CyberAlert -- 11/03/2000 -- Nets Jumped on Bush "Deception"

Nets Jumped on Bush "Deception"; ABC's Liberal Spin on Bush's Tax Cut; Bush Flub; Cher Distressed by Bush; Streisand's ABC Soapbox -- Extra Edition and Weekend Edition

1) FNC reported the Bush drunk driving arrest before MSNBC or CNN, but it consumed most of prime time on those two cable channels. The Portland TV reporter who first disclosed the arrest told Ted Koppel her source was a delegate to the Democratic convention. On Today, Matt Lauer noted Bush has accused Gore of "deception" and wondered if Bush is just as guilty.

2) ABC's John Martin described Bush's tax cut as would a liberal, calling it "a massive tax cut of $1.3 trillion over ten years for all taxpayers, but especially the richest." And he showcased a Republican who "is not sure massive tax cuts are wise."

3) Thursday night CBS and NBC highlighted a rhetorical flub by George Bush over whether Social Security is a federal program. Both portrayed an "upbeat" Gore team benefitting from Democratic "enthusiasm." Only NBC touched how Clinton said electing Gore is the next best thing to a third Clinton term.

4) Bush will make "old people" eat dog food, Cher opined in expressing her fear that Bush might win. "Has everyone lost their f--king minds? Doesn't anybody remember the illustrious Reagan-Bush years when people had no money and no jobs?"

5) Barbra Streisand's ABC's soapbox for Gore. Tonight 20/20 carries the interview with Streisand which the New York Post reported Streisand agreed to only if she got time "to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary."

6) Media Reality Check. "Cole-Call Outrage vs. Beirut Tragedy Milking: Hillary's Outraged Media Supporters Don't Extend the Same Rules of Civility to Conservative Leaders."

>>> "Lions vs. Lambs: The media set the tone." The latest daily analysis of campaign coverage by the MRC's Tim Graham, this time about how the networks burden conservative candidates with questions about their tone, is now up on National Review Online: <<<


The news that George W. Bush had been arrested in 1976 for drunk driving broke too late for the ET/CT feeds of the broadcast network evening newscasts, but it became the topic for Nightline on which the Portland, Maine reporter who was first given the information told Ted Koppel her source was a delegate to the Democratic convention.

The revelation first made national news on the Fox News Channel at about 6:05pm ET on Special Report with Brit Hume when Carl Cameron, traveling with the Bush campaign, tacked it onto the end of a packaged report. Hume made it the first topic for discussion by his panel at 6:48pm or so ET. Nearly an hour-and-half after FNC had calmly relayed the revelation, MSNBC broke into their Imus in the Evening clip show at 7:32pm ET with the "Breaking News." CNN caught up during Crossfire with the "Breaking News" at 7:48pm ET.

The 24-year-old drunk driving case then consumed most of the 8pm ET hour on both CNN and MSNBC as well most of MSNBC's 9pm ET The News with Brian Williams. CNN went to a live Larry King Live at 9pm ET with Ross Perot who announced his support of George W. Bush, but went live at about 9:20pm ET to show George W. Bush's remarks to reporters about the matter. At 10pm ET CNN returned to Bush's plight and MSNBC aired a live Hardball focused on it.

ABC's Nightline opened with lengthy excerpts from the briefing for reporters by Karen Hughes and Bush's comments. Nightline had Fox affiliate WPXT-TV reporter Erin Fehlau, who first reported the story, drive down from Portland to Kennebunkport so they could get the live visual of her standing in front of a police car marked "Kennebunkport Police."

Fehlau recounted for Koppel how, while at the Cumberland County courthouse to cover an arson trial, a female police officer whom she knew told her how she had overheard a lawyer and a judge talking about how George W. Bush had been convicted of drunk driving many years earlier. Later in the afternoon, as Fehlau stood outside the courthouse, she said she saw the lawyer leaving the building. She recounted how she ran over to him and he confirmed he had a 24-year-old "docket sheet" recording the arrest and offered to go to his office to retrieve it for her. He did so and she made some phone calls to corroborate its accuracy.

