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Networks Rue How Schwarzenegger's Car Tax Cut Will Swell Deficit --11/18/2003


1. Networks Rue How Schwarzenegger's Car Tax Cut Will Swell Deficit
Hours after Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as Governor, the networks painted his decision, to fulfill a promise and rescind a 300 percent hike in the car tax, as an irresponsible act which will increase the deficit. ABC's Brian Rooney deplored how "after running for Governor because the state had an enormous deficit, Governor Schwarzenegger's first official act was to plunge California another $4 billion further into debt." On CBS Monday night, Dan Rather charged that "his first act added billions to the projected deficit." NBC's Tom Brokaw insisted that the "big tax cut" was "adding to the state's huge budget deficit." CNN's Aaron Brown fretted about how "with a stroke of the pen he cost the state tens and tens of millions of dollars in that car tax money."

2. Morning Shows Express Hope Arnold Can Get Around Tax Cut Pledge
Reporters on the ABC and NBC morning shows on Monday expressed hopes that Arnold Schwarzenegger would find a rationale to either raise taxes or at least not cut the recently raised car tax. Matt Lauer proposed how the fires present Schwarzenegger with the kind of "emergency" which lets him off the hook from his car tax promise. ABC's Brian Rooney pleaded with Schwarzenegger to follow Ronald Reagan's path to tax hikes: "Schwarzenegger has often been compared to Ronald Reagan, also a famous actor who came to the Governor's office promising to cut taxes -- Ronald Reagan gave California the biggest tax hike in the state's history."

3. ABC "Investigation" of How Rush's "Troubles Are Far from Over"
A threat or warning to Rush Limbaugh? Either way, ABC's World News Tonight on Monday carried a rather ominous promo about what will be featured on Tuesday night's program. The ABC announcer intoned: "Tomorrow, Rush Limbaugh may be back on the airwaves, but his troubles are far from over. An ABC News investigation. Tomorrow on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings."

4. Couric: More Killed in Iraq Than in First 3 Years of Vietnam
Reuters ruminates, Couric imitates. "U.S. War Dead in Iraq Exceeds Early Vietnam Years," declared a headline over a Thursday night, November 13, Reuters dispatch from Philadelphia posted by Yahoo. Jump ahead to Monday's Today and Katie Couric used the Reuters article, about a time when just 17,000 Americans were in Vietnam and before Lyndon Johnson won a landslide re-election, and thus a ridiculous comparison, as a crib sheet when she interviewed Ambassador Paul Bremer: "Forty Americans have been killed in the last 10 days, over 400 killed since the war began. More than the number lost during the first three years of Vietnam."

5. Showtime to Air Reagan Movie Nov. 30, Matches Initial Version
In an attempt to capitalize on the publicity of CBS dropping it, Viacom's Showtime channel has decided to move up The Reagans from sometime early next year to Sunday night, November 30. Damning with faint praise, Showtime Entertainment President Robert Greenblatt contended: "I think this is as balanced and honest a movie as can be made out of this movie." The three-hour movie will largely match what the liberal producers, who are pleased with what Showtime will run, initially submitted to CBS. They have, however, removed the made-up line about Reagan saying of AIDS victims: "They that live in sin shall die in sin." But, Showtime's Greenblatt maintained that the realty of Reagan's meanness towards AIDS victims was "even worse."

6. Character Modeled After Geraldo Gets Shot on NBC's Law & Order
Geraldo Rivera gets shot. At least a figure clearly modeled after him does in a "ripped from the headlines" episode Wednesday night of NBC's Law & Order. Promos for the episode, about a reporter who apparently gets shot by an angry soldier upset that the journalist revealed the location of a troop in Iraq with which he was embedded, show the reporter crouching down to draw in the sand. Just like Geraldo.

7. Reuters Dubs Moyers' Show as "Self-Improving Educational Fare"
Only Reuters could describe PBS's Now with Bill Moyers as "self-improving educational fare," but that's just what the British-owned news service did last week in an article, posted by MSNBC.com, about the "dark side of TiVo," how owners of the computer-driven recording devices become slaves to the hours of programming stored on their units.


Networks Rue How Schwarzenegger's Car
Tax Cut Will Swell Deficit

California state spending has soared faster than inflation and population growth, but hours after Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as the Golden State's new Governor, the networks tagged his decision, to fulfill a promise and rescind a 300 percent hike in the car tax, as an irresponsible act which will increase the deficit.

ABC's Brian Rooney deplored how "after running for Governor because the state had an enormous deficit, Governor Schwarzenegger's first official act was to plunge California another $4 billion further into debt." Over on CBS on Monday night, Dan Rather asserted that "the new Governor must deliver on promises to fix the state's economy and huge budget deficit even though his first act added billions to the projected deficit." NBC's Tom Brokaw insisted that the "big tax cut" was "adding to the state's huge budget deficit" while NBC reporter George Lewis filled in the number: "The Governor's first act was to deliver on a popular campaign promise which will add about $4 billion to the red ink."

