CyberAlert -- 02/16/2000 -- Koppel Scolded GOP Aspirants

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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."

3) ABC showed a woman holding a baby on stage as NARAL endorsed Al Gore. Reporter Terry Moran vouched for a Gore attack on Bradley's health care plan for relying too much on the private sector.

4) NBC devoted two helicopters to the gimmick of a live interview for Today from inside John McCain's bus. Jonathan Alter wondered: "Can we really bite the hand that feeds us these donuts?"

5) To illustrate a show on religion in the campaign, Nightline played two soundbites from Al Gore being pressed about Juanita Broaddrick, but ABC made sure viewers didn't hear her name.

6) CNN: Charlie Brown was a victim of Reagan, shunted aside "as we tried to take over the world and make pots and pots of money."


"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.
McCain argued in Koppel's clip: "I'm very concerned about Mr. Putin. I'm afraid Mr. Putin might be one of those who wants to make the trains run on time. So yes I would meet with him as a candidate, but I think that what I would really like to do is send a message to Mr. Putin that we expect certain behavior out of the Russians and particularly what's going on in Chechnya today, a cessation of that brutality."
George Bush said that he would "probably not" meet with Putin during the campaign and suggested the real question is: "Will he reject the politics inside of Russia that has allowed folks to siphon off aid. Will he stand up to the corruption inside that country and welcome the rule of law?"

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.'?"
Gergen replied: "Well sure, Ronald Reagan after all sat down with Gorbachev...."

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."
Koppel echoed the thought: "Very hard line position."


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 matching funds:
"There's just no way the McCain campaign can match that effort. The Senator hasn't raised anything like the kind of money that Bush has and because he's accepting federal matching funds McCain is limited by law to what he can spend here."

-- 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:
"McCain consistently misrepresents not only his position but current law....In December on Nightline, a New Hampshire resident asked McCain how he could justify his proposal 'to make it illegal for citizens' groups other than a political action committee to even mention the name of a member of Congress two whole months before any election, general or primary.' McCain dismissed this as 'a very clever misrepresentation of my position.' But that is exactly what the McCain-Feingold bill introduced in the last Congress would have done, and McCain has never disavowed that as an ultimate objective."

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."
George W. Bush in clip from an ad: "Politics is tough, but when John McCain compared me to Bill Clinton and said I was untrustworthy, that's over the line."
Schieffer picked up: "Maybe so, maybe not, but what the Governor did today is classic Clinton. Whether it's been issues like the line-item veto, welfare reform, putting more cops on the street, or erasing the marriage tax penalty, President Clinton has made a career of grabbing Republican issues and taking them for his own. That's exactly what Governor Bush seems to be doing to McCain now by coming out for McCain's favorite issue: campaign finance reform. The risk here, of course, is that South Carolinians may see this as a cynical last minute ploy to get votes. On the other hand, it's a strategy that has sure worked well for President Clinton in the past, Dan."

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."
David Bloom opened his piece, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Tom, tonight Governor Bush is trying to convince voters here that he's the real campaign finance reformer, not Senator McCain. But McCain calls Bush's plan quote, 'a joke,' because Bush would put no limits on how much so-called soft money wealthy Americans could contribute. In South Carolina today, a new George Bush."
George W. Bush: "I'm a reformer when it comes to how we fund our campaigns."
Bloom: "Bush now insists that, like McCain, he also backs campaign finance reform, but only if workers are protected from having their union dues go to political causes they don't support."
Bush: "I want people to know that I have a plan. I been talking about it ever since I been on the trail. You know that."
Bloom: "But Bush never mentioned campaign finance reform when he announced for the presidency, didn't talk about it when he first came to Iowa or New Hampshire. Now the Texas Governor, who's raised and spent more money than any presidential candidate ever, is promising wholesale reform. McCain is skeptical, joking that pretty soon Bush will be saying he's from Arizona."
John McCain: "It's kind of an attention getter that has really nothing to do with reality when I'm facing a campaign that's raised $80 million."

Bloom proceeded to counter Bush's credibility and treat a liberal group which backs McCain's plan as some kind of independent expert:
"At the top of Bush's new agenda, a proposal to ban lobbyists from making campaign contributions while Congress is in session. But critics see a double standard, pointing out that during the 1999 Texas legislative session, Bush took in more than a half million dollars in presidential campaign contributions from some of the biggest polluters in Texas who, at the time, were fighting tougher state air pollution rules. And supporters of campaign finance reform argue Bush is posturing."
Larry Makinson, Center for Responsive Politics: "I think it's a political move. I don't think this package of proposals, probably, will ever get presented to anybody, except the voters in South Carolina."
Bloom concluded with Bush's viewpoint: "But Bush's supporters insist he's serious about campaign finance reform, and they say, unlike John McCain, he can win Republican support, and actually get legislation passed. The two candidates are sure to tussle over the issue, of who's the real reformer, in tonight's Republican presidential debate."