Fehlau then confirmed the lawyer did have political ties, fresh information not reported on either CNN or MSNBC earlier, at least not through 10:15pm. She informed Koppel: "The lawyer that I did talk to, he was a delegate to the Democratic convention. But I want to make it very clear that he did not hand this to me. It was something that this police officer overheard, talked to me about it and I just ran and asked him about it."

Fox affiliated WPXT-TV broadcasts on channel 51. This is probably the first major national campaign story ever broken by a channel so high up on the UHF band in such a small market.

One unanswered question: Kennebunkport is in York County. So if the arrest took place in Kennebunkport by the local police, why are a lawyer and judge in a neighboring county courthouse so familiar with it?

All the morning shows led today with the Bush story and Fehlau appeared on at least ABC's GMA and NBC's Today. Matt Lauer asked Tim Russert on Today: "One of the problems is that over the past couple of months, the Bush campaign has been labeling Al Gore as deceptive and now it appears that they have not been completely forthcoming with this story. Does that backfire?"

Later today the CyberAlert Extra will provide a complete run down of morning show coverage.


Before the media became obsessed with Bush's drunk driving, there was old-fashioned policy bias on ABC's World News Tonight. Assessing the tax cut plans proposed by each candidate, Thursday night ABC reporter John Martin's language matched the Gore spin as he emphasized the dollar amount benefit to the rich and twice referred to Bush's tax cut as "massive."

Martin stated that Bush has proposed "a massive tax cut of $1.3 trillion over ten years for all taxpayers, but especially the richest Americans." And he showcased a "Republican with a daughter in college" who "is not sure massive tax cuts are wise."

The November 2 World News Tonight opened with Dean Reynolds in Glen Ellyn, Illinois summarizing Bush's day: "The Governor was promoting his prescription drug benefit plan today as well as health care coverage in general, issues on which our polling shows he may be vulnerable. At large rallies in Midwest battleground states, Bush sought today to assure older voters his plan to reform Medicare will help, not hurt..."

Next, Jackie Judd delivered a review of the Bush and Gore prescription drug plans before Terry Moran encapsulated Gore's day. Referring to tax cuts, Moran reported from Chicago: "This is an issue that Al Gore has been talking about for months, but these days his stump speeches are shorter and sharper. Gone are the dense policy arguments and reams of statistics. Instead he's trying to boil down his pitch to the essentials: attack Governor Bush and fire up Democrats, especially when it comes to the issue of taxes. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, this morning, Gore called Bush a threat to the prosperity of the Clinton-Gore years."
ABC showed this lengthy soundbite from Al Gore: "He wants to change the very best things about the economic course we're on. He wants to go back. Do you want to go back to the way it was eight years ago? He wants to use our surplus to give huge tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthy, and I wanna be plain. I favor a smaller overall tax cut than Governor Bush so that we can pay off our debt and invest in the future, and I want to target the tax cuts to middle class families."

Moran concluded by evaluating the Gore campaign mood: "There's no sense of defeatism or desperation, but there is urgency and even nervousness."

ABC then aired a story by John Martin who used employees at an Ohio company to illustrate who would benefit from the Bush or Gore tax cut plans. He began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Times are good for Bob Dieckman's manufacturing company in Mason, Ohio. It sells as many as ten luxury shower doors week for up to $5,000 a piece."
Robert Dieckman: "I personally would do better with George Bush's tax cuts."
Martin affirmed that assumption as he used a raw number instead of a percentage reduction: "That's because Bush's plan calls for a massive tax cut of $1.3 trillion over ten years for all taxpayers, but especially the richest Americans who, Bush points out, pay the most taxes. A married couple with one wage-earner making $450,000, for example, would save more than $12,000 in taxes under the Bush plan."

Martin failed to note how percentage-wise that would be smaller reduction than someone making $40,000 would get.

