Special Expanded Election
Nine items today:
1. Six of
every seven House freshmen won re-election, so did the vote ratify the
GOP's policies? Not according to the network evening shows. And the
GOP holding the House is not what Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson predicted.
2. All the networks
initially incorrectly reported that Senator Bob Smith lost, but CBS
had a ready-made reason: he was just too darn conservative.
3. Numerous Republican
candidates got an ideologically-charged label. CNN even reported that if
Jesse Helms "was running against Jesus he'd find a way to attack
4. Network reporters
repeatedly stated as fact, without mentioning Clinton's role, that the GOP
shut down the government.
warned Republicans that the public doesn't want any more
investigations of the Clintons.
6. NBC and CBS asserted
that passage of the California Civil Rights Initiative
was a step backward.
7. Some wacky Ratherisms.
Brinkley calls Bill Clinton a "bore."
9. NBC finds a voter who
wants a President "that stands for what he believes in and not
somebody who just wants to please the people." Guess
who she voted for.
Today's CyberAlert depended on
the work of the MRC's analysis team: Steve Kaminski on CBS, Clay Waters
on CNN, Geoffrey Dickens on NBC, Jim Forbes on PBS, Gene Eliasen on ABC,
and with intern Joe Alfonsi pitching in at the transcribing desk. Plus,
Tim Graham and myself.
1) On This Morning on Wednesday, November 6, CBS reporter Troy
Roberts began a story:
pundits had written his political obituary, but last night Newt Gingrich
oversaw a victory, just barely, as voters ratified the two-year-old
revolution that changed the face of Congress. The party retains control
of the House, despite discouraging poll figures about its
That view, of the
vote ratifying the GOP win in 1994, was rarely heard on the networks. In
fact, no story on the Wednesday night ABC, CBS or NBC evening shows told
viewers that almost all of the "extremist" freshmen won.
winners, Helen Chenoweth of Idaho. Back on the October 12 Capital Gang,
The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt predicted: "I think the Gingrich
robots are going to pay a price. I mean Helen Chenoweth, the militia
momma, is toast. She's gone. Absolutely."
"Helen Chenoweth better start working on her concession
Carlson: "Oh absolutely. Toast. Yeah."
2) Early in the evening, all the networks falsely reported that Senator
Bob Smith would lose in New Hampshire. CBS provided an explanation for the
Republican loss. Bob Schieffer explained:
that most Republicans considered Bob Smith, the New Hampshire incumbent,
perhaps, one of their most vulnerable incumbents. This is a very
interesting case Dan, he's a very conservative Senator in a state that's
becoming more moderate. Most people on the national scene will recall
him as the one that fought against abortion over the past 3 or 4 years
and always brought all those graphic photos out to the Senate floor. But
in our polling, our exit polling today we found that the moderate
voters, 61 percent of them said that they voted for Dick Swett. This is
a state that is simply becoming more moderate. When we ran this poll I
think that almost half of the people in New Hampshire told us that they
now consider themselves moderate. This used to be a very conservative
state but it got too moderate, I guess, for Bob Smith."
In the end he
wasn't too conservative for a newly moderate state as he won re-election.
3) Speaking of labeling, the networks provided plenty of it Tuesday night.
Senator Paul Wellstone got tagged "liberal" a few times, but
Republicans were described as conservative or "very"
conservative more often, especially on CNN. Some examples:
Jennings on ABC: "And the other thing which would be quite a
change, at least in ideological terms, is the projection you made for
Brownback in Kansas. Much more conservative than the Republicans that
Kansas usually sends to Washington."
Schieffer on CBS, reporting the Georgia Senate race: "Max Cleland,
the Secretary of State and triple amputee down there, the most popular
vote getter. He even gets more votes than Sam Nunn over the last 10
years was running against Guy Millner a very conservative
- Bruce Morton
on CNN: "And finally Louisiana. That's Bennett Johnston's old seat,
where the Democrat Mary Landrieu is in a very, very competitive race
with a very, very conservative, but there're a lot of those folks in
Louisiana, state Representative named Woody Jenkins."
