CyberAlert -- 05/12/2000 -- Million Mom March Hype

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Million Mom March Hype; Media's "Great Failing"; Today Hit Hillary from the Left

1) NBC Nightly News profiled two women planning to attend the Million Mom March who are "compelled by one powerful cause: protecting their families."

2) FNC's Brit Hume picked up on how the media have mis-portrayed Million Mom March founder Donna Dees-Thomases, a Senate aide and Hilary donor, as an apolitical mom, reporting NPR's Mara Liasson asserted reflected a "great failing on the part of the press."

3) NBC's Matt Lauer declared: "I'd love to be more opinionated about guns." If he could ask President Clinton two questions: "I'd ask, 'What are you going to do about guns? Why not make this issue one of your legacies?'"

4) "Few, if any, decent people like reporting" on Rudy Giuliani's marital problems, Dan Rather maintained before a story. FNC and CNN noted an FBI agent's revelation that some foreign reporters at are State spies. ABC relayed claims for two left wing groups.

5) Today promised a diverse audience for Hillary's town meeting, but 61 percent of questioners were from New York City and 73 percent of the questions hit her from the left or very far left.

6) Bob "Sherlock" Schieffer: "Democrats will tend to vote for the Democrats, Republicans will tend to vote for the Republican."

Corrections: The May 11 CyberAlert listed Governor Pataki's first name as John, it's really George. The same issue quoted Million Mom March organizer Donna Dees-Thomases as saying in a CBS News story: "We are at a crossroads right now, if we don't do something now, in 25 years am I going to have to send my grandchildren to nursery school in flap jackets." No, she's not afraid of them having to wear pancakes. That should have read "flak jackets."


NBC Nightly News ended Thursday night with anecdotal stories about two women who plan to attend Sunday's so-called Million Mom March. Instead of looking at a woman in favor of the march's liberal gun control agenda and another opposed, such as one who is part of the Second Amendment Sisters counter event, NBC decided balance was achieved by profiling a gun control advocate and a woman who thinks she has a right to own a gun but, nonetheless, supports the Million Mom March.

Under the banner of its "Women to Watch" series, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell began: "At home in Wilmington Delaware, 37-year-old Brenda Jaskolka (sp a guess), working mom, wife, with a new role she never expected, could imagine: gun control activist."
Brenda: "I think I'm doing it for everyone, for everyone out there who is sick and tired of all this gun violence."

O'Donnell then showed Janet Hoffman of Sarasota Florida, a single mother of four who maintained: "We're not marching to ban, we're marching to control guns."

Back to Brenda, O'Donnell explained how her 13-year-old son was disabled after being shot in the head by a New Year's Eve celebrant. O'Donnell added: "His father Greg, former police officer, former NRA member, no longer owns any guns."

Back to Janet in Sarasota, viewers saw video of her watching her 17-year-old son, who is on a rifle team, clean his weapon. O'Donnell noted that Janet first bought a gun as protection against her ex-husband.

O'Donnell concluded: "What these mothers have in common: Both say they don't believe in banning guns, but do want to see licensing and registration for gun buyers, child safety locks and more responsible gun ownership. Two mothers, two views on owning guns. But both women will march this Sunday, compelled by one powerful cause: protecting their families."


Fox News Channel's Brit Hume picked up on an item in Thursday's CyberAlert about how the media have mis-portrayed Million Mom March founder Donna Dees-Thomases as apolitical and NPR's Mara Liasson asserted "it was a great, great failing on the part of the press" that Thomases's political background "wasn't pointed out."

In the May 11 Special Report with Brit Hume's "Political Grapevine" rundown of short items, Hume relayed: "More information you haven't heard from the rest of the media on Donna Dees-Thomases, organizer of that women's march for gun control here this weekend. NBC News says she's quote, 'a mother who's never been politically active,' but, in fact, she once worked for retired Louisiana Democratic Senators Russell Long and Bennett Johnston. And the Media Research Center says she's been giving to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign since last year."

