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Nets Treat Liberal Label for Edwards as Unsupportable Accusation --7/7/2004


1. Nets Treat Liberal Label for Edwards as Unsupportable Accusation
Four years ago when George W. Bush picked Dick Cheney as his running mate, the evening newscasts adopted liberal assumptions about Cheney's "very conservative" record and eagerly passed along examples of his congressional votes which supposedly showed how his views were out of the mainstream. But on Tuesday night, the networks avoided the congressional record of John Kerry's vice presidential selection, John Edwards, largely ignored his liberal record and, when they did mention it, treated it as nothing more than a negative accusation from the GOP not worth supporting with examples of his stances. The networks, however, had plenty of time to gush over the Edwards image. CBS's Byron Pitts insisted: "Democrats have what many consider their dream team." ABC's Dan Harris offered hope: "With his Southern accent and son of a mill worker biography, he may very well appeal to rural voters who the Democrats badly need."

2. CNN & FNC Tag Edwards "Moderate," GMA Tags NY Post Not Edwards
No one on Tuesday's Good Morning America uttered the term "liberal" to describe John Edwards, but Diane Sawyer decided it was relevant to point out how the New York Post, which erroneously plastered, "KERRY'S CHOICE: Dem Picks Gephardt as VP candidate" across its front page, "is a conservative newspaper." Others on Tuesday morning not only failed to call Edwards a liberal, they described him as a "moderate." CNN's Candy Crowley dubbed him "a southern Democrat on the moderate side." FNC's Greg Jarrett claimed that "Edwards is considered to be a moderate" who will "balance" the "liberal" Kerry.


Nets Treat Liberal Label for Edwards
as Unsupportable Accusation

Four years ago when George W. Bush picked Dick Cheney as his running mate, the evening newscasts adopted liberal assumptions about Cheney's "very conservative" record and eagerly passed along examples of his congressional votes which supposedly showed how his views were out of the mainstream. But on Tuesday night, the networks avoided the congressional record of John Kerry's vice presidential selection, John Edwards, largely ignored his liberal record and, when they did mention it, treated it as nothing more than a negative accusation from the GOP not worth supporting with examples of his stances.

John Kerry's Vice Presidential selection John Edwards The networks, however, had plenty of time to gush over the Edwards image. "John Edwards' phone rang this morning at 7:30," NBC's Carl Quintanilla trumpeted on the NBC Nightly News, "and on the other end, John Kerry both formalized Edwards' rock star status and answered Democrats' demands too loud to ignore." Byron Pitts, on the CBS Evening News, relayed how "with a style as syrupy as Carolina sweet tea, Edwards could also help in the South." Pitts insisted: "Democrats have what many consider their dream team." Over on ABC's World News Tonight, Dan Harris offered hope: "With his Southern accent and son of a mill worker biography, he may very well appeal to rural voters who the Democrats badly need."

Later, ABC featured a recent interview Peter Jennings conducted with Edwards. Amongst Jennings' questions: "What were you like as a kid?" and, "I gather you were a Hell of a lawyer."

In between segments of the Jennings interview, George Stephanopoulos offered how "all those years as a trial lawyer taught Edwards to argue tough cases with a big smile, which Democrats believe is perfect training for a debate with Vice President Cheney."

FNC's Carl Cameron, on Special Report with Brit Hume, uniquely stated as a fact that Edwards is a liberal: "Kerry, who had the most liberal voting record in the Senate last year, has now picked a multi-millionaire former trial lawyer with the fourth most liberal voting record."

CNN's NewsNight devoted the first half of its hour to the Edwards elevation, but I believe the word "liberal" was only uttered once. About 15 minutes into the program, Dana Bash dismissively passed along: "Some Republican attacks are familiar -- calling Edwards a liberal, out of the mainstream." But she provided no examples of Edwards' liberal record.

