Gore Aide: "We've Won the Election"; Florida "Irregularities"; Impact of Bad Exit Polls Ignored; Scrap Electoral College -- Extra Edition
1) The presidential election consumed all but a few seconds of the ABC and CBS evening shows and nearly all of NBC's. Tom Brokaw stressed up front "the confusing lineup of candidates" on one county's ballot.
3) The networks furthered the Democratic camp's effort to undermine the legitimacy of the Florida vote. Peter Jennings asked about "voter fraud." All three highlighted one county's "confusing" ballot, but didn't point out how 268,000 still voted for Gore. A CBS story stressed how some "voting offices resembling crime scenes" while NBC found it suspicious that the libertarian "got 309 votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians."
5) ABC, CBS and NBC looked at their bad Florida calls, but none considered the impact on West coast voting. NBC's Andrea Mitchell asserted: "Many people say that the real issue isn't why projections...are sometimes wrong, but the archaic vote counting system that often leads to mistakes and even fraud."
6) Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw concluded their newscasts with some deep thoughts about the meaning of the still undecided election. Rather: "In a democracy voting is not only a right but a responsibility, one too many Americans elect to ignore."
7) Al Gore hasn't conceded so the heavens aren't crying yet for Bryant Gumbel who pressed Bill Daley about the integrity of a re-count in a state headed by George Bush's brother and he raised suggestions about "scrapping" the Electoral College.
9) The illegitimacy of Electoral College became the topic of the early morning hours on NBC on Wednesday as soon as the anchor team realized Gore would win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College. Tom Brokaw: "After this election my guess is that it's gonna be yanked out of there."
So much coverage of what Dan Rather dubbed "the biggest election story of our lifetimes," it's hard to know where to begin, but to provide a flavor of the broadcast network spin and priorities, below is how ABC, CBS and NBC led their evening newscasts Wednesday night. ABC and CBS dedicated their entire programs, with the exception of a few seconds on the make-up of the new House and Senate, to the presidential election. NBC offered a full story on the new Senate and Hillary's election as well as one non-presidential election story on how Yemen is holding suspects in the USS Cole bombing.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened: "It is not over until it is over. The presidential election is still too close to call and we may not know who the 43rd President is for the next ten days at least. Today we are, as deep as ever, in the realm of party politics and a possible legal challenge from the Democrats to the election process."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced the cold open: "This is the CBS Evening News. Straight to the biggest election story of our lifetimes. Dan Rather reporting from CBS News election headquarters in New York, good evening. The presidency of the United States is just beyond the reach of two men tonight after an election unique in American history. It's among the closest ever. 24 hours after the polls closed we still don't know who won..."
He soon added: "One more wrinkle in this story: Gore leads Bush in the nationwide popular vote by more than 100,000 ballots."
-- NBC Nightly News. Up front Tom Brokaw highlighted the supposed controversy over the design of a ballot: "Good evening. Yes, we're still here, and it's still too close to call. A determined Vice President Al Gore continues to hold a lead in both the national popular vote and in the electoral college, but Texas Governor George W. Bush remains confident he'll win the state of Florida after a re-count, and that will put him over the top in the electoral college, making him the President-elect. Here are the numbers. First, the national popular vote with Al Gore holding a steady lead over Governor Bush. In the electoral map, Governor Bush with victories in 29 states for a total of 246 electoral votes, Vice President Gore 19 states and the District of Columbia, for a 260 electoral votes, but the big prize still to be claimed, Florida, 25 electoral votes. This is a Florida ballot that is being re-counted tonight, and the confusing lineup of candidates may have led to still more problems in that state."
NBC's Claire Shipman attached some credibility to the Gore team's spin putting the popular vote ahead of the Constitution. She concluded her report from Nashville for the NBC Nightly News by relating how Gore aides "say that his win of the popular vote gives him the authority to proceed right now. And, Tom, they also say that popular vote win is giving him some personal comfort in the face of a loss. As one aide said, 'we've won the election. Whether we get inaugurated is another deal.'"
The networks, especially CBS and NBC, Wednesday night ran with complaints about voting "irregularities," the Democratic camp's first step in trying to undermine the legitimacy of the Florida vote. ABC's Peter Jennings bizarrely characterized a supposedly confusing ballot design as an example of "voter fraud." All three networks highlighted that county ballot in which about 3,700 voted for Pat Buchanan, but failed to explicitly point out how 268,000 voters in that county managed to figure how to vote for Gore.
A CBS Evening News story found some "voting offices resembling crime scenes" and the how supposed problems are growing on "a list that's adding up as fast as the votes are being re-counted," but all reporter Bobbi Harley offered were anecdotal complaints about snafues that could be made about every election every year everywhere. "Libertarian Harry Browne got 309 votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians," NBC's Kerry Sanders asserted in listing a problem, as if only official members of a party ever vote for that party's candidate.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Erin Hayes reviewed the re-count procedure and made a brief reference to the Palm Beach County ballot: "Trouble is brewing here already. Three Palm Beach County residents have hired lawyers to help them seek a look election in that county."
