CyberAlert -- 02/22/2000 -- CNN Legitimized Sharpton

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CNN Legitimized Sharpton; Bush Too Far Right; McCain Can Still Win!

1) CNN opened its Gore-Bradley debate Monday night by showcasing Al Sharpton, whom Bernard Shaw credited with "an instrumental role in bringing about this dialogue." Last week writer Michael Kelly recounted Sharpton's career as an "inciter of race-violence."

2) "The conservative with compassion turned hard right down South," asserted CBS's Bill Whitaker as ABC and NBC stressed Al Gore's attack on Bush on race, but ABC ignored Gore's ties to Sharpton and NBC only gave it a clause. McCain's "warrior spirit."

3) CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Charles Rangel about Sharpton, but disassociated himself from the question.

4) GMA's Charles Gibson argued Monday morning that the Sharpton situation is somehow different because "when Democrats go visit Al Sharpton a lot of Republicans criticize them."

5) Media mantra: "Did [Bush] run too far to the right to hurt himself in Michigan now?" ABC's George Stephanopoulos called him "the kamikaze conservative" for proposing a tax cut.

6) CNN hit victor Bush with hostile questions, such as this from Jeff Greenfield: "Are you at all concerned that the tenor of this campaign has, as one Gore aide told me, maybe marginalized you?"

7) "If he can just get himself back on the high road, I still think he can win," Evan Thomas aspired for McCain. Today's Matt Lauer urged McCain to fight back against Bush. Dan Rather actually claimed Bush has the media on his side.

8) "First?!?!" Bryant Gumbel reacted with disgust when a colleague guessed historians ranked Reagan as the best President. "Reagan wasn't even in the top ten." Clinton's low ranking displeased him.


Spurred by George W. Bush's surprise win in South Carolina on Saturday, CNN and Time decided to jointly produce a last minute debate Monday night between John McCain and Bush. Sponsored by the United Baptists of European Ancestry, CNN broadcast the debate featuring a panel of Time reporters interspersed with questions from the audience. Showcased up front by CNN's cameras: David Duke, who got the first question of the night after moderator Bernard Shaw credited him with having "played an instrumental role in bringing about this dialogue."

Just kidding. I made up the facts in the paragraph above. But, sadly, the following paragraph is accurate:

After the major media spent all weekend pounding away at George W. Bush for his racial insensitivity, Monday night under the banner of a "Time magazine and CNN Election 2000 Special Report," CNN featured Al Sharpton as the first questioner in its 90-minute broadcast of a debate between Al Gore and Bill Bradley from Harlem's Apollo Theater. Moderator Bernard Shaw prefaced the 9pm ET debate by offering "a very special thank you to the sponsor of tonight's debate in this historic setting, the United Missionary Baptist Association, led by the Reverend Nelson C. Dukes, moderator, and the Reverend Reginald Williams, chair."

After explaining how "each candidate will have one minute to respond and 30 seconds for a rebuttal" to each question, Shaw introduced the first questioner in the audience: "The Host Committee has agreed to have the Reverend Al Sharpton to ask the first question. He has played an instrumental role in bringing about this dialogue in Harlem."

Following some applause, Sharpton queried: "Tonight, we know on March 7 there will be a primary in New York and California. With the case of police scandal in California, the Diallo case and Louima case in New York, and many cases all between, many in our community have to live in fear of both the cops and the robbers. We are asking you what concrete steps would you make if you were elected President to deal with police brutality and racial profiling without increasing crime? How would you keep crime down but at the same time confront the problem of police brutality and racial profiling?"

In a column run in last in Wednesday's Washington Post, National Journal Editor-in-Chief Michael Kelly pointed out Democratic Party hypocrisy -- though it's also an example of media hypocrisy -- in condemning Bush for associating with Bob Jones University and refusing to condemn the Confederate flag while ignoring how close Gore and Bradley are to Sharpton, who Kelly showed is "a career inciter of race-violence."

