Despite the fact that you'll see little of the GOP convention in their prime time line-up tonight, all three of the broadcast networks' morning news shows - ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's The Early Show, and NBC's Today - spent most of their first half-hour talking about the Republicans.
But don't actually pay attention to the convention, CBS warned. "What you should expect to see from here," correspondent Bill Plante told viewers, "is a sort of warm and fuzzy infomercial, which they hope will have no surprises and which they plan to have no partisan attacks." Plante then showed a clip of what he called "divisive red-meat rhetoric," Pat Buchanan's 1992 convention address.
Plante was more respectful when reporting about the so-called "shadow convention," which Plante neutrally described as an "alternative gathering...devoted to making fun of both parties."
Later on The Early Show, CBS's Jane Clayson interviewed GOP Reps. Henry Bonilla and J.C. Watts, and insinuated that both were party window-dressing. "There are unprecedented numbers of women and minorities who are speaking at the convention in prime time this year...[but] the delegate count still reflects a very white population," she told them." Then Clayson asked Watts how he could possibly support Dick Cheney for Vice President.
"I have to ask you, as an African-American, if you have any difficulty supporting a man who voted against releasing Nelson Mandela from prison," she demanded of Watts, adding "Is that kind of vote acceptable under any circumstance?"
Reality Check: 32 Democrats joined Cheney in casting that 1986 vote, which would not have freed Mandela. At issue was whether the U.S. should support the African National Congress, an anti-apartheid group that had several Communists in its leadership.
Quote of the Morning
"I have to ask you, as an African-American, if you have any difficulty supporting a man who voted against releasing Nelson Mandela from prison?"
What Part of "No" Don't You Understand?
Four times on today's Good Morning America, ABC's Charles Gibson pushed Laura Bush to disagree with her husband on two of GMA's pet social issues, but she refused to take the bait.
"Of course, he is the person that would be elected and his decision in the long run is the one that counts," Gibson admitted on his third attempt. "But in this day of very independent females as well as males, isn't it important to know where you stand on issues, for instance like abortion, like the death penalty?
Cokie's Socialist Sisterhood
On Sunday's This Week, ABC's Cokie Roberts implored Lynne Cheney to accept a higher mandatory minimum wage as an act of fairness to women.
"You've described yourself as an equity feminist, someone who believes in equal pay for equal work," she told Cheney. "But on something like the minimum wage, you said on Crossfire, 'The idea of raising the minimum wage is just part of the liberal union problem. You raise the minimum wage, you're going to put more people on the unemployment rolls.'"
"Two-thirds of the people on minimum wage are women," Cokie added. "Is there a disconnection there between equal opportunity for women and not raising the minimum wage?"
CNN Looks For Party Splits; MSNBC Shows Viewers "T&A"
Where Are All the Floor Fights?
CBS's Bill Plante stood in the convention hall and told viewers of The Early Show this morning they'd hear "nothing out of here but the Bush message." CNN's Jeanne Meserve, however, tried her best to generate some acrimony over abortion during this morning's coverage. Three times, Meserve asked Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson if the party wasn't sweeping its unfinished business under the rug.
"Some people say the party is not, in fact, so unified, that what the platform does is gloss over differences," she informed Thompson. When he wouldn't agree with her, she tried again: "Is the party, for the moment, failing to grapple with some of the serious issues that divided it - abortion specifically?"
A couple of hours later, CNN's Candy Crowley tried out a similar theme on New York Governor George Pataki. "You and others who are for abortion rights in the Republican Party were frozen out of the platform," Crowley told the Governor. "What does that say, if anything, about compassionate conservatism and the broad tent?"
During their morning coverage, MSNBC correspondents also contemplated an abortion floor fight, and repeatedly told viewers that convention delegates were much whiter than the speakers being showcased at the podium. At noon, however, the cable news channel suspended its convention coverage, and broadcast a repeat episode of Time and Again, a clip show featuring highlights of actor Harrison Ford's career. '
Four Campaigns, Eight Conventions... But Just One Spin
Study Documents Sixteen Years of Liberal Bias
In 1984, Prof. Bill Adams found unequal treatment of the two parties during the CBS and NBC's prime time convention coverage. Since 1988, MRC analysts have used Adams's methodology to examine ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC's convention news. The results are compiled in a new MRC Special Report (available at www.mrc.org) and they show that what Adams found 16 years ago wasn't just a one-time fluke. Highlights:
During every convention cycle, Republicans were more likely to be confronted by reporters with their opponents' talking points: 393 liberal or Democratic questions posed to GOP spokesmen, vs. 109 Republican questions asked of Democrats.
Regardless of their nominees' views, Democrats were more likely to be portrayed by network reporters as "moderate" than Republicans. In 1984, CBS's Dan Rather even labeled a speech by then-Rep. Geraldine Ferraro "pretty conservative."
The networks have always given more time to GOP controversies. In 1988, for example, TV reporters highlighted VP nominee Dan Quayle's service in the National Guard, but in 1992 and 1996 spent almost no time on Bill Clinton's various scandals.