- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Fueling the networks

Wondering if it’s time to panic over gas or have SUV guilt? The broadcast networks pine for the panic. NBC, ABC and CBS are obsessed with gas, gas prices and irate consumers — one more convenient way to blame something unfortunate on the White House. According to a new analysis by the Media Research Center, the three networks aired a total of 183 stories about the horrors of gas prices between April 12 and May 2.

Only four stories in the same time period covered the current low unemployment rate of 4.7 percent — a fact which would have been front and center on the evening news in former President Bill Clinton’s day.

“Instead of trumpeting the amazing ‘Bush economy,’ TV news has downplayed this recent good news while hyping the bad news of rising fuel costs,” the analysis states. It also found the network coverage steeped in drama.

“All three networks employed loaded language in the promotional teases,” which emphasized consumer angst. The stories, in fact, included 151 dramatic consumer complaints during the study period. The analysis also cited “skyrocketing” and “soaring” as the adjectives of choice for prices, and “pain at the pump” as the most-repeated phrase.

NBC was the worst offender, airing 79 negative gas stories, ABC followed with 59 and CBS with 45.

Reed off and running

Ralph Reed, who’s running for lieutenant governor of Georgia, has reported that Microsoft Corp. paid his public relations and lobbying firm $1.6 million over five years.

In a financial-disclosure statement filed in Georgia, the former head of the Christian Coalition said his company, Century Strategies, received five payments ranging from $240,000 to more than $572,000 each year from 2001 to 2005, primarily for lobbying efforts on behalf of Microsoft in international trade and competition issues, according to the Associated Press.

A year ago, Microsoft dumped Mr. Reed. The company’s spokeswoman, Ginny Terzano, declined to comment on his candidacy, but she said it would not be appropriate for the company to have a consultant on retainer who’s seeking elective office.

The breach came after liberal activists urged Microsoft to stop using Mr. Reed as a political consultant. The groups chastised Microsoft for pulling its support for a Washington state homosexual rights bill it had backed in the past. The company soon agreed to support such legislation in the future — and did during this year’s legislative session. In January, the Legislature passed a bill adding “sexual orientation” to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance.

But politics continue. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani will headline a campaign fundraiser in Atlanta on May 18 for Mr. Reed.

Send us the bill

Porous borders are a national security risk, not a human rights issue, according to Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, and Peter Gadiel of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America. The pair appeared together yesterday at the southeast corner of ground zero — where the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell almost five years ago.

“Border security is homeland security,” said Mr. King, who is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and anxious for the passage of his own legislation: HR 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Act of 2005. It would impose severe sanctions on employers who hire illegal aliens, authorize military patrol of the border and create a 698-mile double fence between California, Arizona and Mexico.

“Defeat of amnesty proposals and adoption of HR 4437 are essential if America is to prevent future 911s,” Mr. Gadiel said.

The cocktail hour

Uh-oh. The Hawk and Dove — scene of some purported drinking by Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy before he slammed into a police barrier in the wee hours of Thursday morning — is attracting the curious, apparently. The Capitol Hill bar has run out of souvenir T-shirts in men’s sizes, plus online wags already have christened a cocktail named in honor of the Rhode Island Democrat.

“It’s called ‘Lights Out,’ and only served in a to-go container,” advised a spokesman for the Free Republic, an online news site.

Heavy Snow forecast

Americans give a favorable initial assessment of Tony Snow, the newest White House press secretary, according to a new Zogby poll. The decision to bring the former Fox News TV and radio host on board is seen as a “an excellent or good” decision by 50 percent of the respondents and viewed negatively by 40 percent. Another 52 percent say the appointment will improve the Bush administration’s ability to get its message out.

But surprise: there’s a partisan divide. Republicans are much more enthused about the appointment, with 86 percent saying Mr. Snow will get the Bush word out; only 21 percent of Democrats agree. Just 8 percent of Republicans doubt he’ll boost the administration’s prospects, versus 71 percent of Democrats.

The overall majority of respondents are untroubled by a news media figure moving to politics, with 61 percent saying it has no impact on their credibility. The online survey was conducted April 28 through May 1 and included 5,578 likely voters. The poll carries a margin of error of 1 percentage point.

The good and the bad

Well, why not? President Bush told a German newspaper that his best moment in office was catching a nice fat perch in a lake on his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

“You know, I’ve experienced many great moments, and it’s hard to name the best. I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake,” he told the weekly Bild am Sonntag. The interview ran yesterday.

His worst moment was the September 11 attacks. “I would say that this was the hardest moment, once I had the real picture before my eyes,” Mr. Bush recalled.

Jennifer Harper can be reached at 202/636-3085 or jharper@washingtontimes.com

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