CyberAlert -- 11/04/2000 -- Bush "Veracity" Questioned

Bush "Veracity" Questioned; Real Victim: Gore; FNC Unearthed Judge's Politics; Perot Spiked; Streisand's ABC Forum

1) Drunk driving disclosure undercut Bush trust message, the networks contended Friday night. Because Bush has "attacked Al Gore's credibility," ABC's Dean Reynolds argued, "his own veracity was suddenly drawing greater scrutiny." CBS's Bill Whitaker raised worries about damage to an "image as the honest antidote to the Clinton-Gore years."

2) The real victim of the Bush disclosure: Al Gore. "There was little rejoicing about this" by Gore's team, insisted NBC's Claire Shipman. ABC's Terry Moran stressed how the Gore camp is "worried it could hurt them if voters see it as a dirty trick."

3) The networks questioned Tom Connolly about his agenda, but ABC and CBS also gave him time to contend it's not a dirty trick when it's true. CBS ignored his "W is for Wiener" Web site and only FNC explored the Democratic connections of the judge who got the records pulled from storage.

4) Friday night ABC, CBS and NBC all showed Gore mocking Bush for saying Social Security is not a "federal program," but did not find time for a syllable about how Ross Perot had endorsed Bush.

5) ABC indeed did give Barbra Streisand a forum to defend Bill Clinton, denounce George W. Bush and promote Al Gore: "The first three reasons to vote for Al Gore are the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court."


ABC, CBS and NBC led Friday night with multiple stories on the Bush drunk driving disclosure and all asserted in their very first reports that it raises questions about Bush's honesty. "Because Bush has consistently attacked Al Gore's credibility," ABC's Dean Reynolds argued on World News Tonight, "his own veracity was suddenly drawing greater scrutiny." Bill Whitaker contended on the CBS Evening News: "The campaign is clearly worried the late revelation could damage his well-crafted image as the honest antidote to the Clinton-Gore years." On the NBC Nightly News David Gregory insisted: "The question today is whether Bush has been truthful about his mistakes."

All three explored how Bush told Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater in 1996 that he'd never been arrested, an event NBC's Gregory described as "evidence that two years ago Bush lied when questioned directly about prior arrests." All three also delved into how he did not complete a jury questionnaire. ABC even searched fruitlessly for a smoking gun in his hunting license application.

Below is a rundown of how the broadcast evening network shows on Friday, November 3 handled the impact of the drunk driving story on the Bush campaign. Item #3 below explores contrasts and missing facts in how each characterized the leaker, Tom Connolly.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings noted up front that an ABC News poll had Bush at 48 percent compared to 45 percent for Gore and 3 percent still sticking with Nader.

Jennings contemplated: "Both of the major campaigns are struggling today to deal with the news, just about this time last night, that George W. Bush was arrested 24 years ago for driving under the influence of alcohol and what does that mean today?"

From Saginaw, Dean Reynolds found it added a dose of uncertainty to the Bush campaign as they tried to put the story to rest. Reynolds played a soundbite of Bush at a rally saying he's made mistakes but learned from them before Reynolds noted that Bush communications guru Karen Hughes called it an "example of campaign treachery."

After a clip from Hughes, Reynolds contended: "But because Bush has consistently attacked Al Gore's credibility."
Bush from a recent campaign appearance: "You need somebody in office who'll tell the truth."
Reynolds picked up: "His own veracity was suddenly drawing greater scrutiny. Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News says Bush told him in an interview that beyond a couple of college-age pranks he'd never been in trouble with the police."

Reynolds recalled that Bush has only given the "broadest answers" about making mistakes in the past as he told the Houston Chronicle he "didn't have a perfect record." Reynolds concluded by wondering: "Tonight the question is will that decision harm the Bush candidacy and that depends on a great extent on whether the public believes he really was trying to protect his daughters or intentionally misleading the voters for years."