For the broadcast networks, on the ideological labeling front, with tags in ALL CAPS:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. On July 25, 2000, Linda Douglass reported on Cheney: "A close look at his ten years in Congress reveals that Cheney was one of its MOST CONSERVATIVE MEMBERS, say analysts who have looked at his record."
Sarah Binder, The Brookings Institution: "If you look at any of the big issues in the 1980s, he was ON THE FAR RIGHT."
Douglas ran through a select listing of his votes: "Democrats are already isolating the most controversial votes. On abortion, 26 of 27 times he voted to restrict women's access to abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. On gun control, he voted against restricting the sale of so-called 'cop killer bullets' and against a waiting period before buying a hand gun. He voted against the Safe Drinking Water Act, against stiffer sanctions for air polluters. He was one of the few to vote against more funds for the Older Americans Act, services for the elderly, and he voted ten times against imposing sanctions on South Africa during the struggle over Apartheid. As Secretary of Defense, he defended the policy that did not permit gays to serve in the military."
Cheney in an old clip: "It's based upon the proposition that gay lifestyle is incompatible with military service."
Douglas moved on to his business career: "His years in the private sector will also be scrutinized. He became rich in his years as chairman of the oil services giant Halliburton. Records show he sold some of his holdings for $5 million last June, just as oil prices were skyrocketing and consumers were paying a premium at the pump..."

This year, anchor Peter Jennings cited the liberal charge against Edwards in the opening tease ("On World News Tonight, Senator John Kerry chooses Senator John Edwards to be his running mate. The Democratic establishment is happy, the REPUBLICANS SAY IT'S A LIBERAL TICKET NOW"), but no ABC reporter uttered the term "liberal" again and none provided any support for the characterization.

ABC's Kate Snow portrayed the GOP attacks as unfair. After she cited "polite words from the President" and how Cheney was "cordial" when he called Edwards, she intoned: "But it was downhill from there. The Republican rapid response team tore into John Kerry."
Ken Mehlman, Bush-Cheney campaign manager, then got to use the term "liberal": "HE IS THE MOST LIBERAL SENATOR and he wants some who's almost as liberal as he is to run with him on the ticket."
Snow, however, didn't offer any list of Edwards's liberal positions. Instead, she lamented: "Before Kerry had even stepped on stage in Pittsburgh, they were blasting Edwards on the Internet. One 30 page document on the Republican National Committee Web site calls Edwards phoney and disingenuous."

The Web page which so upset Snow: www.gop.com

Snow went on to note how business groups plan to "beat up on" Edwards because of his success as a trial lawyer and she relayed how the Bush campaign called Edwards the second choice after John McCain turned down Kerry.

Later in the program, ABC devoted four-and-a-half minutes to a Jennings interview with Edwards, interspersed with comments from George Stephanopoulos and Linda Douglass. Jennings set up the segment with a laudatory take on Edwards' appeal: "During the Democratic primaries, people said of Senator Edwards that they identified with him mostly if they identified with people, as they put it, who think and care for people like them. Here's an excerpt from a conversation I had with the Senator not too long ago."

The "questions" to Edwards posed by Jennings:

# "What were you like as a kid?"

# "Was there ever any doubt about you going to college even though neither of your parents did?" (Edwards: "Lots of doubt...")

# "Tell me about your wife. Where did you meet her?"

# "Why did you want to be a lawyer?"

# "I gather you were a Hell of a lawyer."

Jennings recalled: "Took on high-profile personal injury cases. He made millions of dollars in the process. And he used that notoriety to pick up a Senate seat in a largely Republican state."

ABC then jumped to a comment from Stephanopoulos: "He may have only two campaigns under his belt, but Democrats say Edwards makes up for his slim political resume with raw political talent. A natural style. He doesn't speak like he's been in the Senate his whole life. He's from the South. That broadens the ticket's geographic reach and his small town roots should appeal to rural voters in other regions too. Finally, all those years as a trial lawyer taught Edwards to argue tough cases with a big smile, which Democrats believe is perfect training for a debate with Vice President Cheney."

And then to Douglass: "Edwards' strength may also be his weakness. His silver tongue and his ability to connect with audiences all come from his years as a trial lawyer. Republicans are already trying to paint him as someone who's gotten rich filing lawsuits against companies and doctors. Today business groups put out a statements saying for that reason he's anti-business. And Republicans say he lacks national security experience. They say America needs a leader to fight the war on terror, not a lawyer."

