Gilmore Beats Beyer - and Liberal Reporters

Gilmore Beats Beyer - and Liberal Reporters
by L. Brent Bozell III
November 6, 1997

Virginia's political pundits ought to be sued for false advertising. After suggesting for months the statewide campaign was a dull affair without a clear message or a compelling candidate, a lightning bolt of public opinion struck on Election Day. Three new Republicans swept into office on a wave of opposition to the punitive personal-property tax on cars. If the groundswell against the oppressive tactics of the IRS didn't send a message, these results do: Tax relief wins elections.

What's more interesting to close readers of the media is that once again, campaigning liberal media outlets, led in northern Virginia by The Washington Post, once again found themselves rejected by the electorate.

Despite early polls showing the popularity of GOP gubernatorial nominee James Gilmore's car-tax cut, the Post lined up local developers and other pro-tax businessmen against it, and ran contrarian articles like the September 5 front page story headlined "Families Worry Tax Cuts Now Will Cost Them Services Later." Reporter Spencer Hsu interviewed five people opposed to tax cuts, and only one person who in favor. When the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, proposed a car-tax cut of his own, both Post reporters and editorial writers disparaged the tactic and quoted many Democrats calling it "a horrendous mistake," implying that Beyer's original stance of favoring tax hikes would have been a winner somehow.

Hsu and The Post "truth squad" demonstrated yet again why media "Ad Watch" features need their own accuracy checks. Beyer ran an ad asserting "Gilmore supported a ninety million dollar cut in education." On September 2, Hsu analyzed the ad and concluded Beyer "accurately states Gilmore's position, including his support of fellow Republican Gov. George Allen's 1995 $2.1 billion tax cut plan that would have trimmed $90 million in increases in state spending for public health and higher education." But Hsu missed the contradiction in his own analysis. Gilmore's putative "cut" in education was indeed, a trim in proposed spending increases.

Two weeks later in the September 15th "Ad Watch"column, Hsu corrected the contradiction by getting all of it wrong: "Beyer accurately states that Gilmore, as attorney general, backed Republican Gov. George Allen"s failed 1995 tax-cutting budget, which would have reduced education spending by $90 million."

Another important bellwether in the Gilmore race was Beyer's failure to impair Gilmore by linking him with Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition, an attack the Posties took up with relish. "Christian Coalition Forum Fuels Debate Over Partisanship," said reporter Mike Allen's story on September 28. Allen underlined that the group "is being investigated by federal officials who are questioning its push for tax-free status as a nonpartisan voter-information group." Allen referred to a videotape of state Del. Jay Katzen rallying a seminar to Republican candidates, "provided to The Washington Post by a Democratic activist," of course. Post reporters also tried to trip up Gilmore by creating controversies over his views on parental consent (favored by 81 percent of the public nationwide) and spousal notification for abortions, regularly citing Beyer's claims Gilmore was an "extremist." Reporter Ellen Nakashima also slyly used this tactic in an October 7 article on GOP Attorney General candidate Mark Earley headlined "Earley Casts Net Into Virginia's Political Mainstream."

Of course, Beyer was endorsed by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, which supports abortion on demand, funded by the taxpayer when possible. So if Gilmore and Earley, with pledges to abide by Roe v. Wade, are "extremists," what are Beyer and NARAL? Post reporters called Beyer a "moderate" and had no labels for NARAL, and never questioned their tax-exempt status.

Post coverage of the race took a big pivot on October 23 when they published their own poll showing Gilmore pulling away with the car tax - and 74 percent of voters opposing Beyer on parental consent for abortion, a supposedly controversial issue for Gilmore.

When Gilmore won, the Post was forced to give it prominent play, but the rest of the media worked hard to avoid it, focusing on liberal Republicans Christie Whitman and Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani appeared on two network morning shows the next day, but Gilmore was nowhere to be found.

Giuliani was favored all along to win in a landslide, but the pundits labeled the Gilmore race as too close to call until the final two weeks. Thus the far bigger Election Day story was found in the Old Dominon, where Gilmore received virtually the same landslide margin as Giuliani and an unprecedented GOP sweep in all three statewide campaigns. So why the network disinterest? Because to do otherwise would be acknowledging the continuing popularity of tax cuts, something the liberal press refuses to concede.