Gore getting advantage over Bush in NBC airtime

NEW YORK - Viewers of NBC's top-rated nightly newscast will be seeing a lot more of Al Gore than George W. Bush the week before Election Day.

NBC's ''Nightly News'' offered to interview both candidates each night this week as part of its election coverage. Gore accepted, and had more than four minutes of airtime with anchor Tom Brokaw on Monday night.

Bush, meanwhile, was not featured on the newscast. He did tape an interview for the show on Tuesday, which was included alongside another Gore interview. But while Gore is scheduled to appear on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Bush is not.

NBC said it made clear to each candidate that if he did not accept, the invitation was still open to his opponent, NBC spokeswoman Barbara Levin said.

''It's fair,'' she said. ''It was spelled out clearly to the candidates that we wanted to have the opportunity for the viewers to hear from them about the issues they care about.''

Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said Bush had events scheduled that prevented him from making the nightly commitment. On Monday, Bush was ''literally on stage'' during Brokaw's broadcast, she said.

Bush is also trying to juggle interviews with other television networks and wanted to be fair in terms of the time offered, Hughes said.

Levin said that a senior Bush adviser had initially declined the offer of nightly interviews because they wanted their candidate to stay ''on message.'' But after Gore's appearance Monday, the Bush campaign called back to set up an interview.

Asked why NBC didn't plan to spread parts of its Bush interview over the rest of the week so Gore did not appear alone, Levin said the network wanted the chance to have the candidate react to the day's news. Gore's interviews will be live, she said.

Bush won't get much sympathy if he complains the coverage is unfair, said Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

''Anything that lets the public see the candidates in a direct and unedited fashion is good,'' Lichter said. ''If the candidates refuse, then it's their problem.''


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