Back to Jennings, he had one last question for Edwards: "I gather you've never been short of confidence."

-- CBS Evening News. On July 25, 2000, Dan Rather piled on about Cheney's supposedly extreme views: "In the presidential campaign, the official announcement and first photo-op today of Republican George Bush and his running mate Richard Cheney. Democrats were quick to portray the ticket as quote 'two Texas oilmen' because Cheney was chief of a big Dallas-based oil supply conglomerate. They also blast Cheney's voting record in Congress as again quote, 'outside the American mainstream' because of Cheney's votes against the Equal Rights for Women Amendment, against a woman's right to choose abortion -- against abortion as Cheney prefers to put it -- and Cheney's votes against gun control. Republicans see it all differently, most of them hailing Bush's choice and Cheney's experience."

Bill Whitaker opened his subsequent piece: "Though he promised an electrifying choice to fit his self-styled new Republican campaign, George W. Bush instead reached back to the past to the steady, tried and true."

Whitaker later asserted that "Cheney's A ROCK-SOLID CONSERVATIVE WHO MANAGES TO APPEAL TO PARTY MODERATES." After relaying how Democrats blasted his voting record against abortion and the ERA, Whitaker played this soundbite from Tom Daschle: "He is probably as FAR RIGHT as anybody in the Republican Party today."
Whitaker concluded with more on Cheney's record: "Now Democrats are going over Cheney's record with a fine-toothed comb. His voting record against gun control and environmental controls, his medical record of mild heart attacks, his business record as head of a huge energy concern, planning to PAINT HIM AS TOO FAR RIGHT and wrong for the country."

This week, on Tuesday night, July 6, Rather was on vacation and anchor John Roberts provided a pedestrian introduction. Byron Pitts, however, trumpeted: "Today, Senator John Kerry picked the man the masses in the Democratic Party had wanted for months." Pitts related, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "A passionate speaker and a prolific fund-raiser, the campaign hopes the 51-year-old North Carolinian's 'I'm the son of a mill worker' message will connect with working class voters in battleground states. With a style as syrupy as Carolina sweet tea, Edwards could also help in the South. He's a proven vote-getter in South Carolina, the state where he was born and won the February primary. Hours after the selection, the first Kerry-Edwards ad was ready to go. But for all of today's goodwill and grand spin, Kerry's biggest concern was said to be the trial lawyer-turned one-term Senator's lack of experience, particularly in the area of foreign policy. Here's how Kerry described Edwards when the two were vying for the Democratic nomination."
Kerry on January 19: "When I came back from Vietnam in 1969, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not sure if John Edwards was out of diapers then yet."
Pitts: "John Edwards has had to grow on John Kerry. But nowadays former contenders are history's footnote. Democrats have what many consider their dream team..."

Next, Bill Plante handled Republican criticism of Edwards: "To hear gleeful Republicans tell it, Kerry's choice of John Edwards was as good for them as winning the lottery, 'one of the most divisive and out-of-the-mainstream tickets for President,' said the Bush campaign. The President himself was more gracious."
George W. Bush: "Listen, I welcome Senator Edwards on the ticket, and I look forward to a good spirited contest."
Plante: "Spirited for sure. A senior official suggested Edwards' past as a trial lawyer would energize business opposition. He predicted that what he called Edwards' class warfare argument would fall flat. 'Elect us,' joked the official, 'a billionaire and a millionaire.' The Republican National Committee went on the attack calling Edwards 'a disingenuous, UNACCOMPLISHED LIBERAL and friend to personal injury trial lawyers.' The White House wouldn't quite go there but didn't disagree."
Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary: "Well, I mean, is there something in there you're disputing?"

Unlike in 2000, CBS failed to provide support for the opposition party's characterization of the nominee's ideology.

-- NBC Nightly News. On July 25, 2000, David Gregory concluded his piece on the day's announcement: "The Gore campaign is sharpening its knives. Democrats will attack Cheney as TOO CONSERVATIVE and Bush as too influenced by his father to make a bolder choice. A senior aide to the Vice President says tonight Gore was quite 'relieved' to hear of Bush's pick."