Here's an excerpt from the February 16 column:

....In the genteel press, Sharpton is carefully referred to by euphemism -- community leader, activist. Actually, he is a professional monger of racial hatred, a career inciter of race-violence.

Sharpton first came to national attention during the 1988 Tawana Brawley hoax, in which he enthusiastically spread the incendiary lie that a black teenage girl had been assaulted, smeared with feces and raped by a group of white law enforcement officers in upper New York state. That he libeled innocent men and fostered racial enmity seems never to have bothered Sharpton.

In 1991, Sharpton helped stoke the outrage of the black community of Brooklyn's Crown Heights, following the accidental killing of a black child there by a car in the motorcade of the orthodox Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. The days of violence that followed culminated in the street mob-murder of Yankel Rosenbaum.

In 1995, Sharpton supported a racist and obviously explosive street protest against a Jewish-owned Harlem clothing store, Freddy's, which was accused of attempting to drive a black record store out of business. In a rally broadcast on his weekly radio program, Sharpton spoke thusly: "We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business on 125th Street."....

On Dec. 8, after two months of rhetorical violence, protestor Roland Smith entered the store armed with a pistol. Screaming, "It's on now, all blacks out," Smith opened fire. He set the store ablaze, and then shot himself. Smith killed seven store employees, most of them minorities. Afterward, Sharpton said he had only been seeking to mediate.

In pursuit of black votes, Bill Bradley, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore have all wooed Sharpton. Bradley and Clinton have been open and enthusiastic about this....

Gore long hesitated, but last weekend he finally paid obeisance to Sharpton. Being Gore, he did it dishonestly. As the New York Times reported, Gore's meeting with Sharpton "was hidden from public the apartment of Karenna Gore Schiff, Mr. Gore's oldest daughter." Meanwhile, naturally, Gore's aides lied. From the Times account: "The press corps that normally follows Mr. Gore were told by his aides that the meeting with Mr. Sharpton was not happening and that his visit to his daughter's apartment was strictly personal."

There has been much press attention to the pandering of various Republicans over such race-related issues as the flying of the Confederate flag over the capitol in South Carolina. And some of the Republican behavior has been revolting. But nothing the Republicans have done comes anywhere close -- for partisan irresponsibility, for a cynical and really dangerous disregard of the national good, for sheer revulsion factor -- to the Democratic pursuit of the love of Al Sharpton.

END of Excerpt


Monday night the broadcast networks highlighted Al Gore's attack on George W. Bush for lacking "the guts to take on bigotry' and for being "morally blind" on race, but only NBC's Tim Russert, as an afterthought in an NBC Nightly News conversation with Tom Brokaw later in the show, bothered to raise Al Gore's association with race-baiter Al Sharpton. And Russert's brief mention did not detail, as Kelly did above, how just eight days before Gore had snuck off to meet Sharpton.

On ABC's February 21 World News Tonight, reporter Dean Reynolds relayed from the Bush campaign in Michigan: "Today his target was Al Gore because yesterday, in a clear reference to Bush, the Vice President said this."
Vice President Gore: "There are those who have 20-20 vision, who are morally blind. You know, some of these individuals just left the state of South Carolina."
Bush: "Yeah, shame on him. Shame on him."
Reynolds: "Gore has been attacking Bush for, among other things, giving a speech to the arch-conservative Bob Jones University during the South Carolina primary. The school bans interracial dating and is hostile to the Catholic religion. Though he's criticized the school's positions, Bush's appearance has dogged him for weeks as insensitive and politically motivated."

Over on the CBS Evening News, reporter Bill Whitaker did not specifically cite Gore but did outline his argument: "You might confuse Bush, this year's comeback kid, with a quick change artist. The conservative with compassion turned hard right down South and stood uncritically at Bob Jones University, which has been criticized for anti-black and anti-Catholic views. But whistling Dixie may not work in Michigan, a big, diverse, urban state."

