Networks Rougher on Lynne Cheney than Elizabeth Edwards --9/1/2004
2. Wondering If Bush-Backing Zell Miller Is Really a Democrat
3. Washington Post Shows How NBC Nightly News Skews Its News
4. NBC's Today Hosts GOP Critics; No Anti-Democrats Five Weeks Ago
5. CBS's Smith Asks Ex-President Bush About Loony Left Theory
6. During Both Conventions, Leftist Moore Shows Up on NBC
7. ABC Reporter Still Fretting Over "No Girlie Men" Buttons
In Boston, ABC, CBS, and NBC interviewed Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of vice presidential nominee John Edwards, and their daughter Cate. Each asked one question about Teresa's "shove it" remark, and a pile of softballs. But on Wednesday's morning shows the three networks pounded Vice President Cheney's wife Lynne and daughter Liz with a total of ten questions about lesbian daughter Mary and Cheney's opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment. CBS's Early Show even played an entire 30-second anti-Bush ad by the liberal Human Rights Campaign.
Network coverage of the Democratic convention in prime time never mentioned the party's ultra-liberal positions on homosexuality, but the TV onslaught against the GOP platform continued this morning. Here's the network breakdown:
# ABC. Perhaps due to multiple stories about potential Kerry campaign staff changes, ABC only aired two questions from the Cheney interview (and no softballs) in the middle of the 8 am newscast.
Anchor Robin Roberts reported, as transcribed by MRC's Jessica Anderson: "The star of the Republican National Convention's third night tonight will be Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, who have a gay daughter, differ from the President on the issue of same-sex marriage. Earlier, Charlie asked Lynne Cheney if she thinks the GOP platform is wrong for opposing such marriages."
Mrs. Cheney: "I thought Arnold did a great job last night of talking about how not everyone in this hall agrees on every single thing, but we are all united behind the very basic and firm and fervent belief that George Bush should be our president for the next four years."
Gibson sounded like a rerun. On the Wednesday morning of the Republican convention in 2000, Gibson asked Mrs. Cheney the same thing: "The platform is again very strongly pro-life and rejects abortion rights, and the platform specifically comes out against gay unions, and against legal protections based on sexual preferences. So, is this really an open, compassionate, tolerant party?"
Here's a snippet of what Diane Sawyer asked the Edwards mother-daughter duo in Boston that captures the comparative toughness: "We heard, I believe that Senator Kerry has said when Emma Claire and Jack were asked what he should do in his speech, they said mention Spongebob Squarepants."
CBS played the entire 30-second ad -- complete with narrator, Dick Cheney soundbites, and all -- by the Human Rights Campaign, whose leader Cheryl Jacques spoke at the Boston convention last month. The commercial ends: "He spoke from the heart for millions of parents....Freedom is for everyone. Discrimination is wrong. What if it was your child, Mr. President?"
Smith led off: "What is your reaction to see what your husband said and then have it turned around and made into a political ad?" Mrs. Cheney replied: "Well, you know, Dick also said the President sets policy for the administration. So that's sort of part of the description that we need to add." She went on to tout the party's openness to disagreement and the President's record on education.
Smith: "Let me get Liz involved in this conversation. What is this though, like, for your family to end up in at least some controversy. There are people here at this convention, evangelical Christians, who could not have been more disappointed in what your father had to say about your sister." Like her mother, Liz Cheney moved quickly to change the topic back to the party's talking points.
Smith wasn't letting go: "I have a very personal question. Mary tends to shy away from the spotlight. She's been at a bunch of campaign events, suddenly cameras are trailing her. How is she doing amidst all of this?"
Lynne Cheney replied: "Well, she's just terrific. And I thought one of the points that was on that ad that Liz and I would both like to emphasize is that he said, you know, we have two wonderful daughters and people are different. Mary thinks of herself as a private person. She's working behind the scenes very competently to make sure the Vice President's schedule is set, to make sure the events that he has are well-organized. So it's going to be a great two months and Mary Cheney will be responsible for a lot of that."
Smith: "What do you understand, though, that cultural Christians don't understand?"
Smith concluded with a more balanced political question: "Alright. Let's talk about your husband. Front page of the USA Today, there's a poll taken and it talks about good advice or bad advice. It's split right down the middle in terms of 41 percent thinks the Vice President gives the president good advice, 39 percent say bad advice. He's a lightning rod for some and a Rock of Gibraltar for others. Is he an asset to this administration now in this campaign?"
Number of hardball questions: five. Number of softball questions: zero. In Boston, CBS co-host Hannah Storm asked one "shove it" question ("Is she being unfairly scrutinized, or does this go with the territory?"), and four softballs.