Martin then showed how lower income earners would benefit from Gore: "The Gore tax plan calls for about $500 billion in tax cuts over ten years, much of it targeted to moderate and low income workers. Workers like Jennifer Newport, a single mother of two children. She earns $16,000 a year. Under the Gore plan, if she can put $500 in a savings account, the government would add $1500 so she could buy a home or send a child to college."
Jennifer Newport: "I can use every little bit of extra money that I can get."
Martin: "So who do voters favor? An ABC News poll shows that among likely voters who say taxes are the most important issue, Bush has a big lead. Still supervisor Pat Burch, a Republican with a daughter in college, is not sure massive tax cuts are wise."
Pat Burch: "There's only so much money to go around. I would much rather see them take the tax money that they're talking about, a tax cut, and let's pay off the debt."

Having highlighted a Republican opposed to Bush's plan but not any Democrat upset by how citizens will have to comply with Gore's spending choices in order to qualify for a tax credit, Martin concluded: "Paying off the national debt is not a priority to Bush, who favors across the board cuts which he believes will keep the economy growing. Gore believes such cuts could lead to massive deficits."

Does anyone really believe that's why Gore opposes a tax cut? Might it not have something more to do with his liberal view that government knows best what to do with people's money?


CBS and NBC took days to inform their viewers about Gore's false story about how a prescription drug cost more for his mother-in-law than his dog, but Thursday night both immediately highlighted a rhetorical flub by George Bush over whether Social Security is a federal program.

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened the November 2 show by stressing the negative: "The presidential campaign is closing hot, tight and negative. Texas Governor George Bush is closing attacking, by questioning Vice President Gore's character. Gore shot back today, questioning whether Bush is up to the job of President."

Bill Whitaker in Glen Ellyn, Illinois observed: "As election day gets closer Bush's crowds get bigger and more enthusiastic, inspired by the belief that after eight years a Republican might actually re-capture the White House."

After a clip of Bush in St. Louis accusing Gore of being a big spender, Whitaker asserted: "The Bush crowd there was so fired up it gladly overlooked a factual fumble."
Bush: "They want the federal government controlling the Social Security like it's some kind of federal program."
Whitaker corrected him: "Now it is a federal program that Bush hopes to partially privatize, but for his partisan crowds that doesn't matter."

From Chicago, John Roberts delivered the Gore line on the day: "Al Gore is still trailing in most national polls, but today he declared he has the Texas Governor right where he wants him."

Roberts noted that both campaigns claim their internal polls put their candidate ahead in the battlegrounds states. Roberts suggested: "There is one potentially significant number to take note of tonight. In just the past week there's been an up-tick in Democratic voters enthusiasm for the Vice President. And in an election where turnout will be key, that could be a deciding factor."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw relayed how the latest MSNBC/Reuters tracking poll had Bush at 45 percent and Gore at 42 percent but, he cautioned, "state by state it remains an up and down contest."

Claire Shipman portrayed an upbeat Gore team: "Tom, the Gore campaign is heartened by numbers that give them an edge in many battleground states, and now their final days are about some very precise targeting." Over video of Gore throwing a football in an aisle, Shipman gushed: "An upbeat Al Gore on Air Force Two today as his team faces its final play."

From Illinois, David Gregory showed some Bush rally clips before zeroing in: "And on another matter today, Bush, who is so eager for workers to be able to privately invest a portion of their Social Security payroll tax, today misstates who controls Social Security in the first place."
George W. Bush: "This frightens some in Washington because they want the federal government controlling the Social Security like it's some kind of federal program. We understand differently, though. You see, it's your money, not the government's money."
Gregory: "Later an aide clarified that Bush indeed realizes Social Security is a federal program. It's just he believes through the private accounts it should also be private property."

Gregory added: "Also, by the way, Bush did not comment on the latest flare-ups in the Middle East today. Reporters were not allowed to question him about it as he does not hold press conferences any longer on the road."

Next, Brokaw conducted his daily interview with Gore and focused on the topic raised by Gregory, the Middle East. After some questions about putting in U.S. peacekeeping troops and whether he fueled the Nader effort by going "too far" on global trade, Brokaw brought up a Clinton comment not mentioned by ABC or CBS: "Today, President Clinton speaking to an African-American radio audience, said he can't run for a third term but if they elect you it's the next best thing. Is that how you would characterize this election?"
Gore replied: "I am proud of his endorsement and he and I have worked together to bring about policies that have led to the lowest African-American unemployment in history, the strongest economy in history, the biggest surpluses instead of the biggest deficits, the 22 million new jobs, lower interest rates. Listen, we need to keep the prosperity going and extend it to everyone."


