CBS & NBC Refuse to Touch China; Russert Grilled Richardson
1) All the broadcast networks
ignored the Senate Intelligence Committee report released Friday. Only CNN
provided a story and only ABC informed viewers about how Wen Ho Lee
claimed to be a long-time FBI informant.
2) No stories on any morning
show but NBC's Katie Couric did pose one question about Wen Ho Lee to
Attorney General Janet Reno.
3) On Meet the Press Tim
Russert grilled Bill Richardson about a subject the rest of NBC News has
ignored: "Did, in fact, espionage occur by the Chinese against the
nuclear labs during the Clinton presidency?" and did Clinton mislead
the public in his denial.
4) Tony Snow pointed out how
Senator Thompson was right about China's plan "to influence the
1996 elections" and Porter Goss told Snow the Cox report should be
out this week.
5) A story in Monday's
Investor's Business Daily: "TV's Blackout on China Spying: Big
Three Networks Bypass Blockbuster Scandal."
On Friday the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report
about the impact and extent of what nuclear secrets China acquired and
both the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post featured front page stories
about how suspected spy Wen Ho Lee denied any wrongdoing. But CBS and NBC
ignored both developments Friday night and none of the Friday morning
shows aired a story, though Today's Katie Couric did pose one China
question to a guest. See item #2. (See the May 7 CyberAlert for details of
what the Senate report found as previewed in Friday's papers.)
ABC ran a story on
Lee's denial and CNN briefly noted his statement after providing a full
report on the committee's bi-partisan findings.
covering China, the May 7 CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News ran full
reports on the Jenny Jones decision. CBS added stories on how Japanese
youth play the same violent video games but don't act out any aggression
and an update on what happened to an Iowa teacher famous for a 1968
experiment in which she treated blue-eyed and brown-eyed kids differently
so they could experience the impact of discrimination. NBC had time for a
"Retiring Smart" segment on how many don't get the best
earnings they could in their 401k plan and a look at how dogs suffered
"trauma" in the Oklahoma tornadoes. MSNBC's News with Brian
Williams also ignored China but included a 12-minute replay of a Dateline
piece about the dangers of ground beef.
Here's what ABC
and CNN delivered Friday night:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Bob Woodruff summarized Wen Ho Lee's statement about how
never spied and that the FBI recruited him in the early 1980s to monitor
other scientists. Woodruff explained:
enforcement sources tell ABC News Lee's story is accurate. Critics say
this early relationship between Wen Ho Lee and the FBI could explain why
the bureau did not vigorously pursue Lee when he himself became a
suspected spy in late 1995. And why he was left in his sensitive job for
almost three years."
After a soundbite
from Senator Richard Shelby complaining about "sloppy" FBI work,
Woodruff concluded: "The FBI has said it was held back in its
investigation by the Justice Department. Now the Justice Department is
investigating whether the FBI's work on this case was affected by
Lee's cooperation as an undercover agent."
Sounds like an
intriguing story, but not one the networks are pursuing.
CNN's The World
Today. Candy Crowley began her story by noting how the Senate
committee's findings were "delivered in unfamiliar bipartisan
form" with Republican Richard Shelby and Democrat Bob Kerrey
agreeing. Crowley outlined the report the broadcast networks ignored:
"After a ten-month investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee
concluded two things: China probably used U.S. commercial technology to
improve its nuclear weapons system. China also had a plan to influence the
1996 U.S. elections."
Following a clip
of Kerrey Crowley continued: "The China story is like that, a series
of troubling dots without a line to connect them. The latest dot thrown on
to the canvas, allegations of Chinese espionage inside U.S. nuclear labs.
Maybe he cannot connect the dots, but the Intelligence Committee chairman
sees a troubling big picture." Shelby asserted: "The committee
concluded that U.S. technology will enable the Chinese to improve their
Crowley went on to
preview upcoming events: "A half dozen congressional committees are
probing one element or another of the China connection. Next week alone,
Johnny Chung, a former Clinton friend, former Democratic fundraiser, is
likely to provide some embarrassing moments when he testifies before the
Burton committee about his contacts with Chinese military and business
leaders. And a House committee may release its bipartisan report on
Chinese attempts to influence U.S. politics and secure nuclear secrets.
