultant Dick Morris advised his White House clients to tag their opponents as "extremist" while at the same time stealing many of their positions. The media echoed the Morris strategy. MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to search for the word "extreme" within 25 words of "Republican" or "Democrat" in the three news magazines (Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report) and USA Today from January 1, 1993 to May 31, 1996.
Analysts discovered reporters did not use many extremist labels in 1993 and 1994 ' 41 ' but 26 of those were applied to Republicans, compared to ten mentions of dual extremes and only five for the Democrats who ruled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Liberal moves to insure abortion on demand, gays in the military, nationalized health care, and massive tax increases weren't beyond the media pale.
But in the first 17 months of GOP control, Republicans were described as "extreme" in 123 stories, while only 15 found "extremes" on both sides. Just two mentioned "extreme" Democrats. In total, these six print outlets employed 149 extreme labels for Republicans to just seven for the Democrats.
USA Today's Richard Benedetto exemplified reporting on Republican extremism on June 16, 1995: "Democrats are trying to keep a stiff upper lip as they continue to oppose `extreme' GOP cuts." Many of these were attributed to Democrats, but more than 20 came directly from reporters, such as Gloria Borger's March 11, 1996 U.S. News suggestion that "taking on Buchananism would be good for Gingrich. Recall that until Buchanan surged, Gingrich was Washington's resident extremist."
U.S. News & World Report reporter Kenneth Walsh claimed on March 25, 1996: "Clinton's feuds with some allies will make it harder to label him a liberal extremist, George Bush in 1988 caricatured Michael Dukakis." On October 27, 1995, Walsh happily noted: "President Clinton, playing Horatius at the bridge against the Republican hordes, is finally winning some favorable reviews. Democrats are rallying to his side as he defends the poor and elderly against GOP `extremism.'"
The "extreme" pattern also occurred in television coverage of the 1996 presidential primaries. MediaWatch analysts studied the application of labels in primary stories from a week before the New Hampshire primary (February 13) to the South Carolina primary (March 2). Republicans and their supporters were labeled on 73 occasions ' 45 of those extreme labels, almost all applied to Pat Buchanan. On February 25, 1996, CBS weekend anchor John Roberts asked consultant Joe Klein: "Some call Buchanan an extremist. Others call him American as apple pie. What is this fellow's appeal?" Answered Klein: "He is both. He is an extremist and as American as apple pie." Using the same research parameters for a similar three-week period during the 1992 Democratic primaries, featuring ultraliberals like Tom Harkin and Jerry Brown, reporters used no extremist labels and only four applications of "liberal," all in the first two days of the study period.
In 1995, the networks introduced GOP presidential candidates by noting their "extremism." In 40 network stories introducing potential Republican challengers to Clinton, network reporters used 54 labels, 49 of which were "conservative" or more extreme. In fact, 19 labels, or 35 percent of the total, were labels such as "right," "far right," "hard right," "hard-line," "extremist," 'Republican fringe," and "ultraconservative fringe." On the February 24, 1995 CBS Evening News, reporter Linda Douglass alleged: "For years, critics have called [Sen. Phil] Gramm an extremist. But he argues these days his ideas are in the mainstream." In 27 stories introducing the Democratic candidates in 1991, none ever used an extreme term like "far left" or "ultraliberal."
Bryant Gumbel Scolds Delegates for Lack of Inclusion But NBC Calls GOP-TV Unfair
To keep "out what officials call the biased liberal media," NBC's Bob Faw reported Tuesday morning the RNC launched GOP-TV to provide complete convention coverage. Faw asserted: "What GOP TV calls unfiltered, doesn't even begin to pay lip service to balance or fairness." NBC should know.
