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Ruing Less Abortion Access, One Justice Away from Roe Overturn -- 01/23/2003 CyberAlert


1. Ruing Less Abortion Access, One Justice Away from Roe Overturn
ABC and CBS on Wednesday night reflected the concerns of liberal advocates of abortion. ABC's Linda Douglass bemoaned how "in Pennsylvania, some patients must drive hundreds of miles" to get an abortion as restrictions "have driven some doctors out of the abortion business so today 87 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider." CBS led by recalling the murder five years ago of an abortion provider before David Axelrod concluded the right to abortion is hanging in "tenuous" balance since "Roe v. Wade is just one Supreme Court justice's vote away from being overturned."

2. Conveying Misnomer That Roe "Legalized" Abortion
Network reporting conveyed the misnomer that the Roe versus Wade decision "legalized" abortion and thus, logically, if it's overturned abortion would become illegal.

3. Bush Tax Plan Not Favored, But...
NBC Nightly News led Wednesday evening by trumpeting its new poll showing that President Bush is losing popularity, most don't have confidence in him on the economy and more like the Democratic stimulus plan than his tax cut proposal. But the caveats noted by reporter Campbell Brown undermined the dire-sounding numbers.

4. ABC Blames Bush for Impact of "Proposed" Spending Cut
The omnipotent Bush-Daniels team. Harking back to a Reagan era-like media focus on the victims of phantom budget cuts, ABC's Ron Claiborne on Wednesday night blamed Bush for forcing a poor elderly woman to have to choose between paying her mortgage and paying for home heating oil so she can "stay warm." But he claimed those who get energy assistance money "are receiving less" because of the Bush administration's "proposed cut" in the program.

5. CNBC's Williams Raises Sharpton's Racial Hucksterism
Credit to CNBC's Brian Williams for raising Al Sharpton's record of racial hucksterism.

6. Actor Ed Harris Insults Bush's Manhood
Actor Ed Harris charged that President George W. Bush is not "a man," apparently because of his pro-life position. Harris leveled his insult at Bush's manhood during Tuesday night's NARAL Pro-Choice America banquet. Harris: "We've got this guy in the White House who thinks he is a man...and he's a good old boy, and he used to drink, and he knows how to shoot a gun and how to drive a pickup truck, etcetera like that. That's not the definition of a man, God [expletive]!" Plus, more traditional liberal comments from Kathleen Turner, Ossie Davis and Amy Madigan.

7. Actor George Clooney Denounces Bush Iraq Policy
Denouncing President Bush for planning to kill "innocent people" in Iraq, actor George Clooney insisted on Monday's Charlie Rose show on PBS that pursuing war with Iraq while not doing so with North Korea illustrates how "we're picking on people we can beat."


Correction: The January 22 CyberAlert misspelled the last name of a member of the hosting team on ABC's The View. It's Meredith Vieira, not Viera.

Ruing Less Abortion Access, One Justice
Away from Roe Overturn

Marking the 30th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade ruling, on Wednesday night ABC and CBS reflected the concerns of liberal advocates of abortion, ruing how hard it has grown to get an abortion thanks to nettlesome restrictions and how threatened the basic right to an abortion has become thanks to conservative Republican electoral victories. CBS first stressed how because of those against abortion, it is the issue "producing the most violence."

If network producers were more conservative than liberal they would have portrayed the trend toward fewer abortions as a good thing, not as a dire threat to the freedom and rights of women.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson plugged an upcoming World News Tonight story: "We'll take 'A Closer Look' at the battle over abortion 30 years later, so many states making it so difficult to get one." Linda Douglass proceeded to bemoan how "in Pennsylvania, some patients must drive hundreds of miles" to get an abortion as parental consent laws, 24-hour waiting periods and requirements to see pictures of fetuses beforehand have made it harder to get an abortion. A doctor, in one of two soundbites ABC played in which the speaker was in shadow in order to hide their identity, claimed the rules serve "no other purpose than to try and make the patient feel sad."

As opposed to the joy felt by the about-to-be-killed unborn child?

