CyberAlert -- 03/14/2001 -- CBS Conceded Tax Cut Support

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CBS Conceded Tax Cut Support, But; Same Show, Two Stories on Gore's Confused Voters; "More and More" Questioning Tax Cut

1) Thirteen days after skipping its own poll showing support for Bush's tax cut, the CBS Evening News did report on a new CBS poll showing tax cuts are the public's top priority. John Roberts emphasized how more think Bush's cut "benefits the rich" than is "fair to all," but he failed to note how more believe Bush's plan than the Democratic one "would be fairest to people like them." Viewers also didn't hear how 71 percent oppose the estate tax.

2) CBS's Wyatt Andrews acknowledged the free market could be better at protecting health than government regulators: "Most U.S. ranchers...fear losing McDonald's business more than they fear the U.S. government."

3) On Monday, for the second straight night, ABC's World News Tonight highlighted the Florida newspaper guess about those who voted for two presidential candidates. Peter Jennings: "Gore might have received more than enough votes to win the state if the ballots had been clearer and the voters had been more careful."

4) "More and more people are questioning" Bush's "massive tax cut" Tom Brokaw asserted before a story on opposition from the "bi-partisan" Concord Coalition which ABC also highlighted.

5) Most Americans do not have a gun in their house, the New York Post pointed out in countering a claim made on Sunday's This Week by Cokie Roberts to which George Stephanopoulos had quipped: "Unfortunately, yeah."

6) Charlton Heston appeared on NBC's Today to plug the release on DVD of Ben Hur, but Katie Couric took advantage of the opportunity to pound away at him on gun control, pressing him with stats and arguments from Handgun Control, Inc.

7) Larry King lifted a hunk of his USA Today column from items circulating on the Internet. National Review wondered if he'll be punished like Jeff Jacoby.

Thirteen days after the CBS Evening News ignored its own network's poll which found 67 percent supported Bush's tax cut plan, the show reported on a new CBS News/New York Times poll which determined 57 percent back Bush's proposal (with 36 percent opposed) to devote about one third of the surplus to tax cuts, one third to reducing the debt and one third to more spending. But in his CBS Evening News story on Tuesday night John Roberts skipped that key finding which led the recitation of the poll results.

Instead, Roberts asserted that on Bush's effort to sell his tax cuts, "a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds he has finally made it America's top priority" as 18 percent listed it as the number one problem they want addressed. But, the CBS News poll taken after Bush's February 27 address to Congress found that tax cuts were the public's top priority over spending on education and Social Security as well as paying down the national debt. That survey discovered 38 percent of those who watched the speech listed Bush's tax cut as the proposal they most preferred and it came out first overall too since "thirty percent of those who did not watch or listen to the speech chose tax cut."

But, as noted above, the CBS Evening News didn't mention those findings. For a reminder of how instead the show focused on two women in Omaha opposed Bush's tax cut and the next night John Roberts stressed that "new voters leaning slightly in favor of the Democratic plan," go to:

Back to Tuesday night, March 13, Roberts emphasized how by 56 to 38 percent more think Bush's tax cut "benefits the rich" than is "fair to all," but he failed to note how when asked which tax plan "would be fairest to people like them," 44 percent chose Bush's proposal while 43 percent picked the Democratic plan. In addition, an overwhelming 71 percent said they oppose a tax on estates worth over $675,000.

Roberts began his CBS Evening News piece, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "For more than a year -- first as candidate, then as President -- George Bush has been beating the drum on tax cuts. Now, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds he has finally made it America's top priority, eclipsing traditional concerns about education, the economy, Social Security, and health care."

An on screen graphic showed taxes at 18 percent, education at 10 percent, economy at 9 percent, Social Security/Medicare at 8 percent and health care at 8 percent.