Following stories on Connolly and the Gore campaign, Jennings returned to Bush's honesty. He recounted how a Texas jury questionnaire asked if he'd ever been accused of or was a complainant in a criminal case, but Bush left it blank, though Jennings conceded an aide could have filled out the form. Jennings revealed the effort ABC made to catch Bush: "And we found no hunting or fishing or firearms license for which the Governor has been asked about any arrests at all."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened the broadcast by stressing what Bush "kept secret" for many years:
"We're heading now into the final turn in what could or could not be a photo-finish presidential race. However it goes, what a race! And this weekend many voters will make up their minds. In these final, perhaps decisive hours, the Bush campaign has been concentrating on explanations, following the revelation that the Governor kept secret for 24 years an arrest and conviction for driving drunk. Bush questions the timing of the revelation that started at a small TV station. His campaign claims straight out it's all a dirty trick. CBS fact-driven coverage begins with Bill Whitaker in Saginaw, Michigan."

Bill Whitaker played the Bush made mistakes/learned from them soundbite and noted the campaign thought it had put the controversy to rest last night, "but it flared again today when a Texas reporter said two years ago Bush flat out denied an arrest."
Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News: "I asked him, 'Were you ever arrested after 1968?' He said no. [edit jump] That's a fact. I remember it very well."

Whitaker went on to show Karen Hughes accusing Democrats of a "dirty trick" as she moved into "damage control" mode. Whitaker related: "The campaign is clearly worried the late revelation could damage his well-crafted image as the honest antidote to the Clinton-Gore years."
Audience member, October 20: "What can we do to inspire my generation to believe in public service again?"
George W. Bush: "Tell the truth. Tell the truth."

Whitaker trumpeted the jury questionnaire as a potential smoking gun: "But new questions about truthfulness are now coming up. Late today CBS News obtained this jury questionnaire from Texas courts. Bush was required to fill it out in 1996 while he was Governor. The portion that asks if you have ever been accused in a criminal case was left blank. Texas justice officials say the Governor should have answered the question. Now the Bush campaign says the form was filled out by an assistant to the Governor who left about a dozen questions blank because he didn't know the answers. Now the Governor, so says the campaign, was dismissed from the jury panel before a judge ever reviewed the form."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw began by announcing: "The campaign of George W. Bush has a major distraction. But for how long? That drunk driving arrest 24 years ago has raised questions about judgment in the Bush campaign and also attacks for dirty tricks against the Democrats."

David Gregory in Saginaw observed, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well, Tom, as you can imagine, today the Bush campaign was thrown completely off stride, forced to confront evidence that two years ago Bush lied when questioned directly about prior arrests."

Like ABC and CBS, NBC ran the clip of Bush saying he's made mistakes but has learned from them and noted how Karen Hughes accused Democrats of a "dirty trick." Gregory then plunged into the Slater matter: "But the question today is whether Bush has been truthful about his mistakes. An article in a November 1999 issue of the New Republic magazine recounts a conversation between Bush and a Texas newspaper reporter in 1998."
Wayne Slater of Dallas Morning News recalled: "I asked him were you ever arrested after 1968 and he said no."
Gregory: "Slater says Karen Hughes, Bush's spokeswoman, refused to allow the Governor to say any more."

As other soundbites I've seen somewhere other than ABC, CBS or NBC have made clear, Slater thought Bush wanted to clarify his denial but Hughes cut him off.

Gregory explored further: "Bush was far less direct when asked in 1996 whether he'd ever been arrested for drunk driving. Quoted in the Houston Chronicle, he said, 'I do not have a perfect record as a youth,' though Bush was 30 at the time of his arrest. Today Bush advisers accused Democrats of 'gotcha politics' when they learned that Tom Connolly, a Democratic activist in Maine, leaked the story and tried unsuccessfully to pass Bush's arrest record onto the Gore campaign."
Connolly: "They're saying that it's somehow been used to hurt him. Well it's been used to hurt him only in the sense that the truth hurts."

Gregory wrapped up with a clip of George H. W. Bush calling the timing of the disclosure about his son "outrageous."


The real victims, according to the networks, of the Bush drunk driving disclosure: Democrats and the Gore campaign. "Believe it not there was little rejoicing about this Bush story today" by the Gore team, insisted NBC's Claire Shipman. ABC's Peter Jennings maintained it didn't make things easy for Democrats as colleague Terry Moran stressed how the Gore campaign is "very worried it could hurt them if voters see it as a dirty trick."

-- ABC's World News Tonight. In setting up a look at who Tom Connolly is, Jennings observed: "In political terms this is obviously difficult for Mr. Bush, obviously. But neither is it easy for the Democrats. It was leaked to the press by a well-connected Democrat who very much dislikes Mr. Bush."