For more about Dees-Thomases's background and the NBC quote cited by Hume, which came from Tom Brokaw, go to the May 11 CyberAlert:

Up next on FNC, reporter Catherine Herridge discovered Dees-Thomases doesn't like to deal with facts that undercut her cause. Herridge noted how march "organizers say twelve kids die every day from gunshot wounds, but according the Centers for Disease Control it is not the leading cause of death in this age group. Traffic accidents are. Raising the point with the march's founder seemed to anger her."
Donna Dees-Thomases after a press conference on the march: "Guns have one purpose -- for killing others. So yes I think it clearly calls for a distinction and I think it's almost ridiculous and absurd that these other statistics are thrown in. It's just smokescreen to cloud the issue."

Herridge listed CDC numbers from 1997 showing that for children ages 0-19 motor vehicle deaths totaled 8,130 while firearm deaths stood at 4,223. (And that firearm number is really misleading since it includes teens killed in criminal activities.)

Later, during the roundtable segment, Hume raised the subject of how the media have portrayed Dees-Thomases:
"Let's talk a bit about this upcoming event which has generated so much attention, the Million Mom March. It's expected to not generate a million moms, maybe something like a seventh of that, but there's a lot of excitement about of it, a lot of publicity, and this character has emerged, Donna Dees-Thomases, who is leading it and is widely described in quite favorable media accounts as a mother who was simply there watching television at home one day, while tending to her children one presumes, and she saw horrible scenes of a shooting at a youth center where kids were killed and she had to do this. So what are we to make of all this?"
Fred Barnes contended, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Of course all that's fakery. I mean this is a woman who is a contributor to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign. She's the sister-in-law of Susan Thomases, who is a hard-nosed liberal operative and one of Hillary's best friends. She's a New York City PR woman who's worked for Dan Rather. I mean this is not some stay-at-home mom who's mad about Columbine. It's just ridiculous, and, Brit, when you talk about all this excitement over this thing, what there is is inordinate media attention because, not because there's a huge groundswell against, in favor of gun control around the country. Far from that, it's because the media is biased in a liberal direction, and they like this issue, so they're pretending like this thing is much bigger than it is."

Morton Kondracke defended the march's cause and argued you can be both politically active and be a concerned mom, an idea NPR's Mara Liasson picked up upon, though she soon scolded her media colleagues: "I just wanna say I agree with Mort about Susan [actually Donna] Dees-Thomases. You can be both, a concerned mother and a Democratic activist. However, I think it was a great, great failing on the part of the press that this wasn't pointed out. I mean, you know, on the New York Times editorial page today they called her a New Jersey suburban mom with no additional, you know, references or identifiers."

Indeed, the May 11 New York Times editorial concluded:
"The idea for the march originated with Donna Dees-Thomases, a New Jersey mother who says she was energized by the televised images of terrified children being led from their day camp to escape a gunman's shooting rampage in Granada Hills, Calif., last August. The tactic of invoking the moral authority of mothers to gain progress on a pressing social issue is not new. It worked remarkably well for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for example, which played a big role in shifting attitudes on drinking and driving. We suspect, and strongly hope, that mom power can work similar magic for the gun control movement."

A May 11 USA Today news story similarly linked the march to apolitical "moms." In a story headlined "Moms set policy goals for Sunday's rally," Alison Gerber reported:
"The Million Mom March started as the idea of one woman in her New Jersey living room. It's now an army of volunteers and a public relations team. Celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon and Melissa Etheridge will march. Rosie O'Donnell will be master of ceremonies. Antonia Novello, the first female surgeon general of the USA , will be the keynote speaker."

A May 8 CNN story by Amy Paulson, caught by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, also failed to note the political activism of Dees-Thomases: "The march is the brainchild of a New Jersey mother, Donna Dees-Thomases, who conceived of the idea as she watched footage of shootings at an area day camp. 'This started in my family room and has grown to a mantra across the nation,' said Dees-Thomases. 'There is nothing more powerful than a mother's drive to protect her children. Mothers across the country are harnessing that energy, and it is their passion that will have the impact here.'"

Their passion plus the passion of the news media for her political agenda.


Speaking of journalistic passion for gun control, NBC's Matt Lauer conceded in a magazine article a couple of weeks ago that he wishes he didn't have to appear objective about guns.

