CyberAlert -- 02/29/2000 -- Nets Pushed McCain "Holy War"

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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."

2) ABC relayed how a father credited Al Gore with "saving" his baby's life, but ABC's Terry Moran soon noted: "Gore's critics say he goes too far in exploiting personal tragedies."

3) "There is absolutely nothing liberal or moderate about John McCain," ABC's Ted Koppel declared in marveling at his support from liberals. Frank Rich credited his being "the anti-Starr."

4) Jane Fonda stopped Ted Turner from running for President, he credited sports with preventing him from becoming a "right-wing nationalist" and stopping "clitorectomies" is a priority.

5) Whatever happened to Kathleen Willey? She found John McCain.

6) Jesse Ventura embarrassed Tim Russert by pulling out a vintage photo of Russert with long hair and big sideburns.

>>> Now 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 articles:
-- Who Runs the American Economy?
The bad news is that the news media just can't shake the myth of the all-powerful central planner, whose decisions mean either boom or bust for the whole economy. But the good news is that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan doesn't seem to buy it -- not even when the media are singling him out for credit for the long-running economic expansion.
-- Kudos... to the Washington Post's Curt Suplee
It's worth paying attention when the Washington Times praises a story published by its longtime nemesis, the Washington Post -- and even protests the fact that the story wasn't splashed on the Post's front page.
To read these, go to: <<<


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:
"McCain's aides are describing this speech in dramatic terms. They are calling it the defining moment of the campaign and perhaps the defining moment of the entire election year. GOP strategists say many Republicans have been looking for a way to get Robertson off center stage."
Scott Reed, Republican consultant: "There are a whole lot of folks that believe Pat Robertson has been the chief spokesman for the Republican Party for a number of years, and what John McCain did today was say, that's not true."
Douglass concluded: "McCain's aides say that in order to bring more moderates into the party, he took the chance of alienating Christian Conservatives. But that might not be such a big risk for McCain because Christian conservatives have not been voting for him anyway."

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."
Gov. Gilmore: "We'll do everything we can do for him in Virginia, but I do not predict any outcomes because it's an open primary and you can't tell what's going to happen."
Wooten concluded: "But you can tell what has happened. Governor Bush has campaigned here without the visible presence of the religious conservatives. Since they're already in his corner, it probably hasn't cost him a single Virginia vote."

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:
"Good evening. 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. McCain flat out called Bush a quote 'Pat Robertson Republican.' McCain said so in Virginia on the eve of the primary there. For his part, Bush's latest image makeover and message adjustment today included his quote 'regrets' about not challenging Bob Jones University's anti-Catholic views during his appearance there. CBS's Phil Jones begins our coverage of McCain-Bush and the thunder over the Religious Right."

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:
"A Bush campaign strategist, with close ties to the Religious Right, told CBS News today quote, 'Robertson is back in the cage. He's been told no more phone calls.'"

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:
"Good evening. The fight for the Republican presidential nomination, already bitter, moved to a new stage today. It's now a holy war, with the role of the religious right in play between John McCain and George W. Bush. McCain made sure of that today in his appearance in Virginia, a state with another of those open primaries tomorrow."

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."
McCain: "The political tactics of division and slander are not our values."
Thompson outlined the obvious: "Appealing to voters going to the polls tomorrow in Washington state and in the Super Tuesday states of New England, New York, Ohio, and California. The goal: To tie George W. Bush to the extreme right."
McCain: "Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore."
Thompson allowed McCain to portray himself as some kind of risk-taker: "McCain tells NBC News today's strategy is a risk.
Thompson to McCain: "But by attacking their leaders aren't you essentially attacking the people who follow them as well?"
McCain: "Of course not, because the people that follow them are good and decent people who don't practice the politics of exclusion."

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 cult."
Pollster John Zogby pitched in: "It has given McCain an edge among Catholic voters as high as double digits in a state like New York, which is enough translated to give him a lead overall."
Thompson asked: "But at what price?"
Conservative Cal Thomas then got a few seconds, but a soundbite so short that it was unclear whether he was criticizing McCain's latest comments or the involvement of Robertson in explicit politics, an activity of concern to Thomas, or both: "I think a lot of it is going to come back to haunt Republicans regardless of who the nominee is."

