MediaWatch: December 1996

Vol. Ten No. 12

CNN's Liberal Fantasy Campaign '96

Apparently, the campaign was so boring to the folks at the CNN Web site they had to make up wild stories to amuse themselves. "President 96" was an interactive game on the CNN AllPolitics website that allowed the participant to give advice to "fictional" candidates after reading fictional news stories.

While the Democratic Party had some skirmishes such as pro-life Democrats fighting for the soul of their party, they were not embroiled in ridiculous scandals faced by the ersatz GOP candidates: nominee Senator Bill Dickey (the Bob Dole character), and runner-up Robert Libbey (a composite Pat Buchanan/Rush Limbaugh character described as "the host of the most popular syndicated radio talk show" who "has literally been the voice of the Republican revolution.") CNN's fantasy headlines and stories from the campaign trail sometimes echoed biased themes from their real campaign coverage:

"Gun Lobbyist Arrested for Shooting Death" -- March 6, 1996: "The arrest this week of gun lobbyist Mary Beaton for the shooting death of a mentally disturbed man outside her Washington home has proven something of a challenge for the presidential campaign of Senator William Dickey (R-Iowa), whose campaign finance chairman is her husband, Robert Beaton."

"When Mrs. Beaton, 36, a senior official of the United Gun Owners, shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Hector Davis 19, with an unregistered handgun and deadly, `Black Ripper' bullets, she set off a controversy that has proven an embarrassment to the Dickey candidacy. Though a traditional Republican conservative, the Senator has resisted pressure to endorse some of the UGO's more extreme positions."

"Libbey Named in Drug Investigation" -- May 15, 1996: "Presidential candidate and right-wing talk show host Robert Libbey has been named as a target in the Robert Kenyon drug investigation. Kenyon, a local lawyer with political ties to both parties, key local industries, and the glitterati of Los Angeles and the Northeast, was arrested last week for the production and distribution of methamphetamines. Facing the threat of life in federal prison, Kenyon has reportedly named people he has had dealings with during his career. Inside sources at the Justice Department have informed the Daily Dispatch that Libbey's name was high on Kenyon's list."

"GOP Sued for Race, Sex Discrimination" -- June 5, 1996: "In a suit filed in Federal District Court in Washington DC, three black and Hispanic female office workers are charging the Republican National Committee allowed a `hostile work environment' to be created in their Capitol Hill offices. The suit alleges several supervisors touched women in a sexual manner and implied that sexual favors would result in promotions. Repeated racial, ethnic, and sexual comments were also tolerated by the supervisors."

"Delegates Approve Hard-line GOP Platform." -- August 13, 1996: "The 1,984 delegates to the Republican Convention approved a tough, conservative platform last night, with a solid consensus on every issue but that of U.S. foreign policy." (It should be noted that the platform was voted on by actual gameplayers on the Republican campaign "advice" page.)

"Hispanic Protest Turns Ugly; Stuart Fails to Calm Violent Crowd." -- August 14, 1996: "A scheduled protest of Mexican-American activists at the protest area four blocks from the convention center turned into a near-riot when the crowd marched on the convention center without a permit. Police had to use tear gas and specially-trained tactical force troops to contain the growing demonstration, spurred by calls by local leaders yesterday after Sen. Walter `Runner` Tyler's (R-Ind.) keynote speech to the Republican convention." Tyler's fictional speech disparaged immigrants and accused the Democratic Party of treason.

"Despite Stuart, GOP Women feel Forgotten" -- August 16, 1996: "The nomination of Texas Governor Anne Stuart is being seen as a great victory for Republican women ­ sort of...`It's great that there's a woman running for Vice President,' said Jean Van Thorpe, a businesswoman and Nicholas Russell delegate. `Too bad, her agenda's not more pro-woman.' In many ways, Stuart personifies the complex, somewhat ambiguous position of women in the Republican party. While individual Republican women hold positions of power, the party, as a whole, has favored a conservative agenda that favors traditional roles for women, and advocates strict pro-life policies that a majority of American women disagree with.'"

"Minority Delegates Decline from 1992" -- August 16, 1996: "Willie Dalton, a black California State Senator in San Diego as part of the Democratic party's truth squad, scoffed at this idea [of a big-tent GOP]. `I'm surprised brownshirts weren't marching around the Convention Center yelling 'Auslander Raus' (`foreigner out,' a German slogan used by neo-Nazi skinheads),' he said."

"Stuart and the Girls Have a Night on the Town" -- August 16, 1996: "Bill Dickey's new running mate, Texas Governor Anne Stuart, found a new place to raise money ­ or at least Cain ­ yesterday night, when she and some of her female cronies spent the evening at a notorious local male strip joint...While [a spokesman] categorically denied reports that Stuart participated in the more outrageous antics at the club, performers dispute this. `You could hear laughing real hard,' said stripper Mingo Jackson, 22, who portrays a ranch hand in his routine. `She was really into it. I could hear her yelling when I took off my cowboy hat. She also sang along with `The Streets of Laredo.' Another performer, Davey Smith, 24, said he saw Stuart stuffing bills into Jackson's G-string."

"San Diego: What Really Happened?" -- August 16, 1996 (Editorial): "Two things are clear after the dust has settled: Bill Dickey goes into the fall campaign with his moderate base in danger; and the conservatives have complete control of the candidate selection process in the GOP....The power of Ivan Palmer and his legions in the Christian Duty Alliance came as a shock to many moderates, but only because they thought they were still a force in the party....the GOP platform is closer to a militia meeting manifesto than to traditional GOP positions."

"Hamilton Takes It!" -- November 6, 1996: "The Democrats are back in the White House: that's the big news ....Democratic Vice President Ben Hamilton's victory was based on the loyalty of the key constituencies of the Democratic Party in key states...To the surprise of many, it is the voice representing the liberal alternative that will hold the White House for the next four years." That result has a more than passing resemblance to reality.