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Rather Counters MN Controversy with Outrage at GOP in Georgia -- 10/31/2002 CyberAlert


1.
Rather Counters Minn. Controversy with Outrage at GOP in Georgia
Dan Rather couldn't let bad Democratic behavior stand alone, so he balanced how Democrats misused the Wellstone memorial service with two manufactured controversies. First, he treated a Georgia TV ad from weeks ago as fresh news: "Six days to the elections and the campaign has taken a dirty and decidedly negative turn. In a U.S. Senate race in Georgia the Republican challenger questions the patriotism of the Democratic incumbent." Second, after noting how the Wellstone memorial service "was made into a partisan Democratic rally," Rather added, as if it deserved equal condemnation, "and the Republican candidate poses for interviews in front of a plane like the one in which the Senator died."

2. CNN's Brown Calls Dems and Repubs "Equally Shameful"
CNN's Aaron Brown concluded that both the misuse of the memorial service, attended by thousands and viewed by at least hundreds of thousands if not a few million on TV, was of no more importance than how he personally was annoyed by a few identically-worded e-mails complaining about what the Democrats did: "So here is what last night proved: One side can be tasteless and the other side has the computer skills to cut and paste under the guise of genuine outrage. Which is worse? To me it's a tie." Since he was "annoyed" at both parties, Brown boasted that "you can't be more fair and balanced than that."

3. Time: Mondale's From When Democrats "Hewed to the Left"
For Time magazine's Jessica Reaves Walter Mondale is "a Democrat from back when the party hewed to the left on most social issues." When did they stop? In her online piece Reaves yearned for when Democrats were more liberal: "There are plenty of voters in Minnesota who barely remember the '84 campaign, but who know from their parents and grandparents that Mondale, like Wellstone, is a reminder of what the Democratic Party once stood for."


Rather Counters Minn. Controversy with
Outrage at GOP in Georgia


Dan Rather just couldn't let bad Democratic behavior stand alone, so under the heading of "the election campaign gets dirtier and nastier" he balanced how Democrats turned a Minnesota memorial service into a political rally with the news from weeks ago, which he treated as fresh, about how the Republican Senate candidate in Georgia "questions the patriotism of the Democratic incumbent, a decorated amputee war hero."

Rather also treated the transportation method of Minnesota Republican Senate candidate Norm Coleman as some kind of scandal, something no other network did on Wednesday night, complaining about how Coleman "poses for interviews in front of a plane like the one in which the Senator died."

"Tonight's headlines," Rather teased at the top of the October 30 CBS Evening News, "the election campaign gets dirtier and nastier."

Dan Rather
CBS's Dan Rather claimed both Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota were engaging in controversial campaigning.

Rather opened his show not with the Minnesota memorial/rally but with a TV ad launched weeks ago in another state: "Good evening. Six days to the elections and the campaign has taken a dirty and decidedly negative turn. In a U.S. Senate race in Georgia the Republican challenger questions the patriotism of the Democratic incumbent, a decorated amputee war hero."

Then he got to Minnesota, but even within that state he held both sides equally culpable for sleazy campaigning: "In the Minnesota Senate race what was supposed to have been a memorial service for Senator Paul Wellstone was made into a partisan Democratic rally and the Republican candidate poses for interviews in front of a plane like the one in which the Senator died."

Reporter Cynthia Bowers offered no hint as to the reason for the supposed controversy over Coleman's airplane choice. She began her piece from Minnesota: "The new race for Senate in Minnesota is less than a day old, but already knee-deep in controversy." Over video of Coleman walking up airplane stairs and then turning and waving to the crowd, Bowers intoned: "It began this morning when the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman, set off on exactly the kind of fly-around on the same type of aircraft that claimed the life of incumbent Paul Wellstone just last Friday."
Coleman, not in front of plane but with a bunch of reporters around him outside somewhere in the dark: "We have grieved. We have suffered great loss. But now it is time to get back to work."

[See Web Update below]

Bowers then got to what everyone but CBS saw as the only controversy of the day: "But it was last night's memorial service that has the whole state buzzing. Much of Minnesota, it seems, was watching the broadcast of the Wellstone memorial and many were caught off guard when the service took an unexpected turn from graceful tributes-"
Harkin: "I loved him like my brother."
Bowers: "-to what some say was disgraceful politicking on behalf of Wellstone's all but official successor, Walter Mondale."
Rick Kahn, Wellstone campaign treasurer: "We are begging you to help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone."
Bowers: "That that appeal was made to Republican Senators caused Trent Lott to walk out. All night whenever Republican faces popped up on the Jumbotron thousands jeered while prominent Democrats were welcomed with wild applause."...

Soon back to Rather, he manufactured a current controversy in another state over something which occurred weeks ago as CBS played a tape of a piece from Bob Schieffer -- who had traveled to Georgia last week, before Wellstone's death.

