Bush Contradicted "Restoring Honor and Dignity"; GW Scolded; More Rebukes Over Anti-Gore Ad
1) Networks pounced on George W. Bush's "asshole" remark. ABC's Kevin Newman scolded that "he was caught on tape with a decidedly uncivil comment." NBC anchor John Siegenthaler pronounced: "Bush may have stepped on his message of restoring honor and dignity to the White House today."
2) Oops. Hosting Face the Nation, Gloria Borger read a quote from Joe Lieberman about religion in politics and then asked Bill Bennett: "Did that cross the line?" Bennett had to tell her Lieberman was just quoting America's first President.
3) NBC News, which ignored the new RNC ad Thursday night, caught up Friday morning and night as ABC and CBS also ran follow up stories based on the supposed Bush hypocrisy of running the ads after promising to not be "ugly and mean." NBC and CBS reminded viewers of how Bush had gone negative against John McCain.
Clarification: The September 1 CyberAlert correctly pointed how Brooks Jackson on CNN's Inside Politics and Wolf Blitzer on CNN's The World Today on August 31 both misleadingly corrected an error that was not in the new RNC ad. The ad showed Gore boast in a 1999 CNN interview: "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Jackson showed the ad clip and then said, "Wait, play that again." CNN did so viewers heard it another time: "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Jackson then corrected the non-error: "Gore never said he invented the Internet, as he's widely misquoted, and, in fact, he did push government support for computer networking as far back as 1986..." In seeing the ad played elsewhere, I now realize what may have prompted the CNN admonishments, though they are still distorted. After the Gore line, the announcer then concluded the ad: "Yeah, and I invented the remote control too." But CNN did not play that portion.
The networks jumped Monday night on George Bush's private comment to Dick Cheney, about how a New York Times reporter is "a major league asshole," claiming it contradicted his campaign message of civility. Topping ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Kevin Newman warned that Bush's low poll numbers "may test his often-stated desire to bring a new tone of civility to politics. Well today he was caught on tape with a decidedly uncivil comment." NBC Nightly News anchor John Siegenthaler pronounced: "Governor Bush may have stepped on his message of restoring honor and dignity to the White House today when a microphone caught him making an undignified remark about a newspaper reporter."
Only Fox News Channel stories by Rita Cosby Monday night actually aired an unbleeped version of the remark. CNN's Inside Politics, which left it out of Candy Crowley's wrap-up of the day, played back a bleeped version in an interview with Karl Rove. Even CBS's Late Show with David Letterman bleeped the first half of asshole. In fact, Letterman delivered more news of the day than MSNBC, which decided to take Labor Day off and so didn't bother with a News with Brian Williams. At 9pm ET Monday night viewers saw about the 34th repeat of a show about Spring Break in Cancun.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Kevin Newman made the remark the top news of the day: "Increasingly, Governor Bush is seen to be falling behind in the polls, which may test his often-stated desire to bring a new tone of civility to politics. Well today he was caught on tape with a decidedly uncivil comment, the kind that could get in the way of what the Bush campaign would rather talk about, which is debates."
Dean Reynolds at
least put the remark in perspective, not getting to it until after
reporting on Bush's position on debates and his criticism of Gore
for not accepting ones he already agreed to. He then showed Bush on
stage in Naperville, Illinois: "It's time to get rid of all
those words, like 'no controlling legal authority.' We need
plain-spoken Americans in the White House."
Up next, Terry Moran looked at Gore's "marathon" day.
-- CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts opened with a review of how the two candidates spent the holiday, but added, "Bush forgot a rule of the road: Don't say anything near a microphone that you wouldn't want your mother to hear."
Roberts played the
same set up clip from Bush as had ABC: "It's time to get rid of
all those words, like 'no controlling legal authority.' We need
plain-spoken Americans in the White House."
On screen, CBS provided this text: "There's Adam Clymer, major league a------ from the New York Times."
After Roberts, Bill Whitaker looked at the debate about debates.
-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor John Siegenthaler opened the program: "Good evening. Labor Day 2000. A day set aside to honor working Americans and a day of hard work on the presidential campaign trail. Al Gore and George Bush and their running mates were barnstorming through battleground states today with the question of debates still hanging over their heads. But Governor Bush may have stepped on his message of restoring honor and dignity to the White House today when a microphone caught him making an undignified remark about a newspaper reporter."
As if one comment is the same as seven-plus years of bad behavior.
David Gregory began with the debate debate and actually showed a clip of Gore on the July 16 Meet the Press agreeing to the face-off he's now rejecting, imploring Tim Russert: "I've accepted for two or three months now your invitation to debate on this program. Have you gotten a yes from Governor Bush yet?"
Gregory soon arrived
at Bush's blooper: "Also today, an embarrassing moment for Bush
in front of an open microphone. Just moments before telling a crowd of
supporters it's time for quote 'plain-spoken Americans in the
White House,' Bush uses an obscenity to describe a New York Times
reporter he spots in the crowd."
"There's Adam Clymer, major league a------ from the New York
Gregory elaborated: "Bush, who has promised to elevate the tone of discourse in Washington, said later through a spokeswoman that he regrets his private remark to Dick Cheney was overheard by the media. As for the reporter in question from the New York times, he said only he was disappointed by the Governor's language."