Presuming all the money earned by citizens belongs to the state, on CNN's NewsNight anchor Aaron Brown framed the issue around what it would "cost" the government: "With a stroke of the pen he cost the state tens and tens of millions of dollars in that car tax money."

The full context for these stories aired Monday night, November 17:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Brian Rooney played a clip from Schwarzenegger's late morning inaugural address: "I will sign Executive Order Number One which will repeal the 300 percent increase in the car tax."
Rooney lamented: "He signed that order within the hour. So afer running for Governor because the state had an enormous deficit, Governor Schwarzenegger's first official act was to plunge California another $4 billion further into debt. The state was already running a $10 billion deficit, which according to the state's new budget director, could grow to $62 billion in four years unless Schwarzenegger makes tough choices and pushes them through a legislature controlled by Democrats."
John Burton, Senate Majority Leader: "If they want to take money away from the aged, blind and disabled, or kick a lot of poor children off of health care, that could be done. I don't think the Democrats are going to do that."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather introduced a story: "Movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger took the oath of office today as Governor of California. Now, the hard part. CBS's Bill Whitaker reports the new Governor must deliver on promises to fix the state's economy and huge budget deficit even though his first act added billions to the projected deficit."

Whitaker explained: "That tax cut, however, adds an extra $4 billion to California's staggering budget deficit, which Schwarzenegger's own analyst says could reach $60 billion. And Governor Schwarzenegger still has released no concrete plan to get the state over the hump."

-- CNN's NewsNight. Following a live report from Sacramento from Candy Crowley, anchor Aaron Brown rued: "With a stroke of the pen he cost the state tens and tens of millions of dollars in that car tax money. So where does he make up for it, or how does he make up for it?" (Crowley related talk of issuing a bond.)

-- NBC Nightly News. Before an ad break, Tom Brokaw plugged the upcoming story: "Up next, Governor Schwarzenegger takes office and goes right to work with a big tax cut adding to the state's huge budget deficit."

George Lewis soon warned: "But the Governor's first act was to deliver on a popular campaign promise which will add about $4 billion to the red ink."
Arnold Schwarzenegger in his inaugural address: "I will sign Executive Order Number One which will repeal the 300 percent increase in the car tax."

Morning Shows Express Hope Arnold Can
Get Around Tax Cut Pledge

Reporters on the ABC and NBC morning shows on Monday expressed hopes that Arnold Schwarzenegger, then hours away from being sworn in as Governor of California, would find a rationale to either raise taxes or at least not cut the car tax recently hiked by recalled Governor Gray Davis.

On NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Matt Lauer pressed Congressman David Dreier about how Schwarzenegger could escape his car tax pledge:
"Let me ask you about the car tax. He said he released a list of the top 10 things he wanted to do, at the top of that was to repeal or rollback the car tax which tripled recently. He, he also, it seemed, left open a slight window that maybe he could back away from that in an emergency. Given the fact that California just faced huge expenses with the wildfires and given the fact that the budget director now says the deficit is more like $10.2 billion not $8 billion, is there any chance he won't rollback the car tax?"

Brian Rooney, on ABC's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed, pleaded with Schwarzenegger to follow Ronald Reagan's path to tax hikes: "Schwarzenegger has often been compared to Ronald Reagan, also a famous actor who came to the governor's office promising to cut taxes -- Ronald Reagan gave California the biggest tax hike in the state's history."

Rooney proceeded that conclusion to his story with this shot from California Senate Majority Leader John Burton: "I don't think people elected him to take eyeglasses and hearing aids and false teeth from the elderly."

ABC "Investigation" of How Rush's "Troubles
Are Far from Over"

A threat or warning to Rush Limbaugh? Either way, ABC's World News Tonight on Monday carried a rather ominous promo about what will be featured on Tuesday night's program. The ABC announcer intoned: "Tomorrow, Rush Limbaugh may be back on the airwaves, but his troubles are far from over. An ABC News investigation. Tomorrow on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings."

Don't know if it's related or not, but Peter Jennings noted at the end of the show that "we'll be in Florida tomorrow." Though Limbaugh did his program on Monday, his first day back after a month at a drug rehab clinic, from Manhattan, he usually broadcasts from a studio in his Palm Beach County, Florida home.

On Monday morning, ABC News didn't show much understanding of the concerns and interests of Limbaugh's audience. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught how Bob Woodruff ended a Good Morning America piece: "In the past, Limbaugh has shown little sympathy for addicts and his audience today certainly will be listening to see if that attitude's changed."