Roberts continued: "The poll also finds that by a margin of eight points [49 to 41 percent], Americans prefer Mr. Bush's ambitious plans for the surplus over more conservative Democratic proposals."
George W. Bush: "The surplus is the people's money, it's not the government's money."
Roberts: "But underlying the apparent good news for President Bush is a striking contradiction. Americans are unsure if there is enough money for tax cuts and other priorities [on screen, "not possible: 43 percent"]. The majority also believes the Bush plan unfairly benefits the rich ["fair to all: 38 percent, unfair/benefit the rich: 56 percent"] and that at the end of the day taxpayers won't see any extra money in their pockets." ["will you have more money? yes 39 percent, no 54 percent"].
Craig Crawford, The Hotline: "And it's clear from this poll that Americans are confused and want some more answers about the tax cut."
Roberts lectured: "Answers they didn't get, say critics, in last week's rush to propel the tax cut through the House. Senior Republicans charged with navigating the plan through the Senate concede they have work to do to convince a skeptical public."
Senator Charles Grassley: "I don't blame the average citizen if it sounds almost a dreamworld, but it's not a dreamworld."
Roberts concluded: "In an interview with CBS Radio today, Vice President Cheney admitted there may be some modifications to President Bush's tax plan but predicted that in the end Congress will give the President most of what he asked for. Dan."

Amongst the interesting findings outlined in the story on the poll but not mentioned by Roberts in his admittedly limited time:

-- "The public is divided as to which tax plan would be fairest to people like them: 44 percent say Bush's would be fairer to them, and 43 percent say the Democrats' would be."

-- "There is strong public support for one aspect of Bush's proposed tax bill, and that is eliminating the estate or 'death' tax. Seventy-one percent of Americans oppose placing a tax on assets someone leaves when they die if the assets are worth more than $675,000 today. And, this issue is not impacted by partisanship -- similar percentages of both Democrats and Republicans oppose the estate tax.
"The public also agrees that those who inherit small businesses, farms and ranches should be exempt from having to pay this tax at all. Eighty-one percent say people who inherit this type of property should not have to pay the estate tax."

-- "A majority agrees with the argument offered by the Republican President in defense of his tax cuts, that it is necessary to cut taxes in order to keep Congress from spending the surplus: 56 percent agree this is the case, and 35 percent disagree."

To read the full poll results, go to:,1597,278532-412,00.shtml


Some inadvertent credit to how the free market can be more powerful in protecting public health than a huge government regulatory bureaucracy?

Check out how Wyatt Andrews concluded a Tuesday CBS Evening News story on how McDonald's had decided that to protect against Mad Cow disease it will demand proof no animal materials are in cattle feed given to any cows processed into meats it buys:
"The cattle and feed industry say they welcome the McDonald's move because it will focus farmers and ranchers on the potential Mad Cow threat from cattle feed. Most U.S. ranchers, they believe, fear losing McDonald's business more than they fear the U.S. government."


ABC News felt the Palm Beach Post story, on how if the intent of voters who voted for two candidates could be divined Al Gore would have gained over 6,000 votes in Palm Beach County, was so important they reported it two nights in a row.

As noted in the March 12 CyberAlert, ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday reported the story published that morning. And then on Monday's World News Tonight Peter Jennings highlighted the topic again, as taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"In Florida today, another media recount of presidential election results -- not the last one. In this case, the Palm Beach Post has examined the ballots in Palm Beach County and they suggest that Mr. Gore might have received more than enough votes to win the state if the ballots had been clearer and the voters had been more careful. President Bush made his first visit to Florida today as President, and as Mr. Bush found out today, some Floridians continue to hold a grudge."

Terry Moran then relayed: "As President Bush arrived in Florida, memories of the bitter battle that won him the state and thereby the White House seemed far away, but local Democrats were not going to allow Mr. Bush to forget the election contest, running an ad in a few markets that targeted both the President and his brother, Florida's Governor."
Clip of ad: "Jeb Bush didn't stand up to count Florida's votes right and George Bush's budget undermines prosperity. Bush fuzzy math, it doesn't add up."
Moran: "The President fired back."
President Bush: "Some of the Democrats here want to keep re-voting the election, but if they would listen to America, they'd find that Americans want to move forward."
Moran: "The ad reflects a sharpening of Democratic attacks on the President's tax and budget proposals as Mr. Bush's opponents sense vulnerability and a new flexibility in the administration's position...."