Tom Brokaw introduced a look at Cheney's record by noting how "Dick Cheney is a veteran of the Washington scene, A HARD-CORE REPUBLICAN WITH STELLAR CONSERVATIVE CREDENTIALS." Brokaw cautioned, "Cheney's long record in Washington is widely admired, but it also leaves a trail for Democrats to attack."

Anne Thompson examined "some serious questions" about his heart before getting to his ideology: "Tonight Democrats raising questions about his political past, a decade in Congress, A VERY CONSERVATIVE RECORD."
Thompson offered some examples and then aired assessments of Cheney from the right and left: "Voting against the Equal Rights Amendment for Women, against funding for Head Start, and federal funding of any abortions. Voting for aide to the Nicaraguan Contras, prayer in schools and President Reagan's Star Wars missile defense program. The selection of Cheney applauded by the right."
David Keene, American Conservative Union: "It really ratifies what conservatives have come to believe and that is George W. Bush is one of them."
Thompson: "And that is fine with Democrats who now see a clear choice in November."
Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif: "We're in the 21st Century, he's willing to take us way back into the 20th Century. This country is not going to go backwards."

Fast forward four years and NBC had no interest in documenting Edwards' liberal record. With the words "liberal" and "trial lawyers" on screen in scary quote marks, Carl Quintanilla gave once sentence to the Republican charge: "Republicans launched an e-mail blitz portraying Edwards as A 'LIBERAL,' a friend to 'trial lawyers'" and inexperienced.

Andrea Mitchell dismissed the relevance of Edwards' ideology as she concluded a subsequent story: "And what about those perceived negatives? TOO LIBERAL, a trial lawyer who could be caricatured as an ambulance chaser, too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief? The campaign says that they will disprove all of that when he debates Dick Cheney."

Case closed, apparently.

CNN & FNC Tag Edwards "Moderate," GMA
Tags NY Post Not Edwards

No one on Tuesday's Good Morning America uttered the term "liberal" to describe John Edwards, but Diane Sawyer decided it was relevant to point out how the New York Post, which erroneously plastered, "KERRY'S CHOICE: Dem Picks Gephardt as VP candidate" across its Tuesday front page, "is a conservative newspaper." Others on Tuesday morning not only failed to call Edwards a liberal, they described him as a "moderate." CNN's Candy Crowley dubbed him "a southern Democrat on the moderate side." FNC's Greg Jarrett claimed that "Edwards is considered to be a moderate" who will "balance" the "liberal" Kerry.

Only after John Kerry's 9am EDT announcement did ABC and NBC pass along the GOP charge that Edwards is liberal, but neither offered supporting evidence as the networks did in 2000 to back up the Democratic attack on Dick Cheney's ideology. (See the July 6 CyberAlert Extra: www.mediaresearch.org )

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught how in the 7am EDT half hour of ABC's Good Morning America, before news broke of Kerry's decision, Sawyer applied a label, but not to Edwards.

George Stephanopoulos noted: "The New York Post, going way out on a limb -- they're going for the 'Dewey Defeats Truman' prize right here, saying that he's already made his choice, a non-bylined story saying that he has picked Dick Gephardt. The campaign is waving people off this. They're not saying it hasn't happened. They're saying he hasn't made the choice."
Sawyer: "Right. It is a conservative paper, so you wonder if someone is making a little mischief there, too."

Only after 9am EDT, in an ABC News Special Report following GMA and Kerry's announcement, did ABC reluctantly utter the word "liberal."

Peter Jennings asked: "Kate, what will the Republicans be saying first, second and third -- if you want to go that deep - about this man and this campaign team?"
Kate Snow treated Edwards as the victim of an attack: "Right. It's already beginning, Peter. In fact, one of the first things that a Bush advisor said to me yesterday is what you just pointed out, that this was, they say, Kerry's second choice. His first choice would have been John McCain; Edwards is just a second choice, they say. They are so prepared at the Bush-Cheney campaign, Peter, that they have already set up a Web site. If you put in, on the Internet if you put in www.KerryPicksEdwards.com, you actually come to a very negative Web site put out by the Bush-Cheney campaign. It's a Web site about John Edwards; it's very negative. It calls him 'disingenuous, unaccomplished, a liberal, a friend to personal injury trial lawyers.' It goes on to talk about his, what they perceive as inexperience. They say, one of the first things on this Web site that they say is reminding us that Kerry himself had pointed to Edwards's inexperience back during the primaries..."