David Bloom, on the NBC Nightly News, asserted: "Gore, over the weekend, accuses Bush of lacking quote 'the guts to take on bigotry' because Bush refused to take a stand on the flying of the Confederate flag in South Carolina and spoke at Bob Jones University there, which critics call segregationist and anti-Catholic."
Bush: "Shame on him, shame on him."
Bloom: "Today Bush fires back."
Bush: "And I look forward to debating Vice President Gore. And I look forward to challenging this kind of politics that's so stale and so negative."
Bloom then concluded his story: "Tonight, if you listen to Governor Bush, it's as if his loss in New Hampshire and his sharp turn to the right in South Carolina never happened, as if McCain no longer poses any threat at all. But it's worth remembering that on the night before his 19 point drubbing in New Hampshire, the Bush campaign was equally confident of victory."

Only after several other stories aired did NBC return to the campaign and mention Sharpton. Following an "In Depth" piece by Lisa Myers on Michigan Governor John Engler's influence, anchor Tom Brokaw talked with Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert. Referring to Bush, Brokaw suggested:
"He did leave behind a lot of scorched earth. He took some pretty controversial positions. Is that going to hurt him in the fall?"
Russert replied: "George Bush wanted to win this nomination viewed as the compassionate conservative without having to tilt right. The difficulty is, and you can hear it with the exchanges with Al Gore already, that when he associates himself with Pat Robertson or Bob Jones University or refuses to say the flag should come down from the Capitol of South Carolina, blacks and woman and Catholics get upset. He realizes he has to bring them back into a broad centrist coalition to be elected President. Al Gore has his problems too, associations with Al Sharpton, the minister up in Harlem, or support of so-called partial-birth abortion."

Gee, I don't recall any network reporters raising concerns after New Hampshire about Gore's ties to Sharpton or about how he's gone too far left on abortion.

(Following Bloom's NBC Nightly News story NBC ran a piece by Anne Thompson on how McCain is angry ant Bush's tactics, "accusing Governor Bush of running a sleaze campaign." Anchor Tom Brokaw introduced the story by delivering some positive spin on McCain's cause: "Senator McCain is maintaining his warrior spirit....")


I don't believe it myself, the Republicans made that point. Interviewing Gore supporter Charles Rangel Monday night on CNN's The World Today, anchor Wolf Blitzer raised the equivalence between Bush going to Bob Jones University and Al Gore visiting Al Sharpton, but quickly disassociated himself from the argument.

Blitzer told Rangel: "You know, many Republicans in the last few days, Congressman Rangel, have said that George W. Bush's decision to go to Bob Jones University in South Carolina is really no different than Bill Bradley or Al Gore's decision to meet with Al Sharpton, the controversial minister in New York City. Is there a significant difference there, or is there an analogy?"
Rangel answered: "I didn't hear the full question, but I can tell you this: If you are comparing Al Sharpton to the racism and anti- Semitism that exists in Bob Jones in South Carolina, I think that you're making quite a stretch, and I think America knows better than that."
A chastened Blitzer backed off: "I wasn't making the comparison, I was reporting that many Republicans were making that comparison, saying this Bob Jones University for the Republicans may be like Al Sharpton for the Democrats."


Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson argued Monday morning with George W. Bush and Michigan Governor John Engler about how Bush wrapped himself "so tightly in the Republican Right" that it might "kill" him. Defending Bush's trip to Bob Jones University, Engler suggested that "when Democrats go see Al Sharpton, I assume they're not buying his line." To that, Gibson bizarrely countered that's somehow different because "a lot of Republicans criticize them."

On the February 21 show, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Gibson proposed: "You started this campaign knowing that the Republican Party would have to broaden its base in order to win in November. You were emphasizing compassion. Then you get in political trouble after New Hampshire, and you wrap yourself so tightly in the Republican Right that it may kill you in November."

