CyberAlert -- 07/20/2001 -- Rather Willing to ID a Republican

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Rather Willing to ID a Republican; Rather Conceded Contrast with Packwood, Called Self a "Dumbass"; "Funnel" Tax Money to Religious

1) Dan Rather refused to identify Gary Condit as a Democrat, but on Thursday night he made sure viewers realized the party affiliation of another Congressman, warning that "if Arizona Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe has his way" the penny "will become obsolete."

2) Dan Rather told Don Imus that his show did not report on drug use charges against candidate George W. Bush when, in fact, the CBS Evening News ran multiple stories; expressed regret for his 1992 coverage of allegations against Senator Bob Packwood as he realized it contradicted his rationale for avoiding Condit; and proclaimed "I'm boneheaded," conceded "I'm bizarre" and boasted that "I've been a dumbass all my life."

3) Both CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Brian Williams referred Thursday night to how Bush's faith-based initiative will "funnel" tax dollars to religious groups.

4) "NIH stem cell report gives 2 sides fodder," announced the headline over a July 19 Boston Globe story. But ABC's Peter Jennings asserted: "The Senate got a report from the National Institutes of Health on stem cell research...and it says that embryonic cell research holds enormous promise."

5) In a tribute to Katharine Graham, the long-time Washington Post publisher who passed away the day before, veteran Post reporter and editor Robert Kaiser hailed Mikhail Gorbachev as "the man who changed the modern world."

6) Peter Jennings considered it newsworthy that 30 guys in India claim "they were insulted that President Bush had called his cat 'India.'"

Correction: The July 17 CyberAlert quoted NBC's Katie Couric as saying of Hillary Clinton's relations with other Senators: "They're like puddy in her hands up there." Puddy should have read "putty."

On Wednesday night the CBS Evening News avoided identifying Congressman Gary Condit as a Democrat, but Thursday night Dan Rather made sure viewers realized the Congressman trying to take away their pennies is a Republican.

Rather ended the July 19 broadcast: "The Rodney Dangerfield of the currency, the penny. It gets no respect. And if Arizona Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe has his way it will become obsolete. He's introduced a bill that would require all cash sales be rounded to the nearest nickel. Critics and backers agree the idea would make no cents."

No less "cents" than Rather's inconsistency. On Thursday night Rather did not mention the Chandra Levy case, but in airing his one and only story so far on the subject on Wednesday night, Rather and his colleague Jim Stewart failed to point out Condit's party affiliation. As detailed in the July 18 CyberAlert Extra, Rather didn't utter Condit's name in his introduction. Stewart refrain from naming Condit's party as he referred only to "the belief that local police have put an 'inappropriate emphasis' on the role of Congressman Gary Condit in the case," to how "FBI agents will start at ground zero and 'focus on areas other than Representative Condit'" and to "laboratory tests on a hat, a jacket and other items taken from Condit's Washington apartment..."

(Thursday's NBC Nightly News repudiated the thrust of Wednesday's CBS Evening News story. Andrea Mitchell asserted: "Now the FBI is trying to help local police create a profile of Chandra to better understand her behavior. But tonight they've issued a statement denying reports that the FBI has either taken over the investigation or assigned it to a cold case unit.")


Dan Rather told Don Imus on Thursday morning during his appearance by phone on the Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC:

-- That the CBS Evening News avoided the Chandra Levy case "because the facts were so few" and he didn't want to fuel a "feeding frenzy" because, Rather intoned in setting a high standard for what is newsworthy, "whatever one may think of the Congressman and his behavior before and after the disappearance of the young woman, the police have said repeatedly that he's not a suspect in any crime."

-- Asked if he reported the unsubstantiated charges of drug use by candidate George W. Bush, Rather answered with an emphatic "no," though he later promised to go "back to our computer files and if I've misstated to you, I'll come back to you and say I misstated it. But, I don't think I ran anything on that." In fact, in 1999 the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather ran multiple stories on the allegations.

