CyberAlert -- 09/27/2000 -- Focus on Bush's Michigan Troubles

Focus on Bush's Michigan Troubles; ABC & NBC Relayed Gore's False Medicare Charges, Corrected by FNC and MSNBC -- Extra Edition

1) Polls now put George W. Bush ahead of Al Gore, but Tuesday night ABC and CBS focused on how Bush is behind in Michigan. ABC showcased a Republican woman who proclaimed "a stronger connection with Al Gore" because he's for stricter gun control. Jim Wooten concluded that "about the last thing on anybody's mind is change."

2) Tuesday night FNC and MSNBC corrected Al Gore's false charges about Gingrich's desire to "cut" Medicare and MSNBC corrected the claim that Gingrich wanted it to "wither on the vine." But Tuesday morning ABC and NBC relayed Gore's false claims without comment. ABC's Charles Gibson also failed to ask Gore about his fabrications from last week or latest e-mail revelations.

3) FNC uniquely reported Tuesday night on the latest Gore-related e-mails. Brian Wilson highlighted an e-mail about how a campaign adviser could send Gore "e-mails without having them archived by the White House computer system."

4) Ever vigilant against guns, to a gun safety list Gumbel appended: "We could probably add don't own a gun."


Fresh polls put George W. Bush slightly ahead of Al Gore -- CNN/USA Today/Gallup now has Bush up 47 to 44 percent nationally -- but Tuesday night ABC and CBS focused on how Bush is behind in the key swing state of Michigan.

ABC stressed how the good economy is benefiting Al Gore and showcased a Republican woman who proclaimed "a stronger connection with Al Gore" because "he's more in touch with what's important," specifically, stricter gun control. More generally, Jim Wooten concluded that in the town of Plymouth where things are "nearly perfect, almost precious, about the last thing on anybody's mind in change." CBS relayed how its poll found Bush TV ads are actually turning off voters.

Tom Brokaw again anchored the NBC Nightly News from New York after a week in Sydney, but Olympic stories still consumed half the show. NBC led with the Supreme Court decision to not hear the Microsoft case before an appeals court has addressed it. Brokaw maintained "many believe that's a major victory for Microsoft." NBC aired no campaign story though the show did have a piece on Bill Richardson, before a Senate committee, defending his strategic oil release.

ABC's World News Tonight led on September 26 with how the key witness for the prosecution at the Pan Am 103 trial performed poorly. "The media say they got the message," trumpeted Dan Rather at the top of the CBS Evening News in introducing a story on how the film industry would announce on Wednesday new rules to shield those under 17 from R-rated movies. But Sandra Hughes concluded: "When the re-release of a 27 year-old horror film outsells new critically acclaimed movies many wonder if the promises made today are just tinsel town talk."

Now to ABC and CBS campaign coverage on Tuesday night, September 26:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Peter Jennings offered a quick summary of what Bush and Gore did during the day:
"In presidential politics today, George W. Bush was campaigning in California, talking again, promoting his plan for education. Governor Bush today called for new incentives for math and science teachers. He's behind in the polls in California, but he says he's going to put up a fight there. Al Gore was campaigning in Michigan. Mr. Gore taped a town meeting for MTV and no, he wasn't asked 'boxers or briefs?'"

Jim Wooten then checked in from Michigan where he found the good economy is a challenge for Bush. Wooten traveled to the town of Plymouth. He described the 10,000 population town as "a Norman Rockwell painting of middle America, pretty, prosperous, proudly patriotic and, says the Mayor, instinctively Republican."

So Bush should do well here Wooten decided, but the editor of the local paper explained people are lining up with Gore because of the booming economy, good schools, low taxes and almost no crime. Wooten showcased one family: "Most people, like Tom and Maria Prose, seldom lock their doors. They're among those famous Michigan independents who usually vote Republican for Reagan, Bush, Dole. This time?"
Tom Rose: "I think it's very possible that I would vote for Gore this time. I'm not too excited about George W."
Maria Prose: "I have to admit that I'm feeling a stronger connection with Al Gore. I feel that's he's been, that's he's more in touch with what's important."
Wooten over video of teens walking down a street: "Mainly, she says, that's stricter gun controls. She's seen the violence in America's schools."

Polls show Gore ahead in Michigan, Wooten asserted, because he's "getting a more positive response to his proposals on education and health care. So what happened to the Bush lead around here?" Over video of scenes of the town square and parks, Wooten concluded: "At the moment it seem to have been overcome by the growing sense that in a place like this, nearly perfect, almost precious, about the last thing on anybody's mind is change."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather noted how Bush spent the day in California talking education and Al Gore participated in a MTV town meeting before turning to Bob Schieffer in Washington for a look at Michigan. Schieffer reported that a new CBS News/New York Times poll "shows Gore pulling into a teeny lead" in Michigan, 45 to 41 percent with Nader at 5 percent. Among union households, Schieffer added, Gore is up 56 to 29 percent.

