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THE MEDIA COVER-UP OF THE GORE VICTORY
PART TWO: THE DECEIT OF THE CONSORTIUM
By David Podvin and Carolyn Kay
The Consortium of media organizations that has delayed announcing the results
of the Florida presidential election ballot study contends that it had
absolutely no idea who was going to win that recount. The Consortium further
contends that the ballots have not yet been tabulated, making it impossible for
anyone to know the outcome. It also states that the results of the ballot study
would have been released to the American people if not for the terrorist attack
on September 11.
The Consortium is engaging in sophistry. It is deliberately seeking to
deceive the public with incomplete and misleading information. This dishonesty
is entirely consistent with the mainstream media’s pattern of lying that
recurred throughout the presidential campaign.
Part two in this series deals with the Consortium’s lack of candor as it
has sought to advance its own financial interests by concealing Al Gore’s
clear victory in Florida and refusing to acknowledge that he was the rightful
winner in the 2000 presidential election.
It is important to emphasize that we do not allege the conglomerates that
control the American mainstream media have engaged in a conspiracy, only that
they have damaged American democracy by conducting themselves with unpatriotic
self interest and all consuming greed.
On January 9, 2001, eight media organizations announced their intention to
form the Consortium that would examine and classify the votes in the Florida
presidential election. The eight news organizations were The New York Times, The
Washington Post, Dow Jones and Company (The Wall Street Journal), the Associated
Press, The Tribune Company (The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, among
others), The Palm Beach Post, The St. Petersburg Times, and CNN (which later
The Consortium sought to gain credibility for the integrity of its recount by
hiring the not-for-profit National Opinion Research Center to perform the actual
ballot handling tasks and to compile the relevant information. NORC was assigned
to provide the raw data to each of the members of the Consortium. It would then
be up to the individual media outlets to decide how they would interpret and
report the data to the American people.
All of this was to be completed by April, 2001.
At the time that the Consortium announced its plans to categorize the votes,
some national public opinion polls showed that over a third of Americans
considered George W. Bush to be an illegitimate president. Several prominent
syndicated columnists had written that Gore was fortunate to “lose”, because
the poisonous atmosphere in the aftermath of the controversial election
guaranteed that the new president was destined to one term of bitterness and
The perception of the mainstream political and media analysts was that there
were only three possible outcomes of the ballot study:
Bush could win in a photo finish, as he had in each
It could turn out to be a dead heat.
Gore could win in a photo finish.
Two thirds of Americans surveyed said that they were ready to move on. They
believed that it was basically an even election; they might never be completely
sure who actually won, but someone had to be president, and Bush won the
recounts and the Supreme Court verdict. For most Americans, regardless of who
literally won an election that was too close to call, it was time to get on with
Against this backdrop, any of the three results of the ballot study that were
considered possible would not be harmful to Bush. If the ballot study showed he
won, then that would confirm he was the legitimate president. If it were a tie,
then he would be no worse off than before the study was released. If Gore won a
squeaker, then the most diehard of the Democrats might challenge the legitimacy
of a Bush administration, but the GOP had prepared for that possibility by
assigning party activists to every Florida county for the specific purpose of
screaming fraud. Another very close vote accompanied by frenzied controversy
would make the Consortium ballot study just a tiresome repeat of the soap opera
that most of election-weary America had already seen and turned off.
If the establishment deep thinkers were right, then the only possible results
from the Consortium study could help legitimize Bush, but could not harm his
legitimacy among those Americans who had “gotten over it”.
There was, however, a potential complication that had been discounted by the
corporations that were financing this venture:
What would happen if the Consortium recount revealed that Gore had won
The NORC’s examination of the ballots began in February.
MakeThemAccountable has spoken with several participants who were in the
NORC coding rooms where the ballots of the Florida presidential election
were reviewed. These people did not know each other and were in different
counties within Florida. Each of them independently stated that, based on their
personal observation, Al Gore was winning at least two thirds of those
disputed ballots that NORC coders were recording. These were ballots that had
not been included in previous recounts.
The Consortium has stated that it cannot possibly have known the outcome of
the ballot coding because NORC did not generate a final tabulation. The
Consortium even contends that, because the ballots were not delivered to the
media organizations until mid-September, and because those organizations have
been completely preoccupied with covering the war against terrorism, the
result of the recount is still a complete mystery to them.
The Consortium is lying about this, as well as other things.
Our sources within the recount made a commitment of confidentiality to
NORC, pledging that they would not go public with what they saw during the
process. This pact was faithfully honored until after September 11, when some
participants became alarmed that the Consortium was going to violate its
commitment to inform the American public about the truth of the actual
The ballot examination process, or coding process, had teams consisting of an
NORC employee supervising three coders. It
was the job of the coders to identify the characteristics of any expression of
voter intent on the ballots. Their
observations were entered into a computer database so that the media
organizations comprising the Consortium could later evaluate the data to
determine the winner. The ballots showed only numbers and not the names of
candidates, so NORC assumed that those who were evaluating the ballots did not
know which candidate was getting which votes. . The supervisors were responsible for comparing the pattern
of vote tabulation by each coder, to further insure that bias would not enter
In an interview with
MakeThemAccountable, NORC Public Information Officer Julie Antelman confirmed
that, if someone knew which number
applied to which candidate, then they could tell if there was a trend.