In a profile of the Today co-host, Jeffrey Zaslow revealed in the April 28-30 edition of USA Weekend, the Gannett-produced Sunday weekend newspaper supplement:
"When Lauer has to report stories such as the recent first-grade shooting in Michigan, he says, a part of him wishes he weren't a journalist. Then he wouldn't have to appear objective. 'I'd love to be more opinionated about guns.' He fears historians will describe turn-of-the-21st-century America 'in just two words: gun violence.' He tells of attending a party where friends discussed their office layouts -- which closets they'd hide in to save their lives. 'People at cocktail parties now talk about their personal safety. There's something really wrong here.'"

A sidebar item asked Lauer: "If he could ask President Clinton just two questions: 'It wouldn't be about [Monica Lewinsky]. I'd ask, 'What are you going to do about guns? Why not make this issue one of your legacies?'"


Thursday night the three broadcast networks and CNN all led with the fires around Los Alamos and all but ABC ran full stories on the Elian hearing in federal court. Of the broadcast networks, only CBS followed-up on Rudy Giuliani's marital problems, a subject Dan Rather maintained "few, if any, decent people like reporting." An FBI agent's revelation to a congressional committee that some foreign reporters at the State Department are really spies, was ignored by ABC, CBS and NBC, but generated full stories on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume and CNN's The World Today.

It was liberal cause night on ABC's World News Tonight. The show ran full stories on a claim from Physicians for Social Responsibility, which ABC failed to identify as left wing, that common household chemicals harm children and ABC dedicated it's "A Closer Look" segment to the cause of the National Committee to Prevent Wrongful Executions.

On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather set up a story on Giuliani by insisting: "Few, if any, decent people like reporting the details of this story, but because it has such potential, far-reaching political ramifications, Diana Olick has it for you."
Olick began by looking at how Giuliani spent a press conference "attacking the media for harping on his personal life." She concluded by suggesting some Republicans are getting tired of his problems:
"At first the feeling was New Yorkers could stomach the separation since Giuliani and his wife haven't appeared together in years, they could even take the girlfriend, but then the mayor's wife accused him of previous adultery with this woman, a former press aide. Now, some Republicans we spoke to are saying enough's enough. They're still waiting for the Mayor to make his own decision, and they say they'll back him if he stays in, but they're also admitting they're very worried. For a family values party with a heavily Catholic New York constituency, Giuliani may not be the ticket."

Fortunate for Bill Clinton that Democrats don't hold him to such a standard.

On spies at the State Department, a story also reported by CNN's Andrea Koppel, FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume aired a piece by reporter Brian Wilson, who relayed: "The testimony before the House International Relations Committee was unexpected, catching many off guard."
Congressman Benjamin Gilman (R): "Are there foreign press representatives who are intelligence officers now serving in the State Department?"
Timothy Bereznay, FBI Section Chief: "Mr. Chairman, yes there are."
Wilson: "That means that lurking in the midst of the legitimate journalists who cover the State Department are a few who also report to foreign intelligence organizations. Fox News State Department producer Terri Shultz says that was a bombshell."
Terri Shultz: "My mouth involuntarily dropped open..."
Wilson: "Others were surprised, like the State Department inspector general who conducted her own security assessment in 1998 but was denied access to FBI information...."


"We're gonna be taking questions from New Yorkers we've gathered from all over the state," Today co-host Katie Couric promised in introducing Thursday's 7-8am hour-long town meeting with Hillary Clinton. In fact, of the 13 audience members who asked questions, and who identified their home towns, eight (61 percent) were from New York City and three more were from immediate suburbs. One came from a few miles away, but only one, a man from Saratoga Springs, resided beyond the New York City media market.

And their questions came overwhelmingly from the left. In total, 15 audience members managed to pose questions during the hour. Of those, 11 (73 percent) came from the left or far left. Just four were either from the right or displayed no agenda. Questioners from the left demanded government money to pay for nursing education, attacked the insurance industry for "killing" mental health patients, blamed diesel fuel for "killing" people in poor neighborhoods and denounced the "national frenzy of standardization and high-stakes testing that's robbing our students of their childhood." Just another day with average New Yorkers.

Couric and co-host Matt Lauer challenged Hilary a few times, such as asking about standing during Cardinal O'Connor's funeral when the speaker praised him for being "unambiguously pro-life." But, they let some whoppers pass without comment, such as when Hillary claimed to have "favored welfare reform" and when she said she only sent Chelsea to a private school because of security concerns.