Here's how Bryant Gumbel opened the Tuesday Today: "Good morning. Retired general Colin Powell, a new recruit to the GOP cause, addressed the delegates in San Diego last night, drawing cheers with accounts of why he became a Republican and why he'll vote for Bob Dole. But although his speech was generally well- received, the reception was restrained, and there were boos whenever Powell steered away from the right. Though they booed and also heckled dissent, Republicans claimed the mantle of inclusion throughout the first night of their convention. We can expect more of the same today, Tuesday, August 13, 1996." Guess which network scares journalists? Faw reported that "Jonathan Alter of Newsweek thinks GOP TV has started something deceptive and unwholesome." Alter explained: "It is political propaganda, masquarading as news, and that's a problem."
Political propaganda masquerading as news? Sounds like Bryant Gumbel.
Republican Officials Grilled by Network Reporters A Tax on Credibility
The credibility of Bob Dole's tax cut proposal arose as a topic for skeptical questions Tuesday night.
On PBS, referring to a Concord Coalition official, Margaret Warner inquired of Dole economist John Taylor: "Does Martha Phillips have a point that it's hard to credibly make the case that you can both cut taxes and balance the budget?"
NBC's Maria Shriver asked New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman: "Bill Clinton has said that Bob Dole's proposal for the economy would end up crippling the economy, balloon the deficit. Why is he wrong?"
Early in the evening, Tom Brokaw demanded of Virginia's George Allen: "Governor, are you not at all concerned about what happens to the federal deficit, which is a major, major concern for most of the delegates at this convention, based on the polling that we've done, if Bob Dole is able to put into effect his 15 percent tax cut?"
And: "But if you say to your constituents in the state of Virginia, Listen, we're going to cut it by 15 percent, taxes, but I can't touch 60 percent of the budget that we're dealing with here, and that's the reality that's facing Bob Dole because of Medicare and defense spending and other things, do you think that we can get home-free here in seven years and balance the budget?"
Hutchison Speech Tagged "Dangerous" by NBC: Republicans Pummeled from the Left
"Tonight they're ready to take on the Clinton record and try to convince a lot of undecided voters that this party is more inclusive than its reputation," Peter Jennings announced at the start of ABC's convention coverage Tuesday night. But the networks wouldn't let the Republicans succeed. NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night devoted its "In Depth" segment to "a major problem for the GOP, the gender gap, moderate women feeling left out."
A few hours later NBC's Tim Russert relayed as accurate the Democratic analysis of the address by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. He charged: "Key words: Mean-spirited and extremist. They want to avoid those labels. They have thus far after two days and that's why you're not going to see Newt Gingrich in prime time tonight. I think the speech by Senator Hutchison of Texas is dangerous, Tom, because she uses words that could be interpreted by some people as mean."
Before the speech, Dan Rather offered a classic Ratherism: "Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has now come out to the podium. She's expected to hit President Clinton, rhetorically, with everything short of a tire tube." But for the second night in a row Republicans were bombarded with questions and analysis that portrayed them as extreme and intolerant of anything outside their "rigid" views.
The networks peppered the Republicans with questions from the liberal agenda. While the majority of questions dwelled on poll numbers and tactical gambits, interviews in the first two nights of prime-time network coverage featured 35 questions and statements from the left, to only four from the right. The evening newscasts contained eight liberal questions to zero conservative inquiries. One observation from the right last night: CNN's Judy Woodruff noting that "as a pro-life delegate said to me this morning..'I was interested in what Colin Powell had to say last night but I'm wondering when we're going to hear from a pro-liife point of view at the podium?'" For liberal questions, see pages 2 and 3.
Coverage focused on gender gap and intolerance on abortion as reporters suggested it's rational for women to not back the GOP.
In their "coverage" of the convention last night, none of the three broadcast networks gave any live airtime to prime time speeches by Reps. John Kasich and J.C. Watts and Gov. Christie Whitman. While ABC and CBS did show Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's speech in its entirety, NBC aired less than 2.5 minutes of it. While Hutchison was still speaking, NBC cut to Tim Russert, who gave the Democratic "rapid response" to it ' even before it was over.
