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CyberAlert -- 11/24/2000 -- Pro-Gore Court Decision Hailed

Pro-Gore Court Decision Hailed; Standing O for Harris Distorted; Katherine "Cruella de Vil" Harris; Peggy Noonan for President?

1) ABC's Terry Moran promised being made up of Democrats had nothing to do with the Florida Supreme Court ruling. A Boston Globe reporter rejoiced at how the court promoted "the simple revolutionary thought that created the country two centuries ago," that "the merest individual voice matters."

2) On MSNBC, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter celebrated the ruling for hand counts as he denounced Republicans for how "they thought they could snow us" with machines counts, but "it didn't work."

3) Media Reality Check. "ABC's Diane Sawyer Can't Spot Non-Votes, But Praises Those Who Can: Florida Dimple-Spotters Are Doing 'Phenomenal Work.'"

4) Al Gore "scored on the PR front" by suggesting he and Bush meet, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asserted on Wednesday's Today. But when Chris Matthews advised Bush not to meet "because it would be like a Mob meeting" since "there will be a trap," Alter fired back: "The Vice President is not a terrorist!"

5) Katherine Harris earned a standing ovation from members of both parties at a swearing-in ceremony for legislators. NBC Nightly News ignored it, the CBS Evening News reported only "state Republicans" applauded her while ABC's Peter Jennings recognized she "got a standing ovation...from members of both parties," but he dismissed it as "having to do with state pride."

6) Time's Margaret Carlson insulted Katherine Harris, contending she's "often compared to Cruella de Vil, snatching ballots rather than puppies." The Washington Post Ombudsman this week denounced a reporter for issuing a personal attack on Harris for not using "restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand."

7) The latest edition of MediaNomics: "Economic Freedom is Overlooked Concept at Broadcast Networks" and "Kudos to U.S. News & World Report" for reporting how the "Clinton administration had pushed through new workplace rules that could cost employers up to $126 billion a year."

8) Off the reservation at ABC. During Monday Night Football, Dennis Miller recommended Peggy Noonan for President. Al Michaels conceded her writing gives him "goose bumps."


1

The Florida Supreme Court ruling announced Tuesday night in which the justices, appointed by Democratic Governors, decided to ignore the state statues and create their own new vote counting deadline of Sunday night, earned approval in some media quarters.

-- ABC News. During an ABC News special report about the ruling just before 10pm ET Tuesday night, November 21, ABC's Gore beat reporter Terry Moran assured viewers:
"Before people say, 'oh, the Democratic Supreme Court of Florida awarded victory to the Democratic candidate,' they should go back into the law books and see that Florida, like most states, has a long history of saying the most important value in an election is to count the votes that were legitimately cast."

-- Boston Globe. In a November 22 front page "news analysis," Boston Globe Washington Bureau Chief David Shribman, a veteran of the Wall Street Journal reporting staff, celebrated the court's activist decision. "Every voice matters, the justices remind us," declared the headline over the piece in which he rejoiced at how the court decided the voters must be primary and "if that means counting every last ballot card, that is both the burden and the glory of democratic rule." Here's an excerpt of what Shribman contended:

For drama and decisiveness, the moment had few equals.

Late at night, with Thanksgiving nearing and with the political impasse moving into its third week, the Florida Supreme Court stepped into the election struggle, throwing the battle for the presidency into upheaval with the simple revolutionary thought that created the country two centuries ago and could eventually bring the 2000 campaign to an end: The merest individual voice matters.

Huge political armies continue to clash in the capital and in Florida, but the decision of the state's highest court seeks to assure that the relatively few anonymous voters whose views were missed by machine count -- but whose intent may be discerned by the human eye -- will be considered in the final count. In the hands of those anonymous few rest the destinies of Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore....

The theory behind the court's action was clear, and was anything but the sterile product of an isolated court. Ruling in the most fevered political atmosphere of the age, with control of the White House in the balance, the court gave every indication of having followed this dispute and all of its curious, even maddening, turns.

In that context, it said that a political campaign so close that the margins were microscopic must ultimately be decided the way even the most lopsided elections are decided, by the voters. And, the court ruled, if that means counting every last ballot card, that is both the burden and the glory of democratic rule.

