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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Man Bites President

Summary

It's true: The news media are biased. We're biased in favor of change, as opposed to the status quo. We're biased in favor of bad news, rather than good news. We're biased in favor of conflict rather than harmony.

– David Shaw, Los Angeles Times

INTRODUCTION

In the midst of then-Vice President Al Gore's post-election challenge to George W. Bush's victory in Florida, Gore telephoned his running mate, Joe Lieberman, as well as congressional leaders Representative Richard Gephardt (D-MO) and Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD). This conference call would not have been unusual except for one detail: Most such calls are not broadcast live on television by CNN.

In an obviously scripted conversation, Gore and Lieberman began by stiffly relating recent developments in their vote-challenge campaign and offering thanks to the congressional Democrats for their continued support. The congressional leaders, in turn, played their part by repeatedly emphasizing the “overwhelming support” for Gore's challenge among Democratic members of Congress.

This incident is noteworthy not so much because of the content of the conversation, which was exactly the sort of support for Gore one would expect to hear from his fellow Democrats; rather, it is interesting because of the almost embarrassing lengths that Gore and company went to in an attempt to get the support covered in the news media. Why would the Democratic leaders feel obliged to engage in amateur theatrics to get their message broadcast?

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