"Has everyone lost their f--king minds?" Cher is so concerned that George Bush might win that she's delayed a London recording session so she can stay in the U.S. to fight for Al Gore, the music Web site Wall of Sound reported in a story highlighted Thursday by the Drudge Report (

An exasperated Cher asked: "Doesn't anybody remember the illustrious Reagan-Bush years when people had no money and no jobs? What has happened to people's memories? It's like they have Alzheimer's or something." She also called Bush "stupid" and "lazy" and worried that after his Supreme Court appointments, "The Jerry Falwells of this world will be right in your back pocket. You won't have one f--king right left." She even claimed a Bush presidency would force "old people" to eat dog food.

Here's an excerpt from the Wall of Sound story posted Tuesday night, October 31, in which Deborah Wilker recounted a phone conversation she had with Cher:

She dislikes politics and says she's not a registered Democrat. But Cher is so panic-stricken at the thought of Texas Gov. George W. Bush leading the free world that she's delayed the London recording sessions for the follow-up to Believe so she can do whatever possible to keep him out of office.

"Has everyone lost their f--king minds? Doesn't anybody remember the illustrious Reagan-Bush years when people had no money and no jobs? What has happened to people's memories? It's like they have Alzheimer's or something."

The ageless Oscar-Grammy winner was on the phone to Wall of Sound from her Malibu, Calif., home Friday to discuss her stark 1994 CD Not Commercial, which she is just now releasing independently on the Internet at

"I don't like Bush," she said of George W. "I don't trust him. I don't like his record. He's stupid. He's lazy. Some woman said to me she was voting for him because she liked his dad, and I said, 'Good, because that's what you're getting.' If somebody's claim to fame is that they signed a law so that you can carry a gun to church -- oh, give me a break."....

"If you're black in this country, if you're a woman in this country, if you are any minority in this country at all, what could possibly possess you to vote Republican? If you think the President is an ass, fine -- after four years you can vote him out. But the Supreme Court -- that's 30 years! The Jerry Falwells of this world will be right in your back pocket. You won't have one f--king right left."....

"I'm passionate about this because I'm just so scared," she said. "I want people to know what's at stake. I'm so nervous about this election, I was supposed to go to Europe in September to work, but I just can't leave."

Since summer, when she visited the Democratic convention, Cher has appeared at several Democratic fundraisers, including a Gore gala in New Jersey, at least two events for Hillary Rodham Clinton's New York Senate run, and one to raise money for a Clinton presidential library....

She said she stays in touch with the issues, partly just by talking with people wherever she goes.

"I have been traveling this country for 37 years," she said of her wide-ranging career. "I know what's going on more than many of these [politicians] know. I don't want to see what happened years ago, happen again. The idea of old people eating dog food doesn't appeal to me. Call me old-fashioned. I just don't like it."

END excerpt

For the complete story, go to where Drudge linked:

Or, to the original Wall of Sound posting:


Speaking of celebrities bashing Bush and gushing over Gore, tonight 20/20 may well deliver ABC's in-kind contribution to the Gore-Lieberman effort as it will feature an interview conducted by Barbara Walters with Barbra Streisand. Neil Travis disclosed in the October 17 New York Post that Streisand "insisted" that in the interview "she would be given room to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary and the Democratic platform."

Here's an excerpt from the October 17 "Neal Travis' New York" column, picked up from the October 18 CyberAlert Extra:

Yesterday in Manhattan, Barbara Walters began taping an interview that could become the Democrats' "November surprise." The ABC ace spent several hours chatting with uber-liberal Barbra Streisand for a 20/20 show that will air on the Friday before the Nov. 7 election.

Make no mistake: Diva Streisand, who has an enormous following, is using this nationwide forum to promote the candidacies of Democrats Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her remarks could be enough to push both of them over the top in what are shaping up as very close races....

I understand that, as a quid pro quo for doing the interview at a time when she has nothing personal to promote, Streisand insisted that she would be given room to explain why she is supporting Al and Hillary and the Democratic platform. It could be the most important political performance the star, who has raised many millions of dollars for the party, has ever given.

