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Jennings Notes Public Trust in Democrats, Skips Trust in Bush --1/20/2004


1. Jennings Notes Public Trust in Democrats, Skips Trust in Bush
ABC's Peter Jennings on Monday night highlighted how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that "50 percent or more of Americans trust Democrats in Congress," over President Bush, "to deal with the economy, health insurance and the federal budget deficit." But Jennings failed to note the issues on which voters trust Bush over Democrats or subjects on which Bush has a positive approval rating.

2. CNN's Woodruff Frets About Bush Speech Overshadowing Democrats
CNN's Judy Woodruff on Monday afternoon expressed exasperation that President Bush scheduled his State of the Union address for the day after the Iowa Caucuses in order to distract news coverage away from the Democratic presidential candidates. She complained to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: "The rest of year and for the last three years the President has dominated the news. Don't the Democrats deserve a few days in the sunshine, if you will?" Not satisfied with Frist's answer, she followed up three times.

3. Morning Shows Feature Dem Candidates, Not So for GOP in 2000
On Monday's morning shows, Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt all had a chance to repeat their campaign talking points one last time before the Iowa caucuses, collectively receiving another 26 minutes of network airtime. Four years ago, Steve Forbes was the only Republican candidate to appear on the networks the morning of the Iowa caucuses, and on that occasion CBS's Bryant Gumbel badgered Forbes about how his conservative positions were a turn-off.

4. Pre-Caucus GOP Guests in 2000 Greeted with Ideological Hostility
Bias Flashback, first of three. On Monday morning, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Howard Dean and John Edwards all appeared on the ABC and NBC morning shows with John Kerry popping up on CBS, but were not presented with anything approaching the hostility to their political agenda as GOP guests and Steve Forbes got from Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Bryant Gumbel on the day of the 2000 Iowa Caucus.

5. In 2000, NBC Reporters Warned that Bush Moved Too Far Right
Bias Flashback, second of three. On Monday night the MRC staff did not see any instances of cable network reporters or analysts griping about how any Democratic candidate may have hurt himself by being too liberal, but four years ago, on the night of the 2000 Republican Caucus in Iowa, NBC's star reporters contended that to win George Bush moved right, which would hurt with the wider electorate. "Bush had to run with Jesus Christ," remarked Brian Williams. Consorting with religious types and conservatives, Tim Russert warned, "could hurt" Republicans "with a mainstream electorate in a general election." Russert also expressed concern about how Forbes pushed Bush into a big tax cut.

6. Few Liberal Labels, Four Years Ago CBS Issued 20 Right-Wing Tags
Bias Flashback, third of three. Liberal ideological labeling is rare on television news, and while an occasional story in Howard Dean's heyday noted how some are concerned he's too liberal to win a general election, there's been hardly any labeling during the Iowa Caucus coverage this year -- despite the presence of several liberal candidates -- and no labeling this campaign season approaches the onslaught of conservative tags that CBS News delivered over the weekend before the 2000 Iowa Caucuses. Back then, in just three nights, the CBS Evening News used the labels "conservative," "right" or "hard-right" an incredible 20 times, but did not once issue a liberal label.

7. Hunt, Novak, Kristol and Carville Correctly Predicted Kerry Win
Stars on the forehead for Al Hunt, Bob Novak, Bill Kristol and James Carville, who were in the minority of pundits who correctly predicted that John Kerry would triumph in Iowa.


Jennings Notes Public Trust in Democrats,
Skips Trust in Bush

ABC's Peter Jennings on Monday night highlighted how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that "50 percent or more of Americans trust Democrats in Congress," over President Bush, "to deal with the economy, health insurance and the federal budget deficit." But Jennings failed to note the issues on which voters trust Bush over Democrats or subjects on which Bush has a positive approval rating.

On the January 19 World News Tonight, following several stories on the about-to-commence Iowa caucuses, Jennings read this short item about a new poll:
"There is a new ABC News/Washington Post poll on President Bush who was, incidentally, rehearsing his State of the Union address today. It's tomorrow. The poll finds that 48 percent of voters would choose Mr. Bush if the presidential elections were held today. It also finds that 50 percent or more of Americans trust Democrats in Congress to deal with the economy, health insurance and the federal budget deficit."