Schieffer suggested Bush's own ads are hurting him: "The problem for Bush is that some of his ads seem to be backfiring. About a third of the voters said they thought more of Bush (35%) after seeing his ads, but a larger number (37%) said they thought worse of him, a striking contrast to those who thought better or worse of Gore after seeing his ads." Better over worse for Gore: 48 to 23 percent.

But the GOP got some good news on the Senate race, Schieffer observed, as the poll determined Republican Senator Spence Abraham has a 12 point lead over Democratic challenger Deborah Stabenow.

CBS would have done viewers a service if they had examined the differences between the Bush and Abraham ads to see why one set is working and the other is not with the same voters.


Al Gore has spent the last two days insisting George W. Bush supported Newt Gingrich's 1995 Medicare proposals, which Gore falsely claims included Gingrich's desire to "cut" Medicare by $270 billion and for Medicare "to wither on the vine."

Tuesday night the broadcast networks and CNN's Inside Politics ignored Gore's disingenuous line of attack, but Tuesday morning both ABC and NBC relayed his dishonest accusations without correction. Tuesday night, however, both FNC's Jim Angle on Special Report with Brit Hume and Brian Williams on MSNBC pointed out Gore's false charges and corrected them.

-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson interviewed Al Gore from Coral Gables, Florida and, just like Today the morning before, failed to ask him about his dog versus in-law drug cost or union jingle fabrications or anything about the e-mails released Friday which showed his staff knew the Buddhist temple event was meant to raise money.

Instead, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Charles Gibson asked only two questions: "Let me start with the horse race because there's a new round of polls showing that your lead is gone, that this race is really dead even right now and Governor Bush particularly making inroads with female voters. Do you have a sense of why?"

In posing his second question Gibson accurately described what Republicans advocated in 1995: "You're attacking the Texas Governor on Medicare, for 1995 remarks in which he advocated slowing the increase in Medicare spending. Shouldn't he be judged on what he's saying today, rather than what he said five years ago because he's proposing a $198 billion increase in Medicare spending now?"
Gore repeated his false charges in his answer: "Well, I do agree with you. What he said five years ago was in strong support of the Newt Gingrich plan, that former Speaker Gingrich said would cause Medicare to wither on the vine -- you probably recall that. I fought against that plan, even when Newt Gingrich shut the government down twice. But I agree with you, it's far more significant to look at the current proposals...."

Gibson did not chastise Gore for claiming Gingrich wanted Medicare to "wither on the vine" when Gingrich was actually referring to the Health Care Finance Administration. Instead, Gibson turned to George Stephanopoulos at Wayne State University in Michigan for questions from two female students.

The first queried: "I recognize that you are against the voucher program, but also realizing that Michigan has several failing school districts, what do you propose we do to eliminate this problem in Michigan and the U.S. all together?"

The second wondered: "Mr. Gore, I come from a working class family. My parents have always voted Democratic. However, this year my father said that he was not going to vote at all. He's not satisfied with the choices of the candidates this year. He doesn't believe that either of the candidates will look out for his interests, and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that in the 1990s, he lost his job. His factory was closed down and he was out of work. What could you say to my father to convince him that you are the right choice in November?"

-- NBC's Today, September 26. Chip Reid, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, relayed Gore's false accusation without correction. Reid began his piece:
"Campaigning in the battleground state of Florida, where Medicare is of paramount importance, Al Gore launched a new attack on George Bush Monday, citing a statement Bush made five years ago in support of the Medicare plan of then Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich."
Video of George W. Bush in 1995: "Elderly people will not suffer as a result of this plan. It's gonna make the plan solvent."
Reid: "The Gingrich proposal was passed by a bitterly divided House, but was vetoed by President Clinton. He later signed a compromise. Gore says the real goal of Gingrich and Bush was to cause Medicare to unravel."
Al Gore at campaign appearance: "The fact that he endorsed the Gingrich plan when Gingrich said he wanted Medicare to wither on the vine matches the effect of the plan that he has proposed this year."

Reid then noted the Bush denial but never explained Gore's false premise: "The Bush campaign angrily denied the charge, accusing Gore of grasping at straws."
Karen Hughes: "What Governor Bush's statement was, was it was a support for Republican efforts in Congress to balance our nation's budget."
Reid concluded: "Gore plans to focus on Medicare and what the campaign calls the Bush/Gingrich connection for most of the week."

-- FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. Jim Angle corrected Al Gore's claims. From Ann Arbor, Michigan Angle reported: "Al Gore continued his attacks on George W. Bush, calling him part of long-standing Republican effort to, as he put it, go after Medicare hammer and tong, an effort Gore said got worse under Newt Gingrich."
Al Gore at a campaign event for seniors: "You remember that? Well he came after Medicare and tried to cut $270 billion out of it."