Russert quoted the Democrats' press release: "Once again the Republicans have showed the face of Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich's Republican Party through Sen. Hutchison's speech. It is nasty, gratuitous attacks against the President of the United States and mean-spirited." According to Russert, Hutchison gave the Democrats "what they wanted in order to respond in this way." Viewers just had to take his word for it.
Summary or Pillory?
Tuesday's New York Times "convention summary" trashed the GOP platform: "The one adopted yesterday is extremely conservative, careening to the right on social issues like immigration, welfare, and homosexual rights, and omitting the word 'tolerance' in an unbending abortion plank that fueled weeks of bitter intraparty debate."
Two CBS Spins on Powell
Monday night Dan Rather said: "General Colin Powell was generally applauded by most of the delegates. There was a point, however, when he was clearly booed by many of the delegates in this hall. It wasn't just a case of scattered boos when Colin Powell said `I support a woman's right to choose' on abortion, and `I'm a supporter of affirmative action.' That's the point when the boos came."
On Tuesday's CBS This Morning co-host Jose Diaz-Balart delivered a different take: "General Colin Powell was the four-star hero of the evening, moving the crowd to numerous standing ovations and even cheers for his most controversial comments."
Attention Bill Paxon
Keynote speaker Susan Molinari isn't married? During Tuesday's World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings posed this question to an ABC reporter: "I want to go down to the floor for a moment to ask a fairly important question of Michel McQueen. Susan Molinari: single, white professional woman is going to be up there. You could argue that she's going to look out of place in some respects at this convention, couldn't you?" A few minutes later Jennings admitted he had `goofed.'
A Bit of Media Intolerance?
As three MRC employees were leaving the Horton Grand Hotel in San Diego on Tuesday, they were approached by a woman wearing a Dateline NBC hat, traveling with three credentialed NBC cameramen. She inquired if their `Team Clinton' T-shirts were pro-Clinton, to which one MRC employee replied, "No, you have to read the whole thing." After she read the `pro-Clinton press corps' caption on the shirt featuring a drawing of three TV anchors, she quipped, "Oh, they're anti-media. I guess the term `extremist' still fits, huh?"
Republicans Called Unconcerned About Rape Victims: Another Round of Media Intolerance
Prime time and the evening news shows again emphasized how the Republican Party is shutting out pro-choicers and on how women are turned off by the party's stands. See page one for a tally on the agenda of questions.
Keynoter Susan Molinari got grilled from the left by Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News: After asking about how women can relate to a platform that's "pretty rigid in its language on abortion," he posed this question: "In the convention hall itself tonight, as you try to reach out to American women across all spectrums of American life, you have here a delegates [sic] by a factor of two to one, white males, many of whom are making more than $100,000 a year. Doesn't that make it difficult for a lot of American women to identify with...."
Just after rape victim Jan Licence's speech on victim's rights last night, NBC's Maria Shriver seemed baffled: "But why [speak out] at a Republican convention? So many people have said that they don't think this ticket, or perhaps this party, is supportive of women's issues. Why make this stand here?" Tom Brokaw interviewed Licence later and asked: "Do you think -- this is a party that is dominated by men and this convention is dominated by men as well...Do you think before tonight they thought very much about what happens in America with rape?"
ABC's Peter Jennings endorsed the "rights" spin of women who oppose the GOP's abortion plank: "Polls commissioned by the Republican party show they have lost nearly ten percent of women since they have voted the Republican majority into the 104th Congress in 1994. The right to abortion has never been an over- whelming issue for women at election time. But this fight within the Republican party has many Republican women questioning how far this party is willing to go to limit their rights."
Michel McQueen of ABC found the Democratic quota system to be better: "When you go to the Democratic convention in Chicago in two weeks you'll see that half the delegates on the floor are women. And that's a powerful message when half the voters are women. But dramatically it's also true that women have not responded well to a message that at times been considered too harsh, too mean." -- Brent Baker