CyberAlert -- 06/12/2000 -- Slumlord Slant Slammed

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Slumlord Slant Slammed; GOP "Fairy Tales" About Death Tax; Celebrating Partners

1) Tony Blankley, Michael Barone and Brit Hume all commented on the lack of network interest in the Gore as "slumlord" story. Hume: "Can you imagine the same kind of media treatment if this were happening on the ranch that George W. Bush owns in Texas?"

2) The networks ignored Dan Burton, his hearing and the LaBella memos during the week, but on Sunday Burton appeared on two shows and Labella and Lee Radek were also quizzed.

3) CBS's Diana Olick discredited those favoring elimination of he inheritance tax, claiming their worry about small businesses having to be sold to pay the tax "is more like a fairy tale." And she showcased a liberal who claimed that those who want the tax phased out "have to lie" when making their case.

4) ABC and CBS celebrated the decision by automakers to offer benefits to gay and lesbian partners as both led with it Thursday night. Peter Jennings trumpeted "an important event in the history of American industry." CBS's Jim Axelrod credited capitalism for "the progressive direction."

5) "Al Gore gets in touch with his feminine side. Tonight at 9," promised a newspaper ad touting Gore on the Oxygen cable channel.

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Kicked Off the Survivor Island."


Over the weekend, Tony Blankley, Michael Barone and Brit Hume all commented on the lack of interest by the networks in what Hume described as "a pretty darn good and compelling story" about Gore as an absent "slumlord."

Since NBC News, the usual supplier of video for the McLaughlin Group, never did a story and therefore had no video, McLaughlin set up a segment on the tenant problem by showing FNC's video with credit to Special Report with Brit Hume. This marked the first non-FNC showing on a national show of video of the Carthage, Tennessee home with backed-up sinks and toilets.

During the segment, columnist Tony Blankley suggested the incident "would be more damaging [to Gore] though if the networks had covered it." Michael Barone of U.S. News pointed out: "The networks, which are 90 percent run by Democrats, don't want to run this stuff."

On Fox News Sunday, after moderator Tony Snow raised the subject, Brit Hume cryptically explained: "This is the now famous -- at least to viewers and readers of some news organizations' product -- house on Gore's family property in Tennessee which is a hundred fifty yards or so from the big house where he stays when he's there...."

Of course, as CyberAlert readers know, the only network to cover the topic, other than a 17-second video-less item on NBC's Today, has been the Fox News Channel.

Hume tried to educate his colleagues as to why FNC considered the story newsworthy:
"This is a man that belittles the compassionate conservatism that is argued for by George W. Bush and purports to be the real thing, the real man of the people, the real man of compassion and yet you see this unattractive sight on his own property. And I don't know whether it's better for him to say, 'yeah, I knew about it but I wanted her to get out of there,' or to say he didn't know about it and was oblivious to it. Either way, it seems to me, an unattractive commentary on him. The only thing more unattractive has been the behavior in this instance of the news media. Major networks have ignored the story. Most major newspapers have run only one wire story on it. It's a pretty darn good and compelling story and the most shameful performance of all I think is the Nashville Tennessean which ran a single wire story. This is a neighborhood newspaper and a newspaper of considerable renown in this country."
Snow: "And one for which Gore worked."
Hume: "One for which Gore once worked, and for whose publisher, I believe a man named Frank Sutherland appeared in a recent Gore video, which he later said he probably shouldn't have done, but it gives this paper a terrible taint. It refused to assign a reporter to this story. It gives this paper a terrible taint of just being utterly pro-Gore."

Hume soon wondered: "Can you imagine the same kind of media treatment if this were happening on the ranch that George W. Bush owns in Texas?"
NPR talk show host Juan Williams made clear the media would apply a different standard: "I think it would be more intense because of the way that Republicans are seen in this country as, you know, representing the rich."

Now online, the MRC's Media Reality Check by Tim Graham about lack of media interest in this topic, "Al Gore's Tennessee Tempest In a Toilet'? Veep's Renters Go To TV Station to Force Plumbing Repairs, But Big Media Flush Another Gore Gaffe." The report recalls how the networks weren't so reticent about reporting, or making up, Bush mistakes in the 1992 campaign.

To read the report via HTML or see it as an Adobe Acrobat PDF:

To watch, via RealPlayer, FNC's June 5 story with video from inside the rental home, go to:


Some Sunday focus. Last Tuesday when Dan Burton's House Government Reform Committee released many documents related to former campaign finance task force chief Charles Labella's memos, ABC, CBS and CNN all ignored it while NBC Nightly News gave the development 35 seconds. FNC ran a full story on a committee hearing that day with former Justice official Robert Esposito, who recounted how he heard Reno deputy Lee Radek say she was under pressure to avoid appointing an independent counsel, and Radek denying such an observation.

The June 11 Sunday morning interview shows took a bit more interest. Burton appeared on Fox News Sunday as well as on NBC's Meet the Press on which Tim Russert gave him and Lee Radek an equal grilling in the rare media appearance for Radek. ABC's This Week brought aboard LaBella as well as former Justice official Robert Litt.


