Nets Pushed McCain "Holy War"; "Nothing Liberal" About McCain
1) GOP "holy war" led ABC, CBS and NBC Monday night as all showed McCain equating Pat Robertson with Farrakhan. Dan Rather eagerly passed along how "McCain said George Bush is now aligned with, in McCain's view, peddlers of intolerance, division and smears."
online, the February 28 edition of MediaNomics, a report from the MRC's Free
Market Project (FMP) written by FMP Director Rick Noyes. The latest two
Monday night the broadcast networks delighted in John McCain's attack on Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, leading with his equating of both with Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton. "It's now a holy war, with the role of the religious right in play between John McCain and George W. Bush," remarked NBC's Tom Brokaw. CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather declared: "This could be a defining day in an election year battle for the soul of the Republican Party. John McCain said George Bush is now aligned with, in McCain's view, peddlers of intolerance, division and smears."
All three evening shows featured this soundbite from McCain uttered at an appearance at a Virginia Beach high school: "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." But while ABC's Linda Douglass characterized that as an attack on how Robertson and Falwell "are pulling the GOP toward the fringe," CBS's Phil Jones led into the clip by pointing out: "It's an attack that went beyond the Republican Party."
The networks allowed Bush to play defense, with ABC and CBS looking at how he's pulling away from the religious right. Inadvertently conceding how misleading much of CBS News coverage has been, Bob Schieffer recalled how Bush donors saw him as "a fresh face with a strong appeal to moderates and minorities" so "the last thing they envisioned was Bush as the candidate of the far right."
Here's a rundown of how the three broadcast network evening shows treated McCain's attack and Bush's reaction on Monday, February 28:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Leading into McCain's blast at Robertson and Falwell, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Linda Douglass intoned: "John McCain came to the hometown of the Christian Broadcasting Network and declared political war on its leader, TV evangelist Pat Robertson. He said Robertson and the Moral Majority's Jerry Falwell are pulling the GOP toward the fringe."
Following McCain's comparison of the conservatives to Farrakhan, Douglass continued: "McCain is furious at Robertson's bare-knuckled efforts to turn Christian Conservatives against him. He suggested that Robertson has lured George Bush too far to the right. Example, his speech to Bob Jones University."
After another soundbite
from McCain, Douglass noted: "Bush shot back that it is McCain who is
being divisive." Bush asserted that McCain is playing on religious fears
before Douglass outlined the justification for McCain's attack:
Next, Jim Wooten looked at Bush's campaign: "He looks the same and he sounds the same." After a clip of Bush saying "I'm a uniter not a divider," Wooten picked up: "But the Virginia version of Governor Bush is distinctly different from the one who won South Carolina and lost in Michigan. This is a candidate very careful not to be seen again as the darling of religious conservatives, an image that could hurt him among more moderate voters here and elsewhere. Pat Robertson, a Virginia resident, has neither been seen nor heard this past week -- he's out of the country -- and Bush has gone nowhere near Jerry Falwell or his Liberty University."
Wooten maintained: "No one admits that Bush has
purposely kept his distance from the Religious Right, but even the Republican
hierarchy, led by Governor James Gilmore, is not only backing Bush, but
scrupulously avoiding any mention of that agenda. Still, Gilmore isn't oozing
confidence for Bush."
Wrapping up Republican coverage, anchor Peter Jennings relayed how an ABC News poll found McCain beating Gore by 17 points while Bush would beat Gore by just six points.
-- CBS Evening News.
"The Republican presidential contenders find religion. McCain gives
leaders of the Religious Right holy Hell while Bush tries to mend fences with
Roman Catholics," Dan Rather announced in teasing the CBS Evening News.
He opened the show by breathlessly declaring McCain on the offense and Bush
lost on defense:
Jones began: "John McCain took dead aim at the leaders of the conservative religious right, right on its own turf," though as noted above Jones uniquely characterized the attack as one on both parties: "It's an attack that went beyond the Republican Party."
After playing McCain's soundbite about how Robertson
and Farrakhan are both "agents of intolerance," Jones noted how Bush
offered his regrets about not speaking out against anti-Catholic views held by
Bob Jones University and Bush's criticism of McCain for not espousing
inclusion. Bush charged that McCain "plays upon people's religious
fears." Jones concluded with an analogy which would be considered racist
if uttered about someone black:
Dan Rather, who works for a group calling itself "CBS News," then wondered: "So what's behind Bush's sudden reversal from cozying up to the political groups that are in or aligned with those who call themselves the Christian Coalition?"
Bob Schieffer credited "growing disillusionment" from Bush financial supporters, explaining: "One reason Bush was able to raise so much money in the beginning was that many of his financial backers saw him as a Big Tent Republican, a fresh face with a strong appeal to moderates and minorities who could broaden the party base. With Washington mired in partisan gridlock, Bush impressed them with the moderate course that he had steered as Governor and his smooth working relationship with Texas Democrats. The last thing they envisioned was Bush as the candidate of the far right, which he seemed in danger of becoming after South Carolina."
They obviously didn't envision the role of media distortion.
Rather then cited a CBS News/New York Times poll showing Bush leading McCain in New York by 46 percent to 36 percent but losing among Catholic Republicans in New York with McCain at 44 percent to 36 percent for Bush.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom
Brokaw opened the show:
Anne Thompson, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, began her report: "Virginia Beach, the new battleground in the Republican holy war. McCain today making a bold attack on the leaders of the religious right, comparing them to the lightning rods of the left."
Following the McCain blast, Thompson explained:
"Aides describing the assault as the defining moment in McCain's
campaign, aimed at moderate Republicans."
