Russert & Williams Easy on Dems, Tough on Bush; Condemning Elian Supporters
1) As debate moderator, Tim Russert hit Republicans from the left, but his bias really came through in comparing the agenda of his post-debate questions to Democrats Wednesday versus Republicans Thursday. Brian Williams did not tag Democrats, but wondered if the GOP "is viewed as too far to the right?"
3) Of the broadcast evening shows, only CBS noted Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile's racist attack on Colin Powell. On Elian Gonzalez, Peter Jennings talked about how Cuban-Americans want to keep him "away from his father" instead of away from Castro.
4) CBS's Eric Engberg highlighted a campaign finance "reform" group's look at donors to presidential hopefuls: "Unlike outright bribery this cozying up to government officials is both legal and pervasive."
>>> Now online, the MRC's Special Report
by Geoffrey Dickens: "Outgunned: How The Network News Media Are
Spinning the Gun Control Debate." Key points in the study of ABC,
CBS, CNN and NBC from July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1999: Evening News Shows
Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 8 to 1; Morning News Shows Favored the
Anti-Gun Position by 13 to 1; News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Use
Anti-Gun Soundbites; News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Feature Anti-Gun
Guests; Pro-Gun Themes Were Barely Covered. To read the executive summary
and the full report, go to:
In moderating Thursday night's debate amongst Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire NBC's Tim Russert was more aggressive in demanding the participants respond to his points from the left than was ABC's Peter Jennings as moderator the night before in pressing the Democrats about anything, never  mind from the right.
Thursday night to George W. Bush an exasperated Russert brooded about how "even in the case of a prolonged world war with the United States involved you would not consider raising taxes?" He later told Bush that there are "fifteen million atheists in this country, five million Jews, five million Muslims, millions more Buddhists and Hindus, should they feel excluded from George W. Bush because of his allegiance to Jesus." And demanded: "Would you take an expression like 'What would Jesus do?' into the Oval Office?"
Since different people moderated each night it's not possible to assess different approaches to each party by the same moderator. Russert might have been just as tough on the Democrats had he moderated that debate, but Russert and Brian Williams certainly did display tremendous bias in the contrast in how they approached candidates for each party during MSNBC's post-debate shows.
After Wednesday night's Democratic confab Tim Russert simply stuck to asking Al Gore and Bill Bradley about style points the other had made and how they felt Pentagon officials would feel about their insistence on allowing gays to openly serve. But Thursday night he argued with Bush about the size of his tax cut, again pushed Bush, as he did during the debate, to say he'd drop the tax cut if bad times hit, and again pressed Bush about his supposed religious intolerance. Russert also insisted he's "a registered independent."
Wednesday night, after Russert interviewed Vice President Al Gore, anchor Brian Williams did not label Gore's position on gays in the military as too far left, and instead worried about how at debates Gore's title is dropped: "Does he think the office demands more respect than 'Al'?" But after Russert wrapped up his interview Thursday night with Bush, Williams ruminated about the religious talk during the debate, asking an analyst: "Do you think there are concerns that this is viewed as too far to the right?"
(Each of the debates, sponsored by New Hampshire Public Television, New England Cable News and The Union Leader, aired live nationally from 7 to 8pm ET on MSNBC and C-SPAN. Afterward each night MSNBC ran a one-hour analysis show from 8 to 9pm ET anchored by Brian Williams with Tim Russert providing live interviews from the debate venue.)
Below are some examples of Tim Russert inserting himself into Thursday's Republican debate followed by examples of contrasting types of questions posed by him afterward each night.
The January 6 Republican debate: John DiStaso of The
Union Leader posed the first question and he asked George W. Bush about
whether he would follow through on a tax cut if a recession hit. Not
satisfied with Bush's answer that he would, Russert jumped in:
Russert later engaged in this personal debate with
Now to the contrasting post-debate shows on MSNBC. First, Russert's questions Thursday night to John McCain and George W. Bush.
To John McCain:
To George W. Bush:
-- Russert then engaged in this argument as he
insisted on making Bush's tax cut seem as large as possible: "But
if you cut taxes $800 billion dollars."
-- Bush answered that taxes are now the highest ever
and Congress will spend the surplus, adding: "But you know as well as
I, even a good Democrat like you knows, in times of a recession."
-- "If John McCain beats you in New Hampshire
would you be willing to debate him one on one?"
-- To Laura Bush: "What would be your top priority as First Lady?"
-- Following a brief discussion about shielding
their teenage daughters from the campaign, Russert asked anchor Brian
Williams if he had a question. Williams delivered this one: "Is he
concerned at all about his answer to your question Tim tonight on
religion, the reliance on Christ as one figure, Christianity as one
religion above all, in this nation especially."
That ended the interview and so Williams turned to
guest analyst Laura Ingraham:
Wednesday night, however, Williams never suggested that gays in the military put the Democrats too far to the left. In fact, through several guest segments, such as with spokesmen for Gore and Bradley, Newsweek's Howard Fineman and a segment with Paul Begala and Oliver North, Williams never raised the subject and when he asked Russert what he considered the two most important highlights Russert had MSNBC play exchanges about Bradley accusing Gore of living in a "Washington bunker" and arguing over Gore's gimmick of banning campaign ads.
