CyberAlert -- 06/13/2001 -- Looking to Government for Help

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Looking to Government for Help; Bush's "Controversial" & "Gaffe" Prone Trip; Wallace Voted for Nader & Bush Stole the Election

1) NBC's Campbell Brown did not mention how no NATO nation had ratified it as she focused on Bush's "controversial" decision "to throw out the Kyoto protocol." Bush's "gaffe" of mispronouncing a name "only bolstered" concern "about Bush's lack of foreign policy experience." CBS's John Roberts repeated the canard about how "top scientists" decided global warming "was real and growing worse" as environmentalists "dismissed the need for more studies."

2) "We start tonight with a court decision that could be a great advance in women's rights," ABC anchor Charles Gibson celebrated. CBS and NBC also ran full stories on a ruling about making a health insurance plan cover prescription contraceptives for women. Instead of noting how such a requirement could hike insurance costs, CBS and NBC painted it as a savings for women.

3) Is there anything the networks won't portray as the province of the federal government? CBS looked to FEMA for training money to teach local fire departments about flood water rescues; NBC rued how gridlock may hinder Washington from controlling prescription drug prices.

4) Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes voted for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, TV Guide revealed. Wallace's admission came just four days after Don Hewitt, the Executive Producer of the show, charged that George W. Bush "may have stolen the election," but he didn't mind until Bush governed as a conservative.

5) Former CBS News Political Director Martin Plissner urged President Bush to adopt Nixon's health care plan which matches "liberal heaven." Plissner argued: "Bush does not have to turn to obscure gurus for lessons in compassionate conservatism. His own party laid it all out for him three decades ago."

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Things You Don't Want To Hear From Your Weather Forecaster."

Correction: The June 12 CyberAlert quoted Bernard Goldberg as saying about reaction by top CBS Evening News producers to a biased 1996 story: "It didn't phase anybody." As more than one reader has pointed out, "phase" should have read "faze."


The NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night caught up with CBS from the night before and stressed, without bothering to mention how most are left of center, how President Bush is out of step with European leaders. In the morning, CBS had followed up with another one-sided piece from John Roberts.

NBC's Campbell Brown did not mention how no NATO nation had ratified Kyoto as she focused on how Bush's "controversial" decision "to throw out the Kyoto protocol" put him "on the defensive." Like ABC's Peter Jennings the night before, she tried to draw a larger meaning from the "President's gaffe" of mispronouncing the Spanish Prime Minister's name, which she argued "only bolstered" European "concern...about Bush's lack of foreign policy experience."

On CBS's The Early Show on Tuesday morning John Roberts relayed the view of one expert who claimed Bush is "seen as basically an ignoramus" by Europeans. Roberts repeated the canard about how on global warming Bush's own "top scientists last week announced it was real and growing worse." Without offering any contrary view, Roberts passed along how environmentalists "dismissed the need for more studies." On missile defense, Roberts complained that "the lack of specifics from the administration has done nothing to allay" fears of a new arms race.

More details about those two stories:

-- NBC Nightly News, June 12. Tom Brokaw introduced his show's story: "And overseas tonight, where President Bush is getting a rough reception on his first trip to Europe, even as he was telling allies that there is more that unites us than divides us. He was getting a strong challenge on a wide range of issues. NBC's Campbell Brown is traveling with the President."

Brown began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In Madrid, two very different welcomes for the new American President. A warm embrace from the king and queen of Spain, a relaxed meeting at the Spanish prime minister's ranch, but outside the U.S. embassy, hundreds of protesters denounced Bush for supporting the death penalty, waving signs that read, 'Bush Killer,' while across Europe newspaper headlines and editorials accuse Bush, who promised a humble foreign policy, of arrogance, and disregard for the concerns of U.S. allies."
William Wallace, London School of Economics and Political Science: "The Bush administration has made a number of decisions in its first two or three months that look as if they don't take foreigners into account."
Brown: "The most controversial, Bush's decision to throw out the Kyoto protocol, an international global warming treaty, and instead call for voluntary steps to reduce car and plant emissions that contribute to warming. At a news conference, Spain's prime minister endorses Kyoto. Bush is on the defensive.
Bush: "I believe the Kyoto treaty is a flawed treaty. It think that it sets unscientific goals."
Brown: "The President also defends his push to build a missile defense shield, what allies fear could set off a new arms race and destabilize relations with Russia by abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty....Tensions are heightened, some say, by concern in Europe about Bush's lack of foreign policy experience, only bolstered by the President's own gaffes. Just before departing for Spain, mispronouncing the Spanish prime minister's name."

