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CyberAlert -- 10/10/2000 -- Sawyer Took on O'Reilly's Slant

Sawyer Took on O'Reilly's Slant; Bush Vs. Texas Tots; Charles Grodin Joins 60 Minutes II Tonight -- Back to today's CyberAlert

1) Media Reality Check. "Right-Leaning Talkers Shock Morning TV: ABC's Diane Sawyer Challenged Fox's Bill O'Reilly, While NBC Balanced Limbaugh with Begala." Sawyer brazenly scolded: "Should you be using the national airwaves to promote your opinions?"

2) MediaNomics analysis of campaign coverage: Time Reporter Alleges Bush's Tax Cuts Harmed Texas Tots; No Post-Debate Scrutiny of Gore's Social Security Claims.

3) Liberal ranter Charles Grodin starts his new gig tonight as the end of show commentator on CBS's 60 Minutes II. Last month he admitted he doesn't understand why there's so much "hatred" toward Hillary Clinton. He used his MSNBC job to defend Bill Clinton and rant about evil conservatives.

4) Sam Donaldson also raised the issue of how in Yugoslavia Clinton did "exactly" what Bush proposed in involving the Russians, but which Gore had denounced in their debate.


1

"Right-Leaning Talkers Shock Morning TV: ABC's Diane Sawyer Challenged Fox's Bill O'Reilly, While NBC Balanced Limbaugh with Begala." Below is the text of a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check by the MRC's Tim Graham distributed this afternoon.

The pull out quote box asked: "Is Diane Clueless or Brazen?" The box featured this quote from Diane Sawyer on the October 10 Good Morning America to FNC talk show host Bill O'Reilly: "But should you be using the national airwaves to promote your opinions?"

Do TV news stars really believe that everything they do is fair and balanced? Two weeks ago, ABC's Diane Sawyer used Good Morning America to preen over Winifred Skinner and her sob story of having to scavenge for cans to afford her prescriptions, an imploding story promoted by the Gore campaign. But today Sawyer was shocked Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly forwarded opinions on television in an interview to promote his new book The O'Reilly Factor.

Sawyer explained: "He has said, by the way, that the elite media -- you hate us, right, basically? -- refuse to put him on, so okay, we put you on. Is your whining going to stop or what?" Sawyer pushed for O'Reilly to recant: "Are you going to eat those words?....Alright, apologize to us for doubting us. Apologize." O'Reilly said: "Apologize for what?" Sawyer: "Apologize for doubting us. We put you on. Now apologize."

When O'Reilly passed, Sawyer moved on: "Alright, there's no question that you're for George W. Bush in this election." O'Reilly protested, "That's not true." Sawyer insisted: "I've watched you. I have watched you. There is no question." O'Reilly boasted that Gore applauded him for interviewing his supporters and getting the "true story" on the overcrowded school in Sarasota, Florida.

Sawyer shot back: "Well, that's a limited, that's a limited compliment there. Let me just ask you this. The criticism of each candidate is basically that Al Gore embellishes the truth and that George W. Bush doesn't really have a grasp of the facts. Do you disagree with either of those criticisms of the two?"

O'Reilly said "I don't think you want to condemn or denigrate Bush because he's not a real good public speaker." On Gore, he said, "I don't think his embellishments should be a campaign issue." Sawyer didn't see any balance there: "So we had a small defense of George Bush there and we have a tiny attack on Al Gore there. I heard you."

Then Sawyer moved on to Clinton: "I want to ask you about something else. Bill Clinton. Oh, do you lay into Bill Clinton all the way through. Don't like him, say he's the most corrupt President...in history, and yet the American people say that they would elect him again tomorrow. Do you think the American people are dumb?"

Then Sawyer asked: "But should you be using the national airwaves to promote your opinions?" (This, hours after a Peter Jennings special explored how the NRA has too much influence.)

Talking up balance also came to NBC's Today. Matt Lauer promoted a Lisa Myers interview with Rush Limbaugh: "George W. Bush has no better friend than...radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Every day, more people listen to his program than any other show in the country and that gives him an enormous platform to carry the conservative torch....this morning, a rare conversation with Limbaugh, who holds nothing back. And before you call or write, the Democrats will get their fair shot this morning." (Paul Begala was interviewed.)