More like that's a concern to Limbaugh's liberal critics.

Couric: More Killed in Iraq Than in First
3 Years of Vietnam

NBC's Katie Couric Reuters ruminates, Couric imitates. "U.S. War Dead in Iraq Exceeds Early Vietnam Years," declared a headline over a Thursday night, November 13, Reuters dispatch from Philadelphia posted by Yahoo. As recounted in the November 17 CyberAlert, the Reuters story began: "The U.S. death toll in Iraq has surpassed the number of American soldiers killed during the first three years of the Vietnam War, the brutal Cold War conflict that cast a shadow over U.S. affairs for more than a generation." See: www.mediaresearch.org

Jump ahead to Monday's Today and Katie Couric used the Reuters article, about a time when just 17,000 Americans were in Vietnam and before Lyndon Johnson won re-election in a landslide, and thus a ridiculous comparison, as a crib sheet when she interviewed Ambassador Paul Bremer, the chief of the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Couric, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, proposed to Bremer: "Forty Americans have been killed in the last 10 days, over 400 killed since the war began. More than the number lost during the first three years of Vietnam. Would you concede that things are very dangerous and continue to be extremely messy and difficult in Iraq?"

Showtime to Air Reagan Movie Nov. 30,
Matches Initial Version

In an attempt to capitalize on the publicity of CBS dropping it, Viacom's Showtime channel has decided to move up The Reagans from sometime early next year to Sunday night, November 30, just two weeks after the planned CBS air date of November 16 (with part two originally scheduled for tonight, Tuesday).

Damning with faint praise, Showtime Entertainment President Robert Greenblatt told the AP's David Bauder for a Monday afternoon dispatch: "I think this is as balanced and honest a movie as can be made out of this movie." Greenblatt dismissed the concerns of conservatives: "We're never going to please the people who are on the extreme right side of the argument and there are people who are the left side of the argument who will think we didn't go far enough."

Matt Blank, Showtime's Chairman, told Bill Carter of the New York Times in a Tuesday story how they wished to take advantage of the controversy: "I think we decided that the film needed to be seen as soon as possible....We felt it would have been silly not to take advantage of the attention that has surrounded it."

The production, originally designed as a two-part mini-series with ad breaks, will run as one unit lasting about three hours, without any ads, and will be a version that largely matches what the liberal producers initially submitted to CBS. Tuesday's New York Times relayed:
"Mr. Blank said both Showtime and the film's producers and director were 'extremely happy with the way the movie has come out.' 'We did not edit this movie for politics,' Mr. Blank said. 'We cut nothing to tone it down.' In a statement, the film's executive producers, Craig Zaman and Neil Melon, and the director, Robert Allan Ackerman, said, 'as film makers we are pleased that our final version of the movie will be presented.'"

In fact, however, they have removed the made-up line about Reagan saying of AIDS victims: "They that live in sin shall die in sin." But, Showtime's Greenblatt maintained that the realty of Reagan's meanness towards AIDS victims was "even worse" than what the movie had portrayed and that the "silence" in a scene in the edited version is more "dramatic."

An excerpt from a Tuesday, November 18 story by the Washington Post's Lisa de Moreas:

Greenblatt acknowledged that the "live in sin, die in sin" line is toast.

"We decided we'll give them that," Greenblatt said. "On that point we yield to the detractors." That's because, he explained, the screenwriter acknowledged that she had no source citing Reagan as ever having said those exact words. But Greenblatt added, "We hope people will write that we could have put in the accurate line, which was even worse."

He said he was referring to the former president's comment about AIDS victims that's found in "Dutch," Edmund Morris's authorized Reagan biography, that goes: "Maybe the Lord brought down this plague" because "illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments."

"We decided to give Reagan a break," Greenblatt said.

The scene remains; only the line is cut. Reagan will remain silent, which, Greenblatt says, "we think is more effective and dramatic."

END of Excerpt

For de Moreas' article in full: www.washingtonpost.com

A few weeks ago, de Moraes had noted how the producers of The Reagans, who are pleased with what Showtime will air, "are well known in TV circles for their gay advocacy TV projects." De Moraes reported in a November 5 Washington Post story:
"The Reagans had been flying under the radar since it was first announced last summer, even though Zadan and Meron, executive producers of the Oscar-winning movie Chicago, are well known in TV circles for their gay advocacy TV projects and remakes of old Broadway musicals. Those advocacy projects include the NBC telefilm 'Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story,' which is based on the true story of an Army officer's legal challenge to her involuntary discharge after revealing she was gay, and the Lifetime movie 'What Makes a Family,' about a lesbian's fight to retain custody of the baby her late partner bore."