Earlier, during the 8am half hour, Linda Douglass provided a glowing profile of Edwards which avoided his ideology: "Charlie, this really is a fascinating choice for precisely the reason you say. He is a relative newcomer here in the United States Senate. He's certainly not known here for writing a lot of legislation, but it was very clear to everybody who observed him that he could excite Democratic voters.
"The youthful and charismatic John Edwards is widely considered to be a master politician. His skills on the stump often compared to another successful southern Democrat, Bill Clinton."
[Edwards]
Douglass: "Fifty-one-year-old Edwards was born and raised in rural North Carolina, the son of a mill worker. The candidate has made much of his blue-collar roots on the campaign trail. But it was as a high-profile trial lawyer in North Carolina that Edwards first came to prominence. His legal work made him a rich man, rich enough that in 1998 he was able to stun the political establishment, defeating a Republican incumbent in a largely self-financed bid to become the senator from North Carolina.
"Friends of Edwards have in the past explained his decision to leave his lucrative career for public service partly with the tragic loss of his son. In 1996, 16-year-old Wade Edwards was killed in an automobile accident while on a family vacation. To this day, Edwards wears a pin on his lapel in remembrance of Wade."
[Edwards]
Douglass: "Kerry's choice is no surprise to many observers. Almost since the moment he was elected to the Senate Edwards has been widely regarded as a rising star in the Democratic Party with national possibilities. Still, as a first-term Senator, his lack of experience may be his main liability. Then again, his relatively short political resume did not appear to work against him in the recent Democratic primaries, where a remarkable ability to connect with voters allowed him to outlast party veterans like Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman. It's this uncanny knack with the voters that Kerry is hoping will ignite his campaign and propel the ticket to victory..."

About the same time as Snow was passing along the liberal charge on ABC past 9am EDT, so was Tim Russert during the third hour of NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoff Dickens noticed. Russert noted: "But Republicans, Matt, have already started coming after them. I received a phone call from a Republican [who] said, 'We now have two liberal Senators.' You mentioned a new campaign ad with John McCain endorsing George Bush and Republicans saying, 'McCain was Kerry's first choice and he's supporting our President.'"

"Moderate" Edwards? As relayed in the July 6 CyberAlert Extra, the National Journal determined that Kerry was the most liberal Senator in 2003 and Edwards the fourth-most liberal Senator. See: www.govexec.com

And Edwards has earned 90 and 95 percent ratings from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (see this site for a compilation of ratings: www.gop.com) yet FNC and CNN insisted upon tagging Edwards as a "moderate."

In the 9am EDT hour, the MRC's Megan McCormack observed, FNC anchor Greg Jarrett, a refugee from MSNBC, asked John Leo of U.S. News: "John, Edwards is considered to be a moderate, Kerry a liberal, that balances things out, does it?"
Leo rejected the assumption: "Well, I'm not so sure. If you look at his voting record, it isn't that very different from John Kerry. He looks like a conventional liberal displaced into North Carolina..."

Earlier, just as the decision broke, at about 7:40am EDT, on the July 6 American Morning, CNN's Candy Crowley asserted: "It is good old-fashioned ticket balance: a Northeastern Democrat on the liberal side, a southern Democrat on the moderate side."

# One last thing about that erroneous New York Post story: At about 9am EDT Tuesday on CNN Jack Cafferty used the tabloid's screw up as a chance to denounce the Fox News Channel. As taken down by MRC intern Jen Schwarz, Cafferty complained: "John Kerry's running mate will be veteran U.S. Representative Richard Gephardt of Missouri. This is this morning's New York Post, which is owned by the same company that owns the F-word news network up the street, for those of you who put so much stock in what those other guys are doing, and I hear from lots of you with the e-mail. New York Post, owned by News Corp, also owns the Fox News Network. 'Dem picks Gephardt as Vice Presidential candidate.'"

So, the next time Time magazine makes an error that should reflect badly on CNN?

-- Brent Baker