In a later story by Terry Moran with Gore in Knoxville, Moran relayed how "they're wary of this wildcard and they are very worried it could hurt them if voters see it as a dirty trick." Moran noted that Gore avoided commenting on the matter, but his surrogates were used "to send a far harsher message. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin said the incident raised questions about Bush's honesty."

-- NBC Nightly News. Claire Shipman opened her piece from the traveling Gore party in Knoxville: "Believe it not, there was little rejoicing about this Bush story today in the Gore campaign. The staff had to spend the whole day insisting they didn't start the story and worrying about an unpredictable impact in the final stretch of this campaign."


ABC and CBS on Friday night questioned Tom Connolly about whether in providing the Bush drunk driving information to a reporter he was working in cahoots with the Gore campaign, but both also gave him the opportunity to deny that and contend it's not a dirty trick when it's true.

All three broadcast networks noted Connolly's Democratic activities as a convention delegate and gubernatorial candidate, but CBS skipped his anti-Bush Web site. Connolly "now operates an outlandish anti-Bush Web site called 'W Is for Wiener,'" NBC's Pete Williams noted over a shot of a Web logo with Bush inside a hot dog bun. But none told viewers how on the Web site, as the Saturday Washington Times observed, Connolly declared: "Wiener Boy Bush is 97 percent filler with 2 percent pig lips and snout and 1 percent pure bull, coupled with .001 percent rodent feces."

The Web address, though every time I try I get a "no response" error message:

For a small picture of Connolly wearing his always-present fly-fishing cap and audio and video of his interview with CNN late Friday morning, go to:

ABC, CBS and NBC did not touch on the Democratic Party connections or agenda of the judge who provided the crucial court docket sheet to Connolly. ABC's Dan Harris only noted that Judge Bill Childs "was pedaling the story of Bush's arrest for operating under the influence."

FNC's Carl Cameron, however, uniquely explored his suspicious role. Cameron revealed "that Mr. Childs is himself an activist Democrat who some four months ago requisitioned a document about the Bush arrest," but since they are stored-away paper documents, "it is said by a number of sources that the judge used his influence as a member of the court in order to get the papers pulled."

-- ABC's World News Tonight. As already quoted in item #2 above, ABC's Peter Jennings introduced the November 3 look at Connolly by sympathizing with Democrats:
"In political terms this is obviously difficult for Mr. Bush, obviously. But neither is it easy for the Democrats. It was leaked to the press by a well-connected Democrat who very much dislikes Mr. Bush."

Dan Harris traveled to Portland to find Connolly. Harris asked Connolly at the top of his piece: "How are people not supposed to be suspicious that this is Democratic dirty tricks."
Connolly responded: "Because it's the truth. So you're saying it's a dirty trick because we're revealing the truth that he suppressed."

Harris outlined Connolly's background: "Thomas Connolly, who works as a defense attorney, is a staunch Gore supporter. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention this summer and runs this anti-bush Web site. [shot of button proclaiming: "'W' is for Wiener" with Bush inside a hot dog or, shall we say, a wiener bun]."

Harris continued, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "How did Connolly get a hold of the information about Bush's arrest? He's told varying stories. It appears he was tipped off yesterday by either a client or a colleague. That colleague may be Bill Childs [picture on screen], a probate judge. Several lawyers who were in the Portland courthouse yesterday say Childs was pedaling the story of Bush's arrest for operating under the influence."
John DeGrinney, attorney: "Judge Childs was indicating to anyone who would listen, the fact that he had first-hand knowledge of court records which indicated George Bush had an OUI conviction from 24 years ago."

Harris then described how Connolly got the word to WPXT-TV reporter Erin Fahleau who denied anything was orchestrated.

-- CBS Evening News. Jim Axelrod began by running down what happened in Maine 24 years ago and how Bush had a .12 blood alcohol level and that the police officer recalled Bush was cooperative. Axelrod then got to how the story came out:
"Thomas Connolly is the source of the story. A lawyer, former Democratic nominee for Governor here and delegate to this summer's Democratic convention. He says he was tipped by a friend of friend who was in court with Bush 24 years ago."
Axelrod to Connolly: "Was the Gore campaign involved in any way, shape or form with this revelation?"
Connolly: "None, zero, absolutely not."
Axelrod: "Connolly, a bit of an eccentric who wears his fly-fishing cap everywhere but court, says he tried to get the information to the Gore campaign, but couldn't get through."
Axelrod to Connolly: "But they can say this guy is a Democrat, dyed-in-the-wool, delegate to the convention. And so that it in some way compromises the nature of the disclosure."
Connolly: "It doesn't because you look at the truth. Trust the tale not the teller."