Lisa Myers asked: "Rush, are you saying that in your view, Al Gore is an even bigger liar than Bill Clinton? That's a really harsh statement." (Limbaugh said it's different, but Gore's lying is "pathological.") Myers asked about women voting for Democrats: "Do you think it's a genetic deficiency in these soccer moms?"

END Reprint of Media Reality Check

So has Diane Sawyer refrained from "using the national airwaves to promote" her opinions? Space does not permit a full recitation of all the times she has violated her own admonition, but here are a few of the most blatant examples, several gathered by MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey:

-- Barely more than two weeks ago Sawyer used GMA to promote the Gore campaign line on prescription drug costs. She welcomed the since discredited Winnie Skinner: "All right, we turn now to the woman who, as we said, has become the new face of outrage against the high cost of prescription drugs. With indomitable spirit she told how she makes a little secret extra income by picking up cans to pay for food and medicine." For more on how Sawyer reported as fact the anti-pharmaceutical company line:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20000928_extra.asp#2

-- Sawyer won the MRC's "I Am Woman Award (for Hillary Rodham Worshipping)" in 1999 for this tribute on the March 12 GMA:
"She emerged on health care, only to beat a very bruised retreat. She clearly hated being thought of as just Bill Clinton's wife. But ironically, it would take his scandals, finally, to free her. Finally, last November 1998, Hillary Clinton showed the world what she could do on the campaign trail without him. Political mastery, every bit as dazzling as his, the thoughtful speech, unapologetically strong, emboldening Democrats, electing Senators. So her friends say she has really earned this campaign, this moment, if she chooses, earned it by changing herself, searching, stumbling, and at the end, by standing, not by her man, but by herself."

To watch this gushing via RealPlayer, go to the "Best Notable Quotables of 1999: The Twelfth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting" and scroll down to the I Am Woman Award (for Hillary Rodham Worshipping):
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/nq/best/nq1999best.html

-- On Cheryl Mills, on the February 8, 1999 GMA Sawyer cooed: "Cheryl Mills of the gentle gestures and velvet voice....Her friends say they've never seen her like that before, that the lawyer behind the politeness and pearls is in fact a fast-talking, fiercely combative, fight-to-the-finish opponent, and that's why both Clintons want Mills on the team....The portrait she keeps on her office wall is Michael Jordan. At the age of 33, she's in the starting lineup of the playoffs, too."

-- But Sawyer was much tougher on Linda Tripp and Ken Starr, pressing Starr about Tripp and himself on the November 25, 1998 GMA:
"Which brings us to Linda Tripp, the woman people love to hate, and the accusation that Ken Starr was not what he had seemed. Are you part of a right-wing conspiracy?"
Starr: "No. I don't know that there is one."
Sawyer: "His key witness, Linda Tripp, is now a recognized soldier in the army of Clinton haters -- among them Tripp's friend and svengali, Lucianne Goldberg."

In that same interview she also demanded of Starr:
"Driving to the White House that day, for what was -- for all intents and purposes -- a lot of people think your trial, the only trial you were going to get. Did you think to yourself, here is a man who has to deal with Saddam Hussein and bin Laden and what's going on in Russia, and we're putting him through this?"

2

Two campaign-related pieces of analysis by Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project. They make up of two of the three latest articles in the online MediaNomics, which recounts "what the media tell Americans about free enterprise." To read all three online as posted by MRC Webmaster Andy Szul, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/medianomics/archive2.asp

-- Time Reporter Alleges Bush's Tax Cuts Harmed Texas Tots

Correspondents for Time magazine have often been critical of tax cuts, disparaging them as either welfare for the wealthy or the ineffective crutches that conservative politicians lean on when they get into political trouble. But in the magazine's October 9 issue, Michael Weisskopf pulled out all of the stops, linking state tax cut measures successfully championed in 1997 and 1999 by Governor George W. Bush with the alleged plight of hundred of thousands of uninsured Texas children.

Here's the first paragraph of Weisskopf's story: "George W. Bush had a simple fiscal policy as Texas Governor: he called for meeting the people's basic needs and returning what's left to the hands who earned it. But it didn't work that way for Ray Haros, a poor kid from Austin's barrio in need of health insurance. While Bush delivered $2.7 billion in tax relief, Ray got left out of the equation."