"The laws have driven some doctors out of the abortion business," Douglass complained, so "today 87 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider."

(Hmmm. Didn't George W. Bush win something like 70 percent of the counties? I don't recall any reporters seeing that measure by county as a relevant validation of Bush's legitimacy. I'm sure the 13 percent of counties with an "abortion provider" constitute a far greater share of the nation's total population.)

CBS decided to lead its piece by raising the most extreme elements of those on the anti-abortion side, something they did not do with the anti-war demonstrators. Recalling the murder five years ago of an abortion provider, CBS's David Axelrod lectured on the CBS Evening News about how that was "an example of how abortion is redder than any other red meat social issue in America. It's the one producing the most violence." Like Douglass, he deplored how "the number of counties with no access to abortion is up."

Worse, he concluded, the right to abortion is hanging in "tenuous" balance since "Roe v. Wade is just one Supreme Court justice's vote away from being overturned."

The Douglass and Axelrod stories included soundbites from those on the pro-life side, but the agenda, spin and conclusions of both stories paralleled NARAL Pro-Choice America talking points.

In contrast to how all the networks featured soundbites from very likable marchers in the anti-war protest over the weekend, the ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC stories on Wednesday night did not include a syllable from any participant in the crowd at the big pro-life march, though the NBC story included a 14-word audio soundbite from President Bush phoning into the rally.

Dan Rather conflated the efforts of both sides as he asserted that "tens of thousands of demonstrators on both sides of the issue filled the streets of Washington today." In fact, there were tens of thousands of pro-life marchers but only a few dozen taking up the "pro-choice" side.

More on the January 22 ABC and CBS stories below.

CNN and NBC delivered much more balanced stories. On NewsNight, CNN's Candy Crowley focused the first half of her story on a new Gallup poll showing public support for abortion in general, but overwhelming support for restrictions, such as parental and spousal notification and stopping partial birth abortion. She then moved on to the comments of Democratic presidential candidates at Tuesday's NARAL Pro-Choice America dinner balanced by comments from Republicans.

Tom Brokaw set up an NBC Nightly News piece which came at the success of abortion opponents in implementing restrictions not as a threat to the right to abortion but as a sign of how those opposed to Roe vs. Wade are stronger: "NBC News In Depth tonight, it was exactly 30 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic decision legalizing abortion, but the fight over abortion has never ended in the streets or in the state houses around America. And now, 30 years later, those who want to overturn Roe v. Wade feel they're stronger than ever before."

Kelly O'Donnell looked at "thirty years of competing passions" as she ran soundbites from those on both sides, though she too noted that one new Supreme Court appointee could "tip the scales." Citing efforts to impose restrictions, she adopted the spin of those in favor of abortion through the time of natural birth as she highlighted "a proposed ban on the uncommon procedure known by abortion foes as 'partial-birth abortion.'"

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Charles Gibson introduced the story: "Thirty years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision. There were marches today both for and against abortion. We take 'A Closer Look' at how the abortion battle has changed, particularly in the last ten years. There are now fewer of them, and they are harder to get. Here's ABC's Linda Douglass."

Douglass began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, with regret: "In Pennsylvania, some patients must drive hundreds of miles to this clinic run by Jennifer Boulanger."
Jennifer Boulanger, clinic director: "The state is trying to make the decision more painful for the patient."
Douglass: "Pennsylvania requires a woman seeking an abortion to wait for 24 hours. She must listen to a state-mandated speech and will be offered pictures of a developing fetus. The doctor, who does not want his face shown for fear of protesters, says it is not easy."
Anonymous male doctor blacked out/in shadow: "Emotionally it's difficult for me because it serves no other purpose than to try and make the patient feel sad."
Douglass: "That is the point, say abortion rights opponents."

As opposed to unborn children's right advocates?