The court established that, as great as the institutions of government are, the individual is greater still, and his or her voice must be heard -- and counted.

And so the counting will go on, through the holiday weekend. No presidential election in modern times has lasted so long, or prompted so many legal battles, or rewarded and then punished the participants with such swiftness. But, then again, no election has so unambiguously affirmed the founding principles of the nation, especially the primacy, the prerogatives and, ultimately, the power of the individual.

END Excerpt

To read Shribman's entire "news analysis," go to:
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/327/nation/Every_voice_matters_the_justices_
remind_us+.shtml

2

During the 1am ET hour on MSNBC the night of the Florida Supreme Court ruling, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter used the decision as an opportunity to denounce Republicans for trying to "snow us" in how they argued machine counts are more accurate.

In my absence from the MRC on Wednesday, Rich Noyes rewound a tape a few hours to track down the early morning blast:
"The real Republican problem has been their legal strategy. They started out with a losing strategy, a political and legal strategy that stressed the machine count. They actually thought that they were going to get all of us to believe that machine counts all around the United States were the last authority, when on the books in states all over the country they have these hand counts. And they thought they could snow us with these machines, and it didn't work."

3

ABC's Diane Sawyer used a flashlight Wednesday morning to try to see a "dimpled chad," but when she couldn't, instead of saying her failure demonstrated how inaccurate such counting must be, she praised Florida hand counters for their "phenomenal work." Her reaction fueled a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check "Quick Take" from the Media Research Center, produced by Rich Noyes and Tim Graham.

To read it online with an accompanying RealPlayer video clip posted by MRC Webmaster Andy Szul, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2000/20001122.asp

To see the Media Reality Check in the format in which it was distributed by fax, access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2000/pdf/qt1122.pdf

Here's the text of the November 22 report:

ABC'S DIANE SAWYER CAN'T SPOT NON-VOTES, BUT PRAISES THOSE WHO CAN FLORIDA DIMPLE-SPOTTERS ARE DOING "PHENOMENAL WORK"

Racing through the numerical options for a Gore victory this morning, ABC's Political Analyst George Stephanopoulos announced on Wednesday's Good Morning America that his Democratic sources estimate that if a "looser standard" of counting votes is allowed in Florida, Al Gore would finally achieve a lead of a couple of hundred votes.

How loose is loose? The Democrats want "dimpled" ballots, or punch cards that have been neither punched nor perforated but which have a barely-detectable dent near what would be the right hole, added to Gore's count so that he, not Bush, would be President.

After Stephanopoulos's arithmetic display, viewers saw co-host Diane Sawyer hold up a punch card ballot that she said was dimpled. "I'm holding this because I've been obsessed with what it is to see an actual ballot with a dimple in it and it is a very subtle thing," Sawyer said. "And we, I don't think, I've been putting flashlights through it," at which point she aimed a flashlight beam through the paper, revealing no obvious holes or marks. "I'm telling you the people doing this work are really doing phenomenal work to see all of this and to take care over all of these," she added.

Her co-host, Charles Gibson, remarked that "It's just a slight indentation in that in that uh, in that card." Sawyer hastened to add that "If you didn't see it [the dimple] at home that's because it's really hard for you to see."

Gibson agreed: "And they're not hitting it with a pen so that you see an ink point, they're hitting it with a stylus so you just have to look for an indentation."

Sawyer: "That's right."

Moments later, when Gibson interviewed Gore chief William Daley, he failed to challenge him to defend the Gore camp's insistence that such unreliable marks be counted as votes. Instead, he tossed a softball about last night's ruling from the Florida Supreme Court: "Did you expect this much of a victory from the court?"

END Reprint of Media Reality Check "Quick Take"

4

Al Gore "scored on the PR front" by suggesting he and Bush meet, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asserted on Wednesday's Today, as he argued "it's important for them to appear together publicly to reassure the country and the world that we have a stable democracy." But in the same segment, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Chris Matthews advised: "If I were Bush I'd never meet with him because it would be like a Mob meeting. It's like who's gonna handle security and what's gonna be the trap? There will be a trap." An appalled Alter fired back in Gore's defense: "The Vice President is not a terrorist!"