The on-screen graphic showed Bush with 48 percent compared to 46 percent for a "Democratic nominee." Under "trust Democrats to do a better job handling," ABC listed the economy at 50 percent, health insurance at 52 percent and the deficit at the same 52 percent.

But the rundown on the ABC News Web site reveals that in three headings more trust Bush than Democrats: "Nation's Main Problems," by 45 to 44 percent, "War on Terrorism by 60 to 31 percent and "Situation in Iraq" by 56 to 36 percent. Plus, Bush's overall job approval is now at 58 percent with 40 percent disapproval. The public approves of Bush on education by 55 to 37 percent and on the economy by 51 to 47 percent.

ABC News polling expert Gary Langer noted in his ABCNews.com story that Bush's approval rating is "darn good." Langer recalled: "Looking back nearly a half century, only one previous President has had a higher approval rating in January of a re-election year -- Dwight Eisenhower in 1956."

But on the other hand, Langer cautioned: "What probably matters more than a President's overall approval rating is its trajectory. Jimmy Carter had the same approval rating in January 1980 as Bush has today -- but he was headed south, and lost re-election. Bush's direction is tricky to discern; he's down from a war-inflated high last spring, but up from recent lows this past fall as economic discontent eased somewhat."

For Langer's analysis and ABC's full rundown of the poll: abcnews.go.com

CNN's Woodruff Frets About Bush Speech
Overshadowing Democrats

CNN's Judy Woodruff CNN's Judy Woodruff on Monday afternoon expressed exasperation that President Bush scheduled his State of the Union address for the day after the Iowa Caucuses in order to distract news coverage away from the Democratic presidential candidates. She complained to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: "The rest of year and for the last three years the President has dominated the news. Don't the Democrats deserve a few days in the sunshine, if you will?" Not satisfied with Frist's answer, she followed up three times.

Woodruff pressed her agenda, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, during a January 19 Inside Politics segment with Frist who was in Iowa as part of a surrogate speaking effort to back Bush.

Frist told Woodruff, who was also in Iowa: "I'm here today to say that the nightmare is going to be over shortly, to my Republican base. Right now, President Bush with his vision, with his commander-in-chief aura, has been at a real disadvantage here because of all the Democratic activity. So today, I'm meeting with Republicans all over the state, to energize that base, to begin that organization for the next ten months. And that's the sole purpose that we're here today."
Woodruff countered: "But, the rest of year and for the last three years the President has dominated the news. Don't the Democrats deserve a few days in the sunshine, if you will?"
Frist replied: "You know, they do. But imagine right now of having to watch for the last several months, if you are a Republican, with those conservative principles, who admire President Bush, what you've had to suffer every day on the air. And that is, a Democrat saying that the President is not leading, or he's using the wrong principles to lead...."

After quizzing Frist about the challenge of not knowing who Bush's opponent will be, Woodruff returned to the timing of Bush's address: "A Republican close to the White House quoted in the New York Times this morning is saying the State of the Union was timed to come after the night of the Iowa caucuses to take attention off of the Democrats. I mean, you are the one who's involved in setting the time of the President's State of the Union. What about that? Why do that?"
Frist answered: "Well, I think it makes for sort of good talk and good conversation. The President's speech really isn't a political speech. It's political in the sense that he is commander-in-chief."
Undeterred, Woodruff demanded: "But I'm talking about the timing of it?"
Frist: "No, I know. But the timing really doesn't matter. We always do it sometime between a couple of days ago and say five or six days from now. The specific timing, if it were a political speech, I think would make sense. You can say that's the strategy itself. But this is not a political speech. It's a policy speech. In fact, I think the President will go to great effort not to throw politics into this speech at all."
Woodruff came at him once more: "But again, it's a sign the Republicans worried the Democrats getting too much air time, is that what we're talking about here?"

Morning Shows Feature Dem Candidates,
Not So for GOP in 2000

On Monday's morning shows, Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt all had a chance to repeat their campaign talking points one last time before the Iowa caucuses, collectively receiving another 26 minutes of network airtime. Four years ago, Steve Forbes was the only Republican candidate to appear on the networks the day of the Iowa caucuses, and on that occasion CBS's Bryant Gumbel badgered Forbes about how his conservative positions were a turn-off.

