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Not as Eager About Kerry's "Crooked" Charge as Bush's "Asshole" --3/11/2004


1. Not as Eager About Kerry's "Crooked" Charge as Bush's "Asshole"
When microphones in 2000 picked up Republican candidate George W. Bush telling running mate Dick Cheney that he thought New York Times reporter Adam Clymer was "a major league asshole," the personal remark led that night's newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC with all three condemning Bush's tone. Dan Rather blasted Bush for his "meanness and nastiness." But on Wednesday night of this week, after Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was caught charging that, of those in the Bush administration, "these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group that I've ever seen," a very serious allegation, ABC, CBS and NBC played the clip, but neither ABC or CBS led with it and ABC avoided offering a value judgment about it. (NBC tagged it "harsh" and CBS suggested it displayed the "dark side" of politics.)

2. Salivating All Day Over Kerry-McCain "Dream Team" to Beat Bush
Salivating for John McCain to make another national run. ABC's Charles Gibson pressed McCain on Wednesday morning about forming "a dream ticket" with John Kerry and when McCain demurred, saying such a scenario is "hard to imagine," Gibson begged: "Let me imagine it." McCain made it clear he had no interest in the idea, but that didn't inhibit the AP from leading an early afternoon dispatch: "Republican Sen. John McCain allowed a glimmer of hope Wednesday for Democrats fantasizing about a bipartisan dream team to defeat President Bush." MSNBC's Chris Jansing soon effused: "Boy, are people going to be buzzing about this one." CNN's Wolf Blitzer excitedly opened his show: "Dream team? Could John Kerry pick a Republican running mate?" Blitzer enthused: "Now an extraordinary, truly extraordinary scenario. A split ticket dream team that pairs a partisan Democrat with a GOP maverick." CNN's Brian Todd was similarly excited about "a fascinating scenario. A powerful bipartisan ticket taking on the Bush political machine."


Not as Eager About Kerry's "Crooked"
Charge as Bush's "Asshole"

Democratic candidate John Kerry When microphones in 2000 picked up Republican candidate George W. Bush telling running mate Dick Cheney that he thought New York Times reporter Adam Clymer was "a major league asshole," the personal remark led that night's newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC with all three condemning Bush's tone. Dan Rather blasted Bush for his "meanness and nastiness." But on Wednesday night of this week, after Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was caught charging that, of those in the Bush administration, "these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group that I've ever seen," a very serious and personal allegation, ABC, CBS and NBC played the clip, but neither ABC or CBS led with it and ABC avoided offering a value judgment about it. (NBC tagged it "harsh" and CBS suggested it displayed the "dark side" of politics.)

Arguably, Kerry's shot is more newsworthy since it represented an unsubstantiated allegation of criminal wrongdoing by the incumbent administration while in 2000, though Bush's remark may have been intemperate, it was about someone not on any ballot and did not suggest Clymer did anything criminal.

Bush commented on Clymer on September 4, 2000, which was Labor Day, and it led ABC's World News Tonight as holiday substitute anchor Kevin Newman warned: "Increasingly, Governor Bush is seen to be falling behind in the polls, which may test his often-stated desire to bring a new tone of civility to politics. Well today he was caught on tape with a decidedly uncivil comment, the kind that could get in the way of what the Bush campaign would rather talk about, which is debates."

NBC Nightly News anchor John Seigenthaler topped his newscast by pronouncing: "Governor Bush may have stepped on his message of restoring honor and dignity to the White House today when a microphone caught him making an undignified remark about a newspaper reporter."

Returning to work the day after Labor Day, CBS's Dan Rather lectured: "On one bit of campaign meanness and nastiness in particular, George Bush now says he's sorry his gutter language and personal attack was picked up by a microphone at a campaign stop yesterday, but he refuses to apologize for the substance of his comment. Bush's remark was about Adam Clymer, a New York Times reporter whose coverage he doesn't like."
Bush clip from Monday: "There's Adam Clymer, a major league [bleep]hole from the New York Times."
Cheney: "Yeah, he is, big time."

