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Florida Update: MRC's New Favorite Study

Plus: NewsMax actually puts a little effort into a story about Judicial Watch.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/20/2000

Brent Bozell and his Media Research Center love studies that vindicate their world view. Perhaps their favorite one is the questionable survey that concluded 89 percent of journalists voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Bozell referred to it yet again in his Nov. 16 column praising the online magazine Slate for revealing who its staffers voted for in the presidential race. Since nearly all of them voted for Al Gore, Bozell is probably just happy he has more writers he can officially vilify as "liberal"; he shows no signs of embracing the spirit of Slate's move by revealing his own presidential choice or that of his employees at MRC's "news" arm,

But MRC has put its imprimatur on a new study. John R. Lott Jr., a researcher at the Yale University Law School, concludes that as many as 10,000 people may have been discouraged to vote because the TV networks called Florida for Gore 11 minutes before the polls closed in the heavily Republican Florida panhandle. MRC gave this big play in its Nov. 17 CyberAlert after Republican presidential candidate Dick Cheney brought it up in a TV interview.

The main problem with Lott's study is that hardly anybody, let alone 10,000 people, have come forward to claim that the networks' call for Gore stopped them from voting. For evidence of this we turn, amazingly, to WorldNetDaily.

In a Nov. 15 article, Paul Sperry writes: "After a week-long dragnet, Republicans have been able to scare up just a handful of Bush supporters willing to testify that they canceled trips to the polls after the networks gave Florida to Gore 11 minutes before polls closed in the Panhandle's Central time zone. And even some of those witnesses are impeachable."

Sperry then cites evidence: "One lives 20 minutes from his polling place in White City, Fla., and probably wouldn't have been able to make it there in time to vote. Another isn't even registered to vote in the county that includes his Pensacola, Fla., neighborhood."

Even more amazingly, this is the same Paul Sperry who was caught ignoring the trial of a former associate of ex-independent counsel Ken Starr going on in the same courthouse as the more Clinton-bash-worthy, Judicial Watch-fueled proceedings over White House e-mail he covered instead. If he keeps this up, Sperry may turn out to be a pretty good journalist after all, even if people like Sperry's boss at WND, Joseph Farah, might not like the idea of seeing a story like this in print on a conservative web site.

* * *

Speaking of actual journalism emanating from sources not known for it, NewsMax has another article about Judicial Watch -- and it's not copied from a Judicial Watch press release!

A Nov. 15 NewsMax article details the efforts of Judicial Watch to conduct its own recount of Florida votes, and unlike previous NewsMax practice, it's not simply a JW press release reposted under a NewsMax byline.

That's not to say, however, that there aren't any plagiarism-related problems. NewsMax did Frankenstein its story from Judicial Watch's home page, which features its press releases and outside stories that mention JW. One quote from JW chief Larry Klayman, for instance, is pulled from a Tallahassee Democrat story linked there. NewsMax attributes that one to its source; it doesn't do the same for a second quote from JW president Tom Fitton taken from a WorldNetDaily story link.

So NewsMax has changed from the laziest form of plagiarism to stealing from the competition. That may or may not be an improvement.

* * *

Poor Kendall Coffey. He's just never going to live down that stripper-biting incident.

Certainly not if NewsMax, in full dirt-digging mode -- which it deplores only when it's Republicans who are having their dirt dug -- has anything to do about it. Now that attorney Coffey is working for Al Gore's effort in challenging voting results in Florida, NewsMax suddenly remembers Coffey's past and dredges it up in a Nov. 18 article, complete with a misleading headline that makes the incident sound like it happened last week, not four years ago.

Coffey's past has been mentioned on NewsMax before -- by Jack Thompson back in March, when Coffey was doing by Thompson's standards an inadequate job of keeping Elian Gonzalez in the U.S. and Thompson was more or less trying to blackmail him.

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