After a two second clip of Bush apparently mispronouncing the name, Brown offered faint praise: "And while Europe has been quick to praise Bush's surrogates, especially Secretary of State Colin Powell, here it's the President who's still a question mark."
Dominique Moisi, French Institute of International Relations: "Right now there's a feeling that the team is very strong and the leader of the team is potentially weak."
Brown concluded: "A perception Bush is trying to overcome this trip with tough talk, not backing down on global warming and on missile defense, letting allies know he's ready to move forward with or without their support."

-- CBS's The Early Show, June 12. From Madrid, John Roberts checked in as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
"This really is a watershed moment for President Bush. He could either reinforce the perception here in Europe that he is a go-it-alone gunslinger or he can turn on that personal charm that he is so famous for and with the right words really make this trip a success. George Bush touched down on European soil for the first time as President this morning facing a healthy dose of skepticism about his intentions toward this part of the world."
Ivo Daalder, Brookings Institution: "He's seen as basically an ignoramus, somebody who doesn't really care about what other people think and is willing to do what it takes for America to get its way."
Roberts: "Today's stop in Spain is largely ceremonial, a visit with King Juan Carlos then lunch with the Spanish president. The heavy lifting begins later this week when President Bush will face the 15 leaders of the European Union and questions about his commitment to battle global warming."
Sandy Berger, Clinton's National Security Adviser: "President Bush has said we're not going to proceed along the course of the Kyoto Protocol, but I think he therefore has a heavy burden to put something on the table which really will convince our allies that we are serious about this."
Roberts: "Yesterday, Mr. Bush announced plans for more research into the causes of global warming even though his top scientists last week announced it was real and growing worse. Environmentalists who claim massive protests at Thursday's EU summit dismissed the need for more studies."
David Hawkins, Natural Resources Defense Council: "We wonder why the President is stalling, the science is clear, we know what to do, we know what the causes of the problem are."
Roberts: "The President also faces protest over his plans to deploy a ballistic missile shield. European allies fear it will ignite a new arms race. The lack of specifics from the administration has done nothing to allay those fears."
Berger: "There are more questions than answers and I think if he can start providing to the Europeans some of the answers I think that will, that will move the dialogue along."
Roberts concluded: "The President may provide some of those answers when he meets with NATO leaders in Brussels tomorrow. He will also seek to assure our allies that the United States is committed to peacekeeping duties in Europe. Though some Republican military strategists have advised the President that the situation in the Balkans has stabilized to the point that the United States could turn those duties over to the Europeans."


"We start tonight with a court decision that could be a great advance in women's rights," ABC anchor Charles Gibson celebrated at the top of Tuesday's World News Tonight. All three broadcast network evening shows decided a federal judge's ruling, in one state about how one company must have its health insurance cover prescription contraceptives for women, justified full stories.

But in trumpeting the victory for a Seattle-area pharmacist who sued her employer, Bartell Drug, a retail chain, none of the three networks raised the issue of what business it is of a federal court to decide the content of a health care plan no one is required to join. And, unlike CNN in a piece on CNN Tonight a few hours later, none made the point that prescription drugs for contraception can reasonably be viewed as not a remedy to a disease or unhealthy condition.

After ABC's Lisa Stark finished trumpeting the decision, Gibson did ask about how the ruling could increase health insurance costs for all, but CBS's Sandra Hughes didn't even consider that downside after Dan Rather portrayed it as a cost cut. NBC's Tom Brokaw similarly hailed how the decision "could mean big savings for women in the workplace." Pete Williams then insisted that "adding contraceptive coverage actually winds up costing very little."

