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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday April 9, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 64)
CBS & NBC Avoided Fundraising; FNC Outlined Money Flow; "Witty" Zhu

1) Neither CBS or NBC even mentioned Chinese donations Thursday night. ABC only touched on the subject broadly and none noted the Chung charges. CBS even ignored Chinese spying and a New York Times story on how it occurred in Clinton's first term.

2) FNC put it all together. Carl Cameron outlined how money flowed on a "circuitous" route from Chinese intelligence to a front company to Lippo to John Huang to the DNC. Plus, in 1993 Al Gore met with the "head of Beijing's alleged espionage front."

3) All three morning shows skipped a Washington Times report liking Huang and Trie to money from the Chinese military and gave only seconds to the NY Times story on Chinese spying in 1995.

4) ABC claimed Zhu Rongji is a "delightfully appealing" and "witty" guy. CNN was impressed that he can ad-lib and joke about Chinese spying.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) ABC, CBS and NBC still refused to utter the name "Johnny Chung" Thursday night -- even after a wire service reporter at the joint U.S.-China press conference raised the issue of China funneling money to Clinton's re-election campaign. ABC's Sam Donaldson at least referred to the general topic, noting how the Chinese Premier "said he had no knowledge that the Chinese government had contributed money to Mr. Clinton's 1996 campaign." But the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News on Thursday night didn't even mention fundraising in their wrap-up stories.

     Thursday's New York Times showcased on the front page a story about how China may have stolen neutron bomb information during Clinton's first term, directly contradicting the Clinton's team line that all the espionage occurred during the Regan-Bush years, but the CBS Evening News ignored the story. ABC and NBC covered the subject, though NBC did not give credit to the newspaper and concluded by stressing the White House spin that "there's no evidence China's neutron bomb was improved as a result." CNN devoted a whole piece by Pierre Thomas to the Times story and Clinton's previous denial.

FNC, which considers the Times story a lifting of its own exclusive from March 19 which gained no wider media traction, delivered a unique piece by Carl Cameron outlining the "Chinese military's circuitous route to funnel money to the President's re-election effort." Cameron put it all together, explaining how money traveled from Chinese intelligence to a front company to the Lippo Group to the Riady family to John Huang and finally to the Democratic Party. See item #2 for details on this FNC exclusive.

     (At 3:39pm ET, before the press conference began, FNC's Brit Hume recalled with Wendell Goler how Goler had asked Clinton on March 19 about a Fox report that spying took place during his administration, a story paralleling the New York Times piece, lamenting: "We shouldn't underestimate Wendell should we the ability of the New York Times to inject something into the bloodstream that another news organization might have less luck in doing.")

     Now, to what the wire reporters asked at the press conference and what topics the broadcast networks covered Thursday night.

     As usual during these joint events, U.S. reporters were allowed to pose three questions and the opportunities went to the three wire services. But unlike previous events this year, two of the wire reporters actually raised controversial issues with Clinton and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji during their 90 minute appearance which began at 3:50pm ET and was slowed by all the translation and Zhu's never-ending answers. UPI's Helen Thomas did ask about Kosovo, but then Terry Hunt of AP inquired:
     "A question to the Premier. Sir, how do you respond to charges that China stole nuclear warhead designs and perhaps neutron bomb technology from the United States and also funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Clinton's re-election campaign. And Mr. Clinton, do you find any of these charges credible and what do you say to criticism that your policy of engaging has benefitted China and not penalized them at all for human rights abuses, trade problems and espionage?"
     Clinton only said that he has asked Zhu for his cooperation.

     Later, Larry McQuillan of Reuters asked Zhu about charges of human rights abuses and then turned to Clinton, suggesting he did not deliberately mislead but was a "victim" of bad staff:
     "At your last formal news conference you spoke about these allegations of Chinese spying and you said it mainly dealt in the 1980s, that there were no indications that it involved your presidency. In the wake of today's New York Times report can you still make that statement or are you concerned that perhaps you were misled or had information withheld from you about the extent of the allegations."