Thompson continued: "The speech, in the works for a
week, delivered here in Robertson's back yard, met with silence. Robertson
out of the country, Falwell declining an interview request. And the Christian
Coalition saying it will rise up above this transparent effort to divide one
American from another on the basis of religion. As the race heats up, religion
playing a bigger role. McCain today still hammering Bush for his appearance at
Bob Jones University, whose founder likened Catholicism to a Satanic
Thompson concluded: "McCain's not concerned with that now. His first goal to win more primaries, even if it means rejecting the most conservative element of his own party."
Up next, "Lisa Myers with the Bush campaign in
Washington state, where George W. Bush accuses McCain of quote, 'needless
name-calling,' and 'playing the religious card.'"
But Myers soon noted how "some pollsters say Bush
himself needs to do more to separate himself from the religious right and
reassure moderates religion will not guide his political decisions."
So, was McCain's blast at Robertson and Falwell
similar to Clinton's 1992 distancing of himself from Sister Souljah and are
Falwell and Robertson the equivalent of Sharpton and Farrakhan? National
Review's Washington Bulletin e-mail report on Monday afternoon explained the
differences. Ramesh Ponnuru and John J. Miller wrote:
Al Gore miracle worker of personal exploiter? The day before Bill Bradley's attempted comeback in Washington State, on Monday night CBS and NBC ran stories on his campaign's troubled status. ABC, however, focused on Al Gore as reporter Terry Moran began a story by looking at how a father credited Gore with saving his baby's life, but Moran soon turned the story around to examine whether Gore exploits personal tragedies for political gain. In so doing, ABC gave a few seconds to a 1996 incident the network ignored at the time.
Moran began: "The Malone family of Everett,
Washington, got good news today."
Not a point ABC News made at the time, nor even fully here as Moran did not note the hypocrisy as Gore took tobacco money long after his sister died.
Moran then allowed Gore's press secretary, Chris Lehane, to defend his boss before Moran concluded: "The Vice President's campaign this year is built on the theme that Gore is a populist scrapper, fighting for real people, but all the melodrama on the trail sparks a question: Is he fighting for people or using them?"
Ignoring how he has certainly positioned himself to the left, stressing liberal issues and attacking the moderate Bush from the left, Friday night ABC's Ted Koppel marveled at how John McCain has attracted liberal support when "there is absolutely nothing liberal or moderate about John McCain."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that Koppel began
the February 25 Nightline by asking:
Later, left-wing columnist Frank Rich of The New York Times, suggested that McCain is popular because he's the "anti-Starr." Rich argued:
"Certainly McCain is the anti-Clinton in terms of character. That's not the whole story. A lot of these same people, as tired as they may be of Clinton, or disapproving of Clinton's personal character, also did not like the Republican inquisition, did not like Ken Starr, did not like the House managers, did not like the 'holier than thou' sort of sex life policing aspect of the Starr operation. I think that, in a way, McCain is also the anti-Starr, the anti-Henry Hyde. He's not pious, he's not sanctimonious, for the most part."
Jane Fonda saved us from a presidential run by Ted Turner, he credited sports with preventing him from becoming a "right-wing nationalist" and the founder of CNN listed AIDS, landmines, nuclear proliferation and clitorectomies as his top concerns.
Catching up with a February 17 USA Today sports section profile of Turner which coincided with his little-noticed Winter Goodwill Games, reporter Jill Lieber passed along these interesting quotes from Turner:
-- Turner told her: "I started developing my
international understanding and my love for the whole planet through sports,
the contacts that I made racing sailboats around the world.
-- "Ask him if he's upset that for the first time
in almost 150 years an American boat won't be sailing in the America's Cup,
and he'll go ballistic.
Wonder what ever happened to Kathleen Willey? A photo caption in Monday's Washington Post answered where she was Sunday afternoon: At an outdoor McCain rally in Alexandria, Virginia.
Under a photo of her clapping in a crowd in front of a man holding up a McCain sign, the February 28 caption read: "Kathleen Willey, a witness during the investigation of President Clinton, cheers McCain, with her husband holding a sign behind her."
I guess she's decided he really is the "anti-Clinton."
Tim Russert, Meathead? Was Russert really the actor who played "Archie Bunker's" son-in-law on All in the Family? On Sunday's Meet the Press, after Russert held up a Republican flyer featuring an unflattering photo of Jesse Ventura, the Governor of Minnesota, a guest on the show, pulled out a vintage picture of Russert.
As the camera zoomed in on it, Ventura explained: "By the way, since you pulled that one out, just to show how everyone can change through the years -- can we get a shot of this. Who's that? There's Tim Russert in his heyday. Don't ever judge my intel. The ex-Navy SEAL Frogman, we have great intel."
Viewers saw a black and white photo of Russert, with long hair and big sideburns, standing by a mural quoting Robert Kennedy: "Some men see things that are and say: Why? I dream things that never were and say: Why Not?"
I think he looked a lot like the "Meathead" character played Rob Reiner on All in the Family, though without the receding hairline. Judge for yourself. Late Tuesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post, on the MRC home page, a RealPlayer clip of Ventura showing the picture. But you don't need RealPlayer to see it as we'll also post a still shot of the camera zoomed in on the picture. Go to: http://www.mrc.org 
Final Note: With David Letterman back on the air three times a week, after successfully landing Hillary Clinton before his departure for surgery, the Late Show is now pursuing other candidates. Monday night Executive Producer Rob Burnett announced that George Bush will appear Wednesday night, though via satellite. -- Brent Baker 
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