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Texas Democrats Walk Out But DeLay & GOP the Ogre to CBS & CNN --5/16/2003


1. Texas Democrats Walk Out But DeLay & GOP the Ogre to CBS & CNN Democrats in Texas employed extra-legal means to thwart the will of the majority by leaving the state in order to prevent a quorum, but on Thursday night, CBS portrayed U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as the ogre by focusing on his supposed misuse of federal resources to track down the fleeing Democrats. Earlier, Bob McNamara made DeLay the heavy as he falsely referred to how "DeLay's redistricting Texas power play is designed to add as many as seven more GOP seats to a state congressional delegation Republicans already control." CBS ignored how, as Fred Barnes explained on FNC, previous Democratic gerrymandering means that though the GOP captures the most House votes in Texas it has a minority of seats. CNN's Bruce Morton relayed how a left-wing columnist, unlabeled, charged: "These are Shiite Republicans."

2. Stephanopoulos Drives This Week Ratings Down to Lowest Ever ABC's George Stephanopoulos seems to be killing the This Week franchise he inherited. Stephanopoulos "pulled the lowest ratings in the history of ABC's This Week on Sunday, barely attracting 2 million viewers," the Drudge Report disclosed on Thursday.

3. Raines Admits His White Guilt Impacted How He Treated Blair From TimesWatch.org: "Raines Comes Clean -- But Soils Times Reputation," about how at Wednesday's contentious staff meeting the Executive Editor of the New York Times conceded that he treated Jayson Blair differently because he was black. As a "white man from Alabama," he admitted, he "gave him one chance too many." Plus: "A Tale of Two Plagiarists: Raines Scraped Mike Barnicle, But Sheltered Blair."

4. Geraldo Rivera: "I Think the Jews Need Me Right Now" One more burden for Jews to bear: Geraldo Rivera. "I'm making a conscious decision to take this whole Judaism thing seriously. I think the Jews need me right now," Rivera told the Washington Post in a story on his decision to have a Reformed Jewish ceremony for his fifth marriage. It will be his first "'church' wedding, as opposed to some hippie thing in a back yard."


Texas Democrats Walk Out But DeLay &
GOP the Ogre to CBS & CNN

Democrats in Texas employed extra-legal, obstructionist means to thwart the will of the majority when nearly all of the Democratic state representatives fled to Oklahoma in order to both deny the legislature a quorum for a scheduled redistricting vote for U.S. House seat boundaries until after a deadline expired Thursday night and to be beyond the reach of Texas law enforcement efforts to enforce state law mandating House session attendance by elected representatives.

But on Thursday night, CBS portrayed U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as the ogre in the tale as Dan Rather intoned: "Some Democrats say that a powerful Republican in Congress got Homeland Security personnel involved in a politicized search that had nothing to do with homeland security. It appears they were used to track down some Texas Democratic legislators who left the state to prevent a vote that could help elect more Republicans to Congress."

Two nights earlier, on the May 13 CBS Evening News, reporter Bob McNamara also made DeLay the heavy as he reported with about as much accuracy as Jayson Blair: "Democrats say House Majority Leader DeLay's redistricting Texas power play is designed to add as many as seven more GOP seats to a state congressional delegation Republicans already control."

In fact, though Republicans hold both Senate seats, they occupy a minority of Texas House seats with 15. Democrats control 17 of the 32 seats. Even counting the two Senate seats as part of a 34-seat delegation, it's a 17-17 split. So far, no correction on the CBS Evening News.