Angle pointed out: "Actually, Gingrich did not propose cutting Medicare but rather reducing the anticipated increase in Medicare spending. Nevertheless Gore was intent on linking Gingrich, who is unpopular with many voters, to Governor Bush."
Gore: "Well my opponent, it turns out, spoke up in support of that plan back in 1995, said that's a good plan."
Angle: "Bush's remarks in 1995 were made available by the Gore campaign."
Bush in a 1995 TV interview: "It's going to make the plan solvent and Republicans will be heralded not only for saving Medicare but at the same time for having the political courage to balance the budget."

Angle then put the Gore charges in context, noting how the Clinton administration did just what they rebuked Republicans for proposing: "Now though it is the Clinton administration that claims credit, both for saving Medicare and balancing the budget, made possible in part by reducing spending in Medicare by $240 billion in just the last three years, almost as much as the $270 billion number Democrats said would cripple the system."

-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams opened with Williams discussing the campaign with Chris Matthews.

Williams played a longer version of Gore at the same event for seniors shown by FNC: "He came after Medicare and tried to cut $270 billion out of it and make a whole series of structural changes, not just budget cuts but structural changes that he predicted at the time would cause Medicare to wither on the vine. You remember his saying that? That's what Newt Gingrich said. Well my opponent, it turns out, spoke up in support of that plan."

Williams then admonished: "Now some context. Republicans have a problem with what Al Gore is saying. Newt Gingrich wanted cuts in the rate of increase for Medicare, from 18 to 12 percent and he never wanted Medicare to wither on the vine. What he wanted to go away and die was something called the Health Care Finance Administration, the bureaucracy through which people get to Medicare. It wasn't Medicare at all. Chris, when will the facts perhaps start getting in the way here and do you expect any backlash on this point?"

Matthews answered that it's just a Democrat resorting to the same old scare-mongering.

When will the facts "start getting in the way" and when will a "backlash" occur? Perhaps when the big boys at the broadcast networks, including Williams' colleague Chip Reid, start doing some reporting about Gore's accuracy instead of just serving as a conduit for his false accusations.

The last time Democrats falsely accused conservatives of wanting to "cut" Medicare reporters not only relayed the charge they joined in making it, a 1996 MediaWatch study by the MRC's Tim Graham documented. The July 1996 study was headlined "Medicare: The Story with 1,060 Errors; The Health Program That Grows by Leaps and Bounds Mysteriously Described as 'Cut'."

The MRC determined: "In the last 18 months, reporters have made Medicare 'cuts' an essential part of its method of underlining the 'extremism' of the Republican Congress. The GOP's balanced-budget plan called for a $270 billion reduction in projected Medicare increases over seven years (with spending per recipient scheduled to increase from $4,800 to $7,100), but 'cuts' remained the most popular paradigm of reporting.
"To determine the accuracy of Medicare coverage, MediaWatch analysts reviewed 1,134 news stories in three newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today) and three news magazines (Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report) from January 1, 1995 to June 30, 1996. Employing the Nexis news data retrieval system to secure every news mention of 'Medicare' within 10 words of 'cut,' 'reduce,' 'slash,' 'scale back,' and 'savings,' analysts found 1,060 examples of journalists describing Medicare 'cuts.'"

To read the full study with examples, go to:


FNC uniquely reported Tuesday night on the latest Gore-related e-mails released late Friday which showed how his staffers were well-aware that the Buddhist temple event was a fundraiser. As noted in the September 26 CyberAlert, other than a few seconds Friday night from Dan Rather the e-mails went unnoticed by the networks.

On Tuesday the House Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the latest formerly missing e-mail retrieved from back up tapes, but not even CNN's Inside Politics bothered with it.

FNC dispatched Brian Wilson to the hearing and on Special Report with Brit Hume he passed along an intriguing discovery. Over video of e-mail text being displayed on an overhead screen, Wilson explained:
"Despite representations from the Clinton administration to the contrary, this first batch of recovered e-mails has contained a few interesting nuggets. This document, sent to Vice President Gore, discusses ways that campaign adviser Carter Eskew might be able to send the Vice President e-mails without having them archived by the White House computer system."

Brit Hume's show also addressed another issue not yet taken up this week by the broadcast networks or CNN, the mole inside the Bush campaign and how ABC has denied spiking its mole story by Jackie Judd, a report it posted over the weekend on, but which has yet to make it onto the air. For the online story:


Bryant Gumbel, ever vigilant against guns, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed in catching a Monday morning shot from Gumbel. The September 25 The Early Show on CBS featured a piece by Katy Abel on a 12-year-old killed accidentally by a gun in Massachusetts, which already has strict gun laws. After her story on the mother's anguish finished, Abel listed for Gumbel what both the NRA and Center to Prevent Handgun Violence agree on for what parents should do to keep guns away from kids, such as ask other parents if they are a gun owner, discuss guns with kids, tell kids if they see a gun don't touch, leave the scene, and lock, don't hide guns.

Gumbel then piped up: "Of course, we could probably add don't own a gun but that's another discussion."

Indeed, a point of view Gumbel has made clear many times before. -- Brent Baker

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