Two Senate committees plan hearings in the continuing investigation into
what happened at the nuclear labs...."
Friday morning not a syllable about any of the many China stories in that
morning's papers made it onto ABC's Good Morning America or CBS's
This Morning. No story either on NBC's Today, but MRC analyst Mark Drake
did notice that after several questions about school violence Katie Couric
asked Attorney General Janet Reno not about her agency's malfeasance in
pursuing espionage but only if Wen Ho Lee's claim about working for the
FBI is true.
Here are the last
five questions Couric posed to Reno on Friday morning, May 7:
-- "Is the federal government willing to
give schools more money so they can enact these kinds of programs [to curb
-- "It is a very complicated and
multifaceted problem, I think, when it comes to young people in this
country today. What about access to guns? Do you think that is part of the
-- "But it doesn't look like it's going to
pass though does it? I mean the NRA has not exactly embraced these
proposals and there a lot of people who don't like them."
-- "What about the role of the Internet, of
movies, of television, of video games. Are they contributing to the
problem in your view?"
-- "While you're here, I just want to ask
you a question about some news this morning regarding allegations of
spying against a Chinese nuclear scientist who used to work at the Los
Alamos labs. His lawyer says he worked for the FBI for 17 years. Can you
comment on that this morning?"
Reno refused to
confirm or deny, calling the matter classified.
Tim Russert, resident of a parallel universe at NBC News. After NBC
Nightly News and Today ignored every recent major China disclosure, on
Sunday's Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert grilled Energy Secretary
Bill Richardson about how Clinton falsely denied knowledge of espionage in
during his term, a topic NBC's regular shows have never raised. His
interview with Richardson followed a segment with Shelby and Kerrey
discussing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee's
report which Today and Nightly News did not find newsworthy.
Below are the most
interesting excerpts from the May 9 Meet the Press:
-- Demanding more
information in a report NBC News shows ignored. Talking with Shelby and
Kerrey Russert pointed out: "Senator Shelby, in the report, which I
read yesterday, on page 40, there's something quite interesting and
striking to me. It says, 'All relevant information collected during the
committee's investigation, including some suspicious banking
relationships, have been turned over to appropriate law enforcement and
counterintelligence authorities.' What does that mean?"
Shelby explained that "it means that our
point of reference in our committee that we agreed on -- the scope of our
committee didn't cover everything, but there are very suspicious banking
relationships here. The PRC, their national bank, like our Federal
Reserve, through various front companies, has sent millions and millions
of dollars to a small bank in the United States. And one of the people at
the bank, who is a PRC national, is kin, if not close, to someone who is a
very suspicious character that's being investigated, is a target of the
investigation of what happened to this money, and did a lot of it get into
the political arena? We don't know that yet."
Russert followed up: "Is it a Democratic
Shelby: "Well, I'm not going to say that
right now, but that's what we think it leads to."
Russert then scolded: "Well, why wasn't this
included in the report?"
How odd of the
Vice President of a network which has ignored China on its two main shows
for several weeks to complain to a Senator about leaving out an angle in a
report his network skipped. If Russert thinks the committee is covering up
isn't that a great angle for a story on Nightly News or Today instead of
-- Senator Kerrey, a Democrat, says espionage
occurred in the Clinton years and Clinton knew about it:
Russert: "The President said in March that
no one reported to him any espionage occurred."
Shelby: "Well, he said that, and I think
somebody is ill-serving the President of the United States. If it's the
National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, or if it's the Attorney General,
it's the FBI director, whoever it is, if they ill-serve the president,
that's no service at all. Somebody's got to be accountable. The
president's wrong. Maybe the information never got to him, but it should
Russert: "Senator Kerrey, has the President
been ill-served and how would you gauge the damage done to our national
security at our nuclear labs?"
Kerrey: "Well, if the President says he was
not aware of it, it's surprising since he signed a presidential directive
in 1997 and created a new counterintelligence effort at the Department of
Energy and moved our top counterintelligence person over to the Department
of Energy, Ed Curran, who now has put a first-rate plan in place. I mean,
he's the first administration to have done it. So it'd be very surprising
if he says now 'I didn't know about this,' and he should have known
about it way back in 1996."....