     Here's what the April 8 evening shows, which all still opened with multiple stories about Kosovo, found newsworthy on the China front:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight provided the most complete report of the broadcast networks, but that's not saying much. Sam Donaldson began his piece by relaying how Zhu denied that China stole nuclear secrets. Donaldson then offered the only broadcast network mention of the night about fundraising:
     "Zhu also said he had no knowledge that the Chinese government had contributed money to Mr. Clinton's 1996 campaign. The President didn't respond directly to either of those points but said however."
     Clinton: "I hope that he and his government would cooperate with these two investigations. And so I think it's important that we continue the investigation and do our best to find out what happened."
     Donaldson: "Premier Zhu said China would cooperate, but on the question of espionage a story in today's New York Times said White House National Security Adviser Samuel Berger had been briefed by the summer of 1997 about possible ongoing Chinese efforts to steal information about building a neutron bomb. At his March 19th press conference of this year President Clinton said no one had suggested to him Chinese espionage had taken place during his administration."
     Clinton on March 19: "There has been no espionage at the labs since I have been President. I can tell you that no one has reported to me that they suspect such a thing has occurred."
     Donaldson: "In light of the Times story, Mr. Clinton was asked if he had been misled. The President did not respond directly."
     Donaldson played a clip of Clinton saying security at the labs has not been adequate for a long time before concluding by noting that the Clinton administration refused to give final okay to China's wish to join the World Trade Organization (WTO)

     -- CBS Evening News avoided even hinting at the fundraising scandal or the New York Times story and Clinton's previous denial anything happened during his watch. Here, in its entirety, is the CBS story from Bill Plante lasting just one minute and six seconds:
     Plante: "China's number three leader engaged in good humor but unyielding give and take with President Clinton and reporters today for 90 minutes. For example, did China steal U.S. nuclear technology? Zhu Rongji said he didn't know a thing about it."
     Zhu through translator: "It is not the policy of China to steal what, so-called military secrets from the United States."
     Plante: "President Clinton said he had discussed the question in a private meeting with Zhu last night at the White House."
     Clinton: "You know China is a big country with a big government and I can only say that America is a big country with a big government and occasionally things happen in this government that I don't know about. And so I think it's important that we continue the investigation and do our best to find out what happened and I asked for his cooperation."
     Plante: "But on the human rights question the mood got much more serious. President Clinton noted that the situation has gotten worse. Zhu admitted there was room for improvement and then he repeated the familiar argument that other nations should not interfere in China's internal affairs, Dan."

     That was it for CBS. It wasn't as if the network lacked enough time to cover illegal donations from China or the neutron bomb. Later in the show Rather took 54 seconds to explain how a cab driver in Boston won $197 million in the "Big Game" lottery, playing a soundbite from his boss about how he learned he had won. Since Rather's intro to Plante dealt with Clinton's answer about ground troops in Kosovo, the 1:06 of Plante is an accurate measure of how much time CBS gave to China. So, CBS allocated 82 percent as much time to a lottery winner as to China.

     -- NBC Nightly News. David Bloom started by reporting how Clinton had decried anti-China advocates and that Zhu denied that China stole any nuclear secrets. Bloom explained: "Premier Zhu said it would be impossible to steal such secrets given the labs' tight security. But security at the labs was anything but tight. For example, NBC News has learned that in 1994 six top Chinese nuclear weapons scientists, including the chief engineer at China's nuclear test site, toured quote 'security' and 'non-security facilities' at America's top three nuclear laboratories..."
     Without mentioning the New York Times, Bloom added that NBC News had "confirmed" that the White House learned two years ago that a Chinese spy passed along neutron bomb information. Bloom played a soundbite of Clinton denying the revelations contradicted his March 19 answer: "I noted that even the article acknowledged that the alleged espionage might not have been connected to the national labs, which is the question I was asked in the press conference."
     Nice to know that his word parsing policy goes beyond just denying sex.

     Bloom concluded by kindly relaying the White House spin:
     "And, White House officials say, the report about possible neutron bomb spying is based upon one sketchy intelligence report, that the FBI never found a suspect and that at any rate there's no evidence China's neutron bomb was improved as a result. To which they add: The President wasn't informed about any of this until after last month's news conference."

     How convenient.

     -- Bottom line: You could have watched every World News Tonight, Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, This Morning, NBC Nightly News and Today since the Los Angeles Times story broke on Sunday about how Johnny Chung had told a grand jury that he got $300,000 from the head of Chinese military intelligence to donate to the DNC, and you would have not yet heard anything about it.

     Finally for this item a brief note about CNN which gave the Chung charges 29 seconds on Monday's The World Today. Thursday night John King made only this vague reference to the topic: "Zhu also denied allegations China illegally funneled money to Mr. Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. The President responded by appealing for China's cooperation with U.S. investigation."


moneytrail0409.jpg (10538 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) FNC puts it all together. In a story run on both FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume and Fox Report Thursday night, Carl Cameron tied together some of the best-known names in the fundraising scandal, linking current revelations about Chinese intelligence with names from the past, such as John Huang and the Riady's. Cameron also uncovered how "on September 23rd 1993 [John] Huang and [James] Riady came to the White House to meet Gore and introduce Shen Juren (spelling wrong), head of Beijing's alleged espionage front, China Resources Company."

