CyberAlert -- September 16, 1996 -- NAACP vs. Christian Coalition

Only one item today:

Bill Clinton snubbed the Christian Coaltion conference over the weekend, but the media reacted a bit differently than when Bob Dole decided to not address the NAACP.

Friday night none of the network evening news shows mentioned Clinton's decision not to appear, though all did pieces on the conference. The issue came up only on CNN's Inside Politics. In July, all the networks aired stories about Dole not going to the NAACP convention. (Dole made a surprise appearance at the Christian Coalition meeting on Saturday and offered an introduction to Jack Kemp who had been scheduled.)

Neither ABC or CBS had an evening newscast Saturday night on Washington stations because of college football, but NBC did not get bumped for sports, so let's compare NBC's coverage.

On the July 10 NBC Nightly News, Jim Miklaszewski reported from the NAACP gathering:

"No doubt this was a Clinton crowd. That comes as no surprise to Bob Dole. Dole had been invited to speak at the convention yesterday, but declined. He claimed he was already committed to campaigning and the All-Star baseball game. To those at this convention that was quite a stretch and an insult to African-American voters."

After explaining how the crowd was very anti-Republican, Miklaszewski concluded his story: "By not showing up here, Bob Dole may reinforce those racial divides along party lines and fuel the anxiety among some Republicans that in this presidential campaign, Bob Dole may not be up to the challenge."

On Saturday night's (September 14) NBC Nightly News, David Bloom reported:

"Dole decided only this morning to speak to the Christian Coalition despite worries inside his campaign that a bow to the religious right might send the wrong message to moderate, swing voters."

Bloom concluded his story:

"Clinton's campaign spokeman said in a statement 'watching Bob Dole arm in arm with Pat Robertson speaks volumes to the extreme agenda being pursued by the Dole-Kemp-Gingrich team.' Bob Dole tried, perhaps even succeeded today, in re-invigorating his Republican base. But a top Clinton campaign official was all smiles, saying, 'if you see Dole, tell him thanks for me.'"

Anchor Brian Williams then announced: "The Christian Coaltion claims almost two million active members and is a potent political force in 31 states, but its voice is no longer the lone voice for conservative Christians. NBC's Bob Abernethy has our report."

Abernethy then began his bizarre story on "conservative" Christians:

"The Christian Coalition's organization, money and grassroots activism have made it one of the most important voices in the country for conservative values, especially opposition to abortion. The coalition's success has troubled other Christians who agree with many of its objectives, but are uncomfortable with its partisianship, and with what seems to many critics its divisiveness and its neglect of the poor. One group of coalition critics is the Call to Renewal. It heard today from children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman."

Abernethy went on to look at Jim Wallis of Sojourners, a left-wing crusade. He never got to any "conservative Christians."

Let me summarize the differences in approach to one major candidate failing to appear at one of the conventions:

  1. Dole's snub is big news. Clinton's is not.
  2. Dole's decision was "an insult to all African American voters." Clinton's was not an insult to all Christian-American voters.
  3. Dole's address to the Christian Coalition "might send the wrong message to moderate, swing voters." Clinton's appearance before the left-wing NAACP did not.
  4. Dole's speech prompted NBC to air a bizarre story citing only liberals about how the Christian Coalition does not represent all conservative Christians, many of whom are "troubled" by its policy views. Clinton's NAACP address did not prompt NBC to do a story on how the NAACP does not represent all liberal African-Americans or even all African-Americans, nor any consideration of how the NAACP's policies "trouble" anyone.

Tom Brokaw insisted at a June National Press Club appearnace: "We've worked very hard to drain the bias out of what we do." Hard to tell. -- Brent Baker