Koppel Scolded GOP Aspirants; McCain's Bus Live; ABC's Fresh Broaddrick Spiking
1) Ted Koppel showed his disdain for the GOP candidates' view of Russia, calling it "a whiff of the Cold War." He and George Stephanopoulos complained about the "very hard line positions" on missile defense. Meanwhile, MSNBC offered porno & women in prison.
2) The nets showed their partiality for McCain's campaign finance scheme. CBS's Bill Whitaker delivered an innocuous description of McCain's suppression of issue ads, Bob Schieffer compared Bush to Clinton. NBC allowed a liberal group to dismiss Bush's plan. And Dan Rather got in a shot at "the Republican hard right."
"Almost like a whiff of the Cold War there. It sounded like Republicans thirty years ago," sniffed ABC's Ted Koppel on Nightline after Tuesday night's Republican presidential candidates debate as he displayed a "whiff" of the liberal media bias which long confronted Cold Warriors. The cause of Koppel's concern: The tough line taken toward Russia and Putin by the three GOP contenders. "C'mon guys" Koppel scolded them before George Stephanopoulos warned of their "very hard line positions" on building a ballistic missile defense. "Very hard line position," Koppel reiterated.
The actual debate took place as part of a special 90 minute Larry King Live carried live on CNN from 9 to 10:30pm ET. John McCain, Alan Keyes and George Bush all sat at table in South Carolina with Larry King before a small audience. Though movement conservatives don't think McCain or Bush represent their cause, King never pressed from the right, only from the left. He framed many issues around a liberal agenda, such as: Why shouldn't everyone be "entitled" to have their prescriptions paid for?; Is McCain really a liberal?; Why not gays in military?; Doesn't capital punishment kill innocent people?; Racial profiling by police and on abortion he resorted to the usual liberal trick of trying to prod the candidates into saying what they'd do if their daughter became pregnant. None took his bait.
Before going to a live, post-debate Hardball at 11pm ET, MSNBC offered counter-programming on the making of porno movies and women in prison: The first segment on the 8pm ET Special Edition examined the role of women in the porno video industry and at 10pm ET MSNBC re-ran a Geraldo Rivera special, "Women Behind Bars, No Place to Hide."
As usual, Nightline brought aboard two Clintonistas to assess the Republicans: George Stephanopoulos and David Gergen. Koppel played excerpts from the debate and then the three discussed it.
Toward the end of the show, Koppel played a clip of the
three candidates showing reluctance to meet with Russia's likely new leader
Putin and expressing caution about the U.S. getting to close to him.
Seeming appalled, Koppel declared: "Almost like a whiff of the Cold War there. It sounded like Republicans thirty years ago."
As if that's bad. Even after communism has been defeated Koppel acts as if we should be embarrassed for having advocated a tough line against it.
Stephanopoulos then at least pointed out the political strategy: "Setting up who lost Russia for November. You heard it both here and in their answers on China, this wistfulness, as you said, about the Cold War. But I think they do have an opening here. Vice President Gore was very closely aligned with the administration's Russian policy, Putin is Yeltsin's hand-picked successor and the economy has not reformed and there have been problems with the democracy and I think that the Republican Party will try to drive this home in November."
Koppel, still disgusted, asked: "David, as you know
from you many different terms in the White House, an American President
though, obviously, would have to deal with the Russian President. What do you
say in a situation like that? 'C'mon guys, it was only the campaign, you
know all kinds of things get said.'?"
When Gergen agreed "there was a lot of posturing
tonight," Stephanopoulos jumped in: "Ted, if I may, one of the
things that surprised me more in that debate was they all came out against
more nuclear arms reductions and they said we should basically stop now and
build a ballistic missile defense. Very hard line positions."
After two weeks of horse race coverage, George Bush's presentation Tuesday of his campaign finance proposals forced the networks to deal with a policy issue and their bias in favor of McCain's more regulatory position was clearly displayed. All accurately noted how Bush was jumping late onto an issue identified with McCain, but ABC, CBS and NBC ignored what Candy Crowley pointed out on CNN's The World Today: "Much of what Bush proposed he has proposed before." Also unlike the big boys Crowley noted how Bush favors immediate disclosure of donor names, a reform supported by conservatives.