Rather went on with his diatribe: "You may want to note there's a long history of politicians attacking the press and Bush did not apologize for what he said about the Times reporter. Reactions to Bush's comment included this one today from Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa [with ellipses as shown on screen]: 'It would be better if no person...spoke about others in that fashion.' By the way, several major newspapers today quoted the Bush comment directly [Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today logos on screen.]. The New York Times itself did not, saying only that Bush quote, 'used an obscenity to describe a New York Times correspondent.'"

For more on 2000 coverage of Bush's "asshole" remark, see the September 5 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

And the September 6 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

A rundown of how ABC, CBS and NBC treated Kerry's remark made Wednesday morning, March 10, to a group of men in a barren-looking building in Chicago. It occurred after Kerry finished speaking by satellite to AFL-CIO leaders in Florida. Kerry had his back to the camera with a technician behind him rounding up cable and un-clipping Kerry as Kerry made his allegation.

-- ABC's World News Tonight led with Bush trying to address job loss. Jennings teased: "The President contends with angry and worried voters today."

Jennings opened the broadcast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, without any mention of Kerry's remark: "Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with the political battle being waged about economic recovery in the country. The presidential campaigns are deep into disagreement about how to deal with the most important issue. Today, the President made his fifteenth visit to Ohio since he was elected. Ohio voted Republican in 2000, but it is every bit a battleground this time."

After Terry Moran's piece, ABC ran a contrarian story about how economists think outsourcing is good for the economy. Jennings introduced the piece: "In the next eight months it's not likely you'll hear either Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry acknowledge what many economists believe, that sending some jobs overseas is actually good for the overall economy." Dean Reynolds began: "Outsourcing: It's become a dirty word to American workers, but the fact is that most economists see it as a good thing."

For the third story of the night, Jennings introduced a look, by George Stephanopoulos, at the new use of "527" groups to get around McCain-Feingold: "Now, we turn back to politics and money and legal loopholes. Last year, Congress barred the national parties from spending huge amounts of money to help their presidential candidates. But as many people thought would happen, a slew of political groups sprouted to take advantage of a loophole. And they are largely critical of President Bush. And they have unleashed an expensive advertising campaign to beat him."

Then, in the fourth place slot, Jennings got to Kerry's comment: "As George knows, in our campaign notebook today, some unguarded remarks by Senator Kerry. He was talking to some supporters in Chicago."

With the words on screen matching the audio, ABC showed the video of Kerry: "Oh yeah, don't worry, man. Thank you. We're gonna keep pounding, let me tell you. We're just beginning to fight here. These guys are, these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group that I've ever seen."
Jennings: "One of Kerry's aides said he was referring to, quote, 'the Republican attack machine.' A spokesman for the President said it was part of Kerry's relentlessly negative campaign."

-- The CBS Evening News, with Dan Rather in Baghdad, led with the killing in Iraq of a civilian U.S. DOD woman, Fern Holland.

Second, Bill Plante took up how Bush and Kerry are addressing the jobs issue with Bush playing offense in Ohio which has had "huge job losses."

Third, anchor John Roberts set up a story about "a new onslaught of nasty advertisements the campaigns aren't paying for" -- the same "527" phenomenon looked at by ABC. Within that story, Byron Pitts ran the Kerry video.

Pitts began: "With the Democratic nomination safely in his pocket, John Kerry promised supporters in Chicago last night:"
Kerry: "Change is coming to America."
Pitts: "That's the sunny side of American politics. Today the dark side showed up. Listen to this conversation we overheard between Kerry and a union voter-"
Man at front of small group, to Kerry as two shake hands: "Keep smiling."
Pitts: "-discussing the Republican quote, 'attack machine.'"
Kerry: "We're going to keep pounding, let me tell you. We're just beginning to fight here. These guys are, these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group that I've ever seen."
Pitts then moved on: "Voters in 18 battleground states will now see an increasing number of attack ads starting today.. Democrats have taken the leading in using campaign finance laws that allow surrogate organizations, like MoveOn, to finance attack ads."
Ad clip on how "George Bush's priorities are eroding the American dream."