Rather warned: "And then there's that high-profile Senate race in Georgia. CBS's Bob Schieffer went there and found the campaign is finishing down, dirty and close."

Schieffer's story treated incumbent Democrat Max Cleland as a victim of unfair attacks from Republican candidate Saxby Chambliss, as if Cleland's war service should exempt him from any criticism on national security issues. Schieffer began: "From the tiny town of Plains to the streets of Atlanta, Georgia's war hero Democratic Senator Max Cleland is in the fight of his political life."

After noting how President Bush and Vice President Cheney have campaigned repeatedly for Chambliss, Schieffer observed: "Cleland has some headliners of his own, including the newest Nobel laureate."
Jimmy Carter: "I love Max Cleland."
Schieffer lamented: "But in a year when no real themes emerged, love has been rare in this one. Chambliss forces put Osama bin Laden's picture into one ad against Cleland because Cleland didn't support the President's version of homeland security legislation."
Ad text on screen: "Since July, Max Cleland has voted against the President's vital Homeland Security efforts 11 times!"
Ad announcer: "Max Cleland is just misleading."
Schieffer asserted: "Chambliss has tried to make this a race about patriotism, who can best help the President fight the war on terrorism. But that's not always an easy case to make against a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam."
Chambliss to Schieffer: "You can't run against Max Cleland. You run against Max Cleland's record. I mean, Max is a nice guy, I've never said anything but that, but his voting record is just so out of touch with the way a majority of Georgians think."
Schieffer: "Cleland, a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran, supports a different version of homeland security legislation and calls the attacks on him repulsive."
Cleland to Schieffer: "I volunteered to defend my country 35 years ago and served in the war in my generation. The individual who's made those attacks on me never served in the American military at all."
Schieffer finally got to how Cleland is critical of Chambliss in TV ads: "Cleland's ads have been no gentler than Chambliss's."
Ad announcer: "The more you learn about Saxby Chambliss the sicker you get."
Schieffer: "But it always comes back to who loves the country more: A veteran who lost his legs and an arm in Vietnam and a non-veteran who votes with the President."

Schieffer concluded by noting how Cleland is slightly ahead, but it's so close that President Bush has decided to make another visit to Georgia.

By making it a choice between "a veteran who lost his legs and an arm in Vietnam and a non-veteran who votes with the President," after three times implying Cleland is above criticism on national security by citing what he gave his nation by serving in Vietnam ("a decorated amputee war hero," "a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam" and "a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran"), CBS News certainly put image ahead of policy.

Meanwhile, the NBC Nightly News managed to treat the Minneapolis memorial service/political rally as the only controversy of the day, though the network soon offered the Wellstone family plausible deniability on what happened by emphasizing how they had no idea in advance what the speakers would say.

Tom Brokaw teased: "Campaign turmoil: Signs and songs, cheers and boos, now outrage after a huge turnout for Paul Wellstone. Was it a memorial or a Democratic campaign rally?"

Kelly O'Donnell explained from Minneapolis: "Playing tonight at the state theater in Minneapolis: Walter Mondale's coming out of retirement party. With the launch of the replacement candidate's campaign now sidetracked by backlash, the Democrats accused of capitalizing on tragedy for political gain at last night's Wellstone memorial."

After noting how Governor Jesse Ventura walked out and playing a clip from Rick Kahn's rant, O'Donnell assured viewers: "Sources close to the Wellstone family say the bold partisanship at the service was unexpected and no one thought to pre-approve the text of a eulogy."

[Web Update: Dan Rather should have been upset at Matt Lauer and NBC News producers, not Norm Coleman. The Coleman interview was done in front of the plane in order to accommodate NBC's Today show, Hotline reported on Wednesday. The MRC's Liz Swasey alerted me to this item in the October 30 Hotline about Coleman's appearance that morning on Today:
"Coleman appeared in front of an airplane for the interview. GOP sources told the Hotline that the Today refused to conduct the interview unless Coleman appeared in front of an airplane. But Today show spokesperson Lauren Kapp told the Hotline 'that's absolutely false.' She said the show used the space available as Coleman was preparing to leave on a campaign swing after he was finished talking with Lauer."

I have reviewed the interview and learned that the backdrop did not bother Lauer since he didn't make any mention of it. And on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Kelly O'Donnell, in the story quoted above, also made no mention of what Dan Rather considered so sinister.] Norm Coleman
NBC's Today had Coleman appear in front of a plane

CNN's Brown Calls Dems and Repubs
"Equally Shameful"


Aaron Brown thinks a lot of himself and sees the world through the e-mail he receives. On Wednesday night he decided that he's "annoyed at both political parties," adopting the FNC slogan as he boasted that "you can't be more fair and balanced than that." The reasons for his ire: One party misused the memorial service for the late Senator Wellstone while the other was responsible for Brown having to endure a dozen identical e-mails complaining about it.

