Nets Stress How Bush Rejected NAACP Invitations, But Skip Group's Vicious Attacks

Without any mention of the vicious hostility the NAACP displayed toward President Bush since he spoke before the group in 2000, including a TV ad linking Bush's refusal to sign a hate crime bill to the dragging death of a black man in Texas, the Thursday broadcast network evening newscasts portrayed Bush as the one responsible for the estrangement. All stressed how Bush's Thursday appearance before the NAACP convention was his first and all three ran soundbites only from attendees critical of him.

"It took five and a half years, but President Bush finally said yes to the NAACP,” ABC's Charles Gibson asserted, elaborating: “The President has ignored invitations throughout his presidency to speak to the civil rights group.” Martha Raddatz emphasized Bush's absences: "The White House saw this as an opportunity the President couldn't pass up. But it is an opportunity he had passed up every year since he was elected.” CBS anchor Bob Schieffer highlighted how Bush “spoke today to the NAACP for the first time in six years as President.” Jim Axelrod relayed how “prior to Katrina, he never spoke to the convention as President, but since September, he's reached out to the head of the NAACP three separate times." NBC's Brian Williams set up a story by noting how “President Bush spoke to the NAACP for the first time in his presidency.” David Gregory asserted that efforts to reach out to blacks “have failed” and “then came Katrina and charges that racism motivated the federal government's slow response.” (Transcripts follow.)

Of course, none of the network anchors or reporters ever tagged the NAACP as “liberal.”

Unlike the ABC, CBS and NBC reporters, on Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's Carl Cameron pointed out: “Mr. Bush last spoke to the NAACP in 2000 as a presidential candidate. Afterward, the group ran an attack ad linking his opposition to parts of hates crimes bill, as the then Texas Governor, to the lynching of James Byrd, a black man dragged to his death behind a pickup by three white men.”

Indeed, as recounted in a February NewsBusters item, a few months after he attended a NAACP convention in 2000, the NAACP Voter Fund produced a TV ad narrated by the daughter of James Byrd, the black man murdered by being dragged behind a pick-up truck, which charged that since "Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again." The late October of 2000 NAACP ad featured a semi-re-enactment of the brutal murder: Black and white video of a pick-up truck's door closing and the pick-up then dragging a long chain down a dirt road. In her own voice, Byrd's daughter recounted:
"I'm Renee Mullins, James Byrd's daughter. On June 7, 1998, in Texas, my father was killed. He was beaten, chained and then dragged three miles to his death -- all because he was black. So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again. Call George W. Bush and tell him to support hate crimes legislation. We won't be dragged away from our future."
Video clip: At the time, the MRC posted a RealPlayer clip of FNC's showing of the ad (700 KB at a low-quality 34 kbps recording rate) as played on the October 24, 2000 Special Report with Brit Hume. The clip lasts 2:40 and starts with the 30-second ad in full followed by some comments on it by Morton Kondracke, Bill Sammon and Mara Liasson -- so if you want to see the ad, you only need to watch the start of the clip. RealPlayer clip of the ad shown in still shot to the right.

And a few months after that ad blast at Bush, Julian Bond, then Chairman of the group's Governing Board, issued some nasty vitriol, the MRC's Clay Waters noted in a Thursday NewsBusters posting. At the NAACP's 2001 convention, Bond accused Bush of reaching into "the Taliban wing of American politics" to fill his administration and of appeasing "the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection." In a July of 2001 USA Today column, DeWayne Wickham recited Bond's shot at Bush.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the July 20 ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscast stories which delivered criticism of Bush but not of the NAACP.

ABC's World News with Charles Gibson. Gibson, back in Manhattan from Cyprus:
"It took five and a half years, but President Bush finally said yes to the NAACP. The President has ignored invitations throughout his presidency to speak to the civil rights group. But today, he did. How was he received? ABC's Martha Raddatz joins us now from Washington. Martha?"

Martha Raddatz, at the White House: "Charlie, the White House saw this as an opportunity the President couldn't pass up. But it is an opportunity he had passed up every year since he was elected. The President did not pretend today that his relationship with the NAACP has been a close one. He joked about his lack of attendance after a brief introduction by the head of the civil rights organization."

George W. Bush, at the NAACP convention held at the Washington Convention Center: "I thought what he was going to say, 'It's about time you showed up.'"

Raddatz: "Republicans have historically received only about 10 percent of the black vote. Mr. Bush said today he wants to change the relationship between African-Americans and his party."

Bush: "For too long, my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African-Americans wrote off the Republican Party."

