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Dole called "Preachy Grandfather" | Networks which didn't carry Dole video had a different policy in 1992 | A CBS reporter insists CBS News has "been abundantly fair." | Week in Review: the 12 most biased quotes of the week. | Sidebites
Quote of the Day
"I think there were some transcendent moments but some risky rhetorical gambles here, where Bob Dole may have taken the risk of coming across more as the preachy grandfather than the grown-up he most wants to be, and that could turn off some voters."
-- ABC s Michel McQueen just after Dole's acceptance speech last night.
Dole's Speech Performance Praised by Most, But... ABC: Dole's "A Preachy Grandfather"
Bob Dole speech coverage featured praise for his delivery, but the networks were critical of its content.
-- ABC condemned it as "preachy," and NBC called it "tough." Just after Dole finished, ABC's Michel McQueen warned that he may have come across as a "preachy grandfather" [see Quote of the Day below]. Sam Donaldson called it "a red meat speech" and a "a very tough speech, I mean, Bob Dole says that violent criminals will have their lives made a living Hell, he'd pursue terrorists to the ends of the Earth, I think he s going to dash the teachers unions into the sea." NBC's Lisa Myers described it as "the best speech I ever saw Bob Dole give," but colleague David Bloom said "this was a very tough speech, Bob Dole calling himself combative for country, but the people down here, the partisans loved it."
-- CNN went to Wolf Blitzer for a Democratic response just four minutes after Dole finished. Gene Randall then demanded Dole campaign manager Scott Reed respond to that spin: "Let me just run by first what George Stephanopoulos said about the speech. Even before it was over he called it, 'The most negative, partisan, divisive acceptance speech since Goldwater in 1964.'"
-- In Dole's speech CNN's Bernard Shaw discovered the beginning of a nasty campaign: "I ve maintained that this campaign is going to be one of the nastiest, bare-knuckled, direct to the gut campaign's in America s political history. Listen to this one sentence, quote 'It is demeaning to the nation that within the Clinton administration a core of the elite never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned, should have the power to fund with your earnings their dubious and self-serving schemes.'"
-- One day after Ted Koppel left San Diego, Nightline covers the convention, talking with a focus group; reporters discuss GOP inclusiveness.
-- A Video Contrast: In 1992 ABC and CBS ran bios of Clinton; but nothing for Dole this year. NBC ran part of Clinton's video, but none of Dole's.
Four years ago at the Democratic convention in New York, ABC's Peter Jennings explained the quandary biographical films present to the networks. "I'm not precisely sure what to call it," Jennings said, "but it's the Democratic Party's film about Bill Clinton's life, and it's something we try to come to grips with every four years when the party decides what its view of the candidates is." ABC's 1992 resolution: "We think it's usually more prudent to give the assignment to a reporter." Reporter Jeff Greenfield then introduced viewers to Bill Clinton's life story.
CBS did the same. Dan Rather told viewers: "The delegates are now watching a film about Bill Clinton, prepared by the Clinton campaign. We asked correspondent Richard Threlkeld to look at the film and report on it." NBC aired the final three minutes of the "Man from Hope" film. This year, CBS only showed the last 30 seconds of the Republicans biographical film for Dole and didn't assign the story to a reporter. NBC aired nothing. ABC skipped the film so it could check in with Brit Hume with President Clinton in Wyoming, with the vital news that Clinton claimed he wasn't watching the convention.
Bob Dole's life story would still be news to many Americans. U.S. News & World Report's Gloria Borger noted in the June 3 issue that "A Harris poll last month found that 59 percent of Americans don't know Dole has a disibility." They must watch too much television news.
Wednesday night Marc Morano, best known as the Rush Limbaugh TV show's "man in Washington," confronted several network reporters with his camera and microphone. Asked about liberal bias, CBS correspondent Paula Zahn responded:
"Those of us who work for organizations like CBS News take great pride in being fair and I think if you look at this Republican convention, our coverage, you ll agree that we have been abundantly fair." Well, Morano asked, what about the use of extremist labels? "I don t think I ve used the word extremist once since I got here on Saturday," the former CBS This Morning co-host insisted. "Obviously, labels, I think are very limiting and we have to be very careful about how we use that."
She may be able to restrain herself, but her colleagues are not so professional. On Monday's CBS Evening News Dan Rather asked Jack Kemp: "Even some Republicans describe the current platform as quote, 'harsh, extreme,' even 'radical.' Do you see it that way?"
Lesley Stahl, later that night in prime time, claimed: "The whole purpose of tonight's convention, the whole program, is to diminish the image of this party as extreme, because that's what's turning the women off. Four years ago, the main speaker at the convention...was Pat Buchanan. He was yelling, his pitchforks were raised. Tonight it will be Colin Powell, he will appeal to civility. On the platform, women find that extreme. It's turning them off."
But Zahn is far from innocent. Take a look at a question that she posed on the July 5, 1995 CBS This Morning to Pat Buchanan: "Even your sister concedes, although some supporters might like what you have to say about the economy and these very specific issues you just mentioned, they re very turned off by some of your social policies. And you know you ve got political enemies out there calling you an isolationist, a bigot, you re anti-gay, and some even go as far as saying that your social stands are reminiscent of Nazi Germany. How are you to win them over?"
So what have viewers across America heard about the Republican convention? At week s end, here s a collection of the most biased quotes from the networks:
-- "He [Kemp] is a rare combination 'a nice conservative. These days conservatives are supposed to be mean. They're supposed to be haters.'"