As Washington Post reporter Lee Hockstader asserted in a May 13 story, the redistricting plan is "designed to add five to seven seats to the 15 the GOP controls in the state's 32-member congressional delegation." For pictures of delegation members with their party affiliations: hutchison.senate.gov

Fred Barnes explained the background which television stories left out, how Republicans are trying to correct past Democratic gerrymandering which has resulted in the minority holding the majority of seats. During the panel segment on Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, Barnes outlined:
"There are 17 Democratic House seats and 15 Republican ones. The Republicans won 57 percent of the House vote across the state of Texas. And why is it tilted that way? It's tilted that way because of the Democratic gerrymander in 1991, which Mike Barone, our friend who writes the definitive Almanac of American Politics, described as 'the shrewdest gerrymander of the 1990s.'...In 1992, with that gerrymander in the place, the Republicans got about 50 percent of the statewide House vote -- it wound up 21 Democratic House seats and nine Republican House seats."

Nonetheless, CNN's Bruce Morton a few hours earlier had decided to showcase, without any balancing comment, an anti-Republican swipe from former New York Times reporter Molly Ivins, now a far-left columnist, but Morton didn't identify her ideology. In a story on Inside Politics, he relayed: "The Republicans control both houses of the Texas legislature now. And columnist Molly Ivins, admittedly no fan, writes, 'They think it's them against evil, and everybody who ain't them is evil. These are Shiite Republicans,' unquote."

Tuesday night on CNN's NewsNight, Aaron Brown, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, suggested "principle" behind the Democratic maneuver but dismissed the Republican redistricting as "political," as if there's something wrong with that, and recommended a court re-draw the districts.

On May 13 Brown proposed to a Democratic state representative: "This does look a little childish. So there must be a major principle at play, other than they have the votes, they can do what they want. What's the principle?" Then he told a Republican state representative: "There's hardly any process that's more political than redistricting. Why not just let a court do it? A court might do it a little more fairly with a little more objective eye than a politician might, don't you think?"

The Washington Post set the tone for national coverage with this Tuesday morning front page headline which put the burden on the Republican side: "GOP Plan Prompts a Texas Exodus." Subhead: "Democrats Stall State Legislature's Redistricting Vote."

Now, back to where we began, with the May 15 CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned: "Some Democrats say that a powerful Republican in Congress got Homeland Security personnel involved in a politicized search that had nothing to do with homeland security. It appears they were used to track down some Texas Democratic legislators who left the state to prevent a vote that could help elect more Republicans to Congress. CBS's Bob Orr is looking into this. Bob, what have you found out?"

Orr began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well, Dan, the case of those fugitive Texas House Democrats you were talking about certainly has taken a bizarre twist with new political accusations today that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay misused federal power in a failed attempt to track down the lawmakers. The charges are coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill who say Homeland Security resources were used to search for an airplane belonging to the leader of the Texas Democrats, former Speaker Peter Laney.
"Homeland officials in a statement released today say they were asked on Monday afternoon to look for the plane, a request they say came from a Texas Department of Public Safety officer who said, quote, 'We got a problem. We had a plane. It had state representatives in it and we cannot find this plane.' Under the impression they were looking for a missing or crashed airplane, this Customs control center in California mounted a search. Federal officials never did locate the airplane. Texas Congressmen today strongly suggested the call to the Feds was prompted by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a proponent of the Texas redistricting."
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), on House floor: "Not content as U.S. House commander, redistricting czar, and map maker for the Texas legislature, J. Edgar DeLay apparently seeks the job directing law enforcement."
Orr: "DeLay's office denied the charge. A spokesman for DeLay said he was asked by the Texas Speaker to ask the U.S. Justice Department if federal resources could be used to return the missing lawmakers. But DeLay's spokesman said the Congressman had no further involvement and is not even sure if Justice answered the inquiry. Homeland Security officials say they do not know who was behind the request from the Texas Public Safety officer. Federal officials say the police in Texas, quote, 'have a lot of explaining to do.'"

Earlier in the day, on CNN's Inside Politics, Ed Lavandera in Austin picked up on an angle not touched by CBS or in the Tuesday night and Wednesday morning stories on ABC and NBC: "Not all of the Democrats in the State House here in Texas left the state. There are about seven that are still left behind. Most of those Democrats are African-American representatives here in the state, and they were in favor of this redistricting bill, Judy, because it would have created an extra seat in Congress in an African-American district. One of the representatives we speak with today, Ron Wilson a Democrat of Houston, says that the Democrats in Oklahoma better hope that their chairs are still on the House floor when they return."

