Morning Shows Downplay or Ignore How Wellstone Memorial Service Turned Into a Liberal, Anti-Conservative Political Rally -- 10/30/2002 CyberAlert
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2. ABC's GMA Delivers Glowing Profile of Walter Mondale
After days of relaying Democratic harangues about how Minnesota Republicans were shamefully politicking even before the late Senator Paul Wellstone was put to rest and before his Tuesday night memorial service, Wednesday's morning shows, especially NBC's Today and CBS's Early Show, barely hinted at how the memorial service was turned into a partisan, pro-Democratic and pro-liberal rally.
The event at a university arena culminated in Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa using Wellstone's death to motivate liberals to vote. To thunderous standing ovations Harkin shouted:
-- "We must continue Paul's journey for justice in America"
-- "For Paul Wellstone, will you stand up and keep fighting for social and economic justice? Say yes!"
-- "For Paul will you stand up and keep fighting for better wages, for those who mop our floors and clean our bathrooms, for those who take care of our elderly, take care of our sick, teach our kids and help our homeless? Say yes!"
-- "For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for cleaner air and cleaner water, for a cleaner environment for children and our future? Say yes!"
-- "For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting to end discrimination based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation? Say yes!"
Part of that aired live on FNC just before 11pm EST/10pm CST, prompting Greta Van Susteren and guest analyst Juan Williams to comment upon how the memorial service had turned into a "political rally," but I'm only able to cite the quotes because C-SPAN2 carried the event live. (Neither MSNBC or CNN carried it.)
None of those quotes made it onto the ABC, CBS, CNN or NBC morning shows today. (Closest NBC came: Kelly O'Donnell said, without noting the political nature of the comment, "Senator Wellstone's legacy celebrated" and then showed this clip of Harkin: "For Paul Wellstone will you stand up and keep fighting for social and economic justice? Say yes!")
And except for on ABC, lengthy earlier comments along the same line from Wellstone campaign operative Rick Kahn were skipped, even the fact that Kahn urged incumbent Minnesota Republicans to stand down and not run for re-election. And none pointed out how the crowd booed Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott and that Governor Jesse Ventura walked out in disgust.
But TV reporters had no excuse, even if they fell asleep in their hotel rooms before the memorial/rally ended, since the story in this morning's St. Paul Pioneer Press captured how Democrats used the event to rally their supporters.
An excerpt from the October 30 story by Jim Ragsdale:
They came to grieve, but they left ready to fight. A memorial service for U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone began as a somber eulogy for more than 20,000 Wellstone faithful, but ended up as a call to arms. Wellstone's family, friends and colleagues sought to transform the pain over Friday's plane crash into passion for Tuesday's Senate election.
"Let's all get on that bus together -- that green bus!" shouted Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, as the crowd at Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota -- including former President Bill Clinton and half the U.S. Senate -- roared its approval. "That bus of hope! Let's keep moving to a better America!"
"Keep standing up and keep fighting! And keep saying yes! To justice! To hope! For people! For Paul! For Paul!" The shouts resounded through the auditorium, and eventually segued into a cheer for former Vice President Walter Mondale, who is expected to take Wellstone's place on the Democratic ticket today.
"Fritz! Fritz! Fritz!" the crowd shouted as a smiling Mondale waved....
What began as a solemn memorial ended sounding like a Democratic convention, with Bill and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., former Vice President Al Gore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., cheering on Harkin, a close friend of Wellstone.
"We pay tribute to a leader -- a true D-F-L liberal!" Harkin bellowed as the crowd stood and cheered. "That's right! A D-F-L liberal, who constantly reminded those of us who are Democrats of the real center of gravity of our party..."
Son Mark Wellstone, sounding very much like his father, also lit up the crowd. "We will carry on the fight! We will carry on the struggle! We will carry on the tradition! We will carry on the pride!" He ended with a familiar family cadence: "We will win! We will win!"...
END of Excerpt
For the story in its entirety: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/4399539.htm
In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a story by Kavita Kumar, Dane Smith and Patricia Lopez relayed:
A speech by Rick Kahn, one of Wellstone's closest friends, shifted the tone of the event from memorial service to full-throated, foot-stomping, fist-pumping political rally.
He urged the crowd to "stand up for all the people he fought for...for working men and women...for all those who lack the strength to stand up on their own." His words brought thousands to their feet.
TV cameras then panned to a beaming Walter Mondale, Wellstone's likely replacement in the U.S. Senate race, which brought more cheers.
"If Paul Wellstone's legacy comes to an end, then our spirits will be crushed and we will drown in a river of tears," a clearly emotional Kahn said.