- Frank Sesno
on CNN: "Onto Illinois now, where Dick Durbin turns back a
challenge from Al Salvi, a very conservative Republican there, but Dick
Durbin winning there."
- Sesno again:
"This seat was the one that was vacated when Robert Dole took his
leave to campaign for presidency. Jill Docking the Democrat against Sam
Brownback, very conservative Republican."
again: "Still up in the air, Louisiana, where very conservative
Woody Jenkins won that odd, everybody-in primary that they have."
- Exchange on
CNN. Frank Sesno: "Helms ran a series of really tough ads hitting
his opponent Harvey Gantt, African-American, with liberal liberal
liberal label again." Bruce Morton: "Well the famous line I
guess, more liberal than Bill Clinton. Gasp! Shudder! Too liberal for
North Carolina. Helms always runs mean ads. I talked to one man down
there who were saying if he was running against Jesus he'd find a way to
- Ken Bode on
CNN: "That was a very clear choice for the voters of Louisiana.
Mary Landrieu is a moderate at least, probably a liberal. And the person
she was running against, Woody Jenkins, a state legislator so
conservative that in twenty-some years, twenty-some years in the state
legislature, he did not vote for a single tax increase."
As 1am ET
approached, CNN anchor Bernard Shaw assured viewers: "A lot of
Democrats have criticized us in our coverage and conversely a lot of
Republicans have criticized us in our coverage. Never once in our coverage
of this campaign story have we played favorites. We don't play
4) In speculating about what factors led to Clinton's comeback, reporters
repeatedly committed the biased reporting that aided Clinton's cause:
stating as fact that the GOP shut down the government without mentioning
how Clinton refused to sign the spending resolutions. Some examples:
- Bernard Shaw
on CNN: "Ken Bode making the point about, and you Judy, that the
President made this comeback, especially after the disaster of 1994. The
Republican Party actually helped William Jefferson Clinton in that
comeback, especially when they voted to shut down Congress. The American
people said the Republicans went too far. We did not sent you to
Washington to shut down the federal government."
Donaldson on ABC on why Dole lost: "I think this was set by two or
three people. I think Alan Greenspan, who is the Fed Chairman, helped
engineer an economy that worked and it worked for President Clinton. I
think the Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich helped engineer a shutdown
of the Congress twice, that scared the country and that worked against
Senator Dole, it wasn't Senator Dole's fault...."
- Troy Roberts
on Wednesday's This Morning on CBS: "Often abrasive,
Gingrich never mastered the fine art of compromise. Less than a year
after he rode into Washington in triumph, he was on the defensive. His
gambit to shut down the government over the budget backfired. Seizing
the moment, President Clinton quickly became the voice of centrist
5) Republicans may maintain control of both houses, but they better not
use their position to investigate Clinton scandals. So warned several
network reporters. Some examples:
- NBC's Tom
Brokaw in prime time: "There is also a theory, however, that if the
Republicans begin to engage once again in a lot of investigations that
it will not do well for them four years from now. Because the country in
all the exit polling that we're seeing so far is saying, 'Hey let's get
on with the business of solving the real problems that we have out
- NBC's Matt
Lauer to Haley Barbour, on the Wednesday, November 6 Today:
"Mr. Barbour, exit polls show us that the economy was still the
number one issue on people's mind last night. And although character and
trust play a role, people choose candidates based on their handling of
the issues. With that in mind, what do you say to people now who look to
Republicans in Congress and say, hey, move forward on key legislation.
Don't get bogged down on investigations into the Clinton White
- ABC's John
Cochran concluding his November 6 World News Tonight story on the
new Congress: "But both parties know the public has a limited
appetite for partisan head-bashing. And today Senate Republicans said
they had no plans to resume investigations of the Whitewater affair.
John Cochran, ABC News, Capitol Hill."