Picking up on that case of voters possibly punching the wrong hole between Gore and Buchanan in a two column listing, the only voting problem cited by ABC, so it must have been to what Peter Jennings was referring when he asked Dean Reynolds with the Bush campaign: "And what about these allegations of voter fraud?"
-- CBS Evening News. Byron Pitts in Florida
highlighted how "Democrats have already made allegation of criminal
Next, reporter Bobbi Harley compiled a list of
complaints about "irregularities." She began:
Then, over video of a few people on the side of a
road holding up Gore-Lieberman signs and one imploring "Honk for
Gore," Harley announced: "In West Palm Beach, voters were
protesting what they say was a confusing ballot, and they want to vote
again." Over a shot of the ballot, Harley made their case: "Al
Gore's name appeared on the left, Pat Buchanan's slightly above on the
right. Some say when they went to select Gore they mistakenly bunched
Harley moved on to an anecdotal complaint that would
have had equal impact on both sides: "In Broward County, dozens of
voters claim they were turned away when their names didn't turn up on
the voter rolls despite valid registration cards."
My calculation: Number of Palm Beach County Buchanan votes (3,407) minus number of people who genuinely meant to vote for Buchanan = number of stupid liberals in the county. Not casting aspersions here on most liberals since 268,000 in the county figured out how to follow an arrow.
-- NBC Nightly News dedicated a whole story too the supposed problems, but Kerry Sanders delivered some pretty weak examples based on speculation. He started his piece from Florida, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well Tom, tonight NBC News has learned the Gore campaign has contacted Florida's most powerful law firm to explore the possibility of a challenge to the Florida vote, a vote so close that under Florida law it must be re-counted."
He elaborated: "Tonight, high security and
intense scrutiny as each of Florida's 67 counties begins a mandatory
vote re-count, six million voters. This while voting irregularities are
alleged in some counties around the state. Florida's Republican Governor
Jeb Bush with Florida's Democratic Attorney General, reassuring the
nation that the re-count will be honest."
Sanders went first to the most complained about
case: "In Palm Beach County, on Florida's east coast, Democrats
charge a confusing ballot layout led voters to think they were punching
the ballot for Al Gore when they were actually voting for Reform Party
candidate Pat Buchanan. Mark Andrews among those who now thinks he voted
for Buchanan when he meant to vote for Gore."
After a soundbite from her, Sanders continued: "Local Democratic officials say they will challenge the entire county's results. And in Osceola County in Central Florida, Democratic Party officials charge the vote totals are invalid and illegal. They accuse the elections department of using faulty voting booths. Allegedly ballots did not fit properly into the slots. They say that misalignment shifted votes away from Al Gore. Their evidence: Libertarian Harry Browne got 309 votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians."
Now that's weak. Did Nader's vote not exceed the membership level in the Green Party?
Sanders then passed along mere speculation and rumor-mongering: "In Volusia County in central Florida, even more confusion. A poll worker shows up to the elections office this afternoon with a bag of ballots. Why are they showing up now? The supervisor of elections says it was a mistake but that the ballots were counted last night. Now an election official in Volusia County tells NBC News there were some irregularities in the vote count in that county, but state officials say the system worked and that people should be warned not to over-read anything into this until the entire vote for the state is re-counted, and then they can make their judgments."
The networks have already "over-read" much into scattered election complaints which are common in every election everywhere.
One event, three different recitations. ABC, CBS and NBC reporters Wednesday night each recounted the second phone call of the early morning between Al Gore and George Bush, the one in which Gore told Bush he had changed his mind and would not concede, but each network's version was slightly different.
-- Jackie Judd on ABC's World News Tonight: "Gore calls Bush for a second time. Bush is incredulous, disbelieving. He tells Gore, 'do what you have to do.' Gore at some point tells Bush he doesn't have to be 'snippy.' A contentious call ends."
-- Bill Whitaker on the CBS Evening News: "Now that second conversation apparently was heated. At one point Governor Bush said, 'Let me make sure I understand, you're calling me back to retract your concession?' Vice President Gore responded, 'Let me explain something. Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this.' The conversation apparently ended abruptly."
-- David Gregory on the NBC Nightly News: "The
Vice President calls George Bush again, this time to recant his
concession. 'The circumstances have changed...I need withdraw my
concession until the situation is clear,' Gore says in what quickly
becomes a tense call. Bush is said to be indignant."
The broadcast networks all acknowledged big mistakes during election night coverage in calling Florida for Gore, recanting that, then at 2:18am ET declaring Bush the President-elect, only to retract that also about 60 minutes later. But none considered the impact on West coast voting of their call (at 4:50pm PT, 5:50pm MT), that Gore had won Florida.
