House To Hold Hearings On Election News Coverage

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - Saying the television network's election night coverage was biased against Republican George W. Bush, House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said Thursday that he will chair hearings on the matter. Those hearings are expected to begin when Congress returns to Capitol Hill.

Tauzin said some of the networks, including ABC, CBS and CNN, while initially reluctant, have begun to conduct "internal investigations" on their election night coverage. Tauzin commended the networks for doing that.

"We're going to have these hearings. It will be incumbent upon the networks to explain these anomalies to us. Explain why these biases were not intentional and then to work with us to see if we can come up with a better system," Tauzin said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Tauzin continued, "The purpose of our investigation will not be to punish anyone. We don't want to punish anybody, put anybody in a dock or embarrass anyone. Our purpose is to find out what went wrong. If there was bias, uncover it. If it was intentional, to call it like we see it. If it was not intentional, to find out what went wrong and fix it. Our purpose will be to uncover the truth of these anomalies to discern as much as we can about the effect it had upon this election because could well have effected the total vote outcome."

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) was critical of CNN projecting Florida for Gore and then later admitted projecting the state too early for the Democratic candidate.

"The notion as CNN put it, that it was a mistake, that we didn't know that there were two time zones in Florida, is as unacceptable as the CIA saying they couldn't get a street map," Cox said.

Pointing to charts, Tauzin said, "In nine of the states where George W Bush won the election with percentage of six percent or above based upon CNN declarations of winners and losers, in nine of those states, those states were put on the close to call and were delayed in calls for George W Bush. In no state, where Al Gore won a margin of victory of six percent or above was there any delays in the calls. In all cases where Al Gore won a state by six percent, the call was made immediately for Al Gore."

"In nine states," Tauzin continued, "including Alabama where George Bush won by a landslide of 15 percent there were delays in the call. Using this VNS (Voters News Service) information, all the networks, cable and broadcasting, effectively gave America the impression that the George W. Bush states were too close to call, while the Al Gore states were falling in line for Al Gore."

"Combine that with the wrong call of Florida, while voters in the panhandle of Florida were still voting and the message that was sent out by the networks by calling the Al Gore states early and delaying the calls on the George W. Bush states, you receive a picture of America believing that Al Gore was sweeping the country. The evidence is mounting that there was some kind of bias in this system," Tauzin said.

Tauzin also believes the television networks have much to answer for as far as their election night coverage was concerned. He hopes the networks will tell his subcommittee why they covered election night the way they did.

"We'll have a hearing and the burden will be on the networks and on VNS, the Voter News Service, . . . to prove to this nation that the election coverage which now apparently has an effect of affecting the result of our presidential elections may have been intentionally biased. That is a disturbing potential conclusion that we have seen from this evidence," Tauzin said.