6) None too pleased with the passage of a proposition in California to end
racial discrimination, reporters tagged the vote a step backward.
- NBC's Maria
Shriver to Jesse Jackson at about 12:48am ET: "Affirmative action
was a hotbed issue in this country, still a big race on that subject
going on about that in California. Did you feel at times like we've
turned back the clock on some of these issues?"
Wednesday's This Morning co-host Jane Robelot interviewed
California Civil Rights Initiative chief Ward Connerly:
morning Mr. Connerly. Do you feel like Prop. 209 is going to stand up
to the promised court challenges that it faces?"
"Absolutely, I think if you read the first five words of the
initiative, which say that the states shall not discriminate. And by
state I mean all governmental agencies in the state. You recognize
that it is already existing law and the remainder of that first
clause, nor grant preferential treatment to' and so on is really
saying that discrimination encompasses preferential treatment."
Robelot: "But that's sort of living in an ideal world I mean it's
nice to say it on paper. If you look around at corporate offices in
America and in CEO's offices, you're gonna see very few minorities and
few women. Are we really ready to backtrack on civil rights now, or on
7) Another election night, another night of wacky comments from Dan
Rather, aka Ratherisms:
Jones is at the Dole HQ in Washington. Phil if you are a Republican and
you're a Bob Dole supporter, seeing New Hampshire and Florida both fall
into the column for Bill Clinton, is it scary enough to make you swallow
Kentucky, in the presidential race, this is the way it looks. This is
with 47 percent of the precincts reporting. Bill Clinton leading Bob
Dole by just about the margin of cigarette paper."
CBS news estimates is in one of the nastiest, smelliest campaigns of
them all - a lot of people thought the stench from this would gag a
buzzard - Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Attorney General, has beaten back
the effort of state senator Roger Bedford, to fill the seat of retiring
Democratic Senator Howell Heflin."
we may see Michael Jackson's baby before we know the final outcome of
this race for the House of Representatives tonight..."
- In New
Hampshire, closest Senate race in the country, this race between Dick
Swett and Bob Smith is hot and tight as a too small bathing suit on a
too long car ride back from the beach."
"Reelection of President Bill Clinton is as secure as a double knot
tied with wet rawhide and here's why..."
- NBC's Tom
Brokaw got into the act, offering this Brokawism: "Just one state
now closing its polls at this hour. It's the home state of the incumbent
President of the United States, the state of Arkansas. No surprise, Bill
Clinton now our projected winner there. For him to lose Arkansas would
be like Elvis losing his hair. He could go on but it just wouldn't be
the same somehow."
8) Networks reporters regularly referred to Bob Dole's "harsh"
rhetoric and media professional didn't complain. But in Thursday's
newspapers you may be reading about a critical comment about Clinton that
David Brinkley uttered. At the very end of ABC's broadcast, just before
1am ET, Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, Jeff Greenfield, Lynn Sherr, and Hal
Bruno stood by the anchor desk where Peter Jennings and Brinkley sat.
Brinkley for a final comment. Referring to the assembled ABC crew,
Brinkley announced: "OK, fine, I'm not going to say much. Among
things I admire, almost near the top is creativeness, and everyone in this
group has it. It shows in your work, it shows in your thinking, and it
shows in your speech, what you do, what you write, what you say, and it's
one reason this group is so terrific. Bill Clinton has none of it, he has
not a creative bone in his body. Therefore, he's a bore and will always be
9) Finally, Wednesday's NBC Nightly News concluded with a piece
from Mike Boettcher on what people want in second term. Boettcher began:
sun touched the Pacific, America had made a decision. Bob Dole's work
was over. Bill Clinton's had just begun. There, in a California night
school was the gender gap. The all-woman sign language class wanted
their support for Clinton rewarded."
Woman in the
class: "I want to see a President that stands for what he believes
in and not somebody who just wants to please the people."
So, someone who
doesn't want a President who molds his views to match polls voted