[The MRC's Rich Noyes submitted this item for CyberAlert]

Monday on Today, NBC's Campbell Brown and Matt Lauer took turns interviewing Gephardt, Edwards, Kerry and Dean via satellite. Good Morning America ran four minutes of Charles Gibson's interview with Dean from ABC's Vote 2000 bus in Iowa, followed by less than one-minute each of Gibson's and Claire Shipman's questioning of Kerry, Edwards and Gephardt. Harry Smith interviewed John Kerry, the only candidate to appear on CBS's The Early Show.

Two weeks ago, the MRC released a study reporting that the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows had given Democrats nearly twice as much airtime in the last six months of 2003 as they gave the GOP candidates in 1999. The study, by MRC Research Director Rich Noyes, also found that the questions posed by network interviewers in 2003 often reflected a pro-liberal, anti-Bush agenda, but four years ago, the GOP candidates were rarely indulged with pro-conservative, anti-Clinton questions.

For complete details of that study, go to: www.mrc.org

The four Democratic frontrunners faced few hostile questions yesterday, as all of the interviews focused on the tight campaign horse race. The most adversarial question of the morning came from NBC's Campbell Brown, who asked Dean about his refusal to unseal his records: "Let me ask you, you have accused President Bush of not being straight with the American people on the reasons for going to war in Iraq. At the same time, though, you still have refused to release sealed records from your time as Governor of Vermont. There's a lawsuit going on now. You're saying, 'I'll let the judge decide.' Why not just come out and release those records and put an end to the controversy?"

Four years ago, ABC hosted Democratic candidate Bill Bradley, who went on to lose the caucuses to Al Gore by a nearly two-to-one margin, while Forbes appeared on CBS. To learn how Bryant Gumbel lectured Forbes on how that his conservative positions meant he could not win, see item #4 below.

Pre-Caucus GOP Guests in 2000 Greeted
with Ideological Hostility

Bias Flashback, first of three. On Monday morning, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Howard Dean and John Edwards all appeared on the ABC and NBC morning shows with Kerry popping up on CBS, but were not presented with anything approaching the hostility to their political agenda as GOP guests and Steve Forbes got from Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Bryant Gumbel on the day of the 2000 Iowa Caucus.

This year, Couric was off and ABC staffers other than Sawyer handled the interviews, and they stuck to the horse race (see item #3 above). That contrasts with Monday, January 24, 2000, when NBC's Couric griped about how "Forbes has forced George W. Bush to...turn right...on taxes and abortion." When Forbes said that his policies have "broad-based" appeal, Bryant Gumbel scoffed on CBS: "Do you really expect to win moderate votes in this country?"

An excerpt from the January 25, 2000 CyberAlert:

....-- NBC's Today talked to The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol about the upcoming Iowa caucus. MRC intern Ken Shepherd observed that after questions about how the caucus system works, what a big Gore win would mean for Bradley and whether Bush should be concerned about complacency, Katie Couric hit him with this ideologically-loaded statement in the form of a question: "Forbes has forced George W. Bush to, to turn right if you will, on taxes and abortion. Is that going to, are those positions that he's had to take, in the face of a challenge by Forbes, will they be difficult to defend in a general election?"

-- Over on ABC's Good Morning America Diane Sawyer hit William Bennett with the same argument, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted. Previewing the caucus with Bennett and former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, Sawyer pressed Bennett: "Well Bill, what about George W. Bush -- you mentioned abortion -- having to go fairly far now in being explicit about his pro-life stance, when 66 percent of Republican soccer moms nationwide are pro-choice. Gonna get him in trouble later on?"

-- Bryant Gumbel sure doesn't find any appeal in the Steve Forbes platform. Interviewing the GOP candidate on The Early Show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed that Gumbel vehemently countered the idea that Forbes may have "broad-based" appeal.

Responding to Gumbel's doubts about his ability to win over the wider electorate, Forbes asserted that many of his positions have "broad-based" appeal. Gumbel shot back: "You say it's broad-based, but you oppose Roe v Wade, you oppose gays in the military, you oppose the teaching of evolution, you oppose the ban on school prayer, you oppose a waiting period on gun purchases. Do you really expect to win moderate votes in this country?"

Forbes replied that people want to keep more of what they earn, which is a position he offers. Gumbel quickly jumped in and talked over him, declaring: "But on a social agenda, you can't win without moderates."