     Cameron opened by recalling Clinton's answer to colleague Wendell Goler in March -- about how spying occurred in Clinton's first term and administration officials had been briefed about it -- and how it contradicts what Fox has since determined:
     "On the day of the President's last news conference, when Fox News broke the story, Mr. Clinton said he had never been briefed but would check. Department of Energy sources tell Fox News classified documents prove [National Security Adviser Sandy] Berger was told that on Clinton's watch China stole from Lawrence Livermore Labs and elsewhere technology for the electro-magnetic pulse and neutron bombs. Over the years, sources say, secrets for as many as seven other warheads have been obtained by China."

     Cameron then directed viewers through FNC's unique outline, showing how Chung's testimony revealed by Sunday's Los Angeles Times interlinks with characters we heard about long ago:
     "China's military intelligence official most likely to be interested in stealing U.S. secrets, sources say, also turns out to be the mastermind behind China's alleged plot to get the Clinton-Gore team re-elected in 1996 with illegal contributions.
     "At the beginning of a complicated money trail is the head of Chinese military intelligence, General Ji. He pulls the strings at a massive Chinese conglomerate called China Resources Company. U.S. intelligence say some China Resources divisions in Hong Kong and worldwide are known fronts for China's Peoples Liberation Army and espionage. China Resources has joint ventures with an Indonesian-based firm called the Lippo Group. Lippo is run by the ethnic Chinese Riady family. James Riady has visited the White House. His family has long supported the Clintons. The Riady family's chief adviser on U.S. political donations: John Huang. Huang left Lippo for a Commerce Department job, then became a fundraiser, where mostly through connections to the Riady's, he collected nearly $2 million in illegal foreign contributions for the Democratic Party. Thus completes what investigators say was the Chinese military's circuitous route to funnel money to the President's re-election effort."

     During Cameron's explanation of how the money flowed, FNC offered an on-screen graphic showing the flow of money with arrows between each name going down the screen: General Ji --> China Resources --> Lippo Group --> Riady Family --> John Huang --> Democratic Party.

     Picking up again with Cameron, he noted how Chung testified that money came from General Ji, the head of Chinese intelligence, tying in Vice President Gore:
     "Chung has also said that Ji was coordinating efforts by John Huang and Charlie Trie, the President's old friend and fundraiser from Little Rock. Between the three of them they raised over $3 million in illegal donations that have been linked back to China and its military. Vice President Al Gore, stung for attending a fundraiser at a Buddhist temple where foreign contribution were laundered, has been connected too. On September 23rd 1993 Huang and Riady came to the White House to meet Gore and introduce Shen Juren (definitely misspelled, but how it sounded phonetically), head of Beijing's alleged espionage front, China Resources Company."

     Cameron concluded by suggesting the Chinese fundraising scandal may be a problem for Gore's presidential bid. But only if other media outlets pick up on FNC's discovery, unlike how they ignored FNC's March 19 scoop about spying during Clinton's first term.

     +++ See FNC's arrow graphic tracing the cash flow from China and watch a clip of Cameron's story. Friday morning by 10:30am ET or so the MRC's Sean Henry will post a RealPlayer clip on the MRC home page, but you don't need RealPlayer to see the FNC flow chart as he'll post a still image of that screen. Go to: http://www.mrc.org


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Thursday morning network morning show producers awoke to the New York Times story cited above as well as a Washington Times piece linking John Huang and Charles Yah Lin Trie to money from the Chinese military.

     All three shows ignored the Washington Times story and only gave a few seconds to the New York Times.

     The lead to Washington Times reporter Jerry Seper's April 8 story:

Former Democratic fund-raiser has, for the first time, linked Charles Yah Lin Trie and John Huang directly to a massive fund-raising offensive financed by Chinese military intelligence to help win President Clinton's re-election.

Federal authorities and others familiar with Johnny Chung's grand jury testimony said the California businessman -- a cooperating witness in the Justice Department's campaign finance probe --testified that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) financed the fund-raising scheme with cash secretly routed out of Beijing.

Chung's testimony in a task-force probe that has seen 14 indictments gives investigators a direct link between the PLA and illicit foreign donations and, the sources said, ties Mr. Trie and Mr. Huang to the suspected plot...