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA): "Women who are making these decisions are better informed about the consequences of their decision both on their own bodies and on the child that's within them."
Douglass rued: "More and more states are restricting abortion: 18 states require a waiting period, 25 have state-directed counseling, 32 require a minor to get permission or to notify a parent before having an abortion. Maryland is among a shrinking number of states where laws are still lenient. In Maryland there are few restrictions on abortion. No mandatory waiting period, no counseling prescribed by the government. Here the abortion rate is twice as high as it is in Pennsylvania where the laws are strict. Abortion opponents say that it's proof those strict laws are working."

On screen graphic: Abortions Per 1,000 women:
Maryland: 29
Pennsylvania: 14.3

Carol Tobias, National Right to Life Committee: "They can track the decrease of abortions in their states. We know that it is having an impact."
Douglass lamented: "The laws have driven some doctors out of the abortion business. Today 87 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider. This provider in Maryland worries about the trend."
She asked: "Do you think that we're heading for a time when it will become much harder to get an abortion?"
Anonymous female abortion provider, in shadow: "I think it will become very difficult to get an abortion, yes."
Douglass sighed in conclusion: "Abortion opponents believe they are on their way to overturning Roe versus Wade one step at a time. Linda Douglass, ABC News, Washington."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced: "It is 30 years after Roe versus Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion supporting a woman's right to choose. Tens of thousands of demonstrators on both sides of the issue filled the streets of Washington today, and this is the scene tonight at the Supreme Court: vigils in the bitter cold underscoring the still-bitter debate about changing the law. Some things already have changed, as CBS's Jim Axelrod reports."

Axelrod opened his piece with video of fewer than a dozen people walking in a circle holding signs supporting the man who murdered an abortion doctor:
"A small number of demonstrators marked Roe v. Wade in front of Dr. Barnett Slepian's old office near Buffalo. Small but telling when it comes to abortion in America. Slepian was an abortion provider shot to death in 1998, an example of how abortion is redder than any other red meat social issue in America. It's the one producing the most violence [video of bomb going off]. But for all the bombings and rallies in the last 30 years, the abortion rate now, two percent for women of reproductive age, is about the same as the mid-1970s."
Lawrence Finer, Alan Guttmacher Institute: "I think that in certain cases and in certain places, it may be more difficult to get an abortion than it is, than it was in the 1970s."
Axelrod: "It's not that nothing's changed. Plenty has. The number of counties with no access to abortion is up. The number of violent harassment cases is down. Contraception is more readily available, and apparently more effectively used. Abortions, down 11 percent for all women, are down more than double that for teenagers. It's just that the battle lines seem so fixed."
Wanda Franz, National Right to Life Committee: "The reason that abortions are done are for reasons of social and emotional and life-style reasons."
Axelrod: "The issue can almost seem talked out."
Martha Burke, National Council of Women's Org: "If we didn't have the anniversary of Roe, we would not be talking about abortion."
Axelrod: "Perhaps that's because of Americans' capacity to take things for granted. For young women in college now, hearing about a time without abortion is like hearing about Prohibition."
Allison Attenello, Rutgers University student: "I think no matter how many stories you hear about women using knitting needles and hangers, you just, when you grow up in a generation that has access to abortion, you cannot conceptualize it."
Axelrod concluded: "Which is ironic considering how tenuous the situation is. After 30 years of back and forth, the culture still hasn't moved decisively in one direction or another. Roe v. Wade is just one Supreme Court justice's vote away from being overturned. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, New York."

Conveying Misnomer That Roe
"Legalized" Abortion

Network reporting conveyed the misnomer that the Roe versus Wade decision "legalized" abortion and thus, logically, if it's overturned abortion would become illegal.

The two most glaring examples from Wednesday night:
Dan Rather teased the January 22 CBS Evening News: "CBS looks at the state of abortion in America 30 years after the Supreme Court made it legal."

On the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw asserted "it was exactly 30 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic decision legalizing abortion."

In fact, in 1972/73 abortion was legal in many states. The Roe vs. Wade decision just overruled laws against abortion in states which barred the procedure. And so, if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, the ability to regulate abortion would return to the states and though many would maintain or impose limitations, undoubtedly, abortion would remain legal in virtually every state.

Bush Tax Plan Not Favored, But...