END of Excerpt of previous CyberAlert

Gumbel is long gone from CBS's morning program, but on Monday morning this year Early Show co-host Harry Smith argued to Republican strategist Mary Matalin that Bush isn's as popular as you'd expect: "With the support he has for the war, with the support he has, because all the polls are very, pretty strong about that. Homeland security very strong. With the prescription drug bill, I mean everyday there's something else comes out of Washington. Shouldn't he be more popular than he is?"

In 2000, NBC Reporters Warned that Bush
Moved Too Far Right

Bias Flashback, second of three. On Monday night the MRC staff did not see any instances of cable network reporters or analysts griping about how any Democratic candidate may have hurt himself by being too liberal, but four years ago, on the night of the 2000 Republican Caucus in Iowa, NBC's star reporters contended that to win George Bush moved right, which would hurt with the wider electorate. "Bush had to run with Jesus Christ," remarked Brian Williams. Consorting with religious types and conservatives, Tim Russert warned, "could hurt" Republicans "with a mainstream electorate in a general election." Russert also expressed concern about how Forbes pushed Bush into a big tax cut.

Another excerpt from the Tuesday, January 25, 2000 CyberAlert:

.... -- Brian Williams to Tim Russert during MSNBC's 8pm EST special, an hour early edition of The News With Brian Williams: "Tim, in order to do as well as he [Bush] did tonight, and the following is meant with no disrespect and in capital letters, George Bush had to run with Jesus Christ. George Bush invoked Christ's name during a debate, labeled him as a philosopher in so doing. He posed in front of a mural of Jesus Christ and talked about the topic of abortion in order to appeal to the group, the demographic you were just talking about. Absent that tonight may not have been such pretty a result for him."
Russert: "I agree completely. The fact is George Bush held his own amongst conservative Christians. And I think it is important to note that George Bush is convincing in his belief in faith and it is part of his political leadership and he's not afraid to say that. Is it a political asset in the state of Iowa? Absolutely. We also asked our people coming out of the voting booth what was the big issue tonight. And this is really interesting to me. Far and away the most important issue were moral values. 35 percent, followed by taxes 23 percent. Social security, Medicare 10, abortion just 10 percent. Education just 4 percent."

-- At the top of MSNBC's 10pm EST "Decision 2000" special, host Tom Brokaw asked John McCain via satellite in New Hampshire: "Senator McCain, one of the things that happened here in Iowa as a result of the presence of Steve Forbes, who was well organized, well financed and Ambassador Keyes, who is very articulate on these issues, is that it did become a contest for the social conservative vote. It was driven slightly to the right from where it might have begun. Do you think that's going happen now in New Hampshire?"

-- Near the end of the 10pm EST hour, Tim Russert told Brokaw how Bush had been pushed to the right and out of the mainstream: "There is a local TV station in Manchester which calls part of its news building the Steve Forbes Wing because of the amount of money he spent in 1996 but Tom, I think his role is more important in looking at a general election. Right now George W. Bush had to put forward a tax cut plan of over a trillion dollars over a ten-year period. He had to agree with Steve Forbes on the language in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions. President Clinton seized on that yesterday, saying if George W. Bush is elected, you're gonna see Roe v Wade overturned. The Democrats in Congress seized on the Bush tax cut plan, saying it's Gingrich II and George W. Bush did not want to have to stake out those kind of strong conservative positions in a primary campaign that could hurt them with a mainstream electorate in a general election."...

-- NBC's Today talked to The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol about the upcoming Iowa caucus. MRC intern Ken Shepherd observed that after questions about how the caucus system works, what a big Gore win would mean for Bradley and whether Bush should be concerned about complacency, Katie Couric hit him with this ideologically-loaded statement in the form of a question: "Forbes has forced George W. Bush to, to turn right if you will, on taxes and abortion. Is that going to, are those positions that he's had to take, in the face of a challenge by Forbes, will they be difficult to defend in a general election?"

-- Over on ABC's Good Morning America Diane Sawyer hit William Bennett with the same argument, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted. Previewing the caucus with Bennett and former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, Sawyer pressed Bennett: "Well Bill, what about George W. Bush -- you mentioned abortion -- having to go fairly far now in being explicit about his pro-life stance, when 66 percent of Republican soccer moms nationwide are pro-choice. Gonna get him in trouble later on?"