Couric and Lauer also failed to pick up the latest news of the day involving Hillary: a filing the day before by her lawyers that she and her husband were claiming "spousal privilege" and would not answer questions about the release of Kathleen Willey's letters, a move a federal judge ruled had violated the Privacy Act. Instead, they opened by pressing her to comment on Rudy Giuliani's personal situation, which Hillary declined to do.

Here's a rundown of the questions posed on the May 11 show between 7 and 8am, compiled with input from the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:

-- Question #1, from the left. A woman Episcopal priest from the South Bronx complained about the "lack of resources" in the public schools, demanding: "With the new emphasis on standardized tests our kids are woefully unprepared. What would you do to level the playing fields so that our kids don't become the victims of these tests?"

Hillary said she back government-paid scholarships and bonuses for teachers, prompting Lauer to follow-up: "With the scholarships and the bonuses how do you pay for that?" Couric wondered: "What about merit pay for teachers based on how students do on standardized tests? That's something that Mayor Giuliani has suggested."

-- Question #2, from the left. A woman who did not identify where she lives, asked: "Welfare reform has been very successful in moving families off the welfare rolls. It's been, however, less than stellar in moving them into economic self-sufficiency. What specific policies would you put forth to take those families to that next critical step?"
Clinton replied: "I favored welfare reform because I though we had to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty and dependence..."

Of course, she really opposed it and served on the board for many years of the anti-welfare reform Children's Defense Fund, only coming around when her husband found it politically advantageous to sign a bill.

-- Question #3, from the left. A Registered Nurse from Staten Island argued: "There's already a nursing shortage in this country. The current nurse workforce is aging and enrollments in nursing programs are declining. But the health care system cannot function without an adequate supply of nurses. What can the government do in the way of student scholarships and financial aid to nursing schools to address this critical problem?"

After Clinton's answer, Couric asked about Elian: "Elian Gonzalez's case, obviously, continues today in court. But asking you a broader question about U.S./Cuban relations and Fidel Castro. Do you agree with your husband that the trade embargo against Cuba should be kept in place or with Congressman Charles Rangel of New York who believes the trade embargo should be lifted?"
When Clinton said the embargo must continue, Couric followed up from the left: "But then why trade with communist China, given all their human rights violations? Isn't that a double standard?"
Clinton actually said Castro is a threat and is the "only remaining dinosaur dictator of the communist era."

-- Question #4, from the left. A Rabbi from Hebrew Union College in New York City: "Israeli public opinion and Prime Minister Ehud Barak have made it clear by this point that a Palestinian state is a necessity in the Mideast for final status peace talks. As we move forward, what is your opinion? Where do you stand? Do you stand with the vocal minority or do you stand with the majority of American Jews in the support of the establishment of a Palestinian state and ultimately in the move toward final status peace talks?"

-- Question #5, the first from the right. A man who did not say where he was from, queried: "Many of us admired the way that you and the President have raised Chelsea and we understand that you had the choice to send Chelsea to a good private school. Why would you deny that choice that you exercised and the President exercised to many poor parents throughout state of New York, many of whom happen to be black and Latino. And I'm talking about the issue of vouches, school choice."
Clinton called it "a decision based more on security and privacy."

-- Question #6, from the left. A principal from a Harlem school, who agreed with Hillary that vouchers are bad, derided the "national frenzy of standardization and high-stakes testing that's robbing our students of their childhood" as "raising standards" is "millennium's buzzword for exclusion." His eventual question: "In the Senate will you be supporting Senator Paul Wellstone who is asking the Senate to pass measures that would not allow the educational life, that life decisions about students to be based on high-stakes testing, but to based on multiple forms of evidence involving their families, their parents and their teachers."

That ended the 7am half hour. Opening the 7:30am segment, Lauer inquired: "I'd like to ask you a question before we go back to the audience. Something that happened Monday, here in New York. You attended the funeral mass for John Cardinal O'Connor and during the homily delivered by Cardinal Law of Boston he said and I'm quoting, 'What a great legacy he has left us,' talking about Cardinal O'Connor, 'in his constant reminder that the Church must always be unambiguously pro-life.' And the congregation rose as did the President, you rose, the Vice President, Mrs. Gore, Rudolph Giuliani and you stood there for this standing ovation. Standing for something that is in opposition to what you believe. And I'm curious what was going through your mind at that point?"
Clinton: "It was a sign of respect...."
Lauer: "But you had already shown your respect by attending the funeral and didn't it lend to the image that politicians will stand in almost any group that is politically beneficial and march in any parade?"