-- After conceding he did run stories in 1992 on sexual harassment allegations against Senator Bob Packwood, Rather realized the contradiction with his current rationale for ignoring Condit and expressed regret for his previous news judgment: "I think the Packwood thing was another feeding frenzy and unfortunately we took part in it in a way that I wish we hadn't."

-- Mocked himself as he self-deprecatingly proclaimed "it's a matter of record I'm boneheaded," conceded "I'm bizarre" and boasted that "I've been a dumbass all my life."

-- Asked about former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg's charge that he has a liberal bias, Rather denied it, insisting he's just "in favor of strong defense, tight money, and clean water."

Some more extensive excerpts from the July 19 Imus in the Morning made possible thanks to the transcribing of MRC analyst Ken Shepherd:

-- Imus: "There was a long period time that the CBS weekend news was reporting it. The CBS Web site was. The New York Times, the Washington Post. Even our friend Jim Lehrer. And my point, I guess there is hardly was this a story confined to the gossip-oriented media. And we did have the spectacle of a sitting Congressman under siege, if nothing else, by the media and almost rendered inoperative in the ability to conduct his business. And in connection with a missing government intern. And it seemed to a lot of people that it did warrant...but it seemed to me that it did warrant at least an acknowledgment that it was a story that people were interested in. And my question for you is why didn't you think so."
Rather: "Well, because the facts were so few, and they remain so few. And you know, I appreciate you touching on it and taking it seriously but, let's, you know, I'm willing to discuss it but it's important to me to keep in mind that, you know and I do have it very much in mind, you know, you've got a missing person here. It's a missing person case. You said well why didn't you, well, first of all the facts are so few. You know, we've got rumors, speculation, gossip, innuendo. And you know, we decided, I decided to try to exercise some restraint. You know, maybe we should have done something with it. I don't think so. I have no argument with these other journalists who have made other judgments. Some of whom you've had on lambasting us while justifying their own fairly heavy play of the story. Naturally, I was disappointed in that. I understand that they have to do that. It's a competitive business. My only hope is that, you know, those who really unloaded on us about this, and the public will come to understand that it was and still is, my judgment that, for to be extra careful in this kind of atmosphere. This current atmosphere is a classic news feeding frenzy.
"...What went into the thinking was one, there's no criminal case. No criminal case. A missing person case: it's important for the family of the missing person. It is for all of those families. There's something like a hundred thousand missing person cases around the country, but there's no criminal case here. Not yet anyway. There's no suspect. No suspect. Whatever one may think of the Congressman and his behavior before and after the disappearance of the young woman, the police have said repeatedly that he's not a suspect in any crime. I know that, you know, there are people of the opinion that he should be charged with some crime, but my point is that he hasn't been. Nor do the police indicate they have any plans to charge him with anything. Now beyond that, the police have not even accused him of any crime, which is something the police often do before they finally charge him. They haven't accused him of any crime. Now, if the Congressman were accused, much less charged, he'd be entitled to presumption of innocence til proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt in a court of law.
"Now, I think this last point can't be emphasized too much. Maybe it went too strongly into our thinking. But it applies to every American citizen. Whether they are a homeless person or a Congressman. And I thought there was, and I still think there is a real danger that an innocent person could be convicted in the court of public opinion on the basis of rumor, gossip, and speculation. And I do want to point out that, you know, Richard Jewell, this guy in Atlanta. He was accused by the police. And a lot of people ran hard with that story. We, we exercised some restraint with that. And as a consequence, when other people got sued and settled quietly out of court for a lot of money for tainting Richard Jewell, it was still hard for him to get his reputation back."