In the November 22 segment with Katie Couric, Alter asserted: "I also think that Gore scored on the PR front by suggesting again that the two men meet. You got financial markets that are getting jittery. The American public is getting concerned about this."
Couric: "But you yourself say nothing very good would come from that meeting but Gore looks good suggesting it."
Alter: "The meeting itself is not important. They would just, it would be very frosty between the two of them. But it's important for them to appear together publicly to reassure the country and the world that we have a stable democracy. And just say look we disagree about this. We disagree about the law but we agree that we have a democracy that still works. That would-"
Couric: "Okay. Do you think we're gonna see a Gore-Bush public appearance?"
Matthews: "I'd never meet. If I were Bush I'd never meet with him because it would be like a Mob meeting. It's like who's gonna handle security and what's gonna be the trap? There will be a trap."
Alter: "The Vice President is not a terrorist!"
Matthews: "Gore's people will put out the word that they're gonna agree on something about no further litigation and then all of a sudden Gore, Bush has to come out and face the cameras and say, 'Didya make the deal? Didya make the deal?' Because they'd leak what they are going to put out at the meeting. I wouldn't trust the other guy in politics, ever."
Couric: "Alright that's got to be the last word. Alright, trust no one in politics! The last word from Chris Matthews."

More like the Bush campaign should trust no one in the media.

5

Even in a moment of triumph, Katherine Harris couldn't get a break from ABC, CBS or NBC. During a special joint session of the Florida House and Senate Tuesday to swear in new members, she received a standing ovation from nearly all in the chamber.

But Tuesday night, the MRC's Tim Graham and Brian Boyd determined for me, the NBC Nightly News didn't show the event while on the November 21 CBS Evening News Byron Pitts asserted that only "state Republicans" gave her "a hero's welcome." ABC's Peter Jennings acknowledged she "got a standing ovation in the legislature today from members of both parties," but he dismissed any affirmation of her work, attributing it to "perhaps having to do with state pride."

-- CBS Evening News. Over video of the standing ovation, Byron Pitts reported: "Today the only public judgment came from state Republicans as they gave Secretary of State Harris a hero's welcome, she's the one player most often vilified by Democrats."

-- ABC's World News Tonight allowed viewers to hear the applause as anchor Peter Jennings explained: "Just one other note from Tallahassee. Perhaps having to do with state pride, the Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, got a standing ovation in the legislature today from members of both parties. She was there for the swearing-in of new legislators."

6

A new harangue about Katherine Harris and a previous one denounced. In this week's Time magazine, the MRC's Tim Graham observed, Margaret Carlson argued that Harris "mixed the pious certitude of Linda Tripp with the hauteur of a Dynasty protagonist." Carlson added this insult: "Harris, often compared to Cruella de Vil, snatching ballots rather than puppies, was briefly the most powerful woman on the planet."

The Washington Post Ombudsman this week denounced a reporter for issuing a personal attack on Harris. Fashion reporter Robin Givhan had denigrated Harris: "One wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship."

-- Margaret Carlson in the November 27 Time. On a page which included Harris's head, with deranged red cartoon eyes, posted on the cartoon of Cruella DeVil, Carlson opined:
"The only person who looks like a character from one of the more usual cable dramas is Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Bush campaign co-chairwoman who mixed the pious certitude of Linda Tripp with the hauteur of a Dynasty protagonist. She once performed in a Sarasota nightclub, getting audience members to join her in flapping their arms to music in a peculiar art form called chicken dancing. Until the Florida Supreme Court enjoined her from certifying the vote, Harris, often compared to Cruella de Vil, snatching ballots rather than puppies, was briefly the most powerful woman on the planet.
"To grasp the enormity of what Harris was up to, imagine James Carville as a political appointee of Governor Roger Clinton's, deciding to shut down a legal recount of an election with a 300-vote margin and award the victory to Roger's brother Bill."

As Tim Graham pointed out, Harris is not a "political appointee," but a public servant elected through the "will of the people."

After detailing Republican jokes about hand counting, Carlson rebutted:
"What's fraudulent is the very notion that one side's political operative could singlehandedly decide a disputed election. If this were a horror movie, the audience would be mentally shouting 'Stop this woman! Call the authorities!'"

