CyberAlert -- 08/17/1999 -- ABC's GOP Analyst: Stephanopoulos; NRA Doesn't Care If Kids Die

ABC's GOP Analyst: Stephanopoulos; NRA Doesn't Care If Kids Die

1) Overhype of the straw poll? Not on Monday. Just seconds in the evening for Alexander's withdrawal. The morning shows focused on Columbine with Today spending more time with a teen who mowed state capitol lawns than on analyzing the straw poll.

2) ABC's one and only straw poll analyst: ex-Clinton dissembler George Stephanopoulos who insisted "George W. Bush seemed acceptable across the board to all of the straw poll goers."

3) NBC's David Bloom came to Bush's defense: "Bush's basic positions are well-known. He's a tax cutting, anti-abortion, pro-business, pro-school vouchers conservative."

4) Monday night NBC's Brian Williams argued: "There is evidence worldwide that severely restricting guns can and does cut way down on violent crime." Last week MSNBC's Gregg Jarrett impugned gun rights advocates: "Do Congress people care more about perpetuating personal power than they do about saving the lives of children?"

5) Democrat Bob Kerrey reaffirmed that Clinton "is an unusually good liar," maintaining: "What I said was entirely deserved."

6) You've got cancer? That's great news. So implied an odd Seattle Times headline that ignored the news revelation of the day.

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Questions on the Russian Prime Minister Application."

8) ValcanoCam: Check out Mt. St. Helens live on the Web.

Editor's Note: I'm back from vacation and managed to put this CyberAlert together from home before returning to the MRC's offices. Last week the MRC's Tim Graham put together a few issues, but with both he and I scheduled to be out on trips much of the next few weeks expect CyberAlerts to be intermittent until after Labor Day.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Disconnect between complaints about media overhype of the Iowa Republican straw poll and network television reality. While the straw poll did dominate or fully consume the Sunday morning talk shows, by the time the much more widely-watched Monday morning and evening shows rolled around the networks had moved on to a new topic: opening day at Columbine High School.

All three broadcast evening shows led Monday night with multiple Columbine-inspired stories, but only the CBS Evening News provided a full story on the withdrawal of Lamar Alexander from the presidential race. ABC's World News Tonight fill-in anchor Charlie Gibson gave the news 15 seconds while NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams took 24 seconds to relay the development -- and neither ran a soundbite of Alexander.

In the morning, Iowa was buried by Columbine. ABC's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson reported, allocated all the 7am interview segments to Columbine. Not until the 7:30am half hour did co-host Charlie Gibson talk with George Stephanopoulos and John McCain about the straw poll.

Today featured eight stories or interview segments about Columbine, but MRC analyst Mark Drake counted just three straw poll items including one interview segment in the 7am half hour which came only after two Columbine interviews: Matt Lauer talking with Newsweek's Howard Fineman. Length of this straw poll interview: Three minutes and 30 seconds. In the 7:30am half hour Today allocated 4:20 to Ryan Tripp, the teenager who has mowed the lawn around every state capitol building.

CBS's This Morning: MRC analyst Brian Boyd noted that the show stuck to Columbine and didn't produce a straw poll interview segment. Normal CBS News watchers may have missed the straw poll entirely. The PGA golf tournament bumped the CBS Evening News in the east on Saturday and Sunday and the NFL pre-season game bumped it in the west on Saturday.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) George Stephanopoulos, independent and neutral observer of the Republican presidential candidate picking process? He is to ABC News, or he's not and they don't care.

All weekend he served as ABC's lone analyst of the Iowa straw poll. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that he appeared solo, without Bill Kristol, on both the Friday and Monday Good Morning America as well as live from Iowa on Saturday's World News Tonight. In addition, Sunday's This Week opened with a live report from him, though Kristol later joined the roundtable discussion on the show. Can you imagine the outcry if ABC News had forwarded Kristol or George Will as the solo analyst of Democratic Party events in 1996? But, as the July 26 CyberAlert noted, the New York Post reported that "ABC is feverishly trying to turn" George Stephanopoulos "into a reporter or news personality."

