ABC: Gore's Spin on Bush's SS Plan; Lehrer's Judgment; "Factually Inaccurate" Hillary Skipped; The West Wing Demonized Dr. Laura
1) ABC's World News Tonight advanced Gore's agenda by devoting a whole story to demanding: "How will Bush pay for the trillion dollars Gore says will be removed" from the Social Security fund?Peter Jennings actually asked: "What happens when people ask him about paying for this transition phase?"
2) Of the broadcast networks Wednesday night, only NBC aired a fact-checking story on Tuesday's debate. Lisa Myers decided "most independent experts say...both candidates have over promised." There were actually many claims by Bush and Gore to review, CNN's Brooks Jackson showed on Inside Politics.
3) FNC's Brit Hume questioned the judgment of debate moderator Jim Lehrer: "'HMOs setting all the decisions' is a Gore campaign line. Now you're the moderator of the debate. You get a question that looks like it's coming out of somebody's campaign literature. Would you choose it?"
5) In a single paragraph a Washington Post reporter distorted the Bush tax cut more than has Gore. A quiz. What's wrong with this: "Someone making $200,000 might get a 10 percent reduction in taxes, but that would mean $20,000 in tax cuts."
6) Independent Counsel Robert Ray called Hillary Clinton's testimony about the Travel Office "factually inaccurate," but CBS and NBC Wednesday night didn't utter a word about it. ABC gave it 20 seconds, less than one-sixth the time allocated to the "subway series." CNN avoided Hillary's false testimony. FNC ran a full story.
7) Dr. Laura demonized by NBC's The West Wing. Martin Sheen as the President attacked her misleading "Dr." title and sarcastically compared her claim that the Bible says homosexuality is "an abomination" to how it advocates slavery for his daughter and that his mother be burned. "You may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the ignorant tight-ass club."
Correction: The October 18 CyberAlert accurately relayed how CBS's post-debate "survey determined Gore won by five points, 45 to 40 percent." But the CyberAlert later stated the CBS poll "found 45 percent considered Gore the winner compared to 40 percent who were more impressed by Al Gore." That second "Gore" should have read "Bush."
From Al Gore's anti-Bush campaign play book to ABC's story topic list. Wednesday night ABC didn't show a second of the Tuesday debate or review the accuracy of claims made by both candidates. Instead, World News Tonight advanced Gore's agenda by giving credibility to Gore's attack on Bush's Social Security proposal: "How will Bush pay for the trillion dollars Gore says will be removed from the fund?"
Reporter John Martin concluded Bush "is avoiding the hardest decision of all: Telling voters, before the election, how he will pay for the reform." An out of touch Peter Jennings actually asked Bush beat reporter Dean Reynolds: "What happens when people ask him about paying for this transition phase?" Reynolds had to inform Jennings: "It doesn't come up."
Jennings introduced ABC's October 18 story by noting: "Presidential politics today, the debates are over. In the ABC News poll after the debate 41 percent thought Mr. Bush had won, 41 percent thought Mr. Gore. Overall the polls are close, the race is as tight as ever. Both men are back on the road again today."
He then reported how Bush's Social Security plan would allow people to invest a portion of their contribution themselves, but Gore "is attacking him for not explaining how he's going to pay for the transition from the current system to a new one."
John Martin looked at the issue from Gore's perspective: "The question is, since current retirees count on what is paid into Social Security by younger workers to finance their retirement, how will Bush pay for the trillion dollars Gore says will be removed from the fund?"
Of course, nothing would be "removed." Just less than projected would be collected through the FICA tax.
Martin played a soundbite from Eugene Steuerle of
the Urban Institute: "The other money has to come from either a
decrease in other federal expenditures, a decrease in Social Security
benefits, a decrease in say Medicare or Medicaid or education or defense
spending. Or it has to come from increased taxes."
Following a clip of a Gore TV ad which claimed Bush
twice counted money promised for two purposes, Martin gave Bush a few
seconds: "But Bush insisted today that he did not see the need to
raise spending or cut benefits."