According to Weisskopf, Ray suffers from attention-deficit disorder and depression, and his mother only makes $5.35 per hour working at a candy factory. Thus, the little boy qualifies for Medicaid, "but, for reasons all too common in Bush's state, Ray receives nothing from the federal and state insurer of the poor. Like 734,000 other uninsured Texas youngsters who live in poverty, he relies on the uncertain charity of free clinics and social workers who scrounge for medicine to help him."

The article alleged that Bush's office took too long in applying for federal aid under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Time implied that the shortfalls in children's health spending were contrived to enable tax cuts. "The delay freed Texas from having to spend billions of dollars in matching state grants, leaving enough money for Bush to pass $1 billion in tax relief in the 1997 legislative session. Two years later, he set his sights on even bigger tax cuts. To make the numbers work, Medicaid spending had to be contained," wrote Weisskopf.

If that was too subtle, the headline explicitly charged, "Tax Cuts Before Tots," while a color photo of six-year-old Ray, looking sad, cut across the first page of the article. The photo's caption: "Without Medicaid: Ray Haros qualifies, but doesn't receive it." Off to the side, a small photo of Bush, accompanied text which said in part, "He helped secure tax cuts by underfunding Medicaid, causing a $400 million shortfall in the program."

The impression left by the story is much stronger than what it actually says. First, Weisskopf argues that children like Ray are without "health insurance," not without health care. According to the Texas State Comptroller's office, the average uninsured Texan received nearly $1,000 worth of health care in 1998, paid for by both by federal, state and local agencies, plus a wide number of charitable organizations. Go to: http://www.window.state.tx.us/uninsure/

That's why Weisskopf wrote the sentence the way he did: "[Ray] relies on the uncertain charity of free clinics and social workers who scrounge for medicine to help him." If you ignore the loaded terms "uncertain" and "scrounge," it's clear that even Weisskopf agrees that Ray gets his medicine.

It's also worth paying attention to the fact that youngsters like Ray Haros lack insurance even though they're qualified for Medicaid. The implication is that such shortfalls are Bush's fault because he wouldn't spend the money needed to tell people they were covered under the program. According to Weisskopf, "When Bush took over in 1995, Medicaid officials failed to reach about 30% of eligible children, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan Washington group." Actually, it is a liberal group which advocates heavier government spending on social programs, and Time should have said so.

"The percentage grew as Texas families, forced off cash assistance by new welfare laws, were not told that their children still qualified for Medicaid. Nevertheless, Bush put an emphasis on tax cuts rather than spending to expand eligibility and break down barriers to enrollment," wrote Weisskopf.

But according to the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, many parents don't enroll their children in Medicaid because it's troublesome and not necessary to obtain decent health care: "In all major Texas cities, Medicaid patients and the uninsured enter the same emergency rooms, see the same doctors and are admitted to the same hospital rooms. Those who have signed up for government insurance do not get more care, faster care or better care." Go to: http://www.ncpa.org/ba/ba335/ba335.html

There was only one brief quote from a source defending the Texas Governor, and it was tucked in the beginning of the article's ninth and final paragraph: "Bush campaign spokesman Dan Bartlett said the Governor places a 'high priority' on child health, as seen in his support of CHIP, and that the state is considering, among other things, making it easier to stay on Medicaid by eliminating in-person interviews every six months." Compare that with two quotes in the same article from Democratic state lawmakers, including state Rep. Garnet Coleman's flamboyant complaint that "we're literally discriminating against the poorest of the poor."