Russert: "But, Senator Kerrey, you have no
doubt there has been Chinese espionage at the nuclear laboratories?"
Kerrey: "I have no doubt that there's been
Chinese espionage at the nuclear laboratories. And I have no doubt that
the efforts to reduce the risk of that espionage was sloppy and not
well-coordinated, and as a consequence, has been damaged to the people of
the United States of America's safety."
-- Grilling Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
about Clinton's denial.
Russert, with text of the May 2 New York Times
story on-screen: "In 1998, a report was sent to you and the Secretary
of Defense, Secretary of State, the FBI, the President, and let me put it
on our screen. This was in The New York Times last week. It says: 'A
secret report to top Clinton administration officials last November warned
that China posed an 'acute intelligence threat' to the government's
nuclear weapons laboratories, and that computer systems at the labs were
being constantly penetrated by outsiders.' It goes on, and let me
continue. 'Yet investigators waited until March to search the computer
of a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who had been under
investigation for nearly three years, suspected of spying for China. And
it was not until April that the Energy Department shut down its classified
computer systems to impose tighter security over their data.' If you
were warned in November of penetration, why would you wait until April to
close down the computers?"
Richardson replied: "Because that report is
incorrect. I moved immediately with $8 million in cybersecurity measures
to push for new firewalls on the computer, intrusion devices. We've moved
ahead with automated systems so that this would not happen again. We had a
very strong cybersecurity measure. Now, in April, I completely shut down
all the nuclear weapons computers. Now, that is a Draconian, drastic step.
That meant that for two weeks we could not do any work on our nuclear
weapons. We have moved aggressively. We can stand for new suggestions and
improvements. We are not perfect...."
Russert continued to press: "But, again, it's the President's word
that is at stake. You heard Senator Kerrey say, 'The reaction' -- he's
a Democrat -- 'The reaction was sloppy and not particularly
well-coordinated.' The report concluded, let me put this on the screen,
'This effort has been successful and Beijing's exploitation of U.S.
national laboratories has substantially aided its nuclear weapons
"That was November of 1998. Our
counterintelligence sending that report to the President and to you, very
specifically that Beijing has benefitted. Now, let me show you what the
President was specifically asked in March, and find out, again, what
happened. Question: 'Mr. President, can you assure the American people
that under your watch no valuable nuclear secrets were lost?'
"President Clinton: 'Can I tell you there
has been no espionage at the labs since I've been President? I can tell
you that no one has reported to me that they suspect such a thing has
occurred.' And later in the news conference: 'To the best of my
knowledge, no one has said anything to me about any espionage which
occurred by the Chinese against the labs, during my presidency.'
"Mr. Richardson, that's not true. In
November of '98, you received, the President received a report saying
exactly something contrary. Senator Kerrey, Senator Shelby of the
Intelligence Committee said they were aware and the President was aware.
Why would he tell the American people in March that he wasn't aware?"
Richardson: "Tim, what the President was
referring to -- and I was with him -- he was referring to this individual
had not been charged with espionage."
Russert: "That's not what he said. It's not
what he said, Mr. Richardson."
Richardson: "The President has been fully,
fully briefed. The President has been... (cut off)
Russert: "He said, 'Can I tell you that
there's no espionage at the lab since I've been President? I can tell you
that no one has reported to me they suspect such a thing. To the best of
my knowledge, no one has said anything to me about espionage.'"
Richardson: "Tim, it was the
President..." (Cut off)
Russert: "...which occurred by the Chinese
against the labs during my presidency."
Richardson: "Tim, it was the President that
vigorously pushed for a decision memorandum, a PDD, in February. He set
dramatic counterintelligence measures at the labs. We moved ahead a month
later and hired Mr. Curran, the best counterintelligence person."
Russert: "But let's clear up the
Richardson: "And when I came in, Tim, we
have taken dramatic steps."
Russert: "Right. Let's clear up the record.
Let's clear up the record. Did, in fact, espionage occur by the Chinese
against the nuclear labs during the Clinton presidency?"
Richardson: "Tim, this is what's
Russert: "It's a simple question."
Richardson: "No, no, no, this is what
Russert: "Was there Chinese
espionage..." (Cut off)
Richardson: "There has been damaging
security leaks, number one."