On Saturday, August 14, anchor Aaron Brown assumed Stephanopoulos was an expert on internal Republican Party factions, asking him about supporters of the socially conservative candidates like Gary Bauer: "They're not top tier candidates, they're not George W. Bush. Do the social conservatives pack up their tent and go someplace else, or do they stay within the party and do what they can do?"
Stephanopoulos replied: "I don't think so, Aaron. More than anything else, these guys want to win, they want to take the White House back. They'll vote for their candidates today, but in the end, I think they'll be for Bush."

At the top of Sunday's This Week he insisted that everyone really likes George W. Bush:

Stephanopoulos: "I think that the Bush people would have liked, you know, a real breakthrough, something like when they raised the $37.5 million. They didn't get that, but it was solid, and when you talk to the people here in Ames yesterday, Cokie, the voters, even if they voted for someone else, say Dan Quayle or Gary Bauer, George W. Bush was still their clear second choice. The Republicans here in Iowa, like Republicans everywhere else, want a winner and they think George Bush is probably that man."
Cokie Roberts: "So there wasn't a rejection there."
Stephanopoulos: "Doesn't, did not feel like it yesterday. George W. Bush seemed acceptable across the board to all of the straw poll goers, even if they didn't vote for him yesterday."

Acceptable to party regulars like every candidate would be to those who are loyal Republicans, but are Buchanan and Bauer and Forbes backers really that satisfied with Bush?


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Inoculating Bush from attacks from the right. Liberal media observers are upset by the media's soft coverage of George W. Bush, calling it a sign of the media's rightward slant, but I'd suggest it more likely is because journalists find him a lot less scary than many of the other options.

How else to explain this Saturday, August 14, NBC Nightly News defense of Bush by reporter David Bloom? He took on and countered the case made against Bush by the conservative candidates:
"....And so today, even as his well-oiled, well-financed political machine goes to work, busloads of Bush supporters and Bikers for Bush rolling into Ames, the rap on Bush is that he doesn't stand for anything."
After a man said he doesn't know what Bush stands for, Bloom sounded like his press secretary: "In truth, Bush's basic positions are well-known. He's a tax cutting, anti-abortion, pro-business, pro-school vouchers conservative, a compassionate conservative he likes to say. But until a credible challenger emerges, and it could happen tonight, Bush is not forced to debate specifics. And so, not wanting to alienate swing voters and moderate Democrats he'd need in order to win next fall, Bush is selling not a particular plan or a specific idea, but himself."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Over the weekend the networks used Elizabeth Dole's third place finish in the Iowa straw poll, the day care shooting and the first day of classes at Columbine to advocate more gun control.

-- Elizabeth Dole was the most liberal candidate to participate in the Iowa straw poll, but instead of pressing her from the right CBS's Bob Schieffer and NBC's Tim Russert hit her Sunday for not being liberal enough.

On CBS's Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asked: "Let's talk a few specifics. What would Elizabeth Dole do if she were President? The Attorney General this week came out for licensing hand guns, said they ought to be registered. You have separated yourself from some of the other Republicans calling for stronger gun control measures than some of the others. Would you go that far? License handguns?"
Dole: "No, I really wouldn't. I think my position clearly is what I consider a reasonable common sense position. I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, but I see no reason whatsoever that a family needs an AK-47 or an Uzi to defend themselves. So I would continue that ban. And then you know I've been traveling with police officers"
Schieffer demanded: "Let me just interrupt. Why not go ahead and license handguns while you're at it?"
Dole: "No, I don't think that's necessary Bob. I really don't. I'm a believer in the instant background check and I think that law is an excellent law that will keep guns out of the hands of felons, mentally incompetent, other categories of people who should not have a gun. But the problem is the Clinton administration cut the funding for that law. And we need to fully fund, automate the court records at the local level."