END of Excerpt of previous CyberAlert

Few Liberal Labels, Four Years Ago CBS
Issued 20 Right-Wing Tags

Bias Flashback, third of three. Liberal ideological labeling is rare on television news, and while an occasional story in Howard Dean's heyday noted how some are concerned he's too liberal to win a general election, there's been hardly any labeling during the Iowa Caucus coverage this year and no labeling this campaign season approaches the onslaught of conservative tags that CBS News delivered over the weekend before the 2000 Iowa Caucuses.

Back then, in just three nights, the CBS Evening News used the labels "conservative," "right" or "hard-right" an incredible 20 times, but did not once issue a liberal label. CBS tagged not only Bush and other Republicans, but the Supreme Court.

An excerpt from the Monday, January 24, 2000 CyberAlert:

Number of times the CBS Evening News over three nights, from Friday January 21 through Sunday January 23, used the terms "liberal," "left" or "hard-left": Zero. Number of times the CBS Evening News, over the same three nights, employed the labels "conservative," "right" or "hard-right": 19 times. That's an average of 6.33 times a night. And that's just in stories on the Republican presidential contest so it doesn't even count Dan Rather's bizarre assertion that the Supreme Court's "new majority" may be showing a "shift to the right."

Amongst the 20 ideological tags assigned by CBS in a mere three newscasts: Dan Rather claimed "George W. Bush's talking the right talk, as in Republican hard-right." Rather also highlighted "Bush's sudden rush to the right." Reporter Bill Whitaker warned, "Political observers say Iowa is a treacherous road for candidates to veer to the right without losing the middle." Another night Whitaker asserted: "George W. Bush today ratcheted up the rhetoric on a tried and true right-wing issue: abortion."

Bush's comments about abortion fueled most of the CBS labels as the network portrayed conservatives as a ruinous force driving the campaign, but CBS's own Bob Schieffer reported that Bush had not changed his position. While Dan Rather exclaimed on Friday that "George W. Bush punched to the right with more anti-abortion talk," the next night Schieffer told viewers: "Bush says he will not use abortion as a litmus test in appointing federal judges. He hasn't backed down from that so I think he has not changed his position a bit on all of this."

CBS didn't find anything about the Gore or Bradley campaign worth labeling, and neither did ABC or NBC over the weekend. But ABC was at least consistent in not labeling either party's candidates. NBC's David Bloom couldn't refrain from applying two conservative tags on Republicans....

END of Excerpt of previous CyberAlert

For the full rundown of all the stories with ideological tags: www.mediaresearch.org

Hunt, Novak, Kristol and Carville Correctly
Predicted Kerry Win

Stars on the forehead for Al Hunt, Bob Novak, Bill Kristol and James Carville, who were in the minority of pundits who correctly predicted that John Kerry would triumph in Iowa. As noted in the January 19 CyberAlert, from predictions made on CNN's Capital Gang, Fox News Sunday and FNC's 9pm EST special Sunday night previewing the caucus, I came up with a scorecard to match up against Monday night's reality.

-- Predicting Dean would prevail. On the McLaughlin Group, Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Mort Zuckerman and Clarence Page. (Actually, the question was which two Democrats will emerge after Iowa and New Hampshire. Buchanan, Clift, Zuckerman and Page said "Dean and Clark." John McLaughlin predicted "Dean and Kerry," so he should get some credit.)

On the Capital Gang: Kate O'Beirne and Mark Shields.

On Fox News Sunday: Brit Hume, Mara Liasson and Juan Williams. (Later, on FNC's 9pm EST special, Liasson hedged her bets: "Dean or Kerry.")

On FNC's Sunday night Iowa caucus preview special: Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke.

-- Predicting Kerry would win:

On the Capital Gang: Al Hunt and Bob Novak.

On Fox News Sunday: Bill Kristol.

On Monday's Crossfire on CNN, the MRC's Ken Shepherd observed, James Carville forecast a Kerry victory while Bob Novak and Paul Begala were half right in predicting Kerry followed by Dean. Tucker Carlson saw a Dean win with Kerry in second place.

# Return of Dennis Miller, the liberal-bashing comedian. Before the debut of his new prime time show on CNBC next week, Miller will make a guest appearance on CNBC's Capital Report on Tuesday night following the State of the Union address and he'll be a guest Thursday night on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

-- Brent Baker