Despite ABC's evening show obsession with the flaky Palm Beach Post story, it should be noted that overall the story generated less network air time than did the late February Miami Herald analysis of Miami-Dade County ballots in which voters only chose one presidential candidate but the machine did not record a vote. That review found that even counting "dimpled chads" gave Gore only a net pick up of 49 votes. All three morning shows ran short items on that story as did the ABC and CBS evening shows. With this week's Palm Beach Post story, though the NBC Nightly News picked up on it while having ignored the Miami Herald review, the CBS Evening News skipped it Monday night (NCAA basketball pool show bumped the show on Sunday night). Neither ABC's Good Morning America or CBS's The Early Show mentioned it Monday morning. It came up on Monday's Today in a question to David Von Drehlee, author of a book about the Florida election mess.


ABC and NBC jumped Monday night on how the "bi-partisan" Concord Coalition announced its opposition to Bush's tax cut plan.

Picking up with Terry Moran's March 12 World News Tonight story where we left off in item #3 above, Moran warned:
"In the Senate, only one Democrat has publicly committed to support the Bush tax cut. Six Republicans have openly expressed reservations about the size of the cut, and today a bi-partisan budget watchdog group called for a smaller, more cautious tax cut."
Peter Peterson, President of Concord Coalition: "However, there is no reason to lock in a large, 10-year tax reduction to give short-term fiscal stimulus."
Moran: "Stung by the defections in the Senate, the President has begun talking about compromise.
President Bush: "I'm willing to listen to the hundred different voices who've got different views about where this package ought to go."
Moran concluded: "All along the President's strategy on the tax cut has been to hang tough until the final vote approaches, then cut a deal. It sounds increasingly as if Mr. Bush will have to come to the bargaining table sooner rather than later."

Over on Monday's NBC Nightly News, after the lead story on the plunging stock market, Tom Brokaw warned: "All of this comes as President Bush steps up his campaign for that massive tax cut, a tax cut that more and more people are questioning. Is the President too optimistic about the prospects for continuing record surpluses?"

David Gregory began: "Tom, the President has repeatedly argued that the government can easily afford his tax cut, given the projected budget surpluses are likely to grow larger still. But critics warning now that it's days like this on Wall Street that should make the White House think twice. With the President in Florida today for the first time since last fall's recount battle, more pressure back in Washington to compromise. The bi-partisan Concord Coalition claiming today that forecast budget surpluses are overstated and that the $1.6 trillion Bush tax cut risks a return of the quote, 'spend and borrow vicious cycle.' Instead, the group which includes Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former Republican Senator Warren Rudman, advocates a rolling tax cut."
Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary: "You start with a moderate tax cut and two, three, four years down the road, if the projections materialize, you can decide what to do."

Gregory: "In Florida, where some took to the streets to dispute the president's victory in the state last November, Democrats have launched a TV ad campaign linking the tax cut debate to the election standoff."
TV ad announcer: "Jeb Bush didn't stand up to count Florida's votes right, and George Bush's budget undermines prosperity. Bush fuzzy math, it doesn't add up."


Those scary gun owners who vote the wrong way are not so prevalent as ABC's Cokie Roberts and George Stephanopoulos worried on Sunday, the New York Post's "MediaWatch" column pointed out on Tuesday.

The March 13 "MediaWatch" column recounted the Monday CyberAlert item about how on Sunday's This Week Stephanopoulos remarked: "There's no question [that] the single best predictor of how someone was going to vote in the last election was did you have a gun in the house -- by 40 points they went for Bush."
Roberts interjected: "And most Americans have a gun in the house." To which Stephanopoulos confirmed his Democratic allegiance: "Unfortunately, yeah."

The New York Post countered in its March 13 "MediaWatch" column: "No, most Americans do not have a gun in the house.
According to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, only 36 percent of U.S. households had guns in 1999 -- down from 51 percent just six years earlier. Indeed, as USA Today reported, 'the number of American households with guns has sharply and steadily declined.' The political impact? As Stephanopoulos himself noted, 'if you look at the three states where the NRA spent the most money -- Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- [Al] Gore won all three of those.' So their point is -- what?"

