CyberAlert - September 19, 1996 - ABC's extremist label; Clinton's Pick; & Proof of Convention

Three items today:

1. ABC's Jim Wooten uses some extremist labeling to describe the Arizona electorate.

2. The Weekly Standard discovers that President Clinton hired his speechwriter from U.S. News & World Report because Clinton liked how the journalist covered his 1992 campaign. That reporter now calls Clinton "the moral leader of the Universe."

3. A study determines that during the conventions network reporters took up 12 times as much airtime as newsmakers and the networks approached the conventions with a liberal-left tilt. Sounds like the MRC study, but it's not.


On Tuesday night's (September 17) World News Tonight, ABC's Jim Wooten reported from Arizona on Bob Dole's campaign. Wooten asserted:

"It's one measure of Senator Dole's problems that he even feels it necessary to campaign here in Arizona, Barry Goldwater's ultra- conservative backyard. But the race is close here, quite close."

Not "usually safe for Republicans," but "ultra-conservative." How "ultra-conservative" exactly is Senator McCain? And if the state is so "ultra-conservative" how could it possibly go for Clinton?


The September 23 Weekly Standard includes a profile of chief White House speechwriter Donald Baer who had been Assistant Managing Editor of U.S. News & World Report when he jumped to the Clinton team in 1994. Writer Christopher Caldwell explained how Baer got his job: "Clinton liked the articles Baer contributed to U.S. News during the 1992 campaign. While other journalists - David Shribman of The Wall Street Journal, Joe Klein of New York, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times - ignored the more sensational aspects of the campaign for enthusiastic grapplings with 'Clintonism,' Baer wrote with extreme empathy about Clinton's background. "'I think it's a southern thing' says one of Baer's journalistic colleagues, who also knows Clinton. 'Being of the South and still being rooted there, yet being driven and ambitious enough to prove oneself in the larger world - the two of them have a lot in common.' While Baer has always been a loyal Democrat, he's not necessarily a liberal. Like Clinton, he has an idiosyncratic, instinctive, generally progressive politics that winds up at beyond-left-and-rightism. This enthusiasm can appear like ideological non-commitment or caginess. One New Democrat who met Baer at a dinner last year described him as 'bland beyond description, a fount of cliches. 'Clinton was the moral leader of the Universe,' and all that.'"


Last week the MRC released its study of prime time network coverage of the party conventions. We found four times more extremist labels were applied to Republicans as Democrats, but Democrats were tagged liberal twice as often as Republicans were called conservative. In addition, virtually all of the questions to both parties came from the left as the networks portrayed both the Republicans and Democrats as too conservative. Last week the Center for Media and Public Affairs also released its study. CMPA examined not prime time but the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts during the two convention weeks. Some of their findings:

  • "Journalists continued to crowd out the politicians, taking up 12 times as much airtime as the newsmakers. Reporters' comments took up 75% of the speaking time in convention stories, compared to only 6% for the four nominees. Other party officials and delegates accounted for 10% of the airtime."
  • Both parties' policies got even worse press than their candidates - three to 1 negative overall. Five out of six sources (83%) criticized GOP policies, and two out of three (67%) rejected the Democrats' stands."

The Washington Post's John Carmody summarized the finding: "Comments on the two issues most talked about - abortion during the GOP meeting, welfare during the Democrats' - suggested a left-liberal bent."

Indeed, we couldn't have said it better ourselves.

- Brent Baker