-- NBC Nightly News. Pete Williams also opened by going through what occurred in 1976. Williams insisted: "The arrest and court documents were never expunged or deleted." Williams also elaborated on Bush's good attitude: "The policeman who arrested him now says Bush was quote, 'the picture of integrity' that night and says Bush's father later thanked him for arresting his son."

Now there's an angle not yet explored.

Williams arrived at the instigator of the big controversy: "Tom Connolly, who began spreading the word yesterday, and then confirmed it to reporters, says he heard about it from a fellow lawyer at the Portland, Maine, courthouse, who heard it from a doctor, who in turn, heard it from someone who was in court when Bush paid his fine 24 years ago. But Connolly says he gladly spread the story after checking court records."
Connolly: "It came out only because a citizen was concerned and because public records are kept public, giving me free access to those."
Williams: "But Connolly is more than just a concerned citizen. An active Democrat, he lost a run for governor two years ago and now operates an outlandish anti-Bush Web site called 'W is for Wiener.' He passed out hundreds of buttons like this one in Maine in a successful bid to become a delegate to the Democratic National Convention [button with Bush caricature inside a wiener]. Tonight Connolly insists he acted on his own and had no contact with the Gore campaign before spreading the story."

Carl Cameron related unique information about the Democratic connections of Judge Childs and the special effort he must have had to employ to obtain Bush's record. On Friday's Special Report with Brit Hume, Cameron disclosed:
"Maine attorney Tom Connolly, a staunch Democrat, revealed the story Thursday. He runs a Web site called 'W is for Wiener,' also the title of his book. He attended the Democratic convention in Los Angeles two months ago. He's acquainted with various top Gore campaign staffers and was Maine's Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate two years ago. Connolly makes no apologies about his desire to help Gore and hurt Bush...."
"Connolly will not say how he heard about it other than that he was told of a rumor. But Fox News has learned that it was a judge, a probate judge in Maine by the name of William Childs, Billy Childs. The Childs family, prominent Democrats, Mr. Childs' father, in fact, once the House Speaker in Maine, and that Mr. Childs is himself an activist Democrat who some four months ago requisitioned a document about the Bush arrest. The documents were in cold storage. Computer records were not available at that time, and it is said by a number of sources that the judge used his influence as a member of the court in order to get the papers pulled. How it was that for some four months the documents did not come to light remains something of a mystery. It was just yesterday, however, that witnesses say Judge Childs, as well as Mr. Connolly, were talking about it in a courtroom in Kennebunk, Maine, and as one witness described it, Mr. Childs was actively peddling the story."

While on this subject, I came across a RealPlayer video file of Erin Fehlau's Thursday night "Fox 51 News at 10" report. It's her complete 10pm newscast piece and it answered a question I had about how a TV station with just a 10pm newscast managed to break a story at 5pm. The answer: a special report. Go to:

I came across that because a CyberAlert reader alerted me to the location of a bio for Erin Fehlau. It doesn't really say much, but here it is in full from the Web site, for the reporter who first broke the story:
"Erin grew up in Bedford, Mass., but has strong family ties to Maine: Her mother was born in Portland, and her father was the son of a popular pastor in Lewiston. After graduating from Syracuse University she worked at WMTW in Portland, then at WLVI in Boston, where she won a New England Emmy Award for producing. Her favorite part of reporting is meeting people from all over the state, and appreciating their down-to-earth, caring natures and sense of humor. She lives in Portland, and enjoys skiing, singing, acting, and visiting lighthouses. Her favorite place in Maine is Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth."

And one more thing, the MRC's Rich Noyes discovered through Nexis that Tom Connolly was the defense lawyer in a high-profile Maine drunk driving case last year. Scott Hogenson of the MRC's turned that into a story which reads in part:
"A LEXIS-NEXIS search of news article from the Bangor Daily News turned up a May 21, 1999 article describing how Connolly was defense counsel for Pat LaMarche, who was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor on March 10, 1999. LaMarche was also one of four candidates for governor in 1998.
"According to the article, Connolly declared that a Bangor District Court decision to throw out the charge against LaMarche meant he and his client 'were victorious today,' and that his client's reputation had been 'brutalized,' by the arrest."