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Betsy Stark announced: "Today's decision requires just one company to cover the cost of prescription contraceptives in its employee health plan, but a lawyer for Planned Parenthood called it an historic step forward for working women....Women's groups hailed the decision as important and long overdue."

Only after Stark's taped piece did Gibson ask her about how it "could cost business." Stark acknowledged the potential downside: "Businesses don't like decisions like this. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today called this a case of judicial activism. And already today they're saying if you force us to cover prescription contraceptives it's going to add so much to our costs we may not be able to cover other health care benefits."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather set up the CBS story: "Many women may soon have to pay less out of their own pockets for birth control prescriptions. As CBS's Sandra Hughes reports, it's a federal first: A court ruling today about health insurance coverage for female contraception."

-- NBC Nightly News placed the news in its second story slot as Tom Brokaw proclaimed: "A federal court ruling that could mean big savings for women in the workplace. A drug company was ordered to include the cost of birth control for women in health care benefits."

Pete Williams ran through the basics of the story about "a big victory today for a Seattle pharmacist" based on a federal law outlawing discrimination based on pregnancy. Williams did allow Ann Reesman of the Equal Employment Advisory Council to contend that the judge went beyond the law by "trying to create social policy," but he dismissed the concern as he concluded: "Even so, many business lawyers acknowledge that adding contraceptive coverage actually winds up costing very little and, if today's ruling stands, may head off lawsuits."


Is there anything the networks won't portray as the responsibility of the federal government to resolve for helpless citizens? CBS and NBC aired stories Tuesday night on two very different issues -- fire department personnel undertrained in rapid/high water rescues during floods and how prescription drug prices rose faster than inflation last year -- but in both cases the reporter lamented how the federal government won't do anything about the problems.

The news that FEMA will not fund local rescue training is "a disturbing thought" to one firefighter, CBS's Jim Axelrod rued. "So what is Washington going to do about all this?" demanded NBC's Lisa Myers about rising drug prices. Nothing, she regretted as partisan differences may result in "gridlock."

On the June 12 CBS Evening News Jim Axelrod looked at how many die needlessly each year because fire departments are untrained for rapid water rescues they are called upon to perform during flooding when people are swept into the water or trapped inside vehicles in rising water. "Many of the inland high water rescues are made by volunteers, undertrained and underfunded," Axelrod bemoaned before asking George Lewis, a trainer with the Fairfax County, Virginia Fire Department: "The volunteer fire departments around this country. Are they prepared?"
Lewis: "Most of them no, they are not. And what they're counting on is outside resources."
Axelrod rued: "If by outside they mean the federal government, guess again. FEMA says it will help develop national standards, but provide no money to implement them."
Bruce Baughman, FEMA: "It's not that we wouldn't like to help more in his particular area, but you know dealing with local flooding is right now a state and local responsibility to deal with that."
Axelrod concluded: "A disturbing thought to rescue experts like George Lewis, watching what the first 12 days of hurricane season has brought and knowing many more months lie ahead."

Tuesday's NBC Nightly News led with a story by Lisa Myers about a report from the left-wing activist group Families USA about how the prices for 50 popular prescription drugs rose 6.1 percent last year, which Myers labeled only by relaying how the "pro-consumer group sponsoring the study calls the increases unjustified."

After pointing out how the prices of some specific ones were up over 20 percent, Myers concluded by looking to the federal government to intervene: "So what is Washington going to do about all this? Both Republicans and Democrats promised to pass plans this year to help seniors pay for prescription drugs, but their approaches are so different the end result could still be gridlock."

For the sake of taxpayers, let's hope so.


60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace voted for the most left-wing candidate on the ballot nationally for President last year, Ralph Nader, TV Guide revealed this week.

Wallace's admission came just four days after the Executive Producer of the show charged that George W. Bush "may have stolen the election," but he didn't mind until Bush governed as a conservative. Don Hewitt disclosed his fundamental lack of basic knowledge about conservative ideology as he complained to National Public Radio talk show host Diane Rehm: "I don't understand why conservatives are against conservation."