Peter Jennings, in fact, insisted on
Wednesday's World News Tonight: "We cannot get to the end of
this broadcast without looking at what role we in the media played
last night, though we are not certain what affect, if any, our
mistaken projections in Florida had."
Dan Rather offered song lyrics instead of any examination of the impact: "There's an old song that might have been written about this unprecedented and still undecided election: 'First you say you do and then you don't, they you say you will and then you won't.' Understandably, many American felt just that way overnight as the news media, including CBS News with the most accurate record in the business, made calls in an election we now know was too close to call."
Kathy Frankovic, Director of CBS News polling offered her vague explanation of the problem: "There were some exit polling data that might not have been as good as they could have been. There may have been some precinct data that wasn't been as good as it should have been. And then later on we got some tabulated vote that was a simply human error data entry problem."
She promised that "you learn from your mistakes." Rather gratuitously added: "In fairness to Dr. Kathy Frankovic and her highly professional CBS News survey team, we'd like to point out that her final CBS News poll before yesterday's election, came closer to the actual popular vote than any other national survey."
NBC's Andrea Mitchell, in a Nightly News look
back at what happened, blamed an "incredibly close race and some
bad numbers." Mitchell
recalled other bad calls in presidential elections past, then
concluded by snidely transferring blame from the networks to the
"fraud" in the American election system:
Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw concluded their Wednesday newscasts with some deep thoughts.
Rather: "So, in a country in which the government derives its power from the consent of the governed, we are reminded the great power the people of this country hold in their hands and exercise through their votes. Even a single vote can make a huge difference. In a democracy voting is not only a right, but a responsibility, one too many Americans elect to ignore."
Brokaw admired respect for the rule of law: "It was a bitterly contested election, but it will not be resolved by troops and tanks, by mass protests and boycotts, but instead by the Constitution and reasonable people working out their differences by a commonly accepted set of rules. That remains the most enduring and reassuring part of a remarkable evening, one for the ages."
Al Gore hasn't conceded so the heavens aren't crying yet for Bryant Gumbel who pressed Bill Daley about the integrity of a re-count in a state where George Bush's brother is Governor and raised suggestions about "scrapping" the Electoral College.
Gumbel set up a Wednesday CBS The Early Show
interview: "As one of the Democratic Party's most stalwart
figures the Reverend Jesse Jackson has stayed on the campaign trail
well into the 11th hour, pushing hard for the Vice President
particularly in keystone state of Pennsylvania. He's in Nashville
right now. Reverend Jackson, good morning."
MRC analyst Brian Boyd also detected Gumbel's
agenda coming through in his interview with Gore campaign chairman
Bill Daley. Gumbel's questions:
"I think the fact that they can say they won that popular vote, I think they believe will have most of the public on their side," ABC's George Stephanopoulos suggested on Wednesday's Good Morning America. But MRC analyst Jessica Anderson also noticed that he conceded "we've had this system for 200 years. Everyone knows it's a state by state election."
Charles Gibson raised a point made in an earlier
interview: "I was very interested in talking to Mark Fabiani
about something he said a number of times: 'We won the popular vote.'
They're trying to establish something here."
But will liberals in the media?
The illegitimacy of the Electoral College became the topic of the early morning hours on NBC on Wednesday as soon as the anchor team realized Gore would win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens was still sober and awake enough to observe at about 4am ET.
In the time-filling conversations between about 3:30 and 4:45am ET, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter kept getting slapped down by Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, but while Russet maintained a defense of the system, Brokaw eventually predicted: "What I am quite confident of, this is the last we'll hear of the Electoral College. After this election my guess is that it's gonna be yanked out of there. Nobody wants to go through this again....I think the country is gonna get sufficiently aroused by this."
The conversation started with Alter, as quoted in the November 8 CyberAlert Special, contending Gore "will be elected President" because if Gore won the popular vote "the political pressure would mount very quickly to, to certify Al Gore as, as the winner. Especially since you have a potential conflict of interest here with the Governor of the state that is handling the re-count being the brother of Governor Bush."
Russert countered: "I mean everyone has
said straight out, 'whoever wins 270 votes in the Electoral College
is the next President of the United States."
Alter was remarkably in tune with Democratic
thinking. Brokaw proposed: "So Jonathan let me just take you
through this. If you think at the end of the recall that, that
Governor George W. Bush is ahead by 1500 votes."
ruminated about Gore piling up votes in California: "Let's say
he opens up a 400,000 vote lead with that last five percent. Does that
increase the political pressure then for Governor Bush?"
Aroused with a little media encouragement.
celebrities are thrilled by Hillary's victory. Wednesday's Access
Hollywood caught actress Uma Thurman walking into the Talk
magazine/Miramax election party in New York City. She gushed:
Another CyberAlert this afternoon with how David Letterman's audience booed Hillary's victory and his "Top Ten Things Overheard Last Night at the Florida Election Commission." -- Brent Baker
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