Friday night Dan Rather promised "the facts and figures on death and taxes," but instead of relaying any basic facts about the overwhelming 279 to 136 House vote to phase out the inheritance tax, CBS's Diana Olick discredited its conservative advocates by claiming their worries about small businesses having to be sold to pay the tax "is more like a fairy tale." She showcased an unlabeled liberal's claim that those in favor of eliminating it "have to lie" to make it appear to hurt average people. Olick helpfully explained: "The fact is, because of large tax exemptions, the farms and businesses Republicans are talking about make up just three percent of all taxable estates. The rest are the really rich."

NBC's Anne Thompson also focused how few actually have to pay the tax, but at least informed viewers of its exorbitant 60 percent top rate and how it's a tax "more and more Americans could face as the economy booms and assets and dreams are passed from one generation to the next."

Neither story picked up on one the strongest arguments to eliminate it, that it rewards those who spend all their money before death and punishes those who provide the economy with saving and investment.

Dan Rather set up the June 9 CBS Evening News story: "The House did vote today to phase out inheritance taxes by the year 2010. President Clinton calls it an expensive tax giveaway to the rich and says he'll veto it. So the question becomes, will Congress override his veto. We asked CBS's Diana Olick to dig deeper into this story for the facts and figures on death and taxes."

Diana Olick began with an anecdote supporting the anti-tax position: "Jeanine Mizell knew inheriting the family business would be hard work, but she had no idea how truly taxing it would be."
Mizell, who inherited lumber company: "Had to liquidate all of my parents CDs, their bank accounts, stock funds and we sent as much cash as we could come up with off to the IRS."
Olick: "With her inheritance came a quarter of a million dollar tax bill."
Mizell: "It's very unfair."
Olick: "And it's exactly the story Republicans used over and over today before they voted to kill the death tax."
Collage of three unidentified House Members on the floor: "It kills small businesses....Minority and woman owned businesses....You lose family farms in my district in droves." [Last one was Lindsay Graham.]

Having dispensed with the Republican view, Olick decided to discredit it: "So why has such a tax, that punishes the little guy, lasted 84 years? Because, some say, the Republican story is more like a fairy tale."
Olick to Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice: "The argument we're hearing from Republicans over and over is the small businesses need help."
McIntyre, walking in front of the Capitol: "Well that's because they don't want to tell the truth. Imagine if they got up on the House floor and said we want to give a hundred million dollars to Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or some other really wealthy person? They'd be laughed out, so they have to lie."

Of course, not taxing away someone's money is not a way to "give" them anything.

Olick further elaborated on the liberal view, giving it much more time than she had to the other side: "The fact is, because of large tax exemptions, the farms and businesses Republicans are talking about make up just three percent of all taxable estates. The rest are the really rich."
McIntyre: "People with hundreds of millions of dollars, the people who give them campaign money."
Olick: "And, Democrats argue, cutting the whole death tax will cut out $400 billion dollars in revenue over the next decade."
Congressman Charles Rangel: "It just doesn't make any economic sense at all for our great country, that's just getting out of this deficit spending, to get back in it."
Olick concluded: "The President promises to veto a total estate tax repeal but says he would consider a more targeted cut to help out the small businessmen and farmers. Now it's up to the Senate to cut that deal."

Over on the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw delivered a more sympathetic look at why many might reasonably oppose the tax:
"One of the most unpopular taxes of the federal government could be on its way out. It's the estate tax. The high cost of dying for farmers, small business owners and the very wealthy who've spent a lifetime building value in their estates, only to see a lot of it go to the government before it goes to their children. With America's aging population set to pass on trillions of dollars, today the House voted overwhelmingly to phase out the tax completely, while President Clinton said the congressional action goes too far."

Anne Thompson began by looking at a Chicago-area grocery store owner who is unsure he can pass it along to his kids as they may have to sell it off in order to pay the inheritance tax. Thompson added: "The measure getting broad bipartisan support in this election year. The president promising to veto it. The White House saying he's willing to take care of family farmers and small businesses, but this bill is just too sweeping."

After a soundbite from White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, Thompson offered some basic facts skipped by CBS: "Though the polls show nearly three quarters of Americans support the repeal, the current tax only affects two percent of the population, those with estates over $675,000 who are taxed at rates from 18 to 60 percent, projected to bring in $390 billion by 2010. The bill would eliminate the tax over ten years, using $105 billion from the projected budget surplus."

