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CNN Cans Bush for Clinton and Showtime at the Apollo

July 31, 2001|Dana Calvo and Edwin Chen

The Comeback Kid stole the show Monday morning.

President Bush was in mid-sentence, addressing the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, when CNN cut away as his predecessor opened a new office on 125th Street in Harlem, N.Y.

Former President Clinton joked to the crowd of supporters and protesters that he might still fulfill his childhood dream of playing saxophone at the Apollo Theater.

"There had always been the decision to air Clinton's speech live," said Christa Robinson, a CNN spokeswoman, explaining the switch. "When events are happening simultaneously, you try to give viewers a sense of all of them."

MSNBC executives were sweating it out because Bush's and Clinton's appearances were running slightly behind schedule, but they had decided to give Clinton priority.

"We had Clinton first and then cut away and showed Bush's speech in its entirety moments later," MSNBC spokesman Mark O'Connor said. "It was on tape delay."

The decision by the highly competitive news channels is not all that surprising. As Los Angeles Times Television Critic Howard Rosenberg noted in a January column: "In the eye of the camera, Clinton is the man, Bush the mannequin."

After cutting back to Bush, CNN used a split screen to show a side-by-side Clinton and Bush.

Bush's address to the law enforcement group took place at a Washington hotel at an event to mark the organization's 25th anniversary. The president broke no new ground in his speech and used his remarks to tout a proposal that is pending in Congress. Bush emphasized the benefits of his faith-based initiative to channel more federal funds to religious organizations that provide social services.

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