Pitts proceeded to note how Republicans also have a surrogate group, Citizens United, doing an ad and he played a clip of it in which the announcer described Kerry as "another rich liberal elitist from Massachusetts."

-- NBC Nightly News. Unlike ABC, and CBS, Brokaw noted Kerry's outburst in his tease: "Decision 2004: President Bush's prescription for an ailing job market and Senator Kerry's harsh words in this unguarded moment."

David Gregory began his lead story by focusing on how Bush went to Ohio because "the President knows well that Ohio has become Ground Zero in this campaign for America's vanishing jobs, a political reality that brought him to Cleveland today where he tried to convince voters here that he gets it."

Gregory then got to Kerry: "For his part, Kerry accused the President of exporting jobs rather than creating them. Perhaps forgetting that he was still wearing a microphone after a satellite speech, he was even harsher."
Kerry, with words on screen: "We're just beginning to fight here. These guys are, these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group that I've ever seen."
Gregory: "Tonight the Bush team dismisses that remark from Senator Kerry as a smear. Still, the jobs issue remains a major political liability for this President in an election year. As a result, the White House will soon name a manufacturing czar whose job it will be to concentrate on how to reverse job losses in key states like Ohio."

Salivating All Day Over Kerry-McCain
"Dream Team" to Beat Bush

Salivating for John McCain to make another national run. ABC's Charles Gibson pressed Senator John McCain on Wednesday morning about forming "a dream ticket" with Senator John Kerry and when McCain demurred, saying such a scenario is "hard to imagine," Gibson begged: "Let me imagine it." McCain made it clear he had no interest in the idea, but that didn't inhibit the AP from distorting McCain's views as it led an early afternoon dispatch: "Republican Sen. John McCain allowed a glimmer of hope Wednesday for Democrats fantasizing about a bipartisan dream team to defeat President Bush."

The AP's take fueled the imaginations and dreams of the cable networks. MSNBC's Chris Jansing effused at 2:30pm EST: "And one more fascinating political note, Republican Senator John McCain is allowing a glimmer of hope for Democrats who might fantasize about a bipartisan dream team to defeat President Bush." Jansing gushed: "Boy, are people going to be buzzing about this one." She also took a shot at Bush, claiming that the speculation comes "at a time when President Bush is appealing to his conservative base, some say to the detriment of appealing to his moderate supporters," so "this is a very interesting possibility."

CNN's Wolf Blitzer excitedly opened his 5pm EST show: "Dream team? Could John Kerry pick a Republican running mate?" Setting up the lengthy segment, Blitzer enthused: "Now an extraordinary, truly extraordinary scenario. A split ticket dream team that pairs a partisan Democrat with a GOP maverick." CNN reporter Brian Todd was similarly excited: "With all his disclaimers McCain's comments on Good Morning America leave open a fascinating scenario. A powerful bipartisan ticket taking on the Bush political machine." Todd concluded that the scenario "sets political imaginations alight."

NBC's Tom Brokaw even got into the act, announcing on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News: "And for those of you looking for some bi-partisanship in this campaign, consider this: A John Kerry/John McCain ticket. Senator McCain, a Republican, was asked today whether if he was asked would he consider being John Kerry's running mate. Here's how he responded [text on screen read by Brokaw]: 'John Kerry is a close friend of mine. We have been friends for years. Obviously, I would entertain it.' But, McCain acknowledged, the chances of being asked are slim and later in the day McCain's chief-of-staff said, in no uncertain terms, that the Senator quote, 'will not be a candidate for Vice President in 2004.'"

Now, a fuller rundown of the ABC, AP, MSNBC and CNN hyperventilation over McCain on Wednesday, March 10, starting with Good Morning America on which McCain appeared in order to discuss his hearings on steroid use in major league baseball.

Ignoring front page Washington Post and New York Times stories on how Democrats are using "527" groups to get around McCain-Feingold, a method McCain believes is in violation his bill, Gibson squeezed in yearnings for McCain, the media's favorite Republican, go help Kerry to win.