Following a clip of Robert Greenstein from the unlabeled liberal Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, Thompson gave the liberal view followed by some arguments forwarded by repeal advocates:
"Critics warn, if the bill becomes law, charitable contributions will go down, the super rich, they say, will have no incentive to give and federal support for programs such as Medicaid and Social Security could also diminish, just as the baby boomers need those services more. And over the next two decades, boomers will be the ones inheriting the money. A recent Boston College study estimates boomers' parents could leave behind nearly $11 trillion, the largest amount ever. Liz Minhard's father and siblings started a grocery store in Dallas and built it into an 82 store chain. When they died within three years of each other, Liz not only had to deal with her grief, but also consider taking the family business public against her father's wishes to pay the tax bill."
Liz Minhard: "Anytime you deal with the loss of a parent or a loss of a close relative, it's difficult. And then you have the added problem of sitting there thinking, 'Oh my God, how do I pay all this?'"
Thompson concluded with a spin favoring phase-out of the tax:
"A problem more and more Americans could face as the economy booms and assets and dreams are passed from one generation to the next."


ABC and CBS celebrated the decision by Ford, Chrysler and GM to offer benefits to gay and lesbian partners as both led Thursday night with the announcement, which Peter Jennings trumpeted as "an important event in the history of American industry." CBS's Jim Axelrod noted how "old-fashioned capitalism may have dictated the progressive direction American industry may be headed."

Both stories featured comments from car company executives and gay rights advocates, but not a word from anyone displeased with the move.

ABC's Peter Jennings opened the June 8 World News Tonight:
"We begin tonight with an important event in the history of American industry. Powerful for its symbolism as well as its impact. The big three carmakers, the anchors of the country's industrial base, are going to extend health benefits to the partners of their gay and lesbian employees. The big three are not leading as much as they are following."

CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather declared:
"The Big Three U.S. automakers rolled out what could be a new model for worker benefits in this country. They will offer health-care insurance to same-sex partners -- not opposite-sex partners, same-sex partners -- just as they do for married couples. This action by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler may herald changing corporate views on alternative lifestyles. But as CBS's Jim Axelrod reports, it's also a hard-nosed business decision driven by economic realities."
Axelrod celebrated: "Add up the Big Three work forces and the offer applies to 465,000 workers. While it's expected only one percent will take advantage, the importance, say gay rights advocates, cannot be measured solely by the numbers."
Kim Well, Human Rights Campaign: "The manufacturing sector in this country has not been in the vanguard with respect to domestic partner benefits, and so to see the Big Three come out all at once really opens up the door."
Axelrod: "But if today's announcement signals a new breeze, it is one that's been blowing for a while. Thirty-four hundred companies, including 93 Fortune 500 companies, already offer same-sex benefits. So far this year, companies like Citigroup, Boeing, Motorola, American Airlines, Texas Instruments and General Mills joined the list."
Mills: "I think that this is something that's been building within business over a number of years."
Axelrod credited capitalism for the "progressive" move: "The realities of a tight job market may also have fueled the carmakers' move. In the end, old-fashioned capitalism may have dictated the progressive direction American industry may be headed."


"Al Gore gets in touch with his feminine side. Tonight at 9," promised a June 12 Washington Post newspaper ad touting Gore on the Oxygen cable television channel. Oxygen, which promotes itself as delivering "a woman's view of the world," is a just-started cable service created by TV producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner with an investment from Oprah Winfrey.

Monday night, June 12, from 9 to 10:30pm ET Gore will participate in an "Oxygen Women's Forum" from Trenton, New Jersey co-hosted by Farai Chideya and May Lee. Oxygen's press release claimed it has also invited George Bush to take part in a similar forum.

The 90-minute event will air on the Oxygen cable channel, on and, since so few cable systems carry Oxygen, will be simulcast on C-SPAN at 9pm ET. In the Washington area, the only cable system to carry Oxygen system-wide is Cox Communications in Fairfax County which runs it on channel 102.


From the June 7 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Kicked Off the Survivor Island." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc. Okay, so not exactly a political list but a pretty funny list about a TV show which actually last week beat ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire head-to-head. Survivor, a chronicle of two groups of eight people left on an island who must vote off one participant each week with the last of the 16 earning $1 million, airs each Wednesday at 8pm ET/PT, 7pm CT/MT on CBS.

10. Shrieking, "This was a mistake, we're all gonna die here!" an hour into day one.
9. Wasting entire first week building "the awesomest tiki bar ever."
8. Touching someone else's coconuts.
7. Your weight: 300 pounds. Favorite hobby: naked aerobics.
6. Telling women that if food runs low, they can eat you.
5. Skipping your turn to scrub down the old guy.
4. Mentioning the "island" is actually large indoor set at Universal Studios.
3. Being a loudmouth redneck moron (sorry, that'll get you kicked off the Atlanta Braves).
2. Ocean always seems to be a little warmer right next to you.
1. Eating more than your fair share of rat.

And, from the Late Show Web site, some of the "also-rans" from the "over-achieving writers" who "keep producing more brilliant jokes than can fit in a Top Ten List."

-- Inappropriate relations with conch shell.
-- Keep saying, "What would Don Ho do?"
-- Breaking strict "Three-strikes-and-you're-out" policy towards cannibalism.
-- Replacing bunkmate's sunblock with Miracle Whip.
-- Finding nest of writhing waterbug larvae, not sharing lunch.

How tasty. -- Brent Baker

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