     END Washington Times excerpt

     Under the headline "Intelligence Report Points to Second China Nuclear Leak," New York Times reporters Jeff Gerth and James Risen disclosed:

In early 1996, the United States received a startling report from one of its Chinese spies. Officials inside China's intelligence service, the spy said, were boasting that they had just stolen secrets from the United States and had used them to improve Beijing's neutron bomb, according to American officials.

The spy had provided reliable information in the past, and officials said investigators took the report seriously.

China first built and tested a neutron warhead in the 1980s, using what American officials have said publicly was secret data stolen from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, one of America's key nuclear weapons laboratories.

But the design did not work properly. American officials say that China's 1988 test of the neutron bomb, which kills people with enhanced radiation while leaving buildings intact, was not successful.

Now, the spy was suggesting, Chinese agents had solved the problem by coming back to the United States in 1995 to steal more secrets. The spy even provided details of how the information was transferred from the United States to China, officials said.

The report prompted a federal criminal investigation, but American officials say they have found no evidence that China has produced an improved neutron bomb.

Sandy Berger, who is now the National Security Adviser, was first told of a possible new theft of neutron bomb data in 1996, according to officials who took part in the meeting or read the highly classified materials used to prepare for it....

     END New York Times excerpt

     The Thursday morning shows gave a few seconds to the New York Times piece.

     -- ABC's Good Morning America gave a 28-second summary during the 7am news update and anchor Antonio Mora returned with 14 more seconds at 8am. (See item #4 for a quote.)

     -- CBS's This Morning allocated 58 seconds in its 7:50am update not carried by all affiliates, but as you can tell from this transcript taken down by the MRC's Brian Boyd, CBS forget to tell viewers what the New York Times reported:
     Jane Robelot: "As President Clinton prepares to meet with the Chinese Premier today there are new allegations that Beijing stole American military secrets. Bill Plante joins us from the White House with the details, good morning Bill."
     Bill Plante: "Good morning Jane. We reported last month that there were allegations of espionage during the Clinton administration, that came up in a context of secrets stolen back in the '80s. This comes at a time, and President Clinton by the way last month at a news conference denied that. He said to the best of his knowledge no espionage by China had occurred during his administration. This comes as Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visits today, a time when relations between the US and China are very rocky because of the spying charges and because of the campaign contribution charges."

     -- On NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, news anchor Jodi Applegate took 26 seconds at 7am to note: "China has objected strongly to the NATO offensive even as Premier Zhu Rongji continues his visit to the United States. And this morning the New York Times is publishing new reports about Chinese spying. The Chinese premier arrived on in Washington on Wednesday and is to meet with President Clinton later today. The Times report says the Chinese stole secret American technology in 1995 to help improve their own version of a neutron bomb."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Zhu Rongji greater the Gorbachev? He's one "delightfully appealing," and "witty" guy who can ad-lib and even jokes about Chinese spying. How charming. That's how ABC and CNN reporters portrayed him on Thursday, April 8.

     -- During Good Morning America's 8am news update anchor Antonio Mora took 14 seconds to note: "There is a new report this morning of Chinese nuclear spying. The New York Times says that as recently as 1995, the Chinese apparently stole technology to help improve their neutron bomb. The report comes on the day President Clinton goes into talks with China's visiting premier."

     Then, as observed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, ABC's Ann Compton offered this glowing assessment of the communist repressor:
     "Zhu Rongji is the kind of foreign leader the American public finds delightfully appealing: straight-talking, savvy, witty. Clinton officials want to like the Chinese premier, too. They call him the architect of China's economic reforms. President Clinton observed Zhu's success last summer when the President visited modern Shanghai, where Zhu was once the reform-minded mayor."

     -- Thursday night on CNN's The World Today Andrea Koppel explained how gaining admission to the WTO was Zhu's first goal, but she explained how he also had another mission in mind for his journey:
     "The other purpose of Premier Zhu's U.S. visit: To dispel the notion held by most Americans that Chinese leaders are stiff, humorless communist ideologues. Repeatedly Premier Zhu took aim at China's critics, showing flexibility on issues like human rights and toughness on other core issues like the future of Taiwan. He also ad-libbed throughout the day and even joked about sensitive subjects like allegations of Chinese spying."

     After 50 years of living under a nuclear threat from the Soviet Union China is now creating another one for us by stealing our technology, yet a CNN reporter thinks jokes about that are charming. And I'm sure all the political and religious prisoners in China find it reassuring that Zhu is so "witty." -- Brent Baker


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