Russert: "...during the Clinton
Richardson: "The Chinese did get W-88
information that is damaging. It started in the '80s, it's gone into the
'90s. The Chinese have obtained damaging information. We are..."
Russert: "During the Clinton
Richardson: "We are addressing the
Russert: "During the Clinton
Richardson: "During past administrations and
Russert: "Finally, someone has acknowledged
It's great tat
Russert was so aggressive in getting this acknowledgment, but it would be
nice if NBC News would finally report some of this on Today or Nightly
As documented in
previous CyberAlerts, NBC News has avoided the subject of Clinton's lie.
When the April 28 New York Times ran a story disclosing how Wen Ho Lee
supposedly transferred the legacy codes to an open computer, ABC's World
News Tonight aired a story and the CBS Evening News mentioned it, though
neither pointed out how the 1994-95 activity contradicted Clinton's
claims it all occurred in the 1980s. NBC's Today gave the story 15
seconds while Nightly News skipped it.
Four days later
the front page of the New York Times featured the story cited in detail by
Russert. NBC's reaction: Zilch that morning or since on Today, not a
word on Nightly News that evening or since. Only ABC's World News
Tonight told viewers about it that night, in a 40-second item that did not
mention how the revelation contradicted Clinton.
+++ See Russert
grill Richardson. Late Monday morning ET the MRC's Sean Henry and
Kristina Sewell will post a video clip, in RealPlayer format, of some the
heated exchange between Russert and Richardson. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
Russert's success at getting Richardson to concede that nuclear
technology loss occurred during Clinton's term generate any network
interest Sunday night? Nope. NBA basketball bumped NBC Nightly News in the
ET and CT times zones, though it's doubtful anything appeared given
NBC's irresponsible record. The May 9 World News Tonight on ABC featured
a full report on the growing popularity of Puerto Rican singer Ricky
Martin, poster boy of the hottest music trend: Latin music. The CBS
Evening News had time to showcase a New Jersey A&P with an automatic
scanning system customers use and for a look at the growing enrollment in
Catholic seminaries. (Less than a hour later 60 Minutes highlighted a man
suing the Jesuit order for sexual harassment.) Nothing about China on
CNN's 7pm ET The World Today.
In addition to Meet the Press Fox News Sunday also looked at Chinese
espionage, bringing aboard Senator Shelby and Porter Goss, Chairman of the
House intelligence committee. Host Tony Snow ended wit a noteworthy point
-- Snow to Shelby:
"We all remember that Senator Fred Thompson accused the Chinese of
having a Chines plan to influence the 1996 elections. They did, didn't
-- Snow to Goss:
"The Cox committee is going to be releasing a report. You're always
telling us it's two weeks away. You going to tell us that again?"
Goss bet it would be released this week:
"Their mandate runs out on the 14th of May and In think it's a
question of now printing it and getting it out."
"TV's Blackout on China Spying: Big Three Networks Bypass
Blockbuster Scandal." That's the headline over a May 10
"National Issue" story by Paul Sperry on the front page on
Investor's Business Daily. Sperry picked up on some points made by the
MRC over the past few months, as you can see in this excerpt:
Communist China plays a central role in
three of the most alarming scandals facing the Clinton administration:
campaign finance fraud, satellite technology transfers and nuclear weapons
Yet when Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visited
the White House early last month, TV newscasters by and large passed on
the story, now known as Chinagate, focusing instead on issues like China's
entry into the World Trade Organization.
It's not as if they didn't have a new
Earlier in the week the Los Angeles Times
dropped a bombshell: "The chief of China's military intelligence
secretly directed funds from Beijing to help re-elect President Clinton in
Network coverage of the scoop? Not a peep.
The Big Three -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- all blacked out the story on both
their morning and evening news shows.
Surveys show Americans get most of their
political information from these networks' evening newscasts, which reach
a combined audience of nearly 30 million.
"The perfect time for them to have
gotten into the story was during the recent visit of the Chinese
premier,'' said Richard Noyes, an analyst at the nonpartisan Center for
Media and Public Affairs. "And they didn't."
Analysts at the two major partisan media
watchdogs -- the conservative Media Research Center and the liberal
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting -- are also scratching their heads over
the dearth of TV coverage....