-- Rather: "I want the CBS Evening News to be high road hard news. And if we've underdone it then, hold us accountable. You know, we'll take a public caning about it and maybe we deserve it, but I don't think so....Now for anybody that says, well, you know it's a Democratic Congressman and so they want to give him a break, I think that's, I'm not going to complain about it but, when the Bush daughters had their difficulty, we didn't broadcast a word about it, and a lot of people ran hard with it. The point here is that we want to have a record, we try to build a record of some restraint on these kind of cases. And I felt fine when everybody else was running with the story about the Bush daughters and we didn't run a line. Some of the people internally and externally were saying, you know, you've got your head in the sand. Well, I don't have my head in the sand. I want us to stand for something and we try to stand for something and it didn't work and I feel badly because guys like, you know, Jimmy Murphy I work with and other people have been criticized for, I guess you could say, my determination, I guess others say hard-headedness about this thing."

While it's true the weekday CBS Evening News with Dan Rather didn't jump on the Bush story, the weekend CBS Evening News covered it on the first Saturday after her escapade became news.

-- Imus: "Did you report the -- which were unsubstantiated and I guess still are -- allegations of drug use by George W. Bush when he was running for the presidency?"
Rather: "No."
Imus: "Did you report on the Bob Packwood situation that although they were accusations of sexual harassment and the Washington Post first revealed the story, I believe on November 22 or 23, 1992?"
Rather: "I think we did something on the Packwood situation in '92. Yeah."
Imus: "So what would be the difference between the Packwood situation and the Condit situation."
Rather: "Well, I don't know that there is a big difference. We learned. I think the Packwood thing was another feeding frenzy and unfortunately, we took part in it in a way that I wish we hadn't. But I do want to come back to the George Bush thing. You know, I'll go back to our computer files and if I've misstated to you, I'll come back to you and say I misstated it. But, I don't think I ran anything on that. I know my feeling at the time was, well if somebody brings me some proof, then we'll run with it."

REALITY CHECK: The "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," but without Dan Rather as anchor because of vacation, jumped right on the allegations against Bush. The Wednesday, August 18 edition of the program anchored by Bob Schieffer featured a full report from Bob McNamara, who began: "As the spotlight zeros in on George W. Bush's front-running campaign, over and over now comes the 'did you ever' question. Again today, he was asked if he ever did cocaine and refused to answer."

CBS followed up with another story the next night. For more on coverage that week, go to:

Dan Rather can't have it both ways. He can't pretend stories on Bush and drugs on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather don't count because he was on vacation but then take credit for how the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather this year ignored the Condit story for nine week when on at least ten of those weekdays Rather was not in the anchor chair.

-- Rather: "....Here's the thing, if they, if they believe he's obstructed justice, then charge him with that, and when they charge him with that, we'd certainly consider that news. But they haven't done that. And let me say that I've worked the police beat for a long time and I have great respect for the police but, I don't, if if it's true that we haven't handled this situation in our reporting as well as we should, I don't think the Washington police have been flawless in their handling of the thing. But, where I come out with this Imus, look, we've made mistakes in the past. Somebody wrote in the paper the other day that I was quote 'boneheaded.' Well, of course, it's a matter of record I'm boneheaded, said, 'well, this is bizarre.' Well of course I'm bizarre, you know, we've known that for a long time-"
Imus: "What's the frequency, Kenneth?"
Rather: "I don't know, somebody, I don't know he put it exactly this way but he said, well, you know, it's a dumbass thing he's doing. Well, you know, I've been a dumbass all my life, why would anybody expect me to be any different about this?"

Why indeed.

-- Imus: "Bernard Goldberg, your former colleague, in the Wall Street Journal the other day said that you possess a liberal bias that you're even unaware of. What did you think of that? Well, first of all do you? And second of all what do you think of his comment?"
Rather: "Do I what?"
Imus: "Possess a liberal bias."
Rather: "No, I don't think so but other people have to judge that and you know he's entitled to his opinion and that's, you know, I'm in favor of strong defense, tight money, and clean water. I don't know what that makes me. Whatever that makes me that's what I am. But people are going to take those shots. When you're on television every night, people are going to take those shots."

In Rather's case, well-deserved ones.