NBC Nightly News led Wednesday evening by trumpeting its new poll showing that President Bush is losing popularity, most don't have confidence in him on the economy and more like the Democratic stimulus plan that his tax cut proposal. But the caveats noted by reporter Campbell Brown undermined Tom Brokaw's dire warnings.

Brokaw opened his January 22 show: "Good evening. This is a difficult time for President Bush and the numbers are beginning to show it. As he struggles to make the case for war with Iraq, deal with the North Koreans and do something about the American economy, his approval rating, which had been unusually high since 9/11, now is off sharply. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll the President has dropped eight points, almost 13 percent, from his approval rating in early December. The latest show an approval rating of 54 percent -- that's still a respectable number -- but the trend is down across the board in the last seven weeks."

Brown asserted that "most Americans [are] not convinced he has the right answer" on the economy as 44 percent approve of his handling of the economy while 49 percent disapprove. She proceeded to relate how 37 percent favor the Bush tax cut plan, but more, 42 percent, prefer the Democratic plan.

But then Brown offered some caveats. First, "yet when asked who they prefer to handle the economy overall, 48 percent said the President and Republicans, 43 percent Democrats." Second, she pointed out, both Presidents Clinton and Reagan had lower approval ratings at this point in their presidencies and both were still re-elected.

For the MSNBC.com story on the poll, which offers no useful details about it, so it's impossible to know if respondents were asked about individual elements of the Bush plan, see: http://www.msnbc.com/news/862957.asp?0cv=CA01

As the January 17 CyberAlert reported, when people get through the media hostility and learn the specifics they like them: More Americans consider President Bush's tax plan to be "unfair" than "fair," but a Fox News poll discovered that when asked for their assessment of each major element of it, a majority agreed with five of the six parts of it, by up to a massive 82 point margin, and the sixth earned solid plurality support. For a rundown of the numbers: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2003/cyb20030117.asp#4

ABC Blames Bush for Impact of "Proposed"
Spending Cut

The omnipotent President George W. Bush and OMB Director Mitch Daniels. Harking back to a Reagan era-like media focus on the victims of phantom budget cuts, ABC's Ron Claiborne on Wednesday night blamed Bush for forcing a poor elderly woman to have to choose between paying her mortgage and paying for home heating oil so she can "stay warm."

But Claiborne added a twist. He claimed the four million people who get energy assistance subsidies "are receiving less money this year" because of the Bush administration's "proposed cut" in the program. So the cut is only "proposed," yet it has already gone into effect? The Bush people really are improving government efficiency!

Filing a story from Boston for the January 22 World News Tonight, Claiborne noted how the cost of home heating oil has risen 23 percent since last winter. Naturally, he focused on the plight of an old woman who, Claiborne relayed, says she must use money from the mortgage payment to buy oil in order "to stay warm."

Claiborne charged: "The Lees are among four million Americans on federal home energy assistance who are receiving less money this year because of the Bush administration's proposed cut of $300 million in the program. This week the Senate voted to restore the funds, but that money may not reach those who need it for weeks."

I have no idea what the reality is here, but if the "cuts" occurred they are not just "proposed cuts" and if they are just "proposed cuts" then they haven't really occurred. And usually what the media describe as "cuts" really are not and are just reductions in the rate of increase. But even assuming the cuts are real and actually lowered spending in real terms, must the federal government pay for everything? Even at a lower level the recipients are still getting payments.

CNBC's Williams Raises Sharpton's
Racial Hucksterism

Credit to CNBC's Brian Williams for raising Al Sharpton's record of racial hucksterism. The January 22 CyberAlert noted that in reading short items Tuesday night on Sharpton making his presidential bid official, neither CBS's Dan Rather or NBC's Tom Brokaw mentioned his nefarious history of racial hate-mongering.

MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth alerted me to how Williams did on his CNBC newscast, The News with Brian Williams. He reported on the January 21 program: "Today there is another hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for President. Al Sharpton of New York today formally filed papers to join the Democratic field. His past is quite unlike that of any other candidate in the race. His name has a polarizing quality unmatched by any other candidate..."