Following Gregory, Claire Shipman looked at Gore's day and his improving poll numbers.
Bill Bennett sure embarrassed Gloria Borger on Sunday's Face the Nation. Hosting the show, Borger read a quote from Joe Lieberman about religion in American life and then asked guest Bill Bennett: "Did that cross the line a little bit?" Bennett informed her that Lieberman was just reciting a comment by America's first President.
During a September 3
segment with the ADL's Abraham Foxman and Bennett, Borger inquired:
"Bill Bennett, let me go to you. Joe Lieberman also said that
quote, 'morality cannot be maintained without religion.' He later
struggled to explain that statement. But did that cross the line a
Bennett went on to suggest too much religion is not the biggest problem in society: "Our kids are not really being overcome by piety. This is not a major problem in American life right now."
Saturday's Washington Post had made clear that Lieberman was quoting Washington: "On his first two days of campaigning without Gore, Lieberman spoke at length of the importance of faith not just in his life, but in the 224-year life of the United States. 'George Washington warned us never to indulge in the supposition morality can be maintained without religion,' he told black churchgoers in Detroit."
+++ Watch this humorous exchange. Tuesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 
The best part of dying in 1799: Avoiding CBS News.
NBC News, which ignored the new RNC ad Thursday night, caught up Friday morning and night as ABC and CBS also ran follow up stories based on the supposed hypocrisy of running the ads after promising to not be "ugly and mean." Like ABC the night before, as detailed in the September 1 CyberAlert, on Friday morning NBC reminded viewers of how Bush had gone negative against John McCain.
-- September 1
Today. Campbell Brown set up the supposed contradiction:
"Campaigning in Louisville, Kentucky, Governor Bush begins a
speech to high school students with this thought."
Gore: "I took
the initiative in creating the Internet."
Actually, that CNN interview occurred in 1999.
"Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes defended the ad's tone,
telling reporters she, quote, 'laughed out loud' when she saw
"What's behind the move? One Republican Party official concedes
given Gore's momentum over the last two weeks it was time for a more
aggressive approach. And while Bush talks about elevating the tone of
the campaign and promises to stay positive, he has before demonstrated
a willingness to play hardball during the tough primary fight in South
Carolina against Senator John McCain."
Brown concluded: "In presidential politics, Labor Day weekend has often been described as the start of the mean season. And given this is already shaping up to be an extremely tight race, few expect the campaign rhetoric to get any nicer."
Why would anyone want a "nice" campaign?
September 1 Good Morning America on ABC. Charles Gibson discussed the
ad with Dean Reynolds, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"Let's talk about campaign commercials. Today the Republicans are
going to start running, in many states, a new, and some say negative
campaign ad against Al Gore -- seventeen states, actually, in all. The
commercials were personally approved by Governor George W. Bush, a
surprising move from a candidate who for months has been pledging to
keep the campaign positive.... Dean, let me start with you, because we
ran a piece on World News last night about this commercial and the
Bush people were calling us and saying, 'No, no, no. We're not going
negative. This is a funny ad, it's done in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
It's a legitimate issue to talk about the Vice President and what he's
done in the past.' Is it not going negative or is this just a
gratuitous shot? What is this ad?"
-- CBS Evening News, Friday night September 1. Anchor John Roberts picked up on a bad poll number for Bush: "Sixty-seven days now until America elects a new President. And this was not the best of days for George W. Bush. The latest Newsweek poll out tonight shows that in a two-way race, Al Gore has upped his lead over Bush to 12 points now. Bill Whitaker reports the Republican candidate is defending a new attack ad that started running today."
After showing an ad
clip, Whitaker reported: "Democrats called it desperate and
negative. Bush called it factual and funny."
also resurrected the McCain campaign days: "It's a road-tested
Bush strategy: the candidate rides the high road while surrogates
deliver the body blows. It worked to great effect against John McCain
in the South Carolina primary."
-- NBC Nightly News, Friday September 1. Anchor John Siegenthaler offered a slightly different number from the same poll cited by CBS: "In the race to see who will be the next President, the current Vice President, Al Gore, has according to one new national poll, opened up a double-digit lead over Texas Governor George W. Bush. A Newsweek magazine poll out tonight shows Gore up 10 points over Bush, 49 to 39 percent, and the Republican Party is out with a new TV ad to try to turn those numbers around by going negative."
David Gregory proclaimed: "Today, in the face of fresh evidence that Al Gore is widening his lead over Governor Bush as Labor Day approaches, the Republican Party goes on the offensive, unveiling an ad the Gore campaign labels a personal attack."
Clip from RNC ad:
"Who's he going to be today? The Al Gore who raises campaign
money at a Buddhist Temple or the one who now promises campaign
finance reform? Really."
"Some question the ad's timing, saying it makes Bush appear
defensive after two weeks of missteps, aides admit, over issues like
taxes and prescription drugs for seniors."
Gregory concluded: "The question is, will it work? Or will Labor Day, the unofficial kickoff of the fall campaign, mark just the start of this race getting personal?"
All this preening just proves the Bush campaign must always factor in media hostility toward any criticism of Gore. -- Brent Baker 
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