Next, Jennings conducted a brief q & a with ABC's Gore and Bush reporters. Jennings asked Terry Moran in Des Moines with Gore if Gore's crowds agree with his Social Security argument. Moran said yes: "In Al Gore's crowds there's no question that older voters get it. They hear his message that the very nature of Social Security as a universal, government-sponsored, social compact for retirement is at stake. They're anxious, he stokes their anxiety."
From La Crosse with Bush, Dean Reynolds told Jennings that Bush's Social Security investment idea is a "proven applause-getter" as young people "jump to their feet and cheer" when Bush talks about trusting people with their own money. Jennings demanded: "But what happens when people ask him about paying for this transition phase?" Reynolds was forced to bring Jennings back to reality: "It doesn't come up. I think there's a belief among the supporters here, who are obviously ardent supporters, that this is a system that needs reform and that Bush should be given credit for trying to reform it."
Of the broadcast networks Wednesday night, only NBC aired a fact-checking story on Tuesday's debate as Lisa Myers hit the accuracy of both candidates in saying the other is irresponsible on taxes or spending: "Most independent experts say they're both right. The truth, they say, both candidates have over promised."
Before Bob Schieffer outlined what points independents in a focus group liked, CBS's Dan Rather complained some more about how Bush and Gore "often gave pre-tested, previously stated answers."
There were actually many claims by Bush and Gore to review, CNN's Brooks Jackson showed on Inside Politics as he clarified Bush's assertions about his position on lawsuits against HMOs and countered Gore's claims that he is not advocating a big government expansion and is responsible for reducing federal employment by 300,000.
All three broadcast evening show on October 18 led with the USS Cole memorial and investigation.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather whined: "On the economy and other subjects, Vice President Al Gore and Governor George Bush were spirited, but they often gave pre-tested, previously stated answers last night in their final televised joint appearance. Neither achieved a breakthrough, at least not in the CBS News poll" which found 45 percent thought Gore won and 40 percent believed Bush won.
Bob Schieffer reviewed the findings of a focus group organized by Knowledge Networks. Independents, Schieffer relayed, liked it when "Gore stressed the strong economy" and HMO reform. "Bush's strong suit was clearly education," Schieffer reported, and "Bush also got good reaction when he stressed government reduction and morality."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw briefly noted how Bush spent the day campaigning in Wisconsin while Gore in Iowa said Bush's Social Security plan "doesn't add up." Lisa Myers then provided NBC's "The Truth Squad" assessment of Gore's attack on Bush's tax cut and Bush's attack on Gore for advocating more spending.
Myers decided: "Most independent experts say
they're both right. The truth, they say, both candidates have over
-- CNN's Inside Politics. Brooks Jackson reviewed
the claims of both candidates, starting with Bush. On a "patient
protection law," Jackson agreed that "Bush did support many
patient protections in Texas, including access to specialists and a ban on
physician gag rules. But Bush may have overreached when he said
Jackson moved on to Gore and contradicted Gore's insistence he is not, as Jim Lehrer put it in relaying Bush's argument, "proposing the largest federal spending in years." Jackson ruled: "But in fact, Gore is proposing hundreds of billions in added spending, far more than Bush. And the Bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says Gore's proposals quote, 'would produce the largest spending increases since LBJ and the Great Society.'"
Jackson identified a second Gore misstatement:
"Gore overstated his role in shrinking the federal government."
Jackson explained: "It's true: The federal civilian work force has been reduced by nearly 325,000 since Gore took office, according to the Office of Personnel Management. But 87 percent of that, nearly 284,000, are civilian defense workers, from downsizing the Pentagon after the Cold War, not from reinventing government."
Back to Bush, Jackson concluded by outlining how "Bush tripped up when he overstated the national rise in persons with no health insurance."
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume on Wednesday night took up the subject of the liberal agenda of the questions debate moderator Jim Lehrer selected to be asked by audience members. Hume quoted one question, "HMOs setting all the decisions," and suggested it matched "a Gore campaign line." He asked his fellow panelists: "Now you're the moderator of the debate. You get a question right not that looks like it's coming out of somebody's campaign literature. Would you choose it?"