To read Carlson's complete diatribe, go to:
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,88796,00.html

-- Washington Post. In his inaugural column, new Post Ombudsman Michael Getler on Wednesday criticized the personal nature of an attack on Harris by a Post reporter. An excerpt of his November 22 column, titled "Mascara Smear."

"At this moment that so desperately needs diplomacy, understatement and calm, one wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship."

That sentence appeared on the front page of the Style section last Saturday in an article by Post fashion reporter Robin Givhan about Florida's secretary of state, Katherine Harris.

I would paraphrase that sentence: "At this moment that so desperately needs diplomacy, understatement and calm, one wonders" how The Post could publish such a slashing attack on the personal appearance of a woman who has been an important figure in the electoral stalemate.

In case you missed it, here are excerpts from what Ms. Givhan told us about Ms. Harris: "Her skin had been plastered and powdered to the texture of pre-war walls....[S]he looked as if she were wearing a mask....The American public doesn't like falsehoods, and Harris is clearly presenting herself in a fake manner....Why should anyone trust her?"

Ms. Givhan's treatment of Ms. Harris, in the view many Post readers -- including the ombudsman -- was a classic example of the arrogance of journalists that undermines people's confidence in the media.

During this extraordinary period, The Post has been bombarded by e-mails and phone calls about alleged bias. Mostly, callers express partisan opinions without citing specific stories. But the Harris article produced a different and, in my view, more serious, specific and useful reaction for the paper to ponder.

Mocking someone's appearance is not something that newspapers should do....

Eugene Robinson, Style editor, says he had no idea the story would provoke the reaction it did. "Part of what a Style section ought to do is kick up a bunch of dust from time to time. But just because there is a big reaction to this story doesn't mean that we wanted this....Maybe we were a little deaf to the tone in this case," he says....

The stakes for The Post on a story such as this are high. Its reporting and analysis of the presidential standoff have lived up to the paper's well-earned reputation for top-notch coverage. Yet that reputation can get tarnished by such a high-readability story that can add fuel to those who believe, or suspect, that the paper is inherently biased.

END Excerpt

To read Getler's entire piece, including a defense from Givhan, go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49904-2000Nov21.html

7

The November 21 edition of MediaNomics by Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project:

-- Economic Freedom Is Overlooked Concept At Broadcast Networks
Economic freedom is closely correlated with both the wealth of a nation and the ability of its people to enjoy satisfying livelihoods. But none of the three broadcast networks reported the findings of this year's country-by-country survey of economic freedom, released jointly by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal on November 1. More troubling, the concept of economic freedom has been virtually excluded from the networks' news agendas this year, even as their heavy coverage of the presidential campaign spotlighted tax and regulatory proposals which would affect Americans' economic freedom....

To read the whole article, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/medianomics/2000/mn20001121.asp

-- Kudos...to U.S. News & World Report
None of the broadcast networks took time from their ongoing coverage of the Florida re-count to tell viewers that the lame duck Clinton administration had pushed through new workplace rules that could cost employers up to $126 billion a year. Yet despite all of the political news, the November 27 edition of U.S. News & World Report successfully included a report by Kim Clark explaining why the business community has objected so strenuously to the new rules....

To read the rest of the article, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/medianomics/2000/kd20001121.asp

8

Two ABC on-air personnel agreed Peggy Noonan would make the best President, with one admitting she gives him "goose bumps." Naturally, they aren't with the news division but with ABC Sports.

MRC entertainment analyst Tom Johnson alerted CyberAlert to the comments made during ABC's Monday Night Football game this week. Returning from an ad break during the 4th quarter, the ABC camera focused on a poster urging people to vote which featured a picture ABC football commentator Dennis Miller and proclaimed: "Dennis, You Decide." Miller commented: "Well, if it's up to me I'd pick Peggy Noonan."
Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels responded: "That gave me goose bumps."
Miller asked: "You like Peggy's writing, huh?"
Michaels gushed about her columns in the Wall Street Journal, though he dropped the word Journal: "I read the Wall Street editorial page, I get goose bumps."

Too bad Al Michaels isn't in contention to anchor World News Tonight. Reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page is probably a practice few at ABC News follow. -- Brent Baker


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