Lauer then asked if the Vice President is affected by people trying to "vilify him," calling him nicknames, without Lauer spelling them out like ABC did on Monday. He noted that Cheney is criticized for Iraq when things go bad, and asked "Do you think they've succeeded at all, in creating a sense that the Vice President is a liability to this ticket?"
Only then did Lauer ask the somehow obligatory gay questions: "At a town hall meeting, within the last week or so in Iowa, you and your husband sat side-by-side, and he said the issue of gay marriage means something to my family, because we have a gay daughter, Mary. First of all, how did Mary feel about those comments?"
Lauer: "He said this is an issue that should be left up to the states. He basically said he's opposed to a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriages. And in saying that, put himself in conflict with the president."
Lauer: "Has the President talked to him since he made those statements, though? I'm curious. Have they discussed this?" She declined to answer directly. Lauer ended with a softball about whether the last four years have changed the Cheneys.
Five weeks ago in Boston, Katie Couric asked the Edwards mother-daughter duo one "shove it" question and three softballs.
For how the July 28 morning shows treated Elizabeth and Cate Edwards: www.mrc.org
Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller will speak before the Republican National Convention this evening. But in contrast to how excited reporters were at the notion this spring that John McCain might jump over and help John Kerry's Democratic campaign, and how then-Republican Senator Jim Jeffords' defection in 2001 was frequently cast as evidence that the Republican Party was inhospitable to moderates, the networks have not touted Miller's switch as any kind of evidence of a failure of John Kerry's campaign or proof that the national Democratic Party has become intolerant of non-liberals.
On this morning's Today, Matt Lauer wondered whether Miller, who gave a major address at the 1992 Democratic convention supporting Bill Clinton, should even be called a Democrat. "Zell Miller's going to give the keynote address tonight, and the Republicans say this is a guy, a Democrat who's so disenchanted with his party, that look, he's come over here to give this important speech to us. Is that fair? Is Zell Miller really a Democrat?" Lauer asked Tim Russert.
On Tuesday's Today show, Lauer interviewed Miller and asked, "What happened in those 12 years to make you change tunes?" Miller told him "special interests" have "completely cannibalized the national Democratic Party" and taken it "so far left that I can't even recognize it."
Lauer shot back that Democrats are themselves furious with Miller: "You have voted consistently with this President and the Republicans in Congress, I believe 90 percent of the time. You voted for John Ashcroft as Attorney General. You voted for the tax cuts. That's angered a lot of your Democratic colleagues. And now this has put them over the top. You understand that, don't you?"
Lauer also found it shocking that Miller said he had "no doubt" the U.S. economy would fare better under a second Bush administration.
Showing where the bias comes from. In today's Washington Post, media reporter Howard Kurtz recounted how NBC's news chiefs fought yesterday over how much harder they should pound on the contrast between moderate speakers and the Republican platform. "We've already talked about that at great length, about the social moderates on the stage," Tom Brokaw said, "sounding a tad defensive."
In the middle of a profile marking NBC anchor Tom Brokaw's last convention as the top dog, Kurtz acted like a fly on the wall, taking notes as the anchor, producers and executives quibbled over how to report the news. The group agreed upon an approach to Tuesday's Nightly News that elevated a small group of liberal Republican dissenters to an important convention story. Kurtz noted how the evening news script Brokaw eventually read was "an echo of the morning meeting."
The Wednesday morning CyberAlert recounted the bias that emanated from the meeting Kurtz observed:
"What you won't see from the stage tonight is the unhappiness of some of these delegates over the party's platform on gay marriage and civil unions," NBC's Tom Brokaw predicted on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News in publicizing a complaint from liberal Republicans. Brokaw warned that "gay Republicans here who had been supporting President Bush now are reconsidering."
Reporter Campbell Brown noted that the "party's conservatives say" the party's showcasing of moderates "is a slap to the people most important to the President's re-election." But she soon blamed those conservatives for "the convention's nastiest battle," over same sex marriage, which has alienated gay Republicans who claim "the President is putting his re-election at risk by taking the votes of one million gay Republicans for granted."
END Excerpt of September 1 morning CyberAlert.
For the rest of that item, go to: www.mrc.org
An excerpt of Kurtz's profile of Brokaw, in which he recorded how NBC's news executives also tried to think of ways to not let Republicans "hijack" the message of their own convention:
...It is 10:30am Tuesday, and Brokaw begins the conference call -- which includes executives from MSNBC, CNBC and NBC-owned Telemundo -- by urging everyone to "strike a balance" between covering the convention and letting the Republicans hijack the show.
"This is not about going through 9/11 again," Brokaw says from his Midtown office. "It's about what's been going on since then, in the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. It's not enough to just put your hand over your heart and shed a tear."
MSNBC President [and Clinton golfing buddy] Rick Kaplan chimes in: "One thing we have to be on the hunt for is where are the Tom DeLays and all the rest of them," who are "taking a back seat" to the parade of less conservative speakers. Brokaw says they should prepare graphics with excerpts from the party platform.