Raddatz: "The applause that the President received today was lukewarm, at best. And at one point, he had to speak while being heckled. But some who watched the speech were at least pleased that the President showed up."

Ishton Morton, NAACP convention attendee, in hardly a glowing comment about Bush: "I was still somewhat disappointed that he did not see fit to show up before. But we cannot lament on the past. We got to move forward."

Raddatz: "That is what the President is trying to do, especially after Hurricane Katrina, which strained his relationships with the African-American community. Today, the President pointed out that he was now working with the head of the NAACP to help the people of the Gulf Coast, as well as promoting small businesses and education for African-Americans."

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD): "The question is, is whether he will now do what he says he's going to do. And I'll tell you, if we had to base it upon what we have seen over the last several years, I'm not that optimistic."

Raddatz: "But the President did get one very healthy round of applause today, Charlie, when he said he would promptly sign the Voting Rights Act, which the Senate renewed today."


CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer, who never left Manhattan this week:
"The Senate gave final approval today to extending the 1965 Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. That is a landmark law that gave millions of African-Americans across the South the right to vote. The extension will be signed by the President, who, by the way, spoke today to the NAACP for the first time in six years as President. Here's Jim Axelrod."

Jim Axelrod: "The President tried to ease the tension right away, thanking NAACP President Bruce Gordon for his welcome."

George W. Bush: "Thanks for your introduction. Bruce is a polite guy. I thought what he was going to say, 'It's about time you showed up.'"

Axelrod: "The reception was cordial, polite, maybe even warmer than expected given the history. Even the hecklers weren't yelling about race, just the war. Most everyone stood up, but former NAACP board member Gail Anderson Holness stayed in her seat."

E. Gail Anderson Holness, University of the District of Columbia: "We are always on someone else's agenda when they want to have a conversation with us. When we want to talk to them, they don't want to talk to us."

Bush: "And I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party."

Axelrod: "Mr. Bush's speech was part olive branch, part mea culpa for the Republican Party's past."

Bush: "I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African-American community. For too long, my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African-Americans wrote off the Republican Party."

Axelrod: "So how did the President do? With an audience still full of suspicion about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the job of winning over African-Americans is not done yet."

Unidentified man: "Action is the only way to improve that point."

Axelrod: "So talk's talk."

Man: "And he has to walk the walk."

Axelrod: "Hurricane Katrina marks a clear dividing line for President Bush when it comes to his efforts to reach out to African-American leaders. Take the NAACP: Prior to Katrina, he never spoke to the convention as President, but since September, he's reached out to the head of the NAACP three separate times."


NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams, back in Manhattan from Israel:
"NBC News 'In Depth' tonight, the Republican Party and race relations. On the very day President Bush spoke to the NAACP for the first time in his presidency, the Senate passed and sent the President a 25-year renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The timing here was no accident. Republicans are trying to shore up their standing with black voters before the November elections. But as our chief White House correspondent David Gregory tells us tonight, it's an uphill battle."

David Gregory: "Making his first ever speech to the NAACP as President, Mr. Bush didn't dare hide from political reality, nor did his audience hide its feelings."

George W. Bush: "And I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party." [applause]

Gregory: "That reaction highlights the problem for this President and his party."

Bush: "I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African-American community."

Gregory: "Mr. Bush never apologized for those broken ties, but today's visit appeared to be about making amends. Acknowledging a rocky relationship with the nation's oldest civil rights organization, the President asked for a new start."

Bush: "You must understand, I understand that racism still lingers in America."

Gregory: "Still, the Republican Party has a long way to go. Mr. Bush won just eight percent of the African-American vote in 2000, then 11 percent in 2004. But the White House continued to court African-American voters by promoting education reform, more money for faith-based groups, even a ban on gay marriage. Still, those efforts have failed. Then came Katrina and charges that racism motivated the federal government's slow response. Today the President spoke of the way forward in the hurricane zone."

Bush: "But it's a commitment to the people of the Gulf Coast of the United States to see to it that their lives are better and brighter than before the storm."

Gregory: "Reaction in the hall today was mixed. Some who disagreed with the President were still glad he came, others were more cynical."

Lawrence Guyot, NAACP convention attendee: "He is here to save the Republican Party. He has every right to do that. But he plays it as he's here to save the country."

Gregory: "The group's President said today Republican outreach has to produce results."

Bruce Gordon, NAACP President: "I don't see enough being done that causes the African-American community to say we think that the reach out is occurring."

Gregory: "It's clear the President hopes that showing up today was a start. David Gregory, NBC News, the White House."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center