Later, Gibson inquired: "Governor Engler, does the campaign of Governor Bush in South Carolina stand him well in Michigan?"
Engler argued: "The campaign run in South Carolina emphasized some fundamental values that are very important to a lot of Michigan voters and a record of reform -- cutting taxes, reforming welfare. Those are the kinds of things that matter to our constituents and voters."
Gibson shot back: "Many Catholic voters, many Jewish voters, many black voters in Michigan. Governor Bush goes to Bob Jones University, he does not take a position against the Confederate flag flying over the Capitol -- that does well in Michigan?"
Engler argued: "I don't think that when Governor Bush or any other candidate goes to a place to make a speech to talk about what they're for, that means they're implicitly somehow ramifying whatever might have happened at that institution. Ronald Reagan went to the same place. The Democratic governor of South Carolina went there, and when Democrats go see Al Sharpton, I assume they're not buying his line."
Gibson oddly replied: "Well, except that when Democrats go visit Al Sharpton, a lot of Republicans criticize them for doing that. But let me put that aside for just a moment."
Engler replied, as both he and Bush laughed: "Well, Democrats weren't sparing in their criticism either."

Democrats are criticizing Bush on BJU. The difference is that the media eagerly adopt that complaint as their own.

As alluded to in the Kelly column in item #1 above, on February 13 Gore snuck off to visit Al Sharpton, but though both the New York Times and Washington Post both ran stories on it on February 14, ABC ignored it that Monday as did the other networks.


Media Manta of the Weekend: Bush went too far right in South Carolina. Most conservatives hardly consider George W. Bush to one of their own and worry that he's much more moderate than conservative, but the networks consider him too conservative, even portraying his tax cut as somehow an example of how "he's now the kamikaze conservative." Of course, Al Gore and Bill Bradley aren't under a similar media barrage portraying them as having gone too far left to satisfy Democratic Party constituencies.

-- CBS's Face the Nation February 20. Bob Schieffer to John Engler:
"There's no question that Governor Bush aimed his campaign in South Carolina to the right, and he appealed to those Christian conservatives, which form one-third of the electorate, as I understand it, down there in South Carolina. But someone was also saying last night you can't run as the 'Dixiecrat' in Michigan. Did he run too far to the right to hurt himself in Michigan now?"

-- ABC's This Week, February 20. Cokie Roberts to Bush, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson:
"But Governor, when you were in Texas, you did not have to do, and you had hoped not to have to do in this election, what you have had to do in South Carolina, which was move more to the right in order to get those Republicans and those conservatives behind you."
"But one of the things that's similar between here and Iowa that is not similar in New Hampshire and will not be similar in Michigan, for instance, is that you do have a larger body of conservatives here and people who identify themselves as Religious Right, for instance. You're not going to have that all down the road and you're not going to have it in the general election. Have you queered [that's what she said] yourself with some of the people in the middle by running this kind of campaign here?"

George Stephanopoulos, the analyst who unlike George Will also serves as a correspondent, during the roundtable: "Democrats are pretty happy right now. They would have liked if John McCain did a little bit better yesterday, but they had decided they would rather run against George W. Bush, especially because he's had to move so far to the right. You know, he's now the kamikaze conservative, with all the positions he's had to take here in South Carolina -- against choice, going to Bob Jones University, really locking himself in on that huge tax cut."

-- MSNBC's live coverage of the South Carolina primary Saturday night. At about 8:48pm Brian Williams interviewed Bush. His first question:
"We are already, thanks to the speech John McCain just made, we are already privy it sounds like, to his talking points in the next campaign of Michigan and it sounds to us like he's going to go after you on the politics of 'exclusion,' his word not ours, things like your visit to Bob Jones University, is that day, that one event going to turn out to be the event that haunts you for the length and duration of this campaign?"

A few minutes later with McCain, Williams urged him on:
"Are you going to go after this man, the Governor of Texas, on this exclusion point, are you going to be hammering the Bob Jones visit for example?"