For more on Goldberg's analysis of how Rather and other mainstream media figures are not even aware of how the assumptions they make match liberal thought, go to:


Ever hear Dan Rather or Brian Williams refer to how some government program will "funnel U.S. tax dollars" to pork barrel projects, regulatory agencies, the unproductive members of society or to a prescription drug entitlement? Me neither, but Thursday night both anchors used the "funnel" term to characterize of the impact of President Bush's faith-based initiative.

Rather intoned on the July 19 CBS Evening News: "With President Bush off on a six-day European trip, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives pressed ahead today with one of his most-cherished and controversial campaign promises. The House voted 233 to 198 for a bill to funnel U.S. tax dollars to church and other religious charities that provide social services."

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams echoed Rather's terminology: "Back at home a big win for the President in the House of Representatives which today approved a key part of his agenda, the so-called faith-based plan to funnel more federal money to religious charities. The White House managed to beat back yesterday's moderate Republican rebellion against the plan, but nonetheless the measure, as written, has a very doubtful future in the Democratic-controlled Senate."


"NIH stem cell report gives 2 sides fodder," announced the headline over a July 19 Boston Globe story which presented a model of balance not followed Wednesday night by ABC. The Globe's subhead: "Senator offers plan to regulate research."

On the July 18 World News Tonight Peter Jennings stressed: "In Washington today, the Senate got a report from the National Institutes of Health on stem cell research. The President's already received the NIH report. It is, of course, the leading government body for medical research and it says that embryonic cell research holds enormous promise." Jennings proceeded to relay how "today, a close ally of the President, the Republican Senator from Tennessee Bill Frist, who is the only physician in the Senate, told a hearing he, too, supported funding." CBS also considered Frist's testimony and his view worth an entire story.

ABC's John Martin reported around matching soundbites, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "The NIH report endorsing stem cell research was discussed by senators and medical experts. Senator Frist, a heart and lung transplant surgeon and someone the President is likely to listen to because he's an anti-abortion Republican, supported the idea....Frist cautioned Senators that the research he supports must not violate the sanctity of life, which means embryos should only be used if they are destined to be discarded....In an interview, Frist praised the potential benefits of stem cell research....Medical advocates called Frist's support a very important step toward convincing the Bush White House to fund a promising new form of research. If the President decides not to support funding, Senator Harkin of Iowa pledged today to sponsor an appropriation on his own, a measure likely to pass the Senate with strict guidelines."

On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather celebrated how supporters of embryonic stem cell research "got a boost today from an influential Senator." Elizabeth Kaledin described Frist as "a doctor and conservative Republican who has President Bush's ear on matters medical, testified the research must go forward with federal funds." But after Kaledin ran a soundbite from Frist, she allowed viewers to hear from Senator Sam Brownback as she explained: "Opponents of embryonic stem cell research argue there are alternatives, namely adult stem cells, not taken from embryos but extracted instead from other human tissues, including bone marrow and blood."

She countered, however, that one doctor who testified that his "research on adult stem cells in mice suggests they, too, have potential, but are not nearly as flexible in becoming other cell types as their embryonic cousin. To study one and not the other is a mistake, he says."

Putting an adult face on the cause, Kaledin showcased how "it may be too slow for Shelbie Oppenheimer, a 34-year-old mother slowing dying from Lou Gehrig's disease. She's urging President Bush to look beyond the politics." Oppenhemier pleaded: "When he's looking at a frozen embryo that's going to be discarded, and when he's looking at me, a loving mommy who just wants to spend my time with our daughter, I would ask him to choose and value life, and I would ask him for it to be mine."

Kaledin concluded: "The pressure is on from mothers, scientists and now trusted fellow Republicans urging President Bush to find a compromise. He's expected to make a decision in the next few weeks."

CNN's Judy Woodruff, MRC analyst Patrick Gregory observed, set up a July 18 Inside Politics segment: "With President Bush said to be wrestling with whether to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research each new development in the debate over the issue is seen as potentially crucial to his thinking. Two such developments happened today, both of which favor support for the funding. One was a report from the National Institutes of Health recommending further stem cell research, and on the political side a key endorsement from the only physician in the U.S. Senate."