As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, during the roundtable segment Hume outlined the concern: "There was quite a bit said about the role of the moderator in last night's debate who, while the questions came form the audience, there was something over 130 or so submitted, from which he chose ultimately to ask 15. We looked at them and figured that six or so of them were kind of neutral, one of them, the question about military readiness, seemed to proceed from a conservative view of things, and here's a sample of the other eight."
Viewers saw a video compilation of liberal questions. Hume explained the process: "The Gallup organization picked the sample, picked the group, but Jim Lehrer picked the questions."
Morton Kondracke warned: "Yeah, we don't know
what the other 115 questions were like. They may have been even more
left-wing than those questions that you heard. But clearly, I mean, Lehrer
had a responsibility to, it seems to me, to pick questions that went down
the middle of the plate for the most part."
Hume doubted Lehrer's judgment in picking one
question: "But the premise of the question was, you know, 'How do
you feel,' it was to Gore anyway, and it was, 'How do you feel about
HMOs setting all the decisions?' 'HMOs setting all the decisions' is
a Gore campaign line. Now you're the moderator of the debate. You get a
question right not that looks like it's coming out of somebody's
campaign literature. Would you choose it?"
For a complete rundown of the full text of all eight
liberal questions posed, check out the October 18 Media Reality Check:
"Lehrer Picks Pile of Liberal Questioners."
The AP style book: Add ideological labels to a conservative group but not a far-left one. A Wednesday AP story, about Jim Lehrer's performance as moderator, referred to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting as simply a "media watchdog group," but described the MRC as a "conservative watchdog group," the MRC's Tim Graham and Bonnie Langborgh noticed.
The MRC is a conservative group and we don't hide it, but FAIR is further to the left than we are to the right and should also be labeled.
The labeling disparity occurred in an October 18 AP dispatch by New York-based reporter David Bauder, titled: "Lehrer Receives Unwanted Attention." Bauder also relayed how CBS's Bob Schieffer "scoffed at the idea that Lehrer leaned more in one direction politically." An excerpt of Bauder's story:
Jim Lehrer was clear about his mission moderating the three presidential debates: The candidates should get the attention, not him.
He wasn't entirely successful.
While his sober, respectful approach to the job drew praise, some critics grumbled that Lehrer's questions weren't pointed enough to throw George W. Bush and Al Gore off their preprogrammed responses and that he should have kept them on a tighter leash....
Several of his questions were direct, with little preamble: "Do you believe, in general, that gays and lesbians should have the same rights as other Americans?"
Or, "Would you support a federal law banning racial profiling by police and other authorities?"....
Lehrer said he anticipated criticism, considering how close the race is. He said he had to make judgment calls on the fly, and although it could be argued some were right and some wrong, the debates were "a good exercise for democracy."...
CBS Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said Lehrer did a good job asking questions the public wanted answers to, even if they weren't necessarily designed to make news for journalists.
"The one thing you're not going to get from Jim Lehrer is a cheap shot or snide remark," Schieffer said. "He asks very simple questions that give people a good idea of where they stand."
Jeff Cohen, executive director of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said Lehrer "contributed to the emptiness of these debates."
"The debates have become sort of like poll-tested posturing and rhetoric that never gets pierced by Lehrer," Cohen said. "The style of interviewing that he's perfected is civil, though a more accurate term might be servile."....
Lehrer appeared stricter after the first debate at trying to keep the candidates within their time limits. Despite a perception that Gore took advantage of laxness in the first encounter, Lehrer noted that both candidates talked at about the same time.
Lehrer was also criticized by Brent Bozell, chairman of the conservative watchdog group Media Research Center, for asking questions that allegedly reflected a liberal perspective. Questions about racial profiling and same-sex marriages should have been balanced by queries from a conservative point of view, Bozell said.
CBS' Schieffer scoffed at the idea that Lehrer leaned more in one direction politically.
"I think it would be awfully hard to find anyone who could be as fair and honest," he said. "I've known him for 30 years and I don't even know if he's a Republican or Democrat."
For the entire story, go to:
In a single paragraph Wednesday a Washington Post reporter managed to distort the Bush tax cut proposal even more than Al Gore has managed to do.