Washington State CyberAlert reader Scott Peterson first alerted me to the Wallace news as highlighted in Sunday's New York Post in its Page Six column. Since the sidebar item in "The Robins Report" column by Max Robins is not included in the online version of TV Guide, I tracked down the June 16-22 issue and learned Robins reported that Wallace's comment came during a "Future of Journalism" forum, sponsored by, held May 25 at New York's First Amendment Center.

I typed in Robins' recounting of an exchange between Wallace and Rutgers University professor Benjamin Barber:
"Barber charged that Wallace and his network news colleagues were little more than establishment spokesmen for grand entertainment empires, corporations that are easily co-oped by the powers that be. Wallace countered that 60 Minutes had done several pieces over the years that had caused advertisers to boycott the network. 'We don't cave in to commercial pressures,' he said. Later, perhaps needing to prove to the assembled that he was no establishment stooge, he revealed that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got his vote in the 2000 election. 'I'm basically an independent,' Wallace says to TV Guide.

Another example of how to journalists "independent" is really just a code word for liberal.

A few weeks ago Tim Graham, the White House correspondent for World magazine (, alerted me to Hewitt's comments during a May 21 appearance on the Diane Rehm Show to plug his new book, Tell Me a Story: Fifty Years and 60 Minutes in Television. Rehm's morning radio talk show is produced at Washington, DC's WAMU-FM and is carried by many NPR affiliates around the country.
Thanks to WAMU's online RealAudio library of past shows, I was able to listen to Hewitt's appearance.

MRC intern Lindsay Welter took down the relevant portion, starting with Hewitt's assertion that "I didn't learn very much about Al Gore or George Bush" during the debates." He warned: "And if you thought you learned something about George Bush during the campaign, oh are you in for a shock."
Diane Rehm asked: "What do you mean?"
Hewitt: "'Cause I don't think he's turned out to be the guy that was campaigning."
Rehm: "What do you mean?"
Hewitt: "They're different guys."
Rehm: "What do you mean?"
Hewitt: "I think he's, I think he had an agenda that, ah, look, first of all you've got to realize, I'm not a liberal or a conservative, I don't cotton to either side. And I don't hold in disdain the people I disagree with, I just disagree with them. And I think one of the big disappointments to me is, I thought that George Bush may have stolen the election, but it didn't worry me because I figured there wasn't much of a choice anyway. So, what are the other, what's the difference? The only good thing that came out of the election for me was that Pat Buchanan got one half of one percent of the vote. But, it didn't disturb me. I'm beginning to wonder if the guy who campaigned is the same guy who's in the White House. There are things that I don't understand. I don't understand why conservatives are against conservation. That seems, not to make any sense to me, that's what conservatism is all about, conservation. I, thought, I, as I expunge the words liberal and conservatism from my lexicon, 'cause I don't know what they mean anymore and I kind of come down to sense and nonsense is all I can really make it. It makes perfect sense to me that hunters have guns. It makes no sense to me that there are 200 million handguns in the streets of America."
Rehm: "And you don't see that as either a liberal or conservative?"
Hewitt: "No, no, I think that if they've got the NRA out of the picture, reasonable Americans would figure out a way to respect the 2nd Amendment and get rid of all those handguns in America. And people say to me, 'you're a liberal.' I say, no, no I'm not a liberal. I don't want to get shot, that's all. I don't give a damn whether it's liberal or conservative. I don't want to walk out of my house and have some guy hold me up and shoot me. And, it doesn't make any sense to me. It makes no sense that a country that can send a man to the moon cannot figure out how to get rid of the guns on its streets."

"I don't hold in disdain the people I disagree with." Except the NRA.

As for not understanding "why conservatives are against conservation," maybe it's that they want to "conserve" individual property rights against the power of the state to control what they can do.

To listen to Hewitt yourself via RealAudio, go to:

To hear the portion quoted above, fast forward your RealPlayer to 23:50 into the show.