-- Question #7, from the left. A woman from the South Bronx: "I'm wondering if it's going to politics as usual...There are a lot of promises that are made. The promises of smaller class sizes, no smaller class sizes. Reneged by the Governor. He said yes smaller class sizes then when it came after he's elected, then it was shoved under the carpet. On a number of issues. Police brutality, is it gonna be politics as usual?"

-- Question #8, from the left. A woman who identified herself as President of the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers, but only vaguely listed her residence as "Long Island," denounced the insurance industry, complaining that Hillary was a supporter of "managed care and managed competition. This system has denied citizens needed treatment, killing many people that we could have saved and causing others unnecessary pain. It's frustrated and angered citizens by denying them choice and control over their own health care decisions. It's almost fully destroyed mental care and its demoralized and depressed a nation of clinicians. We're now seeing some of the same intimidating techniques being used by our single payer Medicare. People need to make own healthcare decisions in private with their own chosen clinicians...Are you willing to say your support of the managed care system was a mistake and what would you be willing to do to help us devise a better system without the heavy handed control of either corporations or the government?"

Lauer followed up by worrying about how a regulation might be skirted: "You are in favor of allowing people access to low cost prescription drugs, for example the drugs that are sold in Canada. Doesn't that fly in the face of consumer protection laws that were established in this country some ten years ago by Democrats, as a matter of fact, that are designed to protect us against low cost drugs that may not have been tested as thoroughly as we test drugs here?"
Clinton assured him her plan would only cover FDA-approved drugs.

-- Question #9, from no agenda. A man who owns an e-business development firm in Saratoga Springs inquired: "What are your views, where do you stand government incentivization, taxation and regulation in the Internet and e-commerce industries?"

-- Question #10, from the left. A woman from Mt. Vernon, which borders New York City, posed this convoluted and inarticulate question: "Are you convinced that racial profiling exists in the police departments in the major cities of New York. And also, if so, do you see a way of confronting the practice of many generations in this state as a female Senator in Congress?"

-- Question #11, from the left. A woman from the "Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center" in NYC: "My partner and I are considering becoming parents. And if we do that, we will do so without the rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage because, as you know, lesbians, gay men, bi and trans people don't have that right. Recently, the state of Vermont passed legislation that will afford us similar benefits and responsibilities as heterosexual couples. Would you support such legislation in New York state?"

-- Question #12, from the right. A woman from New Rochelle, just north of New York City: "Do you believe that your recent gun control proposals in any way violate the 2nd Amendment or are they constitutionally permissible and do you believe an individual has the constitutional right to own and purchase whatever types of guns they desire?"

-- Question #13, from the right, sort of. A man Couric identified as "a Republican," said he's a public school teacher from Blooming Grove, a far outer suburb, but still in Southern New York: "If elected to the United States Senate you'll be put in a position of public trust. I was wondering, any personal reassurances you can give to us as New Yorkers and specific legislative action you would like to take to ensure integrity in government and that no elected official is above the law?"
Clinton responded by saying she favors campaign finance reform, prompting the audience to clap.

-- Question #14, from the left. A woman who called herself a "Latina from the Bronx," demanded: "In reference to your supporting the legislation on hate crimes, being the Democratic senatorial candidate, what do you plan to do to fight against hate crimes and how would you bring people together to get that accomplished?"

-- Question #15, from the left. A woman from East Harlem asked about pollution from busses burning diesel fuel and how bus depots are all in poor areas: "The diesel fuel is really killing us."


Bob "Sherlock" Schieffer. You can always count on CBS's Bob Schieffer to relay the conventional wisdom, but on Tuesday he outdid himself. On May 9 C-SPAN showed the Bush-McCain press conference in Pittsburgh and then turned its camera on reporters in the audience to get some reactions. Here's what Schieffer offered when asked for a campaign forecast:
"This is going to be an interesting election I think. It's going to be an election where Democrats will tend to vote for the Democrats, Republicans will tend to vote for the Republican and I think right now it's really too early to say what these independents are going to do."

Thanks for insight. -- Brent Baker

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