Reporter Glenn Kessler labeled as "misleading" an accurate Bush description of his tax cut which Kessler only undermined by resorting to liberal spin, not by addressing what Bush actually said. And to illustrate how much more the rich benefit Kessler assumed a current tax rate so high that not even Karl Marx would support it.
The paragraph came deep in Kessler's October 18 story headlined, "Debaters' Messages: Not the Whole Truth."
Kessler asserted: "Bush suggested the largest percentage reductions under his plan would go to the lowest-income earners. This is misleading. People making $22,000 may get a 100 percent reduction in taxes, but they only pay $110 in federal income taxes. Unlike Gore, Bush in general would not give additional tax refunds once a tax liability had been erased. Meanwhile, someone making $200,000 might get a 10 percent reduction in taxes, but that would mean $20,000 in tax cuts."
Two major problems here. First, the dollar amount of the cut in no way contradicts Bush's description of how "the largest percentage reductions under his plan would go to the lowest-income earners." Bush would cut the 15 percent rate to 10 percent, a 33 percent reduction, but the 38 percent bracket would fall less than a third to 33 percent.
Second, re-read Kessler's last sentence. Now, this brings back bad memories of high school algebra, but at what tax rate must someone earning $200,000 be taxed in order for a "10 percent reduction in taxes" to yield "$20,000 in tax cuts"? I believe the answer would be 100 percent!
$20,000 is 10 percent of $200,000, right? A more realistic calculation would be that a person earning $200,000 would have a taxable income of $150,000 and by going from a 38 to a 33 percent tax rate the person's tax payment would fall from about $57,000 to $50,000.
To read the entire Kessler debate analysis, go
In a report released Wednesday, independent counsel Robert Ray called Hillary Clinton's testimony about the Travel Office "factually inaccurate," but the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News didn't utter a word about it. ABC's World News Tonight gave it 20 seconds, less than one-sixth the time allocated to a story on the "subway series." The CBS Evening News also gave over two minutes to a preview of the Yankees-Mets World Series.
ABC's Peter Jennings announced: "The independent counsel investigating various activities of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton said today that Mrs. Clinton gave false testimony about her role in the firing of White House travel workers seven years ago. But Robert Ray concluded she should not be prosecuted because there was insufficient evidence that she intended to influence the decision."
The October 18 Inside Politics on CNN gave the development 21 seconds, but Bernard Shaw avoided reporting Ray's contention that Hillary gave false testimony: "Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted in the so-called Travelgate case. In a final report released today, independent counsel Robert Ray says Mrs. Clinton did play a role in the decision to fire the staff, but he won't prosecute because there's no evidence she intended the firings to happen."
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume provided a
full report from David Shuster. He began, as transcribed by MRC
analyst Brad Wilmouth:
The West Wing's war on Dr. Laura. Wednesday's West Wing on NBC gave a prime time airing to the anger behind the Hollywood Left's crusade to shut down syndicated radio personal advice host Dr. Laura's daytime Paramount TV show.
There was no mistaking the intended identity of "Dr. Jena Jacobs" as "President Josiah Bartlet," played by Martin Sheen, quizzed her about misleading listeners about her expertise by calling herself "Doctor" when she has no medical degree and castigated her reference to homosexuality as "an abomination." When she cited the Bible, he sarcastically asked: "I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7....What would a good price for her be?" Bartlet/Sheen scolded: "You may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the ignorant tight-ass club."
The setting for the confrontation on the October 18 episode was a reception at the White House for talk radio hosts, all of whom were portrayed as buffoons. One boasted to the White House Press Secretary: "I call myself Gary with a G."
"President Bartlet" walked into the large room where most people were standing and talking, but "Dr. Jena Jacobs" who was played by a blond women prettier and younger than the real Dr. Laura (though with the same hair style), remained sitting, the relevance of which you'll soon see.
Bartlet saw her and became distracted, leading
to this exchange followed by a sermon from Bartlet: "Forgive me
Dr. Jabobs, are you an MD?"
Unlike the real Dr. Laura, this one was silenced and after a long pause she acquiesced and stood up before a proud Bartlet walked out of the room. -- Brent Baker 
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