Not as Eager About Kerry's "Crooked" Charge as Bush's "Asshole" --3/11/2004
2. Salivating All Day Over Kerry-McCain "Dream Team" to Beat Bush
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."
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."
-- 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:"
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."
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?"
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
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."
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?"
And from the media wing toward Bush and conservatives.
-- Brent Baker