Chomping on Chavez; Reagan Civil Rights Enforcement an "Oxymoron"; Ashcroft on the "Far Right" and a Divider; "Riveting" Regulation
1) ABC and NBC led Monday night with the Linda Chavez live-in friend controversy as all analogized her case to Zoe Baird's 1993 situation. ABC and NBC played an old clip of Chavez criticizing Baird while CBS highlighted how Chavez once said something supposedly inappropriate about obese people.
2) PBS's Washington Week in Review on Chavez: "Which nominee has suggested that sexual harassment cases threaten to make America a nation of cry babies?" Time's Michael Duffy: "She was a Reagan civil rights official. Some people would say that's an oxymoron."
3) Bush could have avoided opposition to Ashcroft "by choosing someone for that post who was a little more acceptable to all people," argued NBC's Matt Lauer as Tim Russert agreed the problem is that Ashcroft comes from the "far right."
4) Ann Curry delivered a fawning Today interview with former FDA Commissioner David Kessler. Curry did not pose a single tough question as she repeatedly gushed about how she found his book on regulating tobacco to be "riveting." She pleaded: "Who needs to dismantle the industry?"
While ABC and CBS portrayed Mercado as contradicting Chavez on whether she was an employee, FNC's Brian Wilson relayed how "Mercado says she occasionally did chores around the Chavez home, but both women insist it was not an employee-employer relationship."
ABC's Peter Jennings opened the January 8 World News Tonight: "It does sound like an episode early in the Clinton administration when two women he wanted for the Cabinet got into difficulty for employing undocumented workers. This time Ms. Chavez's political opponents picked up on this, and Mr. Bush has a controversy."
CBS's Dan Rather argued: "President-elect Bush's skills at damage control and managing controversy, are being put to the test after new disclosures about one of his most heavily opposed Cabinet choices, Labor Secretary designate Linda Chavez."
Tom Brokaw opened the NBC Nightly News: "Eight years ago when Bill Clinton was attempting to form his cabinet, it was the Nanny factor. Two of his choices had hired illegal immigrants as nannies and that cost them cabinet posts. Well now the same kind of issue has developed for George W. Bush."
Here are more details on how the broadcast networks and FNC handled the story Monday night, January 8:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
launched the show, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
Reporter John Yang explained: "As
President-elect Bush prepared for his move to the White House, he stood by
Linda Chavez....Chavez's confirmation may be in trouble because in the
early 1990s, Guatemalan immigrant Marta Mercado lived in Chavez's home
in suburban Washington. At the time, Mercado was in the country illegally.
Chavez says Mercado's chores were irregular. Immigration rules allow
undocumented residents to do household work if it is irregular. Chavez
says she occasionally gave her money, a few hundred dollars at a time, and
did not consider it pay for a job. Mercado is not so certain."
-- CBS Evening News. Afer Dan Rather's introduction quoted above, John Roberts went through the basics of the story, stressing how Mercado says she informed Chavez within months that she was illegal.
Roberts then highlighted how for Democrats "the controversy only sharpens existing concerns they have about Chavez's views, such as this statement regarding the health and cost issues of employing overweight people." Roberts read the text which also appeared on screen where it was identified as from the November 19, 1999 PBS show To the Contrary: "It's irrational to discriminate against somebody because of the color of their skin. It may not be irrational at all to discriminate against somebody because they're morbidly obese."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the broadcast: "Good evening. Eight years ago when Bill Clinton was attempting to form his cabinet, it was the nanny factor. Two of his choices had hired illegal immigrants as nannies and that cost them cabinet posts. Well now the same kind of issue has developed for George W. Bush and his choice of Labor Secretary, Linda Chavez. The President-elect is standing by her, but her case now is being reviewed by the Bush team."
Lisa Myers handled the first of two stories. Myers
recalled: "In fact, while Mercado
was living with Chavez, Bill Clinton's first nominee for Attorney
General, Zoe Baird, was done in by revelations she employed an illegal
immigrant as a nanny and failed to pay Social Security taxes. Chavez said
Next, David Gregory offered the take from the Bush camp: "The Bush team is caught by surprise by these revelations. Top transition sources saying that Chavez was specifically asked the so-called nanny question but failed to disclose her arrangement with Mercado, making some Bush supporters tonight increasingly concerned that she was not a forthcoming as she should have been."