Williams brought aboard U.S. News Publisher Mort Zuckerman and asked him: "Mort, there's a prevalent view that Al Sharpton gets a pass largely because the conversation on race in this nation is not a mature one. We're not where we should be, and can speak more candidly about it. To paraphrase a question Tim Russert asked Al Sharpton on Meet the Press, do you think there's a double standard at work here? Would a white candidate with Sharpton's background in the Tawana Brawley case have gone this far in the process?"
Zuckerman began his reply: "Well, I think that's a fair point. I think to some extent there is a double standard, but on the other hand, most of the African-Americans feel that they have been subject to a double standard for decades...."

Actor Ed Harris Insults Bush's Manhood


Actor Ed Harris Actor Ed Harris, who conceded to CNSNews.com that his wife, who is pro-abortion and an advocate for "women's rights," has "educated me over the 20 years we have been together to the point where she's got me in her hip pocket," charged that President George W. Bush is not "a man," apparently because of his pro-life position.

Harris leveled his insult at Bush's manhood during an appearance at Tuesday night's NARAL Pro-Choice America banquet. Harris is married to actress Amy Madigan who serves on the Board of Directors for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

During the evening event at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC which featured all six Democratic presidential candidates, the program was interspersed with celebrities making remarks from a platform set up in the middle of the ballroom. In addition to Harris, CNSNews.com recited more liberal comments, both during the program and to a reporter, from Harris as well as actress Kathleen Turner. And on C-SPAN I caught actor Ossie Davis opening the event by alleging: "Just as pro-choice Americans seek to empower women, the agenda of the other side seeks to take women's power away."

Back to Harris, who has starred in "The Right Stuff," "Apollo 13," "The Truman Show," "Pollack," "A Beautiful Mind," and in the currently playing movie "The Hours." When the spotlight turned on for him, he delivered some perfunctory remarks about the need to make sure women continue to have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. When he finished, the spotlight on his platform was turned off, but Harris protested and made clear he had something more to say: "Can I say one last thing?"

His plea worked and the spotlight on him was restored. He then launched into this mean-spirited personal attack on President Bush [be warned, obscenity is this quote]:
"I haven't even been drinking, but, at all, but, you know, being a man, I've got to say that we've got this guy in the White House who thinks he is a man, you know, who projects himself as a man because he has a certain masculinity, and he's a good old boy, and he used to drink, and he knows how to shoot a gun and how to drive a pickup truck, etcetera like that. That's not the definition of a man, God dammit!"

That prompted enthusiastic and loud applause as Harris stepped down from the platform.

The rant was so obnoxious that Brit Hume featured it during the roundtable segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume on Wednesday night, though FNC bleeped out part of Harris's last two words in an attempt to obscure the obscenity.

The evening opened with this from Ossie Davis: "Let us be clear: Just as pro-choice Americans seek to empower women, the agenda of the other side seeks to take women's power away. Tonight, even as we rejoice in the anniversary of Roe v Wade, we must heed the most consistent and compelling lesson of our nation's history: That freedom must be obtained by struggle and guarded by the same means. So, tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we strive. Women's lives, [next phrase unclear so I'll skip over it], a nation's promises are at stake."

CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer Marc Morano endured the left-wing gathering in person and in a January 22 story recounted not only what you could have seen if you watched C-SPAN, but more liberal reasoning he caught in one-on-one interviews. An excerpt from his story which led with Harris questioning Bush's manhood:

....At the same gathering, actress Kathleen Turner said the political power shift to the GOP in last fall's mid-term elections "scares the hell out of me."...

Harris, in an interview with CNSNews.com , said he believes it would be a "catastrophe" if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion 30 years ago.

Harris...said his status as an actor could help sway people to the abortion-rights camp.

"If I have some identity in the world other than as just a human being, as an actor of some renown , I don't know -- maybe, maybe that makes some people think about why is he doing that, why does he feel so strongly this way," Harris said....

Harris said his involvement in the pro-abortion cause stems from his wife's influence. "I am here because my wife Amy's been a fighter for woman's rights. She has educated me over the 20 years we have been together to the point where she's got me in her hip pocket," Harris said.

