November 06, 2004

NYT: KE04 Dictated Election Coverage to CBS, CNN, ABC

The critical moment came at 12:41 a.m. Wednesday, when, shortly after Florida had been painted red for Mr. Bush, Fox News declared that Ohio - and, very likely, the presidency - was in Republican hands.

Howard Wolfson, a strategist, burst into the "boiler room" in Washington where the brain trust was huddled and said, "we have 30 seconds" to stop the other networks from following suit.

The campaign's pollster, Mark Mellman, and the renowned organizer Michael Whouley quickly dialed ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC - and all but the last refrained from calling the race through the night. Then Mr. Wolfson banged out a simple, two-line statement expressing confidence that Mr. Kerry would win Ohio once the remaining ballots were counted.

"What was driving our decision making was the memory of how in 2000, by allowing Florida to go for Bush, a lot of momentum was blocked," said one person who was in the room. "Our whole goal was stop the train from moving that way."
NYT - 11/4/04

The Kerry campaign was able to call ABC, CBS and CNN to ask them a favor - don't call OH for Bush, like Fox did, even though it has a wider margin than in Nevada. NBC turned them down and MSNBC reported Bush won Ohio. For the rest of the night and until Kerry conceded the next day, CNN, ABC and CBS reported that Ohio was "too close to call" - dishonest and inconsistent, considering that they used the same information as NBC and Fox, which clearly showed that Ohio was not as close as Nevada, which several of those networks had already called (Fox had not called Nevada).

This is just absurd. The campaign gets to call and influence the decision? I thought they went to great lengths to distance the decision-making bodies from even watching TV and being unduly influenced, but apparently the decision can be controlled by the campaigns themselves? That's absurd.

If Bush campaign officials could call Fox and dictate stories to them everyone'd be up in arms about how Fox is a right-wing mouthpiece. Apparently Kerry people can call four networks and get three of them to accept their story. That's bias.

Whoever let this happen at CBS, ABC and CNN needs to make some public explanations - and apologies. Whoever withstood pressure from KE04 at NBC deserves some kudos. MSNBC may be solidly in a distant, trailing third behind Fox and CNN, but they have better coverage, better reporters, and better political analysis shows than CNN (Wolf Blitzer and a few others excepted).

Is anyone really surprised that CBS, which holds onto Dan Rather, the single most obviously left-biased man in network television, is biased? Is anyone surprised that ABC, whose executive Mark Halperin said the media need to hold Bush 'more accountable' than Kerry, is biased? Is anyone shocked that CNN, with Judy Woodruff, Aaron Brown and Lou Dobbs at varying degrees of open support for Democrats and Kerry, might be biased?

If you're that surprised by this story, then you haven't been paying attention.


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