Bush's Threat to "Abortion Rights"; Risky SS Plan; Anti-Bush Educational Achievement Study Touted -- Back to today's CyberAlert
1) Jesse Jackson claimed conservatives opposed ending slavery, but all Today's Matt Lauer cared about was abortion: "Would abortion rights be overturned...if George Bush gets the chance to appoint two, three or four justices?"
2) Diane Sawyer this morning saw Bush's Social Security plan as riskier than Gore's, demanding assurances of former Senator Alan Simpson: "Is it a risk-free idea, or is there an element of the casino in it?"
3) Media Reality Check: This morning "ABC & NBC Ignored July RAND Study Touting Texas, But Promoted Critical RAND Election-Eve Report." Katie Couric touted the "explosive new report from....a non-partisan group."
NBC's Today this morning brought aboard Jesse Jackson and Gary Bauer to predict the impact Bush or Gore would have on the Supreme Court, but all Matt Lauer seemed to care about was whether a Bush win would mean the end of "abortion rights"?
Lauer opened the October 24 session by asking each for
their forecasts for what will happen if Bush or Gore are able to appoint new
justices. Jackson answered by impugning the morality of conservatives of past
era as if they are the same as conservatives of the present:
Despite Jackson's linking of prospective appointments of conservative justices to slavery, Lauer jumped in and demanded an answer about abortion: "Do you think abortion would be banned under a Bush administration if he were to have the chance to appoint two, three or possibly even four justices?"
Jackson agreed it would mean the end to abortion. Lauer wanted Bauer to address the same concern: "Mr. Bauer, bluntly put, let me just ask you the blunt question. Would abortion rights be overturned, would abortion become banned in this country if George Bush gets the chance to appoint two, three or four justices?"
Lauer then did move on, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed. He wondered: "Guys, let me jump in here and let me move on for one second. Reverend Jackson under a Bush administration it's possible that Clarence Thomas could be named the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. How would that be greeted in the African American community?"
"Not with great favor," Jackson argued.
Diane Sawyer this morning saw Bush's Social Security plan as posing a greater risk than the trust the government completely approach favored by Al Gore, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed.
On the October 24 Good Morning America Sawyer interviewed former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson about the competing Social Security plans, but her questions betrayed her preference as she only posed one counterpoint to Reich but on three occasions demanded Simpson respond to liberal talking points. Her inquiries:
-- "Senator Simpson, is it a risk-free idea, or is there an element of the casino in it?"
-- "But I want to try my question again, Senator Simpson. Is it risk-free? If people make bad choices and lose that money, is it risk-free?"
-- "Secretary Reich, what about this great opportunity for great gain?"
-- "But Senator Simpson, what is wrong with Al Gore's plan where he says you take the current surplus, you pay down the debt and you save all that interest money, and you can put $200 billion a year back into the system?"
-- "Is either candidate doing the brave thing in addressing the crux of the issue, which is about raising taxes, cutting benefits, raising retirement age?"
"An explosive new report from the Rand Corporation, a non-partisan group, is out today, raising questions about George W. Bush's education record in Texas," NBC's Katie Couric touted in the first half hour of this morning's Today. But while NBC ran a full story on the study and ABC's Good Morning America briefly summarized it during two news updates, both networks had skipped another RAND study in July which quantified "achievement gains" by Texas compared to other states.
Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, noticed the contrast and put together a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check distributed by fax this afternoon.
The pull-out quote cited the findings of the July RAND
Now the text of the October 24 Media Reality Check:
An Educational Example of Anti-Bush Bias
Everyone knows Election Day is only two weeks away, so it's dubious a politically inflammatory research study would simply appear on the media landscape by happenstance. This morning, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today each put their spotlight on a new RAND Corporation study which criticized the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test for school-age children (the TAAS test).
The study didn't mention Bush or the presidential campaign, but NBC's David Gregory spun it as a crippling blow to the Republican's White House hopes.
"His record on improving education is what Governor Bush points to as the Texas success story, and the proof, Bush has argued throughout the campaign, is in the numbers," Gregory slammed on Today. "But a new study from the nonpartisan RAND organization claims that TAAS scores are an unreliable measure of student achievement, and that Bush's boast of closing the achievement gap between white and minority students is suspect."
Good Morning America put the story at the top of their 7:00 am news segment: "The report found that while scores climbed dramatically on state tests, the same students showed little improvement in scores on national tests," ABC's Antonio Mora related, adding, "An author of the study described the results saying 'I think the 'Texas Miracle' is a myth...with few exceptions. Notably, fourth grade math, gains in Texas in recent years were about the same as in the United States.'"
The author quoted by ABC was Stephen Klein, a senior researcher at RAND and the study's lead author. He assured a reporter for Reuters that, "We started this project in April and it has nothing to do with the election." Bush had locked up his nomination by mid-March. Had word of the upcoming election not trickled down to RAND by April?
The RAND researchers measured the Texas state tests by comparing their results with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, which the authors presumed "are not subject to the same external pressure to boost scores as there are on the TAAS." In other words, any variability between the Texas test and the federal test was scored by the authors as a flaw in the Texas test.
But a different research group at RAND used the national test results to praise Texas in a study released a few months ago. "Some states are doing far better than others in making achievement gains and in elevating their students' performance," RAND reported in July. "Texas and Indiana are high performers on both these counts."
RAND put out press releases touting both studies, but NBC never found the pro-Texas report newsworthy. Neither did ABC, although in two separate interviews at the time of the Republican National Convention, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told ABC viewers about the study. But with just two weeks left in Campaign 2000, the morning shows found this report to be just irresistible.
END Reprint of Media Reality Check
Rich passed along these Web links to the two studies.
For the new RAND report hyped this morning, go to:
For the July report the networks didn't find so important, go to: http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR924/
Finally, on an unrelated matter: Washington, DC area readers who want a good laugh should check out the full page ad on page A24 (the page before the "Federal Page") of today's Washington Post. Talk about a delusional guy with an enormous ego. -- Brent Baker
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