Next, Bruce Morton bemoaned the growing partisanship in Washington, DC and the states, but then featured a partisan shot at just one party. Morton began, as transcribed by MRC intern Nicole Casey: "As a candidate, here with the Texas legislature in 1999, George W. Bush used to talk about making Washington more like Austin."
George W. Bush: "Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do what is right for the people we represent."
Morton: "Well, he did it. Sort of. Austin and Washington are more alike, both meaner and more partisan than ever. In Texas, Democrats, infuriated by a congressional redistricting plan pushed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texan, walked out and set up camp at a Holiday Inn in Oklahoma, just across the border."
Jim Dunnam, Democratic Caucus Chairman: "We have a message for tom Delay: Don't mess with Texas."
Morton passed along a swipe: "The Republicans control both houses of the Texas legislature now. And columnist Molly Ivins, admittedly no fan, writes, 'They think it's them against evil, and everybody who ain't them is evil. These are Shiite Republicans,' unquote.
"In Washington almost everybody agrees the national Congress is more partisan than ever too, more emphasis on loyalty, less on independent thought. Mr. Bush visited Ohio and Maine, whose Republican senators disagreed with his tax cut, to urge support for it. Senate Republicans want to change the filibuster rules so that the President's judicial nominees get voted on. Retired Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton tells about how he messed up a bill when he was a freshman, and was saved when a Republican who opposed the bill told him his mistake and how to fix it. Happen today? No way...."
"One reason is Congress does its important business during a three-day week, Tuesday through Thursday. Then the members go home, raise money, politick, whatever. They don't get to know their colleagues. Years ago two members might argue bitterly over an issue then go out, have a drink or supper together, and find themselves on the same side of some other issue a few days later. Those days are over.
Morton concluded by holding only DeLay, not the Democrats which shut down a legislative body, accountable for partisanship: "In Washington, in Austin, the partisans rule. Tom DeLay's nickname is 'the Hammer.' He's earned it. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington."

Stephanopoulos Drives This Week Ratings
Down to Lowest Ever

ABC's George Stephanopoulos seems to be killing the This Week franchise he inherited. Stephanopoulos "pulled the lowest ratings in the history of ABC's This Week on Sunday, barely attracting 2 million viewers," the Drudge Report disclosed on Thursday.

George Stephanopoulos This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts became This Week with George Stephanopoulos as solo anchor in September, a move ostensibly made in the belief that he would bolster the show's sagging ratings and boost them up to the viewership level attracted by NBC's Tim Russert.

An excerpt from Drudge's May 15 posting, item in brackets in original:

The dramatic Stephanopoulos stumble has led to increased speculation in and out of ABC that news president David Westin may give the former Clinton intimate an on-air partner.

Stephanopoulos hit a 1.5 rating/5 share, the weakest number in the history of the program, research shows -- less than half the high of This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts during 2002 [3.1 rating -- Feb. 3.]

Stephanopoulos experienced a soft bottom two weeks ago [1.6], after bumping [2.7] during the Iraq War on March 30....

For Sunday, May 11, "Meet the Press with Tim Russert," attracted 4.308 million viewers, more total viewers than Stephanopoulos and CBS' "Face the Nation -- combined! Fox News Sunday was fourth with its original airing at 1.496 million viewers....

END of Excerpt

For the Drudge Report item in full: www.drudgereport.com

The Hotline, the MRC's Liz Swasey passed along to me, filled in the Face the Nation and This Week viewership numbers represented by the ratings Drudge cited: Meet the Press on May 11 earned "a 3.3 rating/11 share and 4.308M viewers. CBS' Face the Nation was second with a 1.7/6 and 2.234M viewers. ABC's This Week followed with a 1.5/5 and 2.069M viewers. Fox News Sunday had a 1.0/3 and 1.496M viewers."