On the August 15 Meet the Press Russert was bewildered:
"You've been outspoken on gun control. Why not advocate the registration of all guns just like we register automobiles?"

-- CNN's Wolf Blitzer hit both Janet Reno and Colin Powell from the left on gun control, MRC analyst Paul Smith documented.

Blitzer: "The L.A. shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, in the aftermath -- aftermath of that shooting this week, you once again suggested that registering guns in the United States would be a good idea. But is that realistic?"
Reno: "Not registering guns, but licensing the people who use guns on the common sense principle that you shouldn't bear a gun, use a gun, unless you know how to safely and lawfully use it, and unless you have evidenced the capacity and willingness to do so."
Blitzer: "Well, others have called for registering guns, firearms. Vice President Gore said that's a good idea. The President says that's a good idea, but politically unrealistic in the current climate. Would you think it would be a good idea to go ahead and register the nearly 200 million privately owned firearms in the United States?"

Later in the same interview Blitzer did ask: "Given the sheer number, though, of privately owned guns, rifles, firearms, in the United States, would any of this kind of gun control, stricter gun control legislation if enacted into law, do you think it would really have the kind of impact that you and others would want?"
And: "What do you say to those who are active supporters of the National Rifle Association who cite the Second Amendment to the Constitution, what they call an absolute right to bear arms?"

Interviewing Colin Powell later in the show Blitzer argued: "There's been a lot of controversy in the aftermath of the shootings at Columbine High School; other shootings around the United States at high schools -- troubled youth, kids at risk. What, if anything, is America's Promise doing? What can it do, should it be doing, on this issue of gun control? For example, guns being made available to young people and they shouldn't be made available presumably to them."

-- Monday night, August 16, all three broadcast network shows ran gun policy stories with both ABC and NBC promoting liberal pro-gun control solutions.

On ABC's World News Tonight anchor Charlie Gibson noted an "unusual occurrence today" as Newsweek ran a pro-gun control editorial. ABC then aired a piece on Los Angeles high school students who raised money to buy back guns but were impeded by a state law that requires the identity of gun sellers. Then ABC picked up the liberal agenda, focusing on how one Los Angeles County Supervisor is upset that the county rents out its fairgrounds for gun shows. Brian Rooney concluded "At least one politician is saying government shouldn't be in business with people whose business is selling guns."

NBC Nightly News led, as did all three, with Columbine. After a story on the week-old day care shooting, anchor Brian Williams relayed the liberal cause with a Japanese flag waving behind him:
"A lot of Americans these days are fond of saying if you took away the guns in America this wouldn't happen. There is evidence worldwide that severely restricting guns can and does cut way down on violent crime. With one example, here's NBC's Ned Colt in Tokyo."
Colt did explain how in Japan where handguns outlawed and rifles severely restricted there are far fewer gun deaths.

Over on the CBS Evening News Diana Olick outlined the results of a new CBS News poll which found that the plurality, 22 percent, don't think anything can be done to prevent shootings while 20 percent suggest "better parenting" and only 14 percent said "gun control."

"Would stricter gun laws reduce violent crime?" No said 50 percent, yes said 46 percent. Yet 67 percent still say Congress should pass more guns laws. Olick concluded: "The poll also reveals there are now guns in about half of America's households and that may be why, despite all the mass shootings, Americans still don't consider gun control a top priority. In fact, guns [4 percent] came in sixth, far behind Social Security [10 percent], taxes [9 percent] and health care [8 percent] when people named the issues government should address and even a summer of violence didn't change that."

Remember that the next time liberals push gun control. Earlier this month Olick and other network reporters demanded that Republicans defend their tax cut advocacy given the lack of public support. (Back on July 21, for instance, Dan Rather pointed out how tax cuts are "not a top priority of the public".) But the CBS poll found tax cuts ahead of gun control, so an unbiased media would cast the same doubts on the desirability of gun control. Don't count on it.