"We are begging you, do not let that happen. We are begging you to help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone."
In a move that brought gasps of delight from some and stony silence from a few, Kahn then began urging select Republicans to drop their partisanship and work for Wellstone's replacement.
He singled out some by name. To U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., Kahn said, "You know that Paul loved you. He needs you now.... Help us win this race."...
END of Excerpt
For that story in full: http://www.startribune.com/stories/1752/3398117.html
Only ABC and FNC explicitly noted the political tone of the event. On Good Morning America, John Cochran observed: "Last night's memorial service was supposed to be just that, a memorial service. But it turned into a political rally, and Republicans are furious about that."
On FNC's Fox & Friends, Carol McKinley reported: "At one point Paul Wellstone's best friend called for even the Republicans in the audience to help win for Wellstone. Now that didn't sit so well. In fact there are some people with the GOP today who are saying that that was uncalled for, it was shameless, and an exploitation of Wellstone's memory."
But CNN, CBS and NBC viewers heard nothing about that. Thanks to some quick transcribing by the MRC's Ken Shepherd, Brian Boyd and Geoffrey Dickens, here's how each treated the event:
-- CNN's American Morning offered only brief items. Here's a representative one from Leon Harris at 7:04am EST:
And an hour later: "Well, thousands of Paul Wellstone's friends and colleagues celebrated his life at a Minneapolis memorial. Among the guests, former President Bill Clinton. Mourners there remembered Wellstone for his love of his family and state. His wife and daughter were killed in the crash, along with three campaign staffers and two pilots."
(I just noticed minutes ago that CNN's Inside Politics led with Governor Ventura's view that he had been "betrayed" by how Democrats used the memorial service as a political rally and followed up with supporting soundbites from the event and Republican complaints about it.)
-- CBS's The Early Show. Harry Smith: "More than 23,000 people gathered in Minnesota last night for an emotional memorial service that celebrated the life of Senator Paul Wellstone. Wellstone died on Friday in a small plane crash that also killed seven other people including his wife and daughter. CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers is in St. Paul to join us this morning with the story. Good morning, Cynthia."
-- NBC's Today. Ann Curry, at the top of the show: "Matt, there is also the matter of the Senate currently split 49-49, Republican and Democrat. Well the campaign for Senator Paul Wellstone's seat begins again in earnest today after his public memorial service last night. Former Vice President Walter Mondale is expected to step in. We're gonna talk to the head of the Democratic party and the Republican candidate this morning."
News reader Lester Holt during the first news rundown: "Former Vice President Walter Mondale is expected to formally announce he'll take Paul Wellstone's spot on the Minnesota ballot today. Less than a week to go before Election Day. Last night more than 20,000 people gathered to remember Wellstone, who died Friday in a plane crash along with seven others. More now from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell."
In a subsequent interview with DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe Matt Lauer didn't raise the tone of the event.
ABC and FNC touched on the atmosphere:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson teased at the top of the show as transcribed by the MRC's Patrick Gregory: "Overnight twenty thousand mourners bid farewell to Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, and daughter, killed in a plane crash. And Minnesota Democrats ask a former Vice President to try and fill the empty seat."
Gibson added: "It was part memorial service and sort of part political pep-rally last night in Minnesota. Last night's memorial service for Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone and his family really did turn into sort of a rally for former Vice President Walter Mondale, who will tonight officially enter the Senate race in Wellstone's race. Ahead we will look at what is sort of act two of Walter Mondale's career."
News reader Robin Roberts set up the subsequent story: "Good morning everyone. This is a landmark day in Minnesota politics that is likely to impact the entire nation. With less than a week to go until the election, the race for Paul Wellstone's seat in the Senate begins today. His friends had a memorial for him in Minneapolis last night, and ABC's John Cochran was there."
Cochran: "Last night's memorial service was supposed to be just that, a memorial service. But it turned into a political rally, and Republicans are furious about that. It was an overflow crowd, thousands unable to get inside."
For what ABC aired next, a fawning tribute to Walter Mondale, see item #2 below.
-- FNC's Fox and Friends. Tri-host E.D. Hill noted: "Yesterday you know you had the head of the Minnesota Democratic, the DFL party on [Mike Erlandson], and he was saying, he was critical, saying people on the Republican side were already making it political and that they were talking about candidates and they were talking about debates, and it was absolutely wrong, 'there should be a period of mourning.' So jump ahead a couple hours, at the Wellstone memorial, and what happens?"