You don't appreciate Sam and Cokie until they're gone.

Raines Admits His White Guilt Impacted
How He Treated Blair

The material below in this item was distributed on Thursday afternoon as a 'CyberAlert Special' to e-mail subscribers:

Latest TimesWatch.org Postings on Raines-gate/Blair Watch Project

Today's [actually Thursday's] postings by Clay Waters on the MRC's TimesWatch.org Web site dedicated to documenting and exposing the liberal political agenda of the New York Times.

Full text below for two articles, "Raines Comes Clean -- But Soils Times Reputation" and "A Tale of Two Plagiarists: Raines Scraped Mike Barnicle, But Sheltered Blair."

++ Raines Comes Clean -- But Soils Times Reputation

After days of evasion, Times Executive Editor Howell Raines finally answered the big question yesterday, admitting he gave Jayson Blair, a black reporter, "one chance too many."

Here's the Raines quote in full, courtesy of the Times media writer Jacques Steinberg: "Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter. I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities....Does that mean I personally favored Jayson? Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

(As might be expected, Steinberg's account of the unprecedented staff meeting is rather hard to find-buried on page A31 of the Times. An ironic story side-note is printed alongside the article: "The Times meeting was closed to news coverage. As a result, Mr. Steinberg, the Times media writer, did not attend it.")

More from Steinberg on the Times testy town-hall type meeting, held at a movie theatre near headquarters: "'You view me as inaccessible and arrogant,' Mr. Raines said, ticking off a list he had compiled from his own newsroom interviews in recent days. 'You believe the newsroom is too hierarchical, that my ideas get acted on and others get ignored. I heard that you were convinced there's a star system that singles out my favorites for elevation.'"

In the second half of the story, Steinberg finally addressed the central question: Did Blair's race play a role in his treatment?

"Before opening the session to questions," Steinberg wrote, "Mr. Raines made a pre-emptive attempt to address whether Mr. Blair's race -- he is black -- had played a role in his being added last fall to the team covering the hunt for the snipers in the Washington area. Only six months earlier, Mr. Blair, 27, had been found to be making so many serious errors as a reporter on the metropolitan staff that he had been informed that his job was in jeopardy."

For Steinberg's May 15 story: www.nytimes.com

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz got a little more graphic: "Joe Sexton, a metropolitan desk editor, used a profanity in demanding to know how the paper could have sent Blair, a 27-year-old reporter with a checkered record, to cover the Washington sniper case. 'You guys have lost the confidence of much of the newsroom,' Sexton said. Raines told Sexton sharply not to 'demagogue me' or use curse words, saying the discussion should be more civil. But he also said: 'I'm sorry I don't have your trust. I hope I can win it back.'"

For Kurtz's article in full: www.washingtonpost.com

END of Reprint of first of two TimesWatch.org items

++ A Tale of Two Plagiarists: Raines Scraped Mike Barnicle, But Sheltered Blair

Howell Raines was the Times editorial page editor in August 1998, at the time of the flap over the Boston Globe's plagiarizing columnist Mike Barnicle. Now that Raines has his own "Barnicle" to scrape off his paper's reputation in the form of Jayson Blair, it might be helpful to look back and see how Raines reacted to the plagiarizing Globe columnist.

As it turns out, Raines dealt with the Globe's woes by huffing and puffing about the importance of "strict enforcement of rules" and the evil of double standards. That's ironic, considering Raines just admitted giving Blair too many breaks because he was a black reporter.

In 1998, editorial page editor Raines wrote a signed editorial accusing the Globe, which is owned by the Times, of giving Barnicle a break because he's white while quickly dismissing plagiarizing black columnist Patricia Smith. (Barnicle was suspended and eventually resigned from the Globe after additional evidence of fabrication and plagiarism came to light.) For more, see a Salon story: www.salon.com

Parts of Raines' written lecture are newly relevant, given his leading role in the Blair affair. "Trust is the glue that holds newsrooms together and ultimately binds readers to a specific newspaper and to newspapers in general," Raines wrote. "The Boston Globe's decision not to dismiss its star columnist Mike Barnicle is understandable as a matter of loyalty, public relations and readership, but when it comes to the keeping of consistent professional standards, it does not pass the trust test."