Not only does this unbalanced article smack of a political hit job, but by insinuating that pressure for tax relief puts needy children at risk, it follows Time's pattern all year of undermining arguments on behalf of tax cuts. Back in April, James Carney and John F. Dickerson raised suspicions that, in contrast to campaign pledges of a 'compassionate conservatism,' a Bush presidency would hurt the poor: "Actually installing the Bush program of tax cuts and caring will require the kind of fiscal discipline Washington has never displayed. If Bush does keep within budget boundaries, claim Democrats, he will be certain to cast aside his sweetness-and-light spending programs to fund a Bush tax cut that, as written, would most benefit higher-income Americans." Go to: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/articles/0,3266,43182,00.html

Then in August, Amanda Ripley described Bush's tax cut as Gore would: "Bush's tax cut...heaps most of its benefits onto wealthy Americans. Bush offers a couple of middle-class goodies - doubling the existing $500-per-child tax credit and reducing the marriage penalty - but since the thrust of his plan is an across-the-board cut, the wealthy folks who pay the bulk of the taxes would enjoy the greatest gains (the top tax bracket would drop from 39.6% to 33%)." Go to: http://www.time.com/time/campaign2000/story/0,7243,53490,00.html

Ripley further blasted that "Bush does nothing for the millions of poorer people who do not pay taxes because their incomes are so low. Under current tax law, a family of four doesn't owe taxes until it earns $24,900. Bush's plan doesn't try to help them make ends meet." Actually, in addition to his tax cut, Bush has proposed various spending programs aimed at the poor, but they evidently haven't been enough to convince journalists that he's not just another one of those soak-the-poor Republicans.

By Time's reasoning, tax cuts would be postponed until every social need was met. That's the view of many liberals, of course, but that excludes the conservative argument that citizens' wages and income rightfully belong to them, and that money which remains in the private sector is invested more productively and with greater social benefits. If voters were reading magazines such as Time looking for a balanced review of the candidates' records and plans on taxes, they were out of luck last week.

-- No Post-Debate Scrutiny of Gore's Social Security Claims

The media rightly don't like it when police engage in so-called "racial profiling" - randomly hassling people because they match some pre-conceived stereotype. But there's some evidence that when it comes to presidential debates, the network truth cops engage in their own version of profiling, combing through the claims of conservative politicians while paying less notice to liberal assertions that probably "sound right" to their ears.

After the vice presidential debate on October 5, Lisa Myers, captain of NBC's "Truth Squad," gave Republican candidate Dick Cheney a roughing up for his claim that "Fifty million American taxpayers out there get no advantages at all out of the Gore tax proposal, whereas under the Bush plan, everybody who pays taxes will, in fact, get tax relief."

Myers admitted that it was unclear how many American taxpayers (30 million? 50 million?) were shut out by the Gore plan, but said "Cheney was wrong when he says Bush cuts taxes for everyone who pays taxes. In fact, millions of low-income Americans who pay payroll taxes, but don't earn enough to owe federal income taxes, get no help from Bush."

Myers was technically right but, it's a minor point. Both Bush and Gore have proposed adjustments to the federal income tax code: Bush offering across-the-board rate reductions; Gore offering a potpourri of credits for various classes of taxpayers. While Cheney failed to specify that the focus of his comments was the income tax (he should have said, "everybody who pays income taxes will, in fact, get tax relief"), it is doubtful that many citizens were misled.

Contrast that with a claim that Vice President Gore made during the presidential debate that was held two days earlier. Moderator Jim Lehrer told him that, "many experts, including Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan, Vice President Gore, say that it will be impossible for either of you, essentially, to keep the system viable on its own during the coming baby boomer retirement onslaught without either reducing benefits or increasing taxes. Do you disagree?"

"I do disagree," Gore responded, "because if we can keep our prosperity going, if we can continue balancing the budget and paying down the debt, then the strong economy keeps generating surpluses. And here's what I would do, here's my plan: I will keep Social Security in a lockbox, and that pays down the national debt and the interest savings I would put right back into Social Security. That extends the life of Social Security for 55 years."

Denying that the Social Security system requires reforms more fundamental than shuffling interest payments into a "lockbox" if it is to be viable half a century from now is far more important than whether references to "taxes" means income taxes or all federal taxes. Before the campaign started, network reporters themselves knew reform was necessary. As correspondent Jerry Bowen explained on the CBS Evening News on December 8, 1998: "It's a problem of fewer and fewer workers paying into the system as the country's 76 million baby boomers move into retirement."

Additionally, claiming that surpluses could both be spent and saved at the same time is even more egregious. "If you take the Social Security surplus each year and use it to pay down the national debt, you're not exactly keeping Social Security funds in a lockbox," explained Peter Ferrara, a Social Security expert at George Mason University. No network reporter pounced on Gore's comments following the first presidential debate, however.

