CyberAlert - October 9, 1996 - Bonkers Over Bozo

Four items today:

1. On Tuesday Bob Dole responded positively to a supporter in a crowd who yelled "Get the bozo out of the White House." The ABC and NBC evening shows focused on the remark as CNN's Bernard Shaw wondered "Did Bob Dole lower the level of civility a notch?"

2. Instead of exploring FBI file revelations and Whitewater, the host of This Morning on CBS complained about how "Whitewater did rear its ugly head" during the debate.

3. Clinton scandals may not interest reporters, but Newt Gingrich had to answer six questions in a row about his ethics situation. On NBC's Today Matt Lauer asked whether he's "been completely forthright and truthful in providing information" to the House ethics committee and if he'll be forced to resign.

4. Katie Couric asked Elizabeth Dole whether Bob Dole is paying the price for a Republican Congress which was "simply too harsh or too draconian."

1) On Tuesday night (October 8) ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News aired stories on the big spending by labor unions to defeat freshmen Republicans. The CBS Evening News and ABC's World News Tonight featured pieces with clips of their correspondent interviewing Bob Dole on his bus.

The big news of the day: Bozo. A man in a crowd yelled at Dole that he should get bozo out of the White House. Dole shot back: "Bozo's on his way out."

CNN's Bernard Shaw opened Inside Politics: "Was he borrowing the words of an over-enthusiastic supporter, or did Bob Dole lower the level of civility a notch in his contest with Bill Clinton?"

On World News Tonight, ABC's John Cochran began his piece: "Under pressure from critics in his own party to get personal with the President, today Dole said he's ready to do just that. In a series of interviews Dole admitted he was too soft on the President in their first debate, especially on White House access to FBI files on well-known Republicans...."

Noting that Dole failed to demand that Clinton promise not the pardon those involved in Whitewater, Cochran ran a clip of Dole explaining: "It would seem to me, particularly in the first debate, when there's this myth out there about the mean Bob Dole, if I'd done anything that even appeared to be stepping over the line, that would have been the story."

Cochran continued: "That was exactly what happened today when a supporter asked Dole to please get the bozo out of the White House. Dole said bozo's on his way out."

Of course, Cochran made it the story. He didn't have to. The CBS Evening News didn't mention the exchange.

2) Cochran didn't use Dole's admission that he went too easy on Clinton on the FBI files as an opportunity to report how an aide to Craig Livingstone had contradicted his story. But he's not the only reporter with an aversion to Clinton scandals. On Monday's This Morning (October 7) Mark McEwen discussed the debate with Bob Beckel and Fred Barnes. McEwen told Barnes: "Senator Dole said he wasn't going to mention Whitewater, then Whitewater did rear its ugly head last night."

3) NBC's Today has also failed to report anything on the deposition from Craig Livingstone's aide (see October 6 CyberAlert for details). But, on Tuesday morning Today's Matt Lauer repeatedly pressed Newt Gingrich about his ethics case.

Lauer asked Gingrich seven questions about the debate and why he's so unpopular, then fired six questions about Gingrich and the ethics committee. Here are the last six question posed by Lauer in his October 8 interview with Gingrich:

"Are you completely sure, Mr. Speaker, that you have been completely forthright and truthful in providing information to this committee?"

"But wouldn't it seem somewhat obvious that there must be something that's disturbing or distressing them completely. Why would Republicans, on the subcommittee, vote to expand the investigation if they haven't found something that disturbs even them?"
"But can you think of a logical reason why they would do that?"
"Do you envision any circumstances, Mr. Speaker, under which you might be forced to resign based on this investigation?"
"So if the ethics committee comes back and says Newt Gingrich was not truthful with us in supplying information?"
Gingrich: "I don't think they can say that."
"If they did, would you consider resigning?"

4) In the next hour on Tuesday's Today, Katie Couric talked with Elizabeth Dole. One of Couric's questions:

"I know that was a major goal of the Dole campaign [in debate], to make sure people saw this compassionate side of Bob Dole. Do you think that he is in some ways paying the price for a Republican Congress that enacted, or tried to enact measures, in the views of many were simply too harsh or too draconian?"

Maybe he's just paying the price for a biased media.

- Brent Baker