ABC's Dean Reynolds noted how McCain is handicapped by a spending limit in South Carolina while Bush is not, but he failed to point out how McCain favors such regulation. Dan Rather introduced CBS's story by noting how Bush is pushing for support "from the Reverends Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others on what his opponents consider to be the Republican hard right." Bill Whitaker soon delivered the most innocuous description of McCain's anti-free speech regulatory scheme, insisting all he wants to do is hold advocacy TV ads "to standards of accuracy and require full disclosure of who's paying for the ads." Bob Schieffer checked in with his insight that what Bush "did today is classic Clinton." Over on NBC, David Bloom let a liberal group serve as the expert on Bush's plan and they didn't approve.
Here's a rundown of how the three broadcast network evening shows on Tuesday, February 15, treated Bush's campaign finance proposal, one less regulatory than McCain's plan:
-- ABC's World News Tonight, unlike CBS and NBC, did not devote a whole story to Bush's plan. Peter Jennings announced: "George W. Bush appears to be trying to take a page from the campaign notebook of John McCain. Today Mr. Bush, who's raised nearly $70 million, presented his version of campaign finance reform. And while he was on the stage, a whole army of supporters were flooding South Carolina with telephone calls, brochures, TV and radio ads, you name it."
Dean Reynolds proceeded to outline what all of Bush's
money was buying, listing phone banks, radio ads starring Henry Hyde, and the
taping of town meetings to show later as infomercials. In all, Reynolds
relayed, Bush is expected to plunk down $3 million in South Carolina. Reynolds
rued the restrictions McCain is under since he, unlike Bush, is taking
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather declared, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "It's increasingly clear in the presidential campaign that the fast approaching South Carolina primary this Saturday is becoming make or break for Republicans Bush and McCain. The context includes Bush's push for more support from the Reverends Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others on what his opponents consider to be the Republican hard right, and whether McCain's voter appeal has peaked. Against that backdrop, the Bush camp tried out another new campaign line in South Carolina."
Bill Whitaker began his South Carolina dispatch: "They say desperate times call for desperate measures. With this must win race too close to call, George W. Bush, in a breath-taking move, claimed John McCain's signature issue as his own and unveiled his campaign finance reform plan."
Whitaker compared the Bush and McCain plans, noting that Bush wishes to ban union and corporate soft money contributions while McCain would do the same plus ban those donations by individuals. He added: "One big difference: Bush wants no restrictions on issue ads by organizations. McCain would hold them to standards of accuracy and require full disclosure of who's paying for the ads."
That's hardly a full description of how McCain plans
to restrict issue ads. As columnist George Will wrote last weekend:
Up next, Rather gushed about Bob Schieffer's insights: "All this week, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent, and one of this country's most experienced political reporters, Bob Schieffer, is giving us daily reads on the countdown to South Carolina. Tonight it's what's up with Bush's latest image makeover and message adjustment."
In another example for the "Clueless Bob Schieffer"
file the man himself argued: "I think what is interesting here is
Governor Bush has complained loudest when McCain has compared him to President
Clinton. He even took out an ad about it."
No, Bill Clinton stole the ideological positions and policy ideas of conservatives on such issues as welfare reform. All Bush did was offer a very different policy prescription on a topic aligned with McCain's campaign. By Schieffer's reasoning, every candidate in history who has put out a proposal on a subject, after his opponent has taken a position on the same topic, has committed a "classic Clinton."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw intoned: "And this is a big night in
South Carolina where the countdown to the showdown is now four days.
Republican presidential candidates George W. Bush and John McCain are in a
very tight race, and as NBC's David Bloom tells us tonight, Governor Bush
took a page right out of the McCain game plan today."
Bloom proceeded to counter Bush's credibility and
treat a liberal group which backs McCain's plan as some kind of independent
A baby at an abortion rights rally and ABC News backed up Al Gore's shot at Bradley's health care plan, hitting it from the left for relying too much on the private sector.
After the Bush story quoted in #2 above, Tuesday's
World News Tonight moved on to the Democrats. As transcribed by MRC analyst
Jessica Anderson, anchor Peter Jennings announced:
As viewers heard these words, near Gore on the NARAL stage they saw a woman holding a baby, apparently one which survived the holder's right to choose.
