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Luntz -- PBS' pick to survey public response after Democratic forum -- was longtime Giuliani pollster

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Summary: As Media Matters for America has noted, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who the Public Broadcasting Service has announced will provide "public feedback" following PBS' coverage of the June 28 Democratic presidential forum, has shown open disdain for Democratic priorities and candidates and has reportedly been reprimanded and censured by his peers for withholding and misrepresenting polling data and methodology. But, in addition to leaving out these facts from its press release announcing Luntz's participation, PBS, which referred to Luntz only as a "noted pollster," made no mention of the fact that Luntz has worked for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a potential general election opponent of one of the forum's participants, and has heaped praise on Giuliani this year. On the February 7 edition of PBS' Tavis Smiley, after referring to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as the "[b]est communicator out there," Luntz said: "Giuliani, it's about results and success. ... [T]his is a guy who took a city that was on its knees and brought it back to its feet. You can now take your kids there. You can hang out on Times Square at 11 p.m. on a Friday night and not be afraid." Luntz concluded: "Imagine if you could do that for New York, what he could do for America"

Luntz worked for Giuliani during each of Giuliani's three previous political campaigns: his campaign for New York City mayor in 1993, re-election bid in 1997, and aborted campaign for U.S. Senate in 2000. On the second page of the introduction to his book, Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear (Hyperion, January 2007), Luntz describes himself as "[t]he man who worked for Rudy Giuliani, two-time Republican mayor of a city where Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans 5-to-1 (xii)."

In his book, Luntz repeated phrases he had poll-tested in praising Giuliani. For instance, on Page 90, Luntz wrote that the polling he conducted in 2000 during Giuliani's bid for a Senate seat indicated that Giuliani's "personal story and record of accomplishment trumped his political philosophy and where he stood on the issues." Luntz then provided a "capsule biography of Rudy," which he claimed "poll-tested through the political stratosphere." After providing Giuliani's biographical information and accomplishments as mayor, the capsule read: "Today, Rudy is motivated by the same things he learned as a child ... hard work, telling it like it is, a sense of responsibility to community and country, his belief in people, and the power of faith."

During his televised guest appearances, Luntz has repeatedly described Giuliani as "someone who means what he says and says what he means" and criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and other Democrats:

  • On the June 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Luntz said of Clinton: "[I]f she is shown to be a flip-flopper ... [t]hat will undercut her credibility immediately." He went on to say that "[w]hat the Democrats want ... is somebody who says what they mean and means what they say." Luntz predicted Clinton is "going to have a problem later on in her campaign." On the same program, Luntz falsely claimed that "[t]here's data out there that shows that the Democrats have a significant lead over the Republicans in who people want for president. But when you compare Giuliani and Hillary Clinton ... she runs behind." Co-host Alan Colmes corrected Luntz, saying: "It depends on the poll. She runs ahead in some." Indeed, several of the recent polls available at the time of Luntz's comments had Clinton either ahead or tied with Giuliani in a possible general election match-up. A June 15-17 Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll had Clinton and Giuliani tied at 42 percent, but in a June 11-14 Gallup poll, Clinton led Giuliani 50-46 percent. In a June 8-11 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Clinton was ahead of Giuliani 48-43.
  • On the June 14 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Luntz repeated the phrase, saying that "the reason why [Giuliani is] still leading right now is because the number-two attribute after someone who says what they mean and means what they say -- the number-two attribute that the American people want in a president is a leader in times of crisis." Luntz then asked: "Does that not define Rudy Giuliani?"
  • In an April 25 article, Variety reported that "Luntz predicted that [former Sen. John] Edwards [D-NC] will win Iowa but said the next president will be whoever shows authenticity, a person 'who says what he means and means what he says.' " Luntz was quoted as saying: "I pray that it is Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton for one reason: It will be the biggest brawl in modern political history. Every guy will be rooting for Rudy. Every woman will be rooting for Hillary. Divorce lawyers will make a mint off this election. And it will be fun to watch."
  • As Media Matters noted, on the March 13 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Luntz described Giuliani as "someone who defines the phrase 'Says what he means, means what he says.' "
  • Again, on the March 2 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Luntz criticized Sen. Clinton and said that Americans "want to look you straight in the eye and they want you to say what you mean and mean what you say and not hide anything."
  • On the February 10 edition of CNBC's The Tim Russert Show, when asked to explain how "[c]redibility is as important as philosophy," Luntz said: "It means that you have to genuinely say what you mean and mean what you say." Later in the show, after suggesting Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is a "flip-flop[per]," Luntz stated: "You want [politicians] to look you straight in the eye and absolutely say what you mean and mean what you say. It's why [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] is popular, it's why Rudy Giuliani is popular, and it's why Barack Obama is popular.
  • In a February 4 New York Times article, in which Luntz was identified as "Mr. Giuliani's second mayoral campaign pollster," he was quoted as saying, "No one in New York, not even Ed Koch, could equal Rudy in the phrase, 'He says what he means and means what he says.' "
  • And on the January 19 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, Luntz was asked by host Tucker Carlson, "What kind of language should Giuliani use?" Luntz replied: "First off, I'm not advising him. I worked with him in his mayoral races, but I'm not involved in the presidential." Luntz went on to say: "Rudy doesn't use sound bites. He's the only politician in America that speaks in entire thoughts. And if you look at the transcript of what he says, it's not beautiful. But if you listen to it, he moves people."

Further, in his book, Luntz wrote that "in 1993, when I was working for Rudy Giuliani in his first successful campaign for mayor of New York, I pressed for him to talk about 'public safety' rather than 'crime' and 'criminals.' " Luntz added, "[I]n the polling I did with the voters of New York, I discovered that the public placed a higher priority on 'personal and public safety' than on 'fighting crime' or even 'getting tough on criminals' " (Page 178). During interviews this year, Luntz pushed this notion of "public safety." In his February 7 interview on Tavis Smiley, speaking about what he characterized as Giuliani's accomplishments in New York City, Luntz said: "You can hang out on Times Square at 11:00 PM on a Friday night and not be afraid. New York's a different place." Similarly, in his January 19 appearance on Tucker, in his praise for Giuliani, Luntz said: "And I've got to tell you, it's not just 9-11 that has an impact. It's what happened in Times Square; what happened in 42nd Street."

In a September 24, 2000, article about the 2000 New York U.S. Senate race, The New York Observer reported that while working for Giuliani, Luntz "convened focus groups in part to gauge how these various political personas were received in Mrs. Clinton's new home state." From the article:

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, for one, was fully aware of the perils of running against Hillary the Martyr. When Mr. Giuliani was gearing up to run against Mrs. Clinton in 1999, his top advisers -- including Adam Goodman, his media adviser, and Rick Wilson, his chief strategist -- spent a year studying the First Lady's career and compiled a detailed analysis of the roles she had played in politics through the years. Frank Luntz, Mr. Giuliani's pollster, convened focus groups in part to gauge how these various political personas were received in Mrs. Clinton's new home state.

From the June 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

SEAN HANNITY (co-host): Here's my question to you, though.

LUNTZ: Yeah.

HANNITY: Now, we've got -- one year ago, she said no timetables before the same group she spoke to today. Then she goes to timetables, to cutting off funding for the troops.

LUNTZ: Good points.

HANNITY: The ads that can be built around her position seem to me ideal for a Republican candidate.

LUNTZ: And for her, if she's shown to be a flip-flopper -- Hillary Clinton, a flip-flopper --

HANNITY: Hillary Clinton -- big time.

LUNTZ: -- that will undercut her credibility immediately.

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mediamatters.org Media Matters for America is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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