To read the whole article, go to:\Politics\archive\200011\


Al Gore got his message out on Friday even if George Bush did not. ABC, CBS and NBC all showed Gore mocking Bush for saying Social Security is not a "federal program," but did not find time Friday night for a syllable about how Ross Perot had surprisingly endorsed Bush.

CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather gave the heaviest emphasis to a Gore attack line also recounted Friday night on ABC and NBC. After the Bill Whitaker story on Bush's reaction to the drunk driving disclosure, Rather intoned:
"The Gore position is to say nothing about this and to stay on message in the battleground states, most especially in Florida. This includes raising questions about whether Governor Bush is qualified to be President and using Bush's own comments in the last 24 hours about Social Security to do that."

John Roberts proceeded to show a soundbite of Gore mocking Bush for the rhetorical flub of saying Social Security is not a "federal program" and Roberts ran a brief clip of a matching new Gore ad.

But the endorsement of Bush by Ross Perot on Thursday night's Larry King Live on CNN, accompanied by some very tough criticism of Gore, did not get a word on the November 3 ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts. Friday morning, it earned some passing mention on the mornings shows sans any video clips.

On ABC's Good Morning America for instance, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Diane Sawyer asked George Stephanopoulos at the end of a discussion about Bush's drunk driving: "One quick footnote, last night Ross Perot endorsed...Governor Bush. Does this matter at this point?"
Stephanopoulos replied: "I'm not sure that it matters. First of all, the endorsement is going to get blacked out by this other news. Secondly, there isn't a big Perot faction left in the country anymore, and a lot of his voters are already going to Ralph Nader. But I am really surprised at this. The animosity between Ross Perot and the Bush family is very well known, but you know, maybe he just decided it's time to heal the breach."

It certainly was blacked out.


Friday night ABC did indeed provide Barbra Streisand with a forum to defend Bill Clinton and denounce George W. Bush, just as New York Post columnist Neal Travis presaged in reporting that before agreeing to the interview, "Streisand insisted that she would be given room to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary and the Democratic platform."

Well, 20/20 didn't run any praise of Hillary, but Streisand told Barbara Walters she "definitely" would have stood by Bill Clinton, if she was his wife during the Lewinsky mess, since "he's a wonderful President." ABC also let her proclaim: "The first three reasons to vote for Al Gore are the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court."

In the middle of interview pegged to Streisand's decision to cease public performances, Walters observed: "The other great passion in her life is politics. For years, Streisand has been a fundraising powerhouse for the Democratic Party. When she sings, the big cats show up and shell out. Her voice has raised millions to elect candidates who share her liberal views on the environment, civil rights, and women's issues."

Walters reviewed how she talks policy with Bill Clinton, before she asked her: "How did you feel about the Monica Lewinsky situation?"
Streisand: "This is not good."
Walters voice over: "Clearly this subject makes Streisand uncomfortable, but a moment later she decided to answer."
Walters to Streisand: "What was your feeling about that?"
Streisand: "Overrated. I mean ridiculous. A President should be judged by his actions as a President not how he runs his personal life. I mean if you were to discuss Eleanor Roosevelt's sexuality or President Roosevelt's affair with his wife's secretary, that she lived in the White House. These things should be left alone."
Walters to Streisand: "This is kind of a delicate question, but because you've talked about marriage and trust as well as love, could you have stood by the President as Hillary Clinton did, if he were your husband?"
Streisand avowed: "Most definitely. He's a wonderful President."
Walters jumped to the current campaign: "Streisand says she doesn't know Al Gore very well, but far more than George W. Bush, Gore represents her political and personal agenda, as she made clear at this recent Hollywood fundraiser that brought in $5 million for the Gore campaign."
Streisand on stage: "The first three reasons to vote for Al Gore are the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court. Our whole way of life is at stake when you consider that the next President will make three or even four appointments during his term."
Walters warned: "Streisand is concerned that if elected, a Bush administration will appoint conservative judges who will try to take away a woman's right to choose in the case of abortion."

Mark the decision to run this, just four days before the election, as Disney's "in-kind" contribution to the Gore campaign. -- Brent Baker

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