Of course, Raines by his own admission failed to keep "consistent professional standards" regarding Blair [See: www.timeswatch.org ] -- and the Times is now considered even less trustworthy.

On the firing of Patricia Smith, he wrote: "The Globe dropped Ms. Smith like a hot rock, and rightly so. But upon her dismissal there were immediate rumblings that the newspaper had, for years, looked the other way when confronted with reports that Mr. Barnicle was writing what Mark Twain called 'stretchers' in his colorful but apparently well-reported columns."

As has been well documented, Raines and management repeatedly looked the other way when it came to Blair's plagiarism and erratic behavior -- even promoting Blair to lead coverage on an important national story, the DC-sniper case.

Raines continued to hector the Globe: "Editors have to be able to trust what reporters and columnists write and say. Journalists do not make things up or present others' writing and thought as their own."

No comment.

"Public respect for newspapering is wounded when rules that would be enforced with doctrinal ferocity among the mass of journalists are lightened for a star who has great value to the paper."

Of course, Raines considered Jayson Blair a star-of diversity, as he told the National Association of Black Journalists in 2001. Raines himself admits that the Times rules were lightened where Blair was concerned. The paper gave him chance after chance in the face of clear evidence of his personal and journalistic unreliability.

Raines concluded his Barnicle-bashing: "You'll buy my position, of course, only if you believe in strict enforcement of rules about borrowing, lifting and leveling with colleagues, and if you believe, as I do, that if you have to choose between a worthy but erring colleague and the newspaper itself, you choose for the paper."

Unfortunately, it seems Raines' quest for "diversity" led him to choose Jayson Blair, an erring colleague that turned out to be not so worthy after all.

For the rest of the Howell Raines-signed Barnicle-bashing editorial from August 13, 1998 ($ required for the archived story): query.nytimes.com

END Reprint of second TimesWatch.org story

For the latest on the New York Times and the Blair scandal, check: www.timeswatch.org

Geraldo Rivera: "I Think the Jews Need
Me Right Now"

One more burden for Jews to bear: Geraldo Rivera. "I'm making a conscious decision to take this whole Judaism thing seriously. I think the Jews need me right now," Rivera told the Washington Post in a story on his decision to have a Reformed Jewish ceremony for his fifth marriage. It will be his first "'church' wedding, as opposed to some hippie thing in a back yard."

An excerpt from the May 15 "The Reliable Source" column in the Washington Post by Lloyd Grove and Anne Schroeder, which MRC analyst Ken Shepherd brought to my attention:

Mazel tov to 59-year-old Fox News star Geraldo Rivera -- who will wed his 28-year-old girlfriend, television producer Erica Levy, at New York's historic Central Synagogue on Aug. 10, The Post's Christine Haughney reports. "You can't be my age and getting married and not be an optimist," Rivera, the son of a Jewish mother and Puerto Rican father, told us yesterday. He noted that he had been to the altar four times previously....

He added that "hundreds of people" -- including Bill and Hillary Clinton, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a top Palestinian official, the foreign minister of Afghanistan and various U.S. military commanders from Iraq -- have been invited to the Reform Jewish ceremony and the reception at the Four Seasons restaurant. "I was not only bar mitzvahed; I was confirmed. But this is actually my first 'church' wedding, as opposed to some hippie thing in a back yard," Rivera said. "I'm making a conscious decision to take this whole Judaism thing seriously. I think the Jews need me right now."

END of Excerpt

That's online at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

"I think the Jews need me right now." For what, the Post did not say but I doubt many Jews, or anyone of any faith for that matter, believe they "need" Rivera for anything.

-- Brent Baker