"Babs is enormously popular in Middle America, where the election will be decided," says one person who claims to know why she's doing the Walters show at this crucial time. "All those undecideds out there -- if they can hear one idol telling another what a great guy Gore is, you know it's going to swing a lot of votes."

END Excerpt


The text of a Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check titled, "Cole-Call Outrage vs. Beirut Tragedy Milking: Hillary's Outraged Media Supporters Don't Extend the Same Rules of Civility to Conservative Leaders." For this report distributed by fax on Thursday, Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, culled the MRC archives for examples of how "the surprise bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 was a tragedy media people easily exploited in an attempt to sully Ronald Reagan's reputation."

To see this report in the format fax recipients received, access the Adobe Acrobat PDF file:

Now the text of the November 2 Media Reality Check:

Media shock at the rough New York GOP phone calls which linked Hillary Clinton's Hamas-boosting supporters with the terrorist attack on the U.S.S. Cole is one-sided. Is it beyond the pale to link terrorist bombings to the political record of our leaders? The surprise bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 was a tragedy media people easily exploited in an attempt to sully Ronald Reagan's reputation:

-- "In this hall tonight you'll hear nothing of Iran/Contra, or Meese, or Deaver, or Nofziger, or the tragedy in Beirut." -- NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, beginning a night of 1988 GOP convention coverage.

-- "The Reagan years had their accomplishments, especially abroad. But by many measures, the Reagan Administration was a failure. It left us with a huge debt and an unfocused domestic policy. It got us in a moral mess with Irangate and a military disaster in Lebanon." -- NBC News President Michael Gartner on Lou Cannon's book President Reagan: Role of a Lifetime in The Washington Post, April 21, 1991.

-- "[Reagan's] good-natured pre- and post-surgical quips so endeared him to the nation that practically nothing, including the deaths of 241 U.S. Marines in a Beirut barracks, stuck to the Reagan presidency. As a result, the nation smiled benignly when....he burdened the working poor and middle class by raising Social Security taxes while calling for cuts in the capital gains tax. Such policies widened the gap between rich and poor and contributed to the psychological chasm between haves and have-nots. In this atmosphere, Wall Street stock manipulator Michael Milken earned $550 million in 1987, and ghetto teens unable to find jobs joined gangs instead." -- Houston Chronicle reporter Steven Reed, August 16, 1992 news story during the GOP convention.

-- "America is cheering [for Forrest Gump]. Much as it cheered Ronald Reagan, who more than Schweik or Candide, is the real proto-Gump. Reagan too was relentlessly upbeat. Reagan too was extraordinarily lucky. And his luck, like Gump's, was often built on the backs of people who suffered off-screen. Forrest had bankrupt shrimpers, martyred Vietnam buddies, and his wife, whose death was remarkably demure, considering her ailment. Reagan scored points off America's poor; somehow managed to cloak himself in heroism while apologizing for a needless screw-up that killed 241 servicemen in Beirut..." -- Essay by Time Associate Editor David Van Biema, August 29, 1994.

-- Thomas Friedman, New York Times reporter and columnist: "Governor, I'm kind of a foreign policy wonk, and it scares the bejesus out of me to have someone as President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief, and finger on the nuclear button who is such an outsider to Washington and American foreign policy."
Lamar Alexander: "Did Ronald Reagan scare you, Tom?"
Friedman: "He sure did."
Alexander: "Did he? He didn't scare me. I thought he was the best national defense and Commander-in-Chief and foreign policy President we've had since Eisenhower."
Friedman: "Ask 245 Marines in Beirut about that." -- Exchange on CBS's Face the Nation, March 5, 1995.

Media people no doubt think it uncivil to link President Clinton's defense policies to the Cole tragedy. But political junkies ought to have an axiom: however mean you think a candidate can get, the media will feel free to be meaner, and often at the same time they decry the tone of the candidates.

END Reprint of Media Reality Check

Looks like a full day of Bush-bashing on the cable networks followed by Gore-gushing on 20/20. -- Brent Baker

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