NBC News President Neal Shapiro says they should make a point of checking in with rank-and-file delegates as a contrast to speakers like Giuliani and Schwarzenegger.
"We've talked about that at great length, about the social moderates on the stage," Brokaw says, sounding a tad defensive....
Campbell Brown calls. "Are they going to take this to the floor, the gay caucus?" Brokaw asks about the gay marriage issue. "They are? I think we should say that....I'll put it in the lead-in."
Brokaw straightens his tie and opens the newscast. He says the Republicans are rolling out Schwarzenegger and the first lady "on a day when President Bush backed off a statement that he made to Matt Lauer on the 'Today' show that he didn't believe you can win the war on terror." This has the dual effect of highlighting a rhetorical flip-flop and plugging a colleague's interview.
In an echo of the morning meeting, Brokaw tees up the Brown story this way: "What you won't see tonight is the unhappiness among some of these delegates with the party's platform on gay marriage and civil unions. The platform is firmly against both."...
Kurtz also recounted how Brokaw decided on Sunday night to characterize the moderate speakers gambit as "the political equivalent of a popular con game in this tough town, three-card monte." Just as Kurtz never raised the subject of liberal bias in the larger profile, Kurtz saw no liberal bias in characterizing only one convention as a fraud: "The networks may be losing interest, but Brokaw is determined to keep the dealers honest."
But how do you "keep the dealers honest" when you're the one stacking the deck?
For the entire profile of Brokaw, which also includes Tim Russert congratulating Brokaw after a tough interview with Karl Rove, go to: www.washingtonpost.com
On this morning's Today, Katie Couric brought aboard former Democratic Senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey and beseeched him to counter GOP convention assertions that President Bush has done a good job on the war on terrorism. "What do you think about the President's assertion that he believes that the policies of his administration have made the world safer since September 11," Couric asked. "Do you agree with that assessment?"
But in the interview -- which occurred in the first half hour of the September 1 Today -- Kerrey disappointed Couric. "Well, we [on] the 9/11 Commission have agreed not to use anything we've gotten off the Commission report [and] bring it into the political campaign," Kerrey said, leaving the impression that he disagrees with Bush but just can't say so: "I can't answer your question."
But otherwise, Kerrey was a loyal liberal partisan, scolding Republicans for "using" 9/11, touting the constancy of Democratic nominee John Kerry, asserting when asked about the President's charge that Kerry is a flip-flopper that Bush is "either a partisan political hack in attacking John Kerry or a hypocrite," and denouncing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for resurrecting Vietnam-era divisions that, Bob Kerrey claimed, John Kerry had done so much soothe.
Kerrey wasn't the only liberal guest on NBC this morning. Couric also interviewed left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, who mocked Republicans and defended his polemic Fahrenheit 9/11 as merely trying to show "that we're about to bomb civilians." (For more on that interview, see item #6 below.) In contrast, on July 28 -- the third day of the Democratic convention -- Today featured no Republican or conservative guests to undermine the Democrats' agenda, but that show did include a softball profile of none other than Michael Moore.
For more on how the morning shows covered the Democrats at the same point in their convention, see the July 28 afternoon edition of the CyberAlert. www.mrc.org
Now, for more of Couric's questions to Bob Kerrey as transcribed by MRC's Megan McCormack:
Couric began by asking Kerrey to repudiate Bush's record on terrorism: "What do you think about the President's assertion that he believes that the policies of his administration have made the world safer since September 11th? Do you agree with that assessment?"
Couric next wanted Kerrey to reject the "use" of September 11 at the convention: "9/11 has been used in this convention. Rudy Giuliani saying, quote 'so long as George Bush is President, is there any doubt terrorists will continue to hear from us until we defeat global terrorism? We owe that much and more to those loved ones and heroes we lost on September 11th.' Appropriate, in your view?"
But, Couric asked, "What about the fact that he did not support the $87 billion?"
Couric then sought to portray Bush as the flip-flopper: "What do you think about the President's change of heart, yesterday. It's really could be largely semantics. He told Matt that he didn't think the war on terror could be won. On Tuesday, he changed course and said the war could be won, telling Rush Limbaugh quote, 'I probably needed to be a little more articulate.' Is this a tempest in a tea pot, is this politics as usual? And what do you make of this recent controversy?"
Kerrey continued to criticize Bush's attack on Kerry's flip-flop vote: "My initial instinct is to say he's either a partisan, political hack in attacking John Kerry or a hypocrite."
Couric finally asked Kerrey, a Medal of Honor winner, about the anti-Kerry charge that most upsets liberal reporters: "I can't let you get away without asking about the lingering controversies over these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. They're launching yet another one. You served in Vietnam, you lost your leg. How do you feel about this controversy? How do you feel about those ads, and do you think the President should condemn them more strongly?"