-- CNN's live coverage Saturday night of the primary. At about 7:08pm ET tri-anchor Jeff Greenfield opined:
"In talking to some of the senior officials in the Bush campaign today, they were at pains to say that George Bush united the economic and social conservatives. I think as they head into Michigan, to places like California and New York, if they have to go there, they certainly don't want Governor Bush to be seen as the candidate of the religious right, because it's a much less potent force in those states."
Judy Woodruff chimed in: "But it's going to be difficult, because there were statements that Governor Bush made, not only about abortion, but about other issues that matter to the religious right. They are going to have to think about how they get the Governor back to the center."

During a Capital Gang segment that began at 7:20pm ET Time's Margaret Carlson contended:
"Bob [Novak] is right when he says that Bush painted John McCain as less than a Republican, but to do so he painted himself into a corner, where he is now a bedrock conservative Republican who could be President of South Carolina. That's hard to take with you to the other states, particularly to Michigan. It's not going to work there among Reagan Democrats and moderate Republicans to be the Republican that George Bush was here, not a uniter, but a divider, and painting John McCain sometimes falsely, given his voting record, as not conservative enough when his voting record is quite conservative. And the mail drops that he did in South Carolina bordered on being totally false and libelous."


Congratulations, but you suck. That seemed to be CNN's attitude Saturday night toward George Bush's victory in South Carolina as they interviewed him live at 7:55pm ET. He was hit with a series of hostile questions by tri-anchors Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield which undercut the legitimacy of his victory. Shaw posed the first question, but didn't even congratulate Bush, leading Woodruff and Greenfield to go out of their way to do it. The first three questions Bush heard:

Bernard Shaw: "Hi there. Good to have you on, sir. Let's take a deep breath and step back from the confetti and the cheering, and explain to us, one, we knew you had to win, you did win. Tell us how you did it."

Judy Woodruff: "Governor, it's Judy Woodruff -- and congratulations. Let me just ask you, at the same time you had to run -- you ran in South Carolina, one of the nation's most conservative states, a very conservative campaign, there was talk of your position on abortion. You just mentioned cutting taxes. Doesn't that make it harder for you to now to move back and appeal to the center, which you must do to win this nomination and the election?"

Jeff Greenfield: "It's Jeff Greenfield, Governor. Let me add my congratulations. To follow up on what Judy was asking you, one of the silver linings the McCain campaign claims from the exit polls is that while you won big amongst self-described conservative Republicans, you lost to McCain among moderate and liberal Republicans. And in South Carolina there's an extraordinary number of conservatives. As you go into a place like Michigan or New York, if that battle becomes necessary, are you at all concerned that the tenor of this campaign has, as one Gore aide told me, maybe marginalized you, made you less able to reach out with the kind of message you had for those many months before the campaign began about inclusion?"


"A palpable sense of grief could be felt Saturday among liberal journalists, who had improbably adopted McCain as their candidate," reported Robert Novak in his February 21 column. Indeed, some media figures had trouble accepting McCain's South Carolina loss and offered hopeful advice on how he could rebound.

-- Brian Williams to Tim Russert on MSNBC at 7:10pm ET Saturday, referring to Michigan: "Tim, the following dynamic, true or false, will there be the feeling there, among let's say auto assembly workers, Reagan Democrats, some moderate Republicans, let's help this guy out. A, we want a race of this, we don't want it to be over. B, you know we just like McCain, we don't want to vote for the machine candidate?"
Williams soon pleaded: "Tim, what happened as you look at the McCain campaign?"

-- At about 8:36pm ET Williams tried to spin the McCain loss in McCain's favor, reporting: "All evening long we have been saying things like 'a margin of ten to 11 percent.' There comes late word to us, as they say, that this is tightening as the numbers come in as we get around toward the nine o'clock hour in the east that maybe this is not a double digit victory at all and maybe this is closer to a six percent victory."