The Showtime Web site has posted a page about the movie, titled: "The Love Story. The Legacy. The Controversy. The Reagans"

It announces: "SHOWTIME TO PREMIERE 'THE REAGANS' MOVIE ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30th AT 8:00 PM (ET/PT)
"SHOWTIME presents Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winners Judy Davis ('Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows') and James Brolin ('Marcus Welby, M.D.,' 'The West Wing'), in THE REAGANS premiering on Sunday, November 30th at 8:00 PM (ET/PT).
"The film chronicles the triumphs and tragedies that punctuated the life and career of Ronald Reagan, America's 40th president. From his years in the White House to the assassination attempt on his life, to the end of the Cold War and the Iran-Contra hearings, the film explores his impact on our country, American culture and politics. Against the backdrop of the highly charged 1980s, the film also shows the enduring love story of Ronald and Nancy Reagan."

See: www.sho.com

For the November 17 AP story by David Bauder on Showtime's decision to move up the airing of The Reagans: story.news.yahoo.com

For the November 18 New York Times story by Bill Carter, which includes comments from the MRC's Tim Graham: www.nytimes.com

I'm quoted in a Tuesday Boston Globe story by Suzanne Ryan. An excerpt from the portion with me:

....Brent Baker, vice president of the watchdog group the Media Research Center, said he was "disappointed and disturbed that Showtime would go forward with a product that is so obviously flawed. We hope that people don't watch it....We fear that it'll be a very derogatory and liberal take on his life."

Baker said that based on what he's read about the script, he believes "it's a mocking film of him as kind of a befuddled old guy playing second fiddle to Nancy and other operatives. Certainly, it's not a positive take on him as a take-charge guy. We were hoping Showtime would do more to try to edit it and make it a better overall production."...

END of Excerpt

For the November 18 Globe article in full: www.boston.com

Character Modeled After Geraldo Gets
Shot on NBC's Law & Order

Geraldo Rivera gets shot. At least a figure clearly modeled after him does in a "ripped from the headlines" episode Wednesday night of NBC's Law & Order. Promos for the episode, about a reporter who apparently gets shot by an angry soldier upset that the journalist revealed the location of troops in Iraq with which he was embedded, show the reporter crouching down to draw in the sand. Just like Geraldo.

NBC's Web site lists this plot summary for the episode, titled "Embedded," set to air on Wednesday night, November 19, at 10pm EST/PST, 9pm CST/MST:

A NEWS REPORT LEADS TO ATTEMPTED MURDER WHEN A JOURNALIST PUTS AMERICA SOLIDERS' LIVES IN DANGER -- When a controversial reporter who was recently forced to return from covering the war in Iraq after revealing the position of the unit he was embedded with is shot in the back outside a trendy club, Detectives Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Green (Jesse L. Martin) sort through a laundry list of people with a grudge against the victim. However, when ballistics show the bullets used in the attack came from an army issued handgun, the detectives set their sights on a disgruntled sergeant who blames the journalist for the death of several of his men. Sam Waterston, Elisabeth Rohm, Fred Thompson and S. Epatha Merkerson also star. TV-14"

That's online at: www.nbc.com

Reuters Dubs Moyers' Show as "Self-Improving
Educational Fare"

Only Reuters could describe PBS's Now with Bill Moyers as "self-improving educational fare," but that's just what the British-owned news service did last week in an article, posted by MSNBC.com, about the "dark side of TiVo," how owners of the computer-driven recording devices become slaves to the hours of programming stored on their units.

James Taranto's "Best of the Web" column on OpinionJournal.com ( www.OpinionJournal.com ) highlighted the strange description of the left-wing Moyers show.

San Francisco-based Reuters reporter Elinor Mills Abreu began her November 11 piece: "TiVo television recorders that allow viewers to replay programs and skip commercials have turned casual TV watchers into prisoners shackled to sofas, unable to keep up with the flood of their favorite shows. 'For something that is supposed to be relaxing and unwinding at the end of the day, you (think) 'Wow! I have a lot of shows to watch,' said Scott Bedard, technology director at an online media company in San Francisco. 'Will I ever catch up?' he worries aloud."

Six paragraphs later, Abreu worried: "Fanatical TiVo users complain that their TiVo quickly fills up with shows they can't bear to delete, from self-improving educational fare like 'NOW with Bill Moyers' and 'Chimps: So Like Us,' to less cerebral programs such as 'Sex and the City.'"

For the story in full: www.msnbc.com

Sex and the City is more "educational" than the left-wing lectures and anti-conservative rants delivered on Now with Bill Moyers. At least on HBO's Sex and the City I can learn the names of fashion lines of footwear for women.

-- Brent Baker