While on a roll about the liberal political views of CBS News personnel, another example brought to my attention by former MRCer Tim Graham. In a "Chatterbox" piece last week Martin Plissner, the CBS News Political Director for about two decades ending a couple of years ago, recalled how President Nixon had proposed a "comprehensive" health care plan 30 years ago which matches anything Senators Clinton and Kennedy could achieve in "liberal heaven." Plissner urged Bush to adopt the ideas: "George W. Bush does not have to turn to obscure gurus for lessons in compassionate conservatism. His own party laid it all out for him three decades ago."

An excerpt from Plissner's June 5 Slate essay:

If Sens. Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy ascended to liberal heaven and Saint Peter told them they could write up any health-care bill that they wanted, what would they ask for? Well, they might require businesses to pay three-quarters of the cost of health insurance for their workers. They might require the policies to cover not only doctor and hospital bills but lab work, mental health treatment, birth control, nursing home care -- pretty much you name it. The federal government could fund the same health-care benefits to those not covered by employers or Medicare. Medicare recipients could get a prescription drug benefit, just as Congress is trying to provide today -- and so could everybody else....

Best of all, the two senators wouldn't have to draft this fantasy bill themselves! That's because the plan I just described was already drafted and sent to Capitol Hill by a Republican administration whose members included someone named Dick Cheney, someone named Donald Rumsfeld, and someone named Paul O'Neill; and the Republican Party chairman was someone named George Bush. Not recently, of course: The bill was submitted to Congress a quarter-century ago, during the waning days of the Nixon administration....In transmitting the proposal to Congress, Nixon, arguably the most liberal Republican president since Theodore Roosevelt, declared, "Comprehensive health insurance is an idea whose time has come in America."

It came fairly close. There were at least six health insurance plans in the hopper that year....On an unofficial show of hands at Ways and Means in the spring of 1974, Nixon's Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan of 1974 (CHIP) actually prevailed. Before the deal could be sealed, though, the political careers of both Nixon and [Ways and Means Chairman] Mills collapsed in political scandal....

Four Republican administrations have now succeeded the one which declared comprehensive health insurance an idea whose time has come, and still it has not. Aside from prescription drugs for the elderly, no part of CHIP appears to be even at the bottom of the current administration's list of priorities. This past week, to be sure, the Bush administration did authorize New York Gov. George Pataki, to whom Dubya is more than a little beholden, to extend the state's Medicaid program to the working poor. How much of a breakthrough this represents remains to be seen. What's already clear is that, on this particular issue, George W. Bush does not have to turn to obscure gurus for lessons in compassionate conservatism. His own party laid it all out for him three decades ago.

END Excerpt

To read Plissner's polemic in its entirety, go to:


From the June 8 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things You Don't Want To Hear From Your Weather Forecaster." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. "It looks like there's about a 70% chance of rain and about a 100% chance I'm going to get blind, stinkin' drunk tonight"
(From KOAM in Joplin, Missouri/Pittsburgh, Kansas, Tyler Daniel)

9. "It's going to be a hot one today, so use this as an opportunity to make fun of a fat guy in a tank top"
(From WDTV in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Brandon Butcher)

8. "I hope the heavy rains don't uncover the bodies I buried"
(From WCAX in Burlington, Vermont, Sharon Meyer)

7. "Today I am feeling unseasonably sexy"
(From KTVL in Medford, Oregon, Jon Galfano)

6. "Rain, sun, snow, sleet -- what's the difference? We're all gonna die someday"
(From KRTV in Great Falls, Montana, Fred Pfeiffer)

5. "I have no idea what any of this means, I should probably take a class or something"
(From KELO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Shawn Cable)

4. "There's a light trickle going on right now, which reminds me -- Sheila, would you get an appointment with Dr. Fisch for me"
(From KIMA in Yakima, Washington, Stu Seibel)

3. "Enough with the weather, let's take a look at my recent oral surgery"
(From WCBS in New York, New York, Tony Pann)

2. "After all this talk about rain, I gotta take a wicked leak"
(From WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia, Dave Parker)

1. "Die, you millions of tiny, pathetic people, die!"
(From KHSL in Chico, California, Anthony Watts)

My favorite: #8. -- Brent Baker

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