Earlier CyberAlert items about coverage of the Minnesota situation:
> CBS's Dan Rather uniquely blamed Vice President Cheney himself for the Wellstone family not inviting him to the memorial service. Rather teased at the top of Tuesday's CBS Evening News: "Cheney runs into criticism as critical elections are one week away." http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20021030.asp#2
> Though the "memorial service" for Paul Wellstone turned into a left-wing political rally and Democrats delayed officially picking Mondale in order to hold up Republican campaigning, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell spent Tuesday castigating Republican political moves while she simultaneously recounted, without considering it political, how Democrats were trying to ignore the law, which they say is "not fair," in order to allow absentee voters to vote again. To emphasize GOP callousness, NBC zoomed in on Wellstone's casket as O'Donnell noted a letter requesting debates with Mondale "arrived yesterday, just as Senator Wellstone was laid to rest." http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20021030.asp#3
> Minnesota Democrats applied political calculation in deciding upon the well-known Walter Mondale to replace the late Paul Wellstone, but when Republicans dared to do some polling and comment on Mondale's record Democrats howled with outrage matched only by CNN's Judy Woodruff. On Monday's Inside Politics she plugged an interview with Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid: "Up next, I will ask the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, if some Republicans in Minnesota are going on the attack even before Paul Wellstone is buried." http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20021029.asp#1
The text of a Media Reality Check by the MRC's Rich Noyes distributed by fax this afternoon:
Early Sunday morning -- at 8:39 Eastern, to be exact -- CNN interrupted its programming with the "Breaking News" that former Vice President Walter Mondale would replace the late Paul Wellstone on Minnesota's ballot next week. That came less than 48 hours after Wellstone's death, evidence that state and national Democratic operatives were fully engaged in partisan calculations.
But even after they had settled on Mondale, Democrats argued that it was reprehensible to campaign against him, and the media agreed. Promoting an upcoming live interview on Monday's Inside Politics, CNN's Judy Woodruff promised viewers she would ask Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) "if some Republicans in Minnesota are going on the attack even before Paul Wellstone is buried." Reid took the opening Woodruff gave: "Couldn't they wait until Paul is in the ground?" he growled.
Just asking if Mondale would debate the issues was an outrage to NBC's Kelly O'Donnell: "The Wellstone family [was] angered by a letter from the Minnesota Republican party to the Democrats requesting a series of five debates between the presumed Wellstone replacement, Walter Mondale, and Republican candidate Norm Coleman. The letter arrived yesterday, just as Senator Wellstone was laid to rest," she complained on Tuesday's Nightly News. To drive home the point, NBC viewers saw a close-up of Wellstone's casket as O'Donnell spoke.
"The timing of the move even makes the Republican candidate uneasy," O'Donnell reprimanded. Of course, Democrats such as Reid saw no problem with a one-sided campaign attacking Coleman during the same period. But neither Woodruff nor O'Donnell thought it worthwhile to ask Democrats to defend their back-room maneuvering.
While publicly criticizing Mondale was out-of-bounds, network reporters worked to assemble glowingly positive tributes. On Wednesday's Good Morning America, correspondent Claire Shipman sounded like an 18-year-old campaign brochure as she painted the rosiest portrait of Mondale, whom she refused to label as liberal. "Civil rights champion, Senator, Vice President, and finally, presidential candidate in 1984," Shipman enthused. "The successful ambassadorship in Japan seemed the capstone -- or so we all thought. But friends aren't surprised he'd give it another go."
Shipman never hinted that anyone of either party had ever criticized a single Mondale policy idea. Recall Mondale's utterly disastrous 1984 threat of higher taxes that would have suffocated economic growth? To Shipman, it was virtuous remark attributable to Mondale's "penchant for being honest, sometimes at his own political peril."
What about Mondale's idea that the best way to deal with the Soviet Union's dictators was to make them less afraid of the U.S., starting with a "nuclear freeze?" To Shipman, Mondale's world view would be perfect now: "The most valuable thing he might bring back to the Senate for Democrats, if he gets the chance, is a steadied, practiced hand in foreign policy when the country needs it most."
Naming the inexperienced, ethically-challenged Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate? "He certainly proved he's unafraid to make a bold choice," Shipman argued before showing an adulatory soundbite from Ferraro: "He recognized that the sign that was on the door of the White House, 'White Men Only,' should be taken down."
In fact, Walter Mondale could wind up being an even better candidate than Paul Wellstone, Shipman suggested. While Minnesota "is a less liberal state than when Mondale last ran," she admitted, "he's not viewed as as polarizing a figure as Wellstone, and that could be to his advantage."
Mondale's real advantage may be that reporters like Shipman don't give his critics the time of day, praising his personal qualities while ignoring his policy errors.
END of Reprint of Media Reality Check
In my rush to get this together, I'm sure I made a few typos. -- Brent Baker