Actress Kathleen Turner said the GOP's increased strength in Washington "scares the hell out of me."

"I don't feel that the country is really being consulted. I don't feel we are really being informed. I think that is a high-handed kind of government that frightens me," Turner told CNSNews.com.

The Oscar-nominated Turner, who appeared in such films as "Body Heat," "Prizzi's Honor," and "Peggy Sue Got Married," also believes that her status as an actress gives her credibility. "I am a respected actress of many years," she said. "I feel it's very important to stand up for my beliefs."

Turner doubts the veracity of pro-life activists who identify themselves as Christians. "Candidly, I am afraid it is very much a religious movement, a religious-right movement, which I would hesitate to qualify as Christian because to me, Christianity is about love and to be able to love and I see little of that in their actions," she said.

According to Turner, "We need to have woman's choice and position it as a civic right as opposed to a moral choice." She then paused and congratulated herself on her statement by noting, "That was very deep."

Later, in her speech to the crowd, Turner said nothing was "more awful than bearing a child who will not be fed, will not be loved."

"I am a dedicated pro-choice activist because I am terrified for my daughter," she added.

Oscar-nominated actress Amy Madigan, who co-starred in the film Field of Dreams, said she believes opponents of abortion rights are "very committed and it's from a very religious point of view, a moral point of view." Madigan is married to actor Ed Harris and served on the board of NARAL.

"I feel we're really under threat, and we really have to mobilize, and what better time than the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade? I think it's very serious," Madigan said.

END of Excerpt

See the CNSNews.com story in its entirety.

For a picture of Harris as well as a bio and rundown of his movie and TV roles, see his Internet Movie Database page: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Harris,+Ed

For Amy Madigan: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Madigan,+Amy

For Kathleen Turner: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Turner,+Kathleen

For Ossie Davis: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Davis,+Ossie

Actor George Clooney Denounces Bush
Iraq Policy

Denouncing President Bush for planning to kill "innocent people" in Iraq, actor George Clooney insisted on Monday's Charlie Rose show on PBS that pursuing war with Iraq while not doing so with North Korea illustrates how "we're picking on people we can beat."

Of course, the nuclear blackmail North Korea can now play to avoid being attacked is all the more reason to prevent Iraq from getting a nuclear bomb and thus preventing an attack on them.

Clooney, who is probably best known from his years playing a doctor on NBC's ER, stars in and is the director of the current movie, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," which is about the claim by Gong Show host Chuck Barris that he was a contract killer for the CIA. Clooney plays Barris's CIA handler.

Near the end of Rose's January 20 show, Clooney asserted that he's "strongly opposed" to Bush's Iraq policy. He argued:
"We moved away from what we were going after which was the al-Qaeda and there's no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq, which we know, we spent a lot of time trying to prove it and it didn't happen. And we're going to go into a war and we're going to kill a lot of innocent people."

He elaborated: "First and foremost is the idea that we're going to kill a lot innocent people, that's what we're going to do. That's what we did before and it's what we're going to do again. And, the truth is, we're going to go in an negotiate with North Korea because they have a bomb, because we don't want to get involved in a fight that could result in a real problem."
Rose: "They could level Seoul, Korea."
Clooney: "They could level it. They probably can't reach, you know, maybe, you know, maybe Seattle. I don't know. It would be tough, it would be tough to get to the American coast. But the point is. We're picking on people we can beat, you know, and we're saying 'okay, we'll go get them.' Now, there's no question about te fact that Saddam Hussein is a jerk, he's a rat, so are a lot of these guys. The question is are we going to try and negotiate, are we going to try and talk to these people and find out ways without jumping in and killing people first."

Referring to how the Bush team is getting other nations to go along, Clooney suggested: "The government itself is running exactly like the Sopranos and they sit back and they make deals. And they say okay, 'I'm going do this: France, you're getting the pipelines.'..."

For a picture and bio of Clooney and a list of his roles: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Clooney,+George -- Brent Baker