Why would the major networks beg off such a
big story? Politics, contends MRC chief analyst Tim Graham. "This
shows the (TV) media doesn't have a liberal bias; it has a Democratic
Party bias," he said. "It gives complete, almost Secret
Service-level protection to the President."....
Even so, daily newspapers are covering the
story, if in fits and starts.
Does it matter then that TV news producers
are yawning? Yes, media analysts say. Fully 70% of Americans say they get
their political information from the evening news -- not newspapers, a
1992 University of Michigan poll shows.
"When the TV news passes on a big
story, as it has on this China story, it has little chance of breaking
into the public's consciousness," Noyes said.
The thin coverage contrasts starkly with
that of past foreign policy scandals. Consider the nonstop play received
by Iran-Contra, which revolved around allegations that the Reagan White
House was secretly selling arms to Iran and using the profits to back
Nicaraguan freedom fighters. Another goal was to try to free hostages held
by Islamic terrorists in Beirut....
"If this were Ronald Reagan accused of
selling foreign policy to the highest bidder, it's a little hard to
imagine this wouldn't have attracted more attention," Fox News'
Washington bureau chief Brit Hume said at the time.
Some Washington media pundits intone that
Chinagate is just too "complicated" for TV.
They point out that producers have, after
commercials, just 22 minutes to pack in all the day's news. That's why
most stories run just a few minutes long -- hardly enough time to explain
things like shell companies, straw donors, Byzantine money trails, nuclear
codes and satellite-guidance systems.
But that excuse doesn't hold up to
scrutiny, Noyes says. Producers broke format to get out the equally
complex Iran-Contra story. "There were some nights when it took up
the entire newscast," he recalled....
The Chinagate story isn't as easy for TV
newscasters to tell as "two teenagers shooting up a school,"
Graham allowed. "But it's their professional obligation to explain to
people, in terms they understand, what this means to their lives."
Yet the opposite is happening. Graham says
he's noticed that the more light the press sheds on the story, the more
the networks back away from it. He suspects it's a political reaction.
"The more damaging the news is to Clinton," he said, "the
less play it gets.
Whatever the motive, Big Three snoozing on
Chinagate shows a pattern. Consider that:
On March 29, Newsweek quoted intelligence
officials saying that the Chinese "penetration is total. They are
deep into the (U.S. nuclear weapons) labs' black programs." Network
coverage? Zero, a recent MRC report finds.
On March 24, The New York Times revealed
that the Clinton administration promoted the suspected Chinese spy at Los
Alamos and even let him hire a Chinese national as an assistant.
Nightly news coverage? Zip, although the
Kosovo bombing started later that day. Still, the morning news shows
didn't touch the story (informing viewers instead about, among other
things, cherry blossoms and used-car buying).
During President Clinton's June 1998 trip
to Beijing, "the networks avoided the China scandals the entire time
Clinton was on Chinese soil," MRC noted.
At the time, Clinton was drawing fire for
relaxing controls on satellite exports, which helped China enhance its
In April 1998, The New York Times reported
that Clinton's policy change got top Democratic Party donor Bernie
Schwartz's company out of hot water. Loral Corp. allegedly had given China
restricted technology. The networks did mention this story -- six weeks
During the summer of 1997, Senate Chinagate
hearings led off the evening newscast just five times, MRC found. By
contrast, evening stories on gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan got the top
slot on 30 shows.
The most recent bombshell -- The New York
Times' April 28 scoop that a Los Alamos spy in 1994 and 1995 downloaded
U.S. nuclear codes to an open computer network -- triggered some network
coverage. But it was spotty and unusually cautious.
Both CBS and ABC ran the story third in
their evening lineups. And they cast doubt on any serious damage from the
massive data transfer. "The network news is constantly scaring us
about fatty cheese fries and sport utility vehicles," Graham quipped,
"but not Chinese nuclear espionage."
NBC's coverage? Not a word, though it found
room to run a piece on the coming hurricane season.
END IBD Excerpt
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"today's newspaper" where this piece will be posted on Monday
only. Go to: http://www.investors.com
(Click on register and you'll see a user name and password you can use.)
Always nice to see a mainstream media story
spread the MRC's findings to a wider audience. --
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