Brown began his "Page Two" commentary, at the start of the October 30 NewsNight on CNN, by saying that "calling it a memorial insults the dead" since it "was totally tasteless," but he called the sending to him of a few identically-worded e-mails, complaining about what the Democrats did, "equally shameless."

Brown concluded that both the misuse of the memorial service, attended by thousands and viewed by at least hundreds of thousands if not a few million on TV, was of no more importance than how he personally was annoyed by a few e-mails from lazy people. He gave both events equal weight: "So here is what last night proved: One side can be tasteless and the other side has the computer skills to cut and paste under the guise of genuine outrage. Which is worse? To me it's a tie."

Brown's self-centered "Page Two" commentary in full:
"I find myself at exactly the right place for a reporter tonight. I'm annoyed at both political parties. And you can't be more fair and balanced than that. Last night's event in Minneapolis -- calling it a memorial insults the dead -- was totally tasteless. Democrats have every right to celebrate Senator Paul Wellstone's life in any way they choose. What they don't have a right to do, it seems to me, is create the impression they are going to do one thing when the plan all along was to do something else. Inviting Mr. Wellstone's former Republican colleagues was the right thing to do; booing them was not. Whatever happened to Minnesota nice? Local TV carried the event live because they believed it was going to be something other than a pep rally. They were fooled. It was all pretty shameless.
"Equally shameless has been the reaction received here. There may in fact be non-partisans upset with the event, they may in fact exist. They did not make themselves known in our in-box today. Instead, what we received was a series of identical letters. I counted at least a dozen and then got bored. I don't mean thematically identical; I mean literally identical. Word for word. Now there are two ways to look at this: It was either the most remarkable coincidence in the history of the world that a dozen people would send word-for-word the same letter or this was just a silly organized campaign by people who wouldn't have voted for the Senator for all the lutefisk (?) in Minnesota.
"So here is what last night proved: One side can be tasteless and the other side has the computer skills to cut and paste under the guise of genuine outrage. Which is worse? To me it's a tie."

It sounded like "lutefisk," but maybe a Minnesotan can clue me in on what Brown, a Minnesota native, was talking about. Some kind of fish, as in "lutefish"?

To send an original, self-written, non-identical to any message from anyone else e-mail to Brown, go to the NewsNight Web page. Under "Contact Us," which is on the left side beneath a picture of Brown, you'll see a link to an e-mail submission form: http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/aaron.brown/index.html

[Web Update: Several CyberAlert readers have kindly described "lutefisk" for me. It's a fish after it has been soaked in lye. One sent along this definition from dictionary.com's citation from the American Heritage Dictionary:
"A traditional Scandinavian dish prepared by soaking air-dried cod in a lye solution for several weeks before skinning, boning, and boiling it, a process that gives the dish its characteristic gelatinous consistency."
Sounds disgusting, but if you want to whip some up, another reader passed along a Web page describing how to make lutefisk: http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/3227/recipes/luteing.htm
But don't on tasting it anytime soon. It takes two weeks.]

Time: Mondale's From When Democrats
"Hewed to the Left"


When did Democrats stop "hewing to the left"? A Time magazine online profile of Walter Mondale, James Taranto noted earlier this week in his "Best of the Web" column for opinionjournal.com, described Mondale as "a Democrat from back when the party hewed to the left on most social issues."

They don't now?

"Where Have You Gone, Walter Mondale?" read the headline over the online-only piece by Jessica Reaves which was posted on October 28. Reaves paid tribute to how "there are plenty of voters in Minnesota who barely remember the '84 campaign, but who know from their parents and grandparents that Mondale, like Wellstone, is a reminder of what the Democratic Party once stood for."

Reaves pined:
"But exactly what kind of name recognition does Mondale carry? While its very mention still sends shivers of dread down the spines of loyal Democrats who remember his dismal showing in the 1984 presidential campaign, Mondale's fellow Minnesotans have had ample time -- and opportunity -- to disengage such negative connotations. After all, there are plenty of voters in Minnesota who barely remember the '84 campaign, but who know from their parents and grandparents that Mondale, like Wellstone, is a reminder of what the Democratic Party once stood for. And that may be exactly why state party leaders see him as the ideal replacement.
"Mondale served in the Senate from 1964 to 1976, when he became Jimmy Carter's presidential running mate, and then Vice President. A Democrat from back when the party hewed to the left on most social issues, Mondale is likely to pick up Wellstone's liberal banner as his own. Then again, that may be pure speculation based on his prior voting record: His most recent political tour of duty was as President Clinton's ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996, and while Mondale has remained active on the Minnesota political landscape, his positions on current issues are not widely known."

For the article in full: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,385151,00.html -- Brent Baker


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