Gibson: "Before I let you go, couple of quick political questions. A lot of Democrats say a dream ticket would be if John Kerry would reach across the aisle, take you as a vice presidential candidate. Are you going to say no, no how, no way, won't do it?"
McCain via satellite with the U.S. Capitol building behind him: "Charlie, it's impossible to imagine the Democratic Party seeking a pro-life, free-trading, non-protectionist deficit hawk. There's, it's hard to imagine. They'd have to be taking some steroids-"
Gibson jumped in to plead: "But let me, let me imagine it. If he asked you, if he came across the aisle and asked you, would you even entertain the idea, or will you rule it out for good and all and ever right now?"
McCain: "John Kerry is a very close friend of mine. We've been friends for years. Obviously, I would entertain it, but there is, I see no scenario, no scenario, no scenario, where, I foresee no scenario where that will happen."
Gibson: "And will you campaign actively against him? He's a good friend, but obviously you are a Republican. Will you campaign actively against him this fall if he doesn't ask you to be a Vice President?"
McCain: "I have campaigned for and will continue to campaign for the President of the United States. I think we ought to spend a lot more time in politics campaigning for the people we support rather than against them. This, so far, is the nastiest campaign so far that we've seen, and the American people deserve a lot better than what they've gotten so far."

From that, at 1:01pm EST, the AP generated a very misleading story headlined: "Sen. McCain Open to Being Kerry's VP." An excerpt from the un-bylined dispatch from Washington, DC which, only after some opening hype, got to how McCain clearly dismissed the idea:

Republican Sen. John McCain allowed a glimmer of hope Wednesday for Democrats fantasizing about a bipartisan dream team to defeat President Bush.

McCain said he would consider the unorthodox step of running for Vice President on the Democratic ticket -- in the unlikely event he received such an offer from the presidential candidate.

"John Kerry is a close friend of mine. We have been friends for years," McCain said Wednesday when pressed to squelch speculation about a Kerry-McCain ticket. "Obviously I would entertain it."

But McCain emphasized how unlikely the whole idea was.

"It's impossible to imagine the Democratic Party seeking a pro-life, free-trading, non-protectionist, deficit hawk," the Arizona senator told ABC's Good Morning America during an interview about illegal steroid use. "They'd have to be taking some steroids, I think, in order to let that happen."...

END of Excerpt

For the AP item in full: news.yahoo.com

At 2:30pm EST, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed, MSNBC enthusiastically picked up on the AP's take. Co-anchor Chris Jansing announced: "And one more fascinating political note, Republican Senator John McCain is allowing a glimmer of hope for Democrats who might fantasize about a bipartisan dream team to defeat President Bush. Listen to this, McCain saying he would entertain the idea of a Kerry-McCain ticket. Sam, they are very good friends, they have worked together in the past in the Senate. Boy, are people going to be buzzing about this one."
Co-anchor Sam Shane: "All right, let's not, don't bury the lead here. John McCain says he-"
Jansing grew even more excited about what she just heard about what McCain had said seven hours earlier: "We just learned this. He has said he would entertain the idea -- he doesn't know if John Kerry would be interested -- but he wouldn't totally rule out the idea that he could be on a Kerry-McCain ticket. There are probably a lot of Democrats who might have something to say about that who have vice presidential aspirations of their own, but for a lot of people, when you're looking in a tight race like this to bring in the independents, to bring in some more moderate Republicans, especially at a time when President Bush is appealing to his conservative base, some say to the detriment of appealing to his moderate supporters, this is a very interesting possibility."

A few hours later, CNN's Wolf Blitzer devoted a story and interview segment to the possibility. From Miami, he opened the 5pm EST Wolf Blitzer Reports: "Dream team? Could John Kerry pick a Republican running mate? It could decide the election."