From San Francisco, ABC's Terry Moran checked the
accuracy of a Gore attack on Bradley and decided Gore was correct:
Moran outlined how Bradley's plan is weak because it isn't government-based enough: "The key issue, prescription drugs, which keep many AIDS patients alive and which Medicaid pays for, while most private insurers do not, though Bradley says his plan will fund this benefit, too. This latest dispute captures the whole dynamic of the Democratic race so far. Vice President Gore has again and again managed to zero in on specific details and put his opponent's position in the worst possible light without quite falsifying it. Bill Bradley's response again and again has mostly been to cry foul."
NBC decided it was worth the expense of two helicopters so it could interview John McCain live from his moving bus cruising on Interstate 20 Tuesday morning instead of just setting up an interview from a stationary location. Viewers hardly learned anything new from the gimmick as interviewer Jonathan Alter inside the bus with McCain only posed a couple of mild challenges and again raised the flag issue. He also complained about the media's difficulty in resisting McCain's charms: "Can we really bite the hand that feeds us these donuts and all this information?"
At the top of Tuesday's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, co-hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer explained how they were employing two helicopters to pull of the technological feat of a live broadcast from inside a bus speeding along an interstate. One chopper took a picture of the bus from above while the other received the video signal from the bus and then relayed it to a satellite.
After the 7am news Couric set up the segment: "On Close Up this morning the Straight Talk Express. That's the name of Senator John McCain's campaign bus and with a crucial South Carolina primary now just four days away the Senator plans to use every minute left to drive his message home to the voters. So what's it like on the now famous bus? We are going to find out right now as NBC's Jonathan Alter is along for the ride with Senator McCain on Interstate 20 in South Carolina."
Alter celebrated the unique opportunity offered by
McCain as the camera showed him sitting inside the bus:
Alter wondered: "Don't you get a little bit sick of all of us in your face all the time? For most candidates this would be a description of hell."
Alter set up McCain for another joke: "Isn't it
almost though its own form of manipulation and seduction. I mean can we really
bite the hand that feeds us these donuts and all this information?"
The rest of Alter's questions, which avoided taking
McCain on about how antithetical to free speech his campaign finance plan is
considered by many:
++ See the result of NBC's technological effort. Late Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer video clip of the first few minutes of this mobile interview. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 
ABC's Nightline played video of the December exchange in New Hampshire in which a woman at a town hall meeting asked Al Gore if he believed Juanita Broaddrick's rape charge against Bill Clinton. But unless ABC viewers recognized the video from when it was played last year on FNC and MSNBC, which only a small percentage of Nightline's audience could have seen, they didn't know what they watched.
That's because Nightline ran two excerpts from the exchange in order to illustrate their program on religion in the campaign, but never played enough so that viewers heard anything about Broaddrick.
Early in the February 14 show, MRC analyst Jessica
Anderson reported, Nightline played a series of clips of candidates being
asked about religion. Amongst the soundbites, viewers saw a woman, at a town
meeting broadcast by WNDS-TV in Derry, NH, ask Gore: "A question to you
as a husband, a father and a student of Christianity." ABC cut it off
there, but here's the rest of the question by the woman named Katherine
Prudhomme, though ABC did not identify her:
Later, Nightline played an excerpt from Gore's answer.
ABC reporter Chris Bury asked: "So how does faith matter in a President?
Vice President Gore cites his religious principles for a variety of his stands
from protecting the environment to defending President Clinton's personal
But again, ABC viewers had no idea they were hearing an answer to a Broaddrick question.
To see the entire December 14 exchange, both Prudhomme's
question and Gore's two minute-plus meandering response, go to the December
17, 1999 CyberAlert which features a RealPlayer clip of FNC's broadcast of
the WNDS-TV video:
For a rundown of the other
coverage the exchange, which was ignored by the broadcast networks, received,
go to the December 20 CyberAlert which runs through its showing on MSNBC's
The News with Brian Williams and citations on CNN's Reliable Sources and Fox
News Sunday. Go to:
subject immune from '80s bashing media rhetoric? Check out this excerpt of a
February 14 The World Today story by CNN's Anne McDermott, about the passing
of Charles Schulz and the end of the Peanuts, caught by MRC analyst Paul
In the media's universe Charlie Brown is another victim of Ronald Reagan's Decade of Greed. -- Brent Baker 
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