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume delivered a story more sympathetic to Chavez's situation. Hume began his show: "Linda Chavez, George W. Bush's nominee as Secretary of Labor, stands accused of harboring, and perhaps even employing an illegal alien some years back. She says she merely took in a woman in need and tried to help and that the woman was not an employee. So what does the woman herself say? She spoke this day to Fox News, and basically backed up Chavez's version, but the issue has clearly complicated Chavez's confirmation prospects as Brian Wilson reports."
Wilson explained, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad
Wilmouth: "Linda Chavez was already headed for a tough confirmation
battle. She is opposed by organized labor and some minority groups. Now
another wrinkle. In the early 1990s, Linda Chavez provided room and board
to Guatemalan native Marta Mercado. Both women say it was an act of
Check out how Gwen Ifill, host of PBS's Washington Week in Review, sarcastically described the Bush cabinet last Friday night: "Now, on to the new Bush Cabinet. Which nominee has suggested that sexual harassment cases threaten to make America a nation of cry babies? Which one accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones University? And which one has worked as a lobbyist for a lead paint manufacturer? Well, Michael Duffy, I'm going to turn it to you."
MRC intern Ken Shepherd noticed Duffy, Time's
Washington Bureau Chief, took particular delight in castigating Linda
Chavez with a cheap shot against Reagan's policies:
Others would say that being an objective Time magazine reporter is an oxymoron.
For the record, John Ashcroft accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones University and Gale Norton once represented paint manufacturers. But I'm sure no liberal Democrat has ever lobbied for an odious industry.
It's Bush's fault for picking someone from "the far right." Monday morning on Today, Matt Lauer and Tim Russert discussed how the Ashcroft choice for Attorney General is not controversial because far left Democrats are violating the spirit of bi-partisan cooperation, but because Bush picked someone on the "far right" who he knew would "divide people."
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down the January 8
Russert got it right in the end.
"Riveting" regulation. Ann Curry delivered a fawning interview Monday morning on NBC's Today with former FDA Commissioner David Kessler to promote his book about his battle to expand government regulation and control over private industry. Curry did not pose a single challenging question, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, as she repeatedly gushed about how she found the book so "riveting" she "could not put it down."
Teasing the upcoming January 8 segment, Curry oozed: "Dr. David Kessler, the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, is here to tell us about his new book on the battle to regulate cigarettes. I am telling you I began reading this book last night. Could not put it down. I mean I read 200 pages before I could take a breath. It's riveting, a riveting story."
She set up the interview: "Dr. David Kessler didn't expect an easy fight when as head of the Food and Drug Administration he proposed that the agency regulate tobacco products as a drug and he was right. Now the former FDA Commissioner chronicles his David and Goliath struggle in his new book, A Question of Intent. Dr. Kessler good morning. As I mentioned earlier this book is riveting. It reads like a detective novel. But ironically you did not expect to take on tobacco when you first arrived in Washington in 1990, what changed that?"
-- "Knew that nicotine was an addictive drug. Was this the turning point for you?"
-- "In retrospect do you think to some degree your ignorance about the power of the tobacco industry, how influential it was in Washington allowed you to tackle this when some many others didn't."
-- "You began the investigation and you came across secret documents. What lead you to these secret documents that indicated that the, that the tobacco companies knew that they had an addictive drug in nicotine?"
-- "Informants named Veritas and Deep Cough. I mean it sounds very cloak and dagger. Was it?"
-- "It all came to a head at a major hearing that we all can remember your testimony in that. And you really had to prepare for this big fight over whether when tar goes down, nicotine goes down. What did you discover in your investigation about that about what the tobacco companies were doing?"
-- "What explains that when historically they did have the lower, historically the companies claimed that they had the lowest levels of nicotine? Nicotine of course being the drug that causes us to be addicted to cigarettes."
-- "What you did was take on a very powerful, as you mentioned, industry. With fear or not fear? In other words here you are David Kessler, in your what early 40s late 30s, and you are being told that there is no way you are going to win this. You got people trembling, not wanting to give you information. And yet here you are probing deeper and deeper. What allowed you to push when everyone else said, 'you know what this is too dangerous. No way we're gonna go there?'"
-- "Have you made a difference?"
-- "But cigarettes are still on the market, tobacco companies from all reports are doing well."
-- "Who needs to dismantle the industry if that's what you're saying needs to happen?"
-- "Dr. David Kessler the book is called A Question of Intent. Thank you so much for being here. And as I said the book is riveting."
A lesson to Bush II appointees: If you want adulatory press treatment, use your agency to promote more regulation of anything the media don't like.
-- Brent Baker 
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