Bob Kerrey touted the fact that John Kerry as Senator worked "to end the controversy over the POW-MIA, to work with the first President Bush, to get a roadmap to normalization of relations with Vietnam," and he blamed the other veterans for keeping an old grudge alive even as John Kerry is the bigger man: "John has forgiven them. This hatred that's getting stirred up right now is what's destructive. I think the President should condemn these ads for that reason."
Helping to mainstream extremist lunacy. On CBS's Early Show on Wednesday, Harry Smith confronted former President George H. W. Bush, the current President's father, with the far-left notion from "one of the books out this year" claiming that "the roots of terrorism," are somehow based on the Bush family's ties to the Saudi royal family, a suggestion which the former President termed a "total lie." Later, the former President blasted the biased approach of a "liberal elite in the press."
Smith gingerly raised the extremist charge in the first installment of the taped interview with Bush, as transcribed by MRC's Brian Boyd: "We live in a free society, there's a free press, people are pretty much free to make just about any allegation they want to. One of the books that came out this year suggests that the relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi family. You know where I'm going, you know what I'm talking about?"
The former President was scornful: "They also have my father [Prescott Bush] down as dealing with Hitler. I mean, come on. These are total lies and that they get repeated and brought up burn me up. But how do you defend yourself? Look, we're grown up and we've been through the wars. I, myself, and now the President. I think it may be a little worse now. You see those Bush-bashing books on the New York Times bestsellers list. Fine. It's a free country."
An hour later, when CBS aired the second installment of the interview, viewers saw Smith term the first President Bush a "moderate" in contrast, presumably, with his son. In his answer, however, Bush outlined his dissatisfaction with the "liberal elite in the press" who fail to challenge Democrats. He noted the double-standard of how Republicans are "ridiculed" for putting moderates on stage at their convention, when conservatives were not present at the Democratic convention.
Smith: "You were known when you were in office as a moderate Republican. And I'm reading a piece in the paper today that says the President's support is very, very strong, unbelievably strong among conservative Republicans, but he's slipping among moderate Republicans. What would be your argument to those moderate and liberal Republicans to stick with the President as opposed to-"
Bush: "Well, when you use the word 'moderate' and 'liberal,' you're probably talking about some of the social issues. But my argument is that you want a strong economy, you want a person of conviction, you want a person that's going to safeguard the security of our country.
Five weeks ago, on their Wednesday morning in Boston, NBC's Today did a feature story on Michael Moore's star turn, "a big hit here with Democrats." On Wednesday morning in New York, NBC balanced that out with -- another interview with Michael Moore, this one so he could rebut John McCain's criticism on Monday night. "Some people say that you're not helping the Democrats, because you're seen as too extreme, a bit of a jerk, no offense," Katie Couric suggested.
After recounting McCain's criticism, Couric began: "Didn't your mom ever tell you, you shouldn't chew gum on national television?" Moore said of McCain: "He later told Chris Matthews on MSNBC that he hadn't seen the movie. So I felt bad for the guy. He's like, making comments about a movie he hasn't seen, and then he's describing a scene that's not in the movie. In a speech, at a national convention. It's bizarre."
Couric at least corrected that untruth: "Well, I think it was in the movie. And that's one of the scenes that I sort of had trouble with when-"
After a few questions about how he's been received by Republicans in New York, Couric asked: "Some people say that you're not helping the Democrats, because you're seen as too extreme, a bit of a jerk, no offense, by some people."
Moore: "But it's not a jerk thing is it?"
She changed the subject: "But let me ask you, if you think, in a way, you becoming the face of the Democratic Party is actually hurting John Kerry?"
More action on the humor-challenged beat. On ABC this morning, reporter Kate Snow continued her line from the ABC News Now channel that an anti-"Girlie Men" button should be controversial.
Snow and reporter Bill Weir came on in the 7:30 half hour to discuss the tchotchkes (souvenirs) offered for sale to the Republican faithful. Weir joked about the various Bush items on sale to delegates at the nearby Hilton hotel, including the suggestion that the Bush earrings would sell better if you put them in the ears of a Bush cardboard cutout. Weir joked to co-host Charlie Gibson: "You know, the President says he wants to create new jobs. I think most of them will be in the tchotchke industry."
Snow then repeated her little Arnold-fan scandal: "I have seen this, this is the from the California delegates, it says 'Girlie Men' with a line through it, we all know the joke there. Apparently, Arnold Schwarzenegger debated about whether to use that line again, I'm told, and went with it ultimately."
Not on ABC, apparently. They then went on to laugh at video of Republican delegates dancing.
-- Tim Graham and Rich Noyes, with the help of MRC's daytime crew of analysts Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd and Megan McCormack