-- CNN analyst Bill Schneider, August 9 Inside Politics.
-- "Ronald Reagan will still have to learn how history will judge his time in office -- the deficits, the Iran-Contra affair. But for the members of this party, there is no more beloved figure."
-- Tom Brokaw just after Nancy Reagan's emotional thank-you following a video tribute to Ronald Reagan, August 12 NBC convention coverage.
-- "You know a lot has been made of the Republican Party being a very inclusive party, one that can embrace the views of various people. Given the way the platform has worked out vis-a-vis abortion, and the fact that some of these Republican governors are not speaking because they felt as if they were being censored. Do you still believe you can call the Republican Party an inclusive party?"
-- One of seven abortion questions posed by NBC's Katie Couric to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, August 12 Today.
-- "Women have not responded well to a message that at times has been considered too harsh, too mean."
-- ABC's Michel McQueen, during August 13 coverage.
-- "It was grand TV, well-scripted, well-staged, craftily designed for a broadcast image of tolerance and diversity that's starkly at odds with reality."
-- ABC's Jim Wooten on Colin Powell s address, August 13 World News Tonight.
-- "The right to abortion has never been an overwhelming issue for women at election time. But this fight within the Republican Party has many women questioning how far this party will go to limit their rights."
-- ABC s Peter Jennings, August 13.
-- "Although his speech was generally well-received, the reception was restrained, and there were boos whenever Powell steered away from the right. Though they booed and also heckled dissent, Republicans claimed the mantle of inclusion throughout the first night of their convention. We can expect more of the same today, Tuesday, August 13, 1996." --
Today co-host Bryant Gumbel.
-- "Do you think -- this is a party that is dominated by men and this convention is dominated by men as well...Do you think before tonight they thought very much what happens in America with rape?"
-- Tom Brokaw to rape victim Jan Licence who had just addressed the convention, August 13.
-- "I think the speech by Senator Hutchison of Texas is dangerous, Tom, because she uses words that could be interpreted by some people as mean."
-- NBC's Tim Russert previewing Hutchison's August 13 speech.
-- "Polls will tell you these days that people do not want much partisanship in their politics, but they got it at the Republican convention last night. There were attacks on President Clinton's credibility, integrity, even his eating habits."
-- ABC Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson, August 14.
-- "There's an old adage that says what you do speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say. Republicans are speaking tolerance and diversity. Are you seeing any evidence of it, or quite the contrary?"
-- Gumbel to Tim Russert, August 14 Today.
-- "Just how tightly scripted is this convention? Well, a Russian television reporter said today that this is as tightly controlled as anything the Communist Party ever put on, Tom."
-- NBC reporter David Bloom, August 14 Nightly News.
Bryant the Killjoy
As the rest of the media conceded the success of Elizabeth Dole's Wednesday night speech from the floor, Today co-host Bryant Gumbel grumbled Thursday morning: "Yeah, I guess some would say it was cool. Others would say it was calculating, huh?"
Later, Gumbel added: "In keeping with the softer image that Republicans are trying hard to project at their convention, Elizabeth Dole last night did her impression of Oprah Winfrey, and in a fashion that supporters would call heartfelt but others would call hokey, Liddy Dole sang her husband s praises to the delegates."
Ending With a Bang
ABC's Brian Ross filed stories all week long on the corporate money lavished on the GOP, but his Thursday World News Tonight report focused on a surprising target: "Very much in the middle of the mix are the giant media corporations, like CNN, whose multi-million-dollar merger has yet to be formally approved by federal regulators. Time Warner gave more than $100,000 to be an official sponsor of the convention."
Former Los Angeles Times reporter Dwight Morris told Ross media companies shouldn t use the conventions to lobby, and Ross noted: "But that didn t stop CBS lobbyists from giving the Republicans thousands of dollars to help pay for the cost of food and liquor in the skybox belonging to Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour."
Ross even reported on his own bosses: "Last night, the ABC hospitality suite was a lobbyist s dream. With visits from Congressman Tom Bliley, the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, which handles telecommunications issues. And then from the #2 man in the House, Majority Leader Dick Armey, who could be seen with top ABC executives, including the ABC lobbyist, who insisted he wasn't lobbying." We look forward to an equally revealing set of nightly reports from Chicago.
Wall Street Journal reporter Bob Davis wrote an article for the Thursday morning edition on MRC Chairman Brent Bozell and the Media Reality Check '96 effort in San Diego. Davis found notable hostility at CNN to Bozell: "His criticism is mostly background noise, says CNN political director Tom Hannon." Davis asked CNN analyst Bill Schneider to explain his claim last weekend that "conservatives are supposed to be haters" and Jack Kemp "is a rare combination: a nice conservative." Said Schneider: "I wasn t name-calling. I was making an analytical point." He added that he calls liberals wimps, but "they re so wimpy, they don t complain. When you talk about mean conservatives, the wrath of God comes down on you."
But a look into the Nexis news data retrieval system finds something different. Schneider quoted criticism of Colin Powell s "wimpout" on abortion in 1995. The only other uses of "wimp" in the last five years were three nearly identical references in 1992 and 1994 to the 1988 Bush-Dukakis campaign. Schneider declared on November 1, 1994: "Michael Dukakis got beaten up by the wimp, which proved he wasn't tough enough for the job."
-- Brent Baker in San Diego, with Tim Graham, Steve Kaminski and Gene Eliasen. In Alexandria VA: Tim Lamer, Geoffrey Dickens, Jim Forbes, Clay Waters, Jessica Anderson and Matthew Turosz.