All year, in fact, the Vice President's Social Security proposals haven't gotten that much scrutiny from the media, partly because they've been presented as offering the least change from the status quo. But given the demographic shifts that are inevitable as the 21st century rolls along, that may actually make it the more radical alternative. As Ferrara wrote in an October 6 essay for the Cato Institute, the Gore prescription "would just transfer several trillion in general revenues into Social Security to cover its financing gaps. This is effectively a multitrillion-dollar income tax increase to bail out the program, above what income taxes would otherwise be." Go to: http://www.cato.org/dailys/10-06-00.html

There aren't a lot of issues that can credibly claim to be more important than the long-term future of Social Security, and the networks have all taken their measure of George Bush's plan to let workers use a portion of their payroll taxes to begin building private savings accounts. But with the presidential election just four weeks away, the networks have yet to provide a comparable examination of Al Gore's plan, and the campaign clock continues to tick down the seconds until Election Day.

END Reprint of MediaNomics stories

3

More diversity at CBS News. They've hired a person for an on-air position who doesn't understand why there's so much "hatred" toward Hillary Clinton and used his previous cable job to defend Bill Clinton and rant about evil conservatives. Actor/MSNBC liberal tirade master Charles Grodin will join the crew of CBS's 60 Minutes II tonight as its end of the show commentator.

Last month Grodin appeared on ABC's daytime show hosted by several women, The View. The instant Barbara Walters mentioned the campaign he launched into a diatribe about Hillary.

MRC intern Ken Shepherd took down this exchange from the September 11 show:

Walters: "So what do you think of the whole political campaign?"
Grodin: "Well, let's talk a little bit about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, I don't understand how people can hate anybody, particularly a woman, that much. Some of you [the cast of The View], I can understand it. But Hillary Clinton?"
Walters: "So why do you think it is? That some women do?"
Grodin: "I don't know. I keep saying, what is it exactly? That she's not born and raised in New York?"
Joy Behar: "Yeah, who cares, right?"
Grodin: "That she has no record? I think she's probably had something to do with what's gone on the last 8 [years], not to say that she should be the Senator and not Rick Lazio but I really resent all this hatred whether it's toward Hillary Clinton or anybody else but I don't really get it."
Walters: "That seems to have no sound basis."
Grodin: "Oh, I don't see it. I don't see it. You don't want to vote for her, don't vote for her but you leave the hate for yourself and find other people to hate."

Since he was an actor on a little-watched cable show the MRC didn't track Grodin's rantings on his MSNBC weekend talk show, but we did catch a couple noteworthy items:

-- A March, 1999 CyberAlert noted how reacting to a clip of Bill Bennett on Meet the Press asserting that Bill Clinton has demonstrated a pattern of forcing himself on women, Grodin sagely observed on his weekend 8pm ET diatribe-fest:
"'Pattern of him forcing himself on women?' And Paula Jones testified that the President said to her, 'I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do.' Does that sound like a rapist? And Monica Lewinsky said when she told the President she wondered, 'Is this just about sex?' That, 'I don't really feel, you know, what is this?,' the tears welled up in his eyes. He was so, he was upset that she thought that. That's, rapists are made of different stuff than that."

-- The July 15, 1998 USA Today quoted Grodin about what his new weekend program on MSNBC would showcase: "I'll put people on who you don't see on TV. People in prison who shouldn't be there. People in soup kitchens. People on welfare with degrees from Harvard."

4

Finally, thanks to Webmaster Andy Szul, the MRC Web site now features a RealPlayer video clip showing how on Fox News Sunday Brit Hume confronted Gore aide Tad Devine with how in Yugoslavia Clinton did "exactly" what Bush proposed yet Gore denounced:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20001010.asp#6

And MRC analyst Jessica Anderson has just informed me that Sam Donaldson raised the same point in one question on This Week to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. On the October 8 ABC Sunday interview show, Donaldson asserted:
"In the end, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov went to Belgrade and clearly threw Russia's support at the eleventh hour, to the new government. Why did Vice President Gore suggest in his debate this past week that that might not be a good idea when you were actually pursuing that course?"

A good question and it's nice to see that the media have noticed that Gore's prevarications impact his statements on substantive policy issues. -- Brent Baker


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