In fact, in the end it was an 11 point gap.

-- Over on CNN at about 7:25pm ET Saturday the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt fretted: "McCain has a dilemma now, Mark. I mean, he is a guy who said he's not going to go negative. He's got a lot of ammunition going up to Michigan. I mean, those Macomb County voters would really despise and be threatened by some of the anti-Catholicism of the fundamentalists Bush supporters in South Carolina, but McCain is going to be hard-pressed to use that now, isn't he?"

-- Newsweek's Evan Thomas hoped, on Inside Washington: "I think Bush's strategy was short-term smart, but it may be long-term stupid. I mean, South Carolina has a particular tradition of going negative, pioneered by the great Lee Atwater. The great Lee Atwater engineered the first push polls, I think were down there. So this business of demonizing a candidate to stimulate the Bible Belter vote works in South Carolina, but that doesn't mean it's going to work everywhere. And if McCain can find a way get back on the high road -- I agree that he really stumbled by running that negative campaign against Bush. He'd been so nimble the whole campaign, but that one time he screwed up. If he can just get himself back on the high road, I still think he can win."

-- Monday morning on NBC's Today co-host Matt Lauer empathized with McCain over his loss and urged him to fight back against Bush in order to rise again. Lauer told McCain, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson:
"I know you said that your loss in South Carolina felt like taking a punch in the stomach. The problem is you don't have a lot of time to recover from that punch. As I said, only 24 hours 'til voters in Michigan go to the polls. How can you get the momentum back in this race?"
"You mention the high road, and I was going to get to negative ads in just a second. But now that you agree that Governor Bush is running negative ads against you, not only in Michigan, but from what I understand, in several other upcoming primary states. Can you really afford not to change your tactics?"

Later in the interview Lauer suggested: "Governor Bush did very well with voters on the far right of the Republican Party in South Carolina; that may have been his margin of victory. Is it necessary for you now, Senator McCain, to make that a liability for Governor Bush, to portray him as someone beholden to that wing of the Party?"

Next, Katie Couric talked with Tim Russert. Her first concern: "What went wrong, basically, for John McCain in South Carolina?"

Despite the media's clear favoritism for McCain, Monday night during a taped interview on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather proposed to McCain: "It's common in the press corps, and in some political circles to say, whatever you think of John McCain he's destined to lose because George Bush has him on all three of the Big Three: Money, Media and Message. You agree?"

Bush certainly does not have the middle M.


Bryant Gumbel was none too pleased when his co-host uttered the idea that historians might have rated Ronald Reagan the best President and he was no more happy that Bill Clinton came in 21st place.

Monday morning CBS's The Early Show brought aboard historian Richard Norman Smith to discuss C-SPAN's survey in which about 80 historians were asked to rank all the Presidents in ten areas of performance. Plugging the upcoming interview at 7:21am, Gumbel announced: "Well later on this morning we're going to be talking on this President's Day about this presidential survey. Who would you think finished first?"
Co-host Jane Clayson deferred: "Hmmm. Good question."
Gumbel: "Of all the Presidents when they did first to worst. Oh c'mon, you would know."
Clayson: "Ronald Reagan."
Gumbel, appalled, exclaimed: "First?!?!"
Clayson: "Who was it?"
Gumbel chastised her: "No! Reagan wasn't even in the top ten. Abraham Lincoln. Maybe you've heard of him."

At 8:30am Gumbel got to Smith, who explained that Clinton was rated fifth for "economic management" and placed very last, 41st, in "moral authority." Overall, Clinton ranked 21st. A displeased Gumbel argued:
"Well, but in part that's a sign of the times. I'm mean because he's a sitting President he wound up 21st. I mean he would be judged harsher than past Presidents would be. Would you expect in years from now in this same survey he'd finish a lot better?"

Smith remained unpersuaded by Gumbel's argument.

Reagan, for the record, finished in 11th place. -- Brent Baker

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