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.'"
Bush: "Ronald Reagan didn't point fingers. He never played to people's religious fears like Senator McCain has shamelessly done."
In contrast to the theme pushed by ABC and CBS, Myers stressed how "Bush declined repeated invitations to distance himself from Pat Robertson and the religious right, saying he isn't going to play that political game, but he emphasizes his record in Texas is one of tolerance and inclusion..."

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."
Pollster Linda Divall asserted: "These voters very much see a distinction between religion and politics, and they will very much disavow Pat Robertson politics. That is a huge albatross that George Bush wears across his neck at this point in time."

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:
"McCain's denunciation of Robertson and Falwell is supposed to serve the same purpose as Bill Clinton's denunciation of Sister Souljah in 1992 -- to reassure the public that he will stand up to his party's unpopular core constituencies.
"Does the comparison work in this case? It is certainly true that Republican leaders refuse to criticize Robertson and Falwell when they say or do foolish things, just as Democrats indulge Farrakhan and Sharpton. But Robertson and Falwell haven't done as much worth criticizing. Neither man has incited murder or falsely charged someone with rape for political purposes, as Sharpton has; they do not urge their followers to stop paying taxes, tell them to stop thinking of themselves as Americans, or preach that their opponents are subhuman, as Farrakhan does.
"In 1992, meanwhile, Clinton didn't trash Benjamin Hooks or Jesse Jackson; he took on Sister Souljah, who had suggested that black murderers take a break from killing other blacks for a week and kill whites instead. Robertson and Falwell have said nothing so outrageous. The equivalent action by McCain would be to attack the folks who advocate bombing abortion clinics -- although this gesture would not be terribly newsworthy, since Republicans have never tolerated them...."


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."
Mr. Malone: "Al Gore saved Ian's life. Simple as that."
Moran: "Thanks to Vice President Al Gore, his penchant for political melodrama. At a Seattle campaign stop yesterday, the Vice President highlighted the plight of the Malones, whose 6-month-old son Ian was born with brain damage. Aetna insurance cut off coverage, saying the parents could handle 24-hour nursing care. That gave Gore an irresistible political opening."
Gore: "But let me also say to this insurance company: don't do this. Don't do this. Don't cut this child's coverage."
Moran: "Today Aetna backed down and agreed to continue paying for Ian's nursing. Al Gore is hardly first politician to make the personal political. Bill Bradley did it this year."
Clip of Bradley campaign ad: "Thanks to Senator Bradley, my third daughter is alive today."
Moran: "But Gore's critics say he goes too far in exploiting personal tragedies. In New Hampshire, arguing for more Internet security, Gore introduced a couple whose daughter was murdered after her killer tracked her down using the Internet. Gore has done this before, as in this emotional speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention, where he used his sister's death from lung cancer to attack tobacco companies."
Gore: "And then she breathed her last breath."

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:
"Which current presidential candidate for years scored a perfect 100 percent with the Christian Coalition? Which candidate never got more than a 20 percent rating from liberal Americans for Democratic Action, and during two recent years got a resoundingly negative zero percent? Who, during the mid '90s, got a perfect rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? And who was the National Rifle Association talking about when its spokesman said, 'He's somebody we've always had a good relationship with'?
"Could that be the darling of the establishment media, the magnet for Democratic and independent voters in Michigan? Could that really be John McCain? You bet it could. Indeed, one of the great mysteries of this primary campaign, the issue that is driving George W. Bush's people and Bill Bradley's supporters equally nuts, is the question of why so many moderates and even liberals find themselves so attracted to such a dyed-in-the-wool conservative as the feisty senator from Arizona. One answer, and were not guessing here -- ABC News has taken a brand new poll and we have the underlying evidence -- one answer appears to be that a huge percentage of the voting public knows little or nothing about John McCain's voting record. Now, when they find out, it may or may not make a difference. But when it comes to most of the issues, there is absolutely nothing liberal or moderate about John McCain."

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.
"If it hadn't been for international sports, who knows? I might have been the right-wing nationalist and believed in isolation, that we just ought to build a big wall around the United States and wall the rest of the world out and we could live in glorious prosperity while everyone else is starving and in misery around us."

-- "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.
"'Am I sad about it?' he bellows. 'I'm much more concerned about the AIDS epidemic, landmines, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the status of women and clitorectomies that are still going on in the world!'"
"Then, why not run for President?
"'I came close to running this time, but Jane put the kibosh on it,' he says. 'She said that if I ran she'd leave me. It's too late now, fortunately. Honestly, my nerves are too shot for the job.'"


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:

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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