But after finishing with Bush Thursday night Russert
wasn't done with his effort to push the GOP away from religion, later
telling Gary Bauer:
Compare the loaded approach above, in which Russert made Bush and Bauer respond to Liberal/Democratic agenda arguments, with how Russert greeted the two Democrats in the 8pm ET hour on January 5:
To Bill Bradley:
To Al Gore:
All style over substance with the liberal Democrats. Russert didn't ask McCain or Bush such softballs as "Is there anything you wish you had said you didn't say?" Despite Bradley and Gore both advocating huge new and/or expanded health care entitlement programs, Russert didn't press either about whether they'd cancel their plans in the face of war or a recession. And other than the vague question to Bradley about reaction in the South, Russert did not paint their gays in the military view as something which will offend many as he did in pushing Bush to back off his comments about Jesus.
There's another GOP debate tonight, Friday January 7, on MSNBC at 8pm ET from South Carolina. Brian Williams will serve as moderator.
PBS is liberal everywhere, even in New Hampshire. In the middle of an answer at Thursday's Republican debate from Alan Keyes about how the Declaration of Independence proclaims "all men are created equal," the reporter from New Hampshire Public Television shouted: "And women!"
About twenty minutes into the January 6 debate,
Jenny Attiyeh demanded of Keyes: "What does the term separation of
church and state mean to you?"
The flu outbreak topped the CBS and NBC evening shows Thursday night, with ABC starting with the decline in tech stocks. The CBS Evening News provided the only mention of Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile's race-mongering attack on Colin Powell and J.C. Watts, though CBS only mentioned Powell. Only NBC Nightly News ran a full story on the McCain letter to the FCC controversy, though CBS mentioned it in a larger story about Bush-McCain jabs over tax policy. The controversy was also the focus of Wednesday night's Nightline.
Items on ABC and CBS Thursday night, and NBC Thursday morning, painted those opposed to the INS decision on Elian Gonzalez as the unreasonable ones. CBS's Byron Pitts warned "there is fear" that the Cuban-American community's interest "has become a choke hold."
-- On the January 6 CBS Evening News Dan Rather read
this 44-second item about a subject not touched by ABC or NBC:
The full quote from Brazile, as cited by Greg Pierce
in his Washington Times "Inside Politics" column on January 5,
in recounting what she told Paul Alexander of Bloomberg.com:
-- Elian Gonzalez. Introducing a January 6 story on
protests in Miami over the INS decision to return him to Cuba, World News
Tonight anchor Peter Jennings said Cuban-Americans want to keep him from
his father, instead of saying they want to keep him from Fidel Castro's
Over on the CBS Evening News, reporter Byron Pitts concluded his story by putting the burden for harming Gonzalez on those who wish for him to stay in Florida: "Six weeks ago this community embraced a boy who had watched his mother die at sea. Tonight there is fear that embrace has become a choke hold."
Thursday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, co-host Matt Lauer countered any fears that Gonzalez would suffer in any way in Cuba. He asked Spencer Eig, lawyer for Gonzalez's Florida family: "Do you claim that if Elian returns to Cuba that he will be persecuted?"
Eig replied: "Absolutely. He'll be horrifyingly
persecuted. He'll be told that his mother, who gave her life so he could
find freedom, was a traitor to the homeland and a criminal. And he'll be
paraded around the country as a trophy by Fidel Castro, of Fidel's victory
over the United States. What horrifying psychological torture that is to
be used as a symbol by the very dictator who drove his own mother to her
Lauer later argued that the family was spoiling and misleading the kid with trips to Disney World: "You know we've talked a lot about the life he would have here versus the life he could have in Cuba. Has he really been living any kind of a normal life in this country? After all he's been to parties, he's been showered with gifts, he's been to Disney World. How normal a life is that?"
A lot more "normal" for someone living in the United States than for someone living
Wednesday night the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News ran full stories on Hillary Clinton moving into her house in the Chappaqua area of the town of New Castle, New York. The CBS Evening News picked up on a report by a pro-finance reform group about ties between corporate donations and actions of candidates.
Eric Engberg portrayed the top four candidates as all equally guilty of something bad. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, Engberg began: "Whatever they say now, all four frontrunners for the presidency got this far the old fashioned way: Squeezing big money from rich special interest groups. The financial histories of Gore, Bradley, Bush, and McCain, as researched by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, show how big money interests invest in politicians' whole careers. Unlike outright bribery this cozying up to government officials is both legal and pervasive."
Engberg ran through the ties of each candidate:
Engberg concluded: "And the new book [by the group's Charles Lewis] shows his money history is typical of a chairman of a powerful Senate committee. It's loaded with phone companies like U.S. West and BellSouth and entertainment giants like Viacom. All with important business pending before McCain's Commerce Committee. What comes through for all these frontrunners is that politics is a world where despite past reforms money talks as loudly as ever."
From the January 5 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways the White House is Different Now That Hillary Has Moved Out." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. President no longer sleeping alone
And, from the Late Show Web site, some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten."
-- Bill has to get used to not sleeping alone.
To read the latest Top Ten list and see a comedy clip from the previous night's show, go to: http://marketing.cbs.com/lateshow/ 
For the Top Ten list archive going back to 1993, go to:
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