Blitzer set up the eventual story: "Now an extraordinary, truly extraordinary scenario. A split ticket dream team that pairs a partisan Democrat with a GOP maverick, namely John McCain. It's still just the work of the imagination, but the idea, as they say, apparently may be or has been in play. So let's play what if? Here's CNN's Brian Todd."

During Todd's story, "Dream Team?" was featured on screen. Todd began: "The political plot thickens. Could John Kerry tap a Republican superstar as a running mate? Senator John McCain, asked point-blank if he would entertain the idea of a spot on the Democratic ticket."
McCain on GMA: "It's impossible to imagine the Democratic party seeking a pro-life, free trading, non-protectionist, deficit hawk. It's hard to imagine. They'd have to be taking some steroids."
Charles Gibson: "But let me, let me imagine it. If he asked you, if he came across the aisle and asked you, would you even entertain the idea or would you rule it out for good and ever right now?"
McCain: "John Kerry is a very close friend of mine. We've been friends for years. Obviously I would entertain it. I see no scenario, no scenario, no scenario, where, I foresee no scenario where that would happen."
Todd: "Asked if he would campaign against Kerry if not asked to join the ticket, McCain says he'll campaign for the President of the United States. With all his disclaimers McCain's comments on Good Morning America leave open a fascinating scenario. A powerful bipartisan ticket taking on the Bush political machine. Is it realistic?"
William Schneider, CNN political analyst: "If he were to go on the Democratic ticket, a lot of Democrats would say wait a minute, can this happen? When they think about it, they're likely to say, you know what? This could elect John Kerry and get George Bush out of the White House, and McCain would only be Vice President. Vice presidents don't control anything."
Todd: "Within hours of Senator McCain's interview, his chief of staff is quoted as saying 'Senator McCain will not be a candidate for Vice President in 2004.' A Kerry campaign official would tell us only they want to preserve the integrity of the process, and Senator Kerry has the utmost respect for Senator McCain. McCain's appeal to the likely Democratic challenger? A powerful name, the crossover draw with Republicans, and crucial swing voters. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows 13 percent of likely voters say they could change their minds on a candidate. As for McCain's reasons for accepting, however unlikely."
Schneider: "He'd like to influence events to help run the country. This may be his last chance."
Todd: "It all sets political imaginations alight eight months before election day. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington."

Blitzer then moved to an interview segment about it: "Is the split ticket scenario so unthinkable? Diehards in both parties may well die. Capitol Hill insiders are still not necessarily completely ruling it out. Joining us from Washington is Chuck Todd, Editor-in-Chief of the Hotline, the national political journalist newsletter must-read in Washington and around the country every day. What are your thoughts? I know you've been doing your own reporting on this scenario?"
Chuck Todd: "It's amazing on how hard it is you will get, you can't get a Shermanesque statement out of anybody on either side of the aisle. There is some Republican fear, Republicans who, there is a Republican clique that still likes John McCain despite some rumblings around town that says Republicans aren't crazy about John McCain anymore. They're fearful that he would entertain it...."
Blitzer: "Do you think the statement from Mark Salter, the chief of staff for John McCain in the Senate, does that completely, absolutely, positively, 100 percent close the door to this possibility?"
Chuck Todd: "Of course it doesn't. With all due respect to Mark Salter who did ghostwrite or co-wrote a lot of John McCain's book, his best-selling book. Until John McCain emphatically shuts the door, you're not going to ever shut Washington rumor mills up."
Blitzer: "Give us a little perspective, all of us remember the bad blood, the feelings that were out there in 2000 when McCain and Bush ran for the Republican presidential nomination, especially what happened in South Carolina, what's the status of this relationship between the Senator and the President?"
Chuck Todd: "Well, it's still not very good. You know, despite whatever they'll say. Many, a few of John McCain's aides, including one, John Weaver who now works with Democrats, was basically shut out of working in Republican politics after this. So the feelings are very bitter. There's still this lingering bitterness that you always detect from the McCain wing of the Republican Party...."

And from the media wing toward Bush and conservatives.


# CNN's Paula Zahn is scheduled to be the guest tonight, Thursday, on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

-- Brent Baker