To those who were carefully observing the coding, and who had enough
knowledge of Florida county ballot configurations and precinct voting patterns
to figure out which number represented Bush and which represented Gore, it
was clear exactly how the vote categorization was going. Specifically, they saw
the inclusion of many disputed ballots that had been successfully excluded
from previous recounts because of pressure tactics by the Bush campaign. In
the objective, professional setting of the NORC coding process, the winner
of the overwhelming number of previously disputed ballots was Al Gore.
From the first day of the NORC process, there was a visible presence of
pro-Bush demonstrators outside the coding rooms. What has not been widely
reported is that there was also a constant Bush presence inside the coding
rooms. The NORC had a policy that allowed for a representative of either party
to observe the process. In counties like Hernando, observers could pay in order
to actually sit at the coding tables. The observer was not allowed to comment,
intrude, or interact with the coders, or in any way seek to influence the ballot
There is no evidence that the partisan observers corrupted the process of
coding ballots, but their presence certainly destroys the myth of
an “unknowable” result. Inside the rooms of the NORC coding process,
politically experienced G.O.P. operatives carefully watched for trends.
They saw bad news for Bush. For example, in Republican Lake County, election
officials had disqualified six hundred ballots because voters put a pencil mark
in the circle by a candidate's name and also wrote the same candidate's name
on another part of the ballot. According to the G.O.P., this made it impossible to discern the
The coders perceived that someone who checked a candidate’s name and also
wrote in the same candidate’s name probably meant to vote for that candidate.
The Republicans screamed that no one could possibly know for certain which
candidate the voter meant to choose in these instances “unless they were
psychic”. They decried the NORC’s “pathetic attempts at mind reading”.
The G.O.P.’s high decibel cries of persecution had successfully intimidated
officials at the previous Florida recounts, but the rules of the NORC coding
session prohibited observers from emoting inside the rooms. The indignant
Republicans had to go outside to vent. The net result was a gain of one hundred
thirty votes for Gore using previously uncounted ballots in just one Republican
George W. Bush had a widespread presence of people actively looking after his
interests. There were Republican protesters outside the coding rooms and
Republican observers inside the coding rooms in every county.
The Gore organization had already disbanded.
As during the election and the recounts, the Republicans were fighting as
hard as they could — no holds
barred — while the Democrats
Even so, during the Consortium ballot study the coders just found too many
Gore votes for the G.O.P. to be able to “win” again by invoking invisible
crimes and decrying nonexistent conspiracies.
It is simply false for the Consortium to claim people were unaware that the
results were developing in a way that would be highly embarrassing, at best, for
George W. Bush. The Republican observers saw the strong pro-Gore trend and
responded with typical aplomb. A G.O.P. activist accused one NORC coder of being
drunk on the job, a lie that was later disproven. Even so, Republican operatives
reportedly pressured another coder to confirm the phony allegation. The
Republicans yelled about the quality of the coders, screamed about the treachery
of the process, and threw temper tantrums about the unfairness of it all. Of
course, they offered no proof of their slanderous charges. Though the G.O.P.
observers were publicly panicking as the trend continued strongly against them,
the Consortium observers in the very same rooms claim to be completely unaware
of who was winning.
The members of the Consortium have a sufficient interest in this matter that
they collectively have paid millions of dollars to subsidize the ballot study.
The media organizations that comprise the Consortium employ hundreds of
experienced journalists who possess expertise in gathering information. A number
of their most able journalists were eyewitnesses to what was happening in the
coding rooms. And yet, the Consortium pleads total ignorance of who was
gaining votes during the NORC coding process.
Dan Keating was the Washington Post
on-site editor for the ballot study. In an interview with MakeThemAccountable,
he said, “We intentionally blinded
ourselves to the information.”
Some coders knew enough about Florida county ballot configuration to be able
to tell which numerical code represented Bush and which identified Gore. The
same was true of supervisors, private citizens who viewed the study, and the
increasingly hysterical Republican observers. Non-Consortium journalists were
not exactly clueless, either:
The media are finding more
ballots meant for Gore. In election-speak: Even though final statewide results
aren't in, early returns favor Gore.
— Palm Beach Post
The outrageous contention by the Consortium that they “could not
possibly have known the outcome” of the ballot study is just one of
the blatant lies they have told in their continuing effort to finesse a pro-Gore
result that they didn’t anticipate, that runs counter to their financial
interests, and that they had apparently chosen to “indefinitely” delay even
before the terrorist attack on September 11.
Next – Part Three: More Consortium Dishonesty, which will be followed by an
examination of the mainstream media’s financial motivations in lying for Bush.
We will look at the concerns of some that the current delay in releasing the
results foreshadows another convoluted attempt by the mainstream media to award
Bush the victory that was denied him by the voters. We will also reveal which
famed captain of industry mobilized the media elite to rally behind Bush in