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:
"In Washington today, the nation's largest organization in favor of a woman's right to choose an abortion, NARAL, has endorsed Al Gore as the Democratic presidential nominee. Mr. Gore will be pleased, especially since Bill Bradley, his opponent, has made the point that Mr. Gore's position on abortion has not been consistent."

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:
"Yesterday Gore touched a nerve by claiming that Bradley's plan to replace Medicaid with subsidized private insurance would devastate people with AIDS. Gore told the San Francisco Chronicle that Bradley's plan was 'a catastrophic mistake' because '50 percent of the people with AIDS are on Medicaid.'...Bradley says his plan would provide the same or better care for AIDS patients now covered by Medicaid by offering more options and generous subsidies. But some health care experts agree that Gore has found a potential weakness in Bradley's plan."
Steve Morin, UC San Francisco AIDS Research Institute: "What is problematic about a proposal to eliminate Medicaid is that we don't know what exactly will happen. In the private sector, there has not been much receptivity to covering people with HIV."

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:
"We're here rolling just outside of Columbia, South Carolina. The reason they call this bus the Straight Talk Express is that it's really different than other campaign buses. In other campaigns the candidate, his family and staff are on one bus, the press pushed off to another bus. In this campaign a rotating group of reporters gets to come in here and morning, noon and night peppers Senator McCain with questions. It's kind of an endless press conference. And we get almost a backstage pass to this campaign. Today we tossed the other reporters overboard for a few minutes to give you a little bit of a sense of what it's like here on the Straight Talk Express. Good morning Senator."
John McCain began with a joke about the journalistic corps: "Good morning Jonathan. I want to mention that I haven't spent this much time with the communists since I was in prison, so I really enjoy a little nostalgia there. It's been a great ride and I've enjoyed this aspect of the campaign spending a lot of time with the folks so that they can know me and what we're all about and what our campaign is all about? Of course there are several high risks associated with it, including a number of mistakes that I've made. But overall it's been, frankly it's added a lot to the campaign for me."

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?"
McCain retorted with a quip about donut addicts.

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:
-- "Now a week ago on this bus you told me, 'I'm no Bill Bradley, I'll hit George Bush back twice as hard as he's hit me.' Now you've pulled all of your negative ads. Isn't that an admission that you may have gone too far in comparing George Bush to Bill Clinton?"
-- "There is no evidence that taking the high road works in presidential politics, why is it going to work for you?"
-- "Big debate tonight. George W. Bush is probably going to say you are soft on abortion."
-- "We're in South Carolina there is a confederate flag flying over the state capitol. Since we are on the Straight Talk Express I know you say that it's South Carolina's business. But how about a straight answer. Isn't that flag a symbol of racism?"
-- "Thirty-nine Republican Senators have endorsed George W. Bush, only four have endorsed you, they know you the best. How can you govern if you can't even get support from your own party?"

++ 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:


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:
"When Juanita Broaddrick made the claim, which I found quite credible, that she was raped by Bill Clinton, did that change your opinion about him being one of the best Presidents in history? And do you believe Juanita Broaddrick's claim? And what did you tell your son about this?"

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 behavior."
Al Gore in clip from the WNDS-TV encounter in which you can see Prudhomme just sitting down as she finished her question: "I'm taught in my religious tradition to hate the sin and love the sinner. I'm taught that all of us are heir to the mistakes that -- are prone to the mistakes that flesh is heir to."

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:


Is no 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 Smith:
"Charlie Brown, you see, was a misfit. But who wasn't in the '60s and '70s? Remember hoping to find yourself? Hoping that maybe happiness really was that warm puppy? And then the '80s came, and we forgot about Charlie Brown for awhile, as we tried to take over the world and make pots and pots of money. Of course we had doubts, which we'd never admit. So it was kind of comforting to see Charlie Brown still out there, still kicking at that football, still missing it every time. And then, as we got older, we knew we weren't taking over the world. But that was okay. There were other things, like raising children, and we had time for Charlie Brown again. And then he had to leave us."

In the media's universe Charlie Brown is another victim of Ronald Reagan's Decade of Greed. -- Brent Baker

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