Indeed, MRC intern Ken Shepherd noticed that MSNBC anchor Gregg Jarrett was upset last week by the lack of a congressional action to enact more gun control.

Anchoring the August 12 News with Brian Williams, Jarrett plugged an upcoming segment: "Still ahead, the politics of guns. Why politicians don't appear to be hearing the latest calls for gun control."

In the subsequent segment Jarrett pressed Newsweek's Howard Fineman: "Is there any reason, Howard, to believe tragic attack on children, for goodness sakes, will trigger any movement by this Congress to enact tougher meaningful gun laws?"

And: "You know, Howard, I asked Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Denver, who certainly has had to wrestle with this, about why her colleagues consistently reject gun control measures. She said two things, they're too afraid of the NRA and they're too beholden to the NRA. Does it really come down to that? Do Congress people care more about perpetuating personal power than they do about saving the lives of children?"

That was too much for even Fineman, who began his answer: "That's a tough way to put it. I'm sure they would all answer no. But it's also true that the NRA is perhaps the most effective lobby, single lobby, on Capitol Hill..."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Catching up with a pre-vacation item I didn't quite get to which did not earn wider media coverage, a Democratic Senator reaffirming that Bill Clinton is a liar. From a July 31 National Journal story by reporter Kirk Victor on Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska:
"When asked about his oft-cited line that Clinton 'is an unusually good liar,' Kerrey said, 'It was an unguarded moment to a writer who was doing a story for Esquire.' But Kerrey really can't help himself; he quickly added: 'What I said was entirely deserved -- make no mistake.'"


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Wacky upbeat newspaper spin: You've got cancer? That's great that nothing will change. If you think USA Today picks up on the upbeat side of bad news, check out a headline I came across in the Seattle Times last week during my vacation.

The headline appeared over these opening paragraphs from an AP dispatch:
"Herb Kelleher, the flamboyant chief executive of Southwest Airlines, said yesterday that he has prostate cancer, which his doctor said was caught in the early stages.
"Kelleher, 68, who pioneered no-frills, low-cost air service and built Southwest into one of the country's top airlines, began radiation treatment yesterday.
"Analysts were reassured by an upbeat prognosis from doctors, though they remain concerned about who will succeed the colorful, 68-year-old executive. Kelleher relishes his image as a heavy-smoking workaholic with a penchant for Wild Turkey bourbon and an evangelical zeal for a friendly workplace....

The headline over this in the August 12 Seattle Times: "Southwest CEO won't change his maverick ways."

Now that's burying the actual news development.


cyberno7.gif (1643 bytes) From the August 10 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions on the Russian Prime Minister Application." Copyright 1999 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Are you or have you ever been a member of the Democratic party?
9. Is it okay if you don't get your salary for a few years?
8. Who currently seems more lifelike, Boris Yeltsin or the mummified corpse of Lenin?
7. How many lies per minute can you type?
6. What do you plan on doing after Boris cans your ass in two weeks?
5. Name all 200 former Soviet republics that end in "-stan."
4. If you're so qualified, why haven't you already defected to the U.S.?
3. Are you skilled at computers? If so, why do you think that would matter here?
2. Could you deal with Madeleine Albright without getting a "breakaway republic" in your pants?
1. Commodore or Pip?


cyberno8.gif (1522 bytes) VolcanoCam. As part of my travels last week I went to the Johnston Ridge Observatory in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southwestern Washington, better known as the location of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcano Monument. On the day I went it was quite foggy up there and hard to actually see the top of Mt. St. Helens, but I learned you can see it on clear days via the Internet.

I can't thrill you by showing you my vacation photos, so instead here's my Web site pick of my vacation week for you to check out. During daylight hours Pacific time, go to:

It's not actually live, but a new photo is uploaded every few minutes of the mountain which erupted in May of 1980. -- Brent Baker


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