Good question.


Charlton Heston agreed to an appearance on NBC's Today to plug the release on DVD of Ben Hur, but after just a little bit of time on that Katie Couric pounded away at the NRA President on gun control, pressing him with stats and arguments from Handgun Control, Inc.

MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down her arguments in the form of questions on the March 13 show:

-- "Obviously because of your role in the National Rifle Association I want to get a couple of quick comments if I could Mr. Heston from you on this recent shooting. Particularly at, in Santana High School outside of San Diego. When you heard about that, I mean what was your reaction?"
-- "Some people, some people though feel it, it may be about maladjusted kids. But it is about guns as well and, and how easy it is to get guns in this country. Do you think-"
-- "Well, you know, this, this boy Andy Williams' father did have guns in the home. What do you think about some kind of smart technology that would make it more difficult for children to use guns?"
-- "Well, what, I mean is that something you could support as an advocate of the National Rifle Association?"
-- "And do you think gun manufacturers will be more receptive than they have been already? Some are making a move in that direction?"
-- "Handgun Control cites a statistic that our firearms deaths of children under the age of 15 is twelve times that of 25 other industrial nations combined. Is it all about maladjusted kids, if, if those, those numbers are so stunning are there that many more maladjusted kids in this country than there are in 25 industrial nations combined?"
-- "Do you think that, that, that guns are to blame at all in any way shape or form for the increase in violence in this country?"
-- "Do you find that you have, that you have a more receptive audience for that philosophy with, with the Bush administration?"
-- "This is gonna be my last question. Do you, do you feel more comfortable with George W. Bush in the White House? Do you think you have a more receptive administration?"
-- "Alright Charlton Heston. Again, congratulations on the DVD release of Ben Hur."

Nice afterthought.


The benefits of being a liberal held to no standards. National Review's Washington Bulletin on Tuesday, picking up on an item about how Larry King lifted part of his USA Today column from fun facts circulating on the Internet, contrasted the non-condemnation of King with how the Boston Globe suspended the conservative Jeff Jacoby for non-attribution of some anecdotes.

Here's a reprint of the March 13 item by John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru:

Why won't Larry King credit his sources?

The Boston Globe suspended columnist Jeff Jacoby for four months without pay last summer for doing what Larry King did yesterday in his USA Today column. As Alex Gordon of Hockey Digest pointed out on Jim Romenesko's media website, King "appears to have fallen prey to the sin of cutting and pasting from one of those oft-forwarded 'little known facts' e-mails" right into his piece. Gordon says a quick web search turned up a dozen sites containing the material King tossed into his column. They are, of course, not credited. "The laziest column writer in the world just set a new standard for laziness," writes Gordon.

King wrote: "Dreamt is the only English word that ends in the letters 'mt.'... Almonds are a member of the peach family.... Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.... All clocks in the movie Pulp Fiction are stuck on 4:20.... Two-thirds of the world's eggplants are grown in New Jersey.... (Is this fascinating or what?) The longest one-syllable word in the English language is screeched.... A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes...There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.... All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial.... Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable..... Los Angeles' full name is 'El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula.'"

Suspend Reprint

NR noted that the whole column may be read at:

And, the results of a Google search looking for this material may be read at:

Resume reprint:
Last July, Boston Globe editors accused Jacoby of "serious journalistic misconduct" for penning a column on the fates of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. They said he had not properly acknowledged source material located on the Internet and elsewhere. Many speculated that Jacoby, a conservative on a liberal editorial page, was being unfairly punished for his political views. (Howard Kurtz's Washington Post story on Jacoby may be read at:

Whatever the case, Jacoby's punishment was far too harsh. But that doesn't mean King should be totally off the hook. It will be interesting to see whether USA Today makes him go back and list his sources.

END Reprint.

NR's daily Washington Bulletin is online at:

I think it's safe to say that this is the first time National Review or CyberAlert have relied upon a Hockey Digest reporter to identify news media bias.

--Brent Baker

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