But Thursday Boston Globe delivered a less strident assessment of that NIH report. Reporter Jennifer Bayot began her July 19 story from Washington:

Supporters and critics of government-funded research on stem cells taken from human embryos hailed different parts of a 200-page report released by the National Institutes of Health yesterday.

Advocates for embryonic stem cell research focused on the sections of the scientific review that dwelt on the benefits of conducting research on stem cells taken from embryos. Those opposed to the research cited the parts of the report that speak of the promise of stem cells taken from adults.

"This NIH study clearly presents adult stem cells as a legitimate alternative with great future potential," said Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is critical of embryonic stem cell research. "This confirms what we have been saying all along.''

But Senator William Frist, a Tennessee Republican and heart surgeon who advises the White House on health-care issues, said the study concludes that "the more versatile embryonic stem cells have greater potential for medical research than adult stem cells."...

So far, only stem cells taken from embryos and fetal tissue have demonstrated the potential to develop into almost all of the more than 200 different known cell types, the report said. These stem cells hold the promise of replacing cells damaged or destroyed by disease.

Adult stem cells, which are also unspecialized, are found in developed tissues, such as bone marrow. But "adult stem cells are rare," said the report. "Often they are difficult to identify, isolate, and purify."

Because adult stem cells cannot replicate indefinitely, the report questioned whether enough are available for therapeutic applications, such as transplants to regenerate organs or tissue.

Nevertheless, the report said that "today there is new evidence that stem cells are present in far more tissues and organs than once thought."

The NIH report neither recommends whether the government should fund stem cell research nor answers the heavily debated scientific questions about such research, including whether adult and embryonic stem cells have equal potential for generating replacement cells and tissues....

END Excerpt


Gorbachev still revered by leading journalists. In a July 18 tribute to Katharine Graham, the long-time Washington Post publisher who passed away the day before, veteran Post reporter and editor Robert Kaiser admired Gorbachev as "the man who changed the modern world."

The MRC's Rich Noyes brought to my attention this passage deep within Kaiser's piece:
"For this reporter the enduring memory of Katharine Graham as newswoman will be the interview a group of us had with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988. Mrs. Graham, Meg Greenfield, Jim Hoagland and I, joined by Rick Smith of Newsweek, spent weeks preparing for this opportunity. Mrs. Graham was our drill sergeant. When we got to Moscow, she wanted to keep planning, so we held more meetings as we walked in the open air in Gorky Park, away from KGB microphones, we hoped.
"When we walked into Gorbachev's office, Katharine Graham was beautifully coiffed and nervous as a schoolgirl (as was I). But she looked him straight in the eye and asked the long-planned first question, then followed up. We had a fascinating conversation with the man who changed the modern world."

For Kaiser's reflections on Graham in full, go to:


It doesn't take much to be considered newsworthy by ABC News. In this case, on Thursday night Peter Jennings made time to report on 30 guys in India upset that President Bush has a cat named "India." I'm not kidding.

Jennings announced on the July 19 World News Tonight: "In India about 30 people demonstrated outside the U.S. consulate in Bombay. They said they were insulted that President Bush had called his cat 'India.' Their posters read, as you can see, 'don't make a mistake' Mr. President, Indians are lions not cats.'"

As Jennings spoke viewers saw this sign held up by four men:

The AP ran a story on this big scandal and it reported that the men are upset not so much by the cat's name but that the name is listed on the White House Web site's biography of President Bush. Indeed, the bio includes this paragraph: "President Bush is married to Laura Welch Bush, a former teacher and librarian, and they have 19-year-old twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna. The Bush family also includes their two dogs, Spot and Barney, and a cat, India."

That bio is posted at:

If only 30 conservatives milling around a poster in this country could so easily earn network air time. -- Brent Baker

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