CBS & MSNBC Skipped Chung; Morning Chung Blackout; NBC Gets to Spying
1) ABC, CNN, FNC and NBC
covered Johnny Chung's House testimony Tuesday night, but not CBS or
MSNBC's News with Brian Williams. ABC highlighted how Chung blamed the
campaign finance system.
2) Of the three cable news
channels only FNC carried Chung live for more than 20 minutes. MSNBC
avoided live coverage but provided live updates on a crowd awaiting singer
3) Nothing about Chung
Wednesday morning on Today or GMA. Tuesday morning only CBS's This
Morning uttered his name.
4) NBC Nightly News finally
told viewers about the legacy code transfer but Andrea Mitchell
highlighted an expert who claimed espionage has not helped China. CBS
revealed the Clinton team declassified documents full of useful nuclear
5) NBC News may avoid Chinese
espionage, but not NBC's Tonight Show which did more Monday night than
Today has all month.
Finally, five weeks after the April 4 Los Angeles Times broke the story of
how Johnny Chung was given $300,000 in 1996 by the head of Chinese
military intelligence to donate to help President's Clinton's
re-election, two of the three broadcast networks told viewers his story.
The testimony on
Tuesday by Chung before the House Government Reform Committee generated
stories Tuesday night on ABC, CNN, FNC and NBC, but notably not on either
the CBS Evening News or MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams which found
six minutes to replay a Today interview with Star Wars creator George
Lucas about violence in movies. So that means viewers of the MSNBC show
and the CBS Evening News have yet to learn about the $300,000. CNN's
Inside Politics led with a report on Chung by Bob Franken and Jonathan
Aiken provided a later story for CNN's 10pm ET The World Today. (Tuesday
morning only CBS's This Morning previewed Chung's upcoming testimony,
but none ran an interview segment. See item #3 today for details.)
covering Chung, the CBS Evening News made time for a preview of expected
record summer travel by road, a brief look at a new robotic toy dog from
Japan, discussion with Dr. Bernardine Healey about the overuse of the
anti-obesity drug Xenical, and an Eye on America look at abuses of Chapter
No one story
delivered the whole picture of what Chung conveyed. CNN and FNC, but not
ABC and NBC, noted how the Chinese General who gave him the $300,000 later
threatened his life, telling him not to talk about it with U.S.
authorities. ABC and FNC reported how Chung maintained the Democrats knew
the source of his funds, a charge skipped over by NBC's Lisa Myers but
she uniquely relayed how Chung said "a Beijing banker told him that
the President's long time friend Charlie Trie had approached the Chinese
government" about getting money to give on behalf of Clinton's
re-election. Only FNC's Carl Cameron added how Chung said he did favors
for a U.S. embassy official in exchange for visas and only Cameron raised
Democratic doubts about Chung's credibility. But ABC's Linda Douglass
ended by passing along the favored Democratic spin, stressing how
"Chung blamed the flood of illegal contributions in the last
presidential campaign on a political system that is addicted to
Here's how ABC and NBC and then FNC handled
Chung Tuesday night, May 11.
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. About 21 minutes into the show, after stories on Kosovo,
Chinese protests over the embassy bombing, refugees, an Alabama jury
ordering a company to pay $500 million to two customers overcharged $600
each for satellite dishes and two "A Closer Look" pieces on how
companies are increasing productivity, ABC got to Chung.
introduced the short 1:24 piece: "On Capitol Hill today the Congress
finally heard from Johnny Chung. He's had a lot of attention in the past
year as a link between the Chinese government and the Democratic
Linda Douglass began: "Chung told the
committee about his stunning conversation in 1996 with the head of Chinese
military intelligence in Beijing, General Ji. According to Chung, the
Chung: "We really like your President. I
will give you three hundred thousand U.S. dollars. You can give it to, or
use it for, your President and Democrat Party."
Over old video of Chung hugging Clinton, Douglass
continued: "Chung took the money, spent most of it, and gave only
$35,000 of it to the President and his party. In return he was able to
give Chinese businessmen and government officials the opportunity to rub
elbows with President Clinton. Chung charged that Democratic Party
officials knew very well what he was doing, but they did not care."
Chung: "I now realize that they took my
money with a smile and made fun of me when I turned my back. Today I have
mixed feelings about the President and First Lady but I can't help but
think they used me as much as I used them."
Douglass concluded her relatively brief story:
"Chung denied he ever acted as an agent for the Chinese government.
Chung blamed the flood of illegal contributions in the last presidential
campaign on a political system that is addicted to money. And he told the
House members, I did not create the system, you did."
-- NBC Nightly News. Just a few minutes into the
show, following a Andrea Mitchell piece on Chinese espionage -- the first
such piece in a month on Nightly News -- Lisa Myers handled the Chung
Myers dubbed him
the "poster boy of the campaign finance scandal," though he's
a poster NBC News has ignored recently. Myers relayed how he told how
Chinese intelligence "tried to cash in on his access to the
President" by asking him to funnel money. She showed Chung saying:
"I like your President very much. I will give you three hundred
thousand U.S. dollars. You can give it to, or use it for, your President
and Democrat Party."
After noting how he only donated $35,000 of the
$300,000, Myers recalled: "Today's testimony flatly contradicts
what Chung told Tom Brokaw two years ago. Then he denied any involvement
with the Chinese government."
Following a soundbite of Chung from August 1997
Myers explained how he now says a Chinese arms dealer and an intelligence
agent approached because they heard of his access. Myers uniquely passed
along how "Chung also claims other Americans may be involved, says a
Beijing banker told him that the President's long time friend Charlie
Trie had approached the Chinese government."
Chung: "And he asked me, do you know he
asked my government for $1 million dollars to give it to the President and
Myers concluded: "Chung once said the White
house is like a subway, you put in coins to open the gates. The question
tonight: What gates were Chinese intelligence officials trying to open and
did they succeed?"
-- FNC's 6pm ET Special Report with Brit Hume
and 7pm ET Fox Report both led with Carl Cameron's summary of Chung's
appearance plus some information he'd learned about Chinese espionage.
worthy of a spy novel," Cameron relayed how Chung described meeting
General Ji. In his Fox Report piece Cameron played the soundbite of Chung
describing why Ji wished to help Clinton and then Cameron explained how
Chung claimed the rest of the money he contributed came from his
legitimate business interests.
picked up on another charge made by Chung:
"Chung also described doing political and
financial favors for a U.S. embassy official in Beijing in exchange for
visas for Chinese citizens. He also testified to being threatened to keep
quiet about his dealings with the Chinese spy chief."
Chung: "The message was as follows: If you
keep your mouth shut, you and your family will be safe."
Cameron continued: "Republicans said
Chung's story proves China covertly tampered with U.S. elections and
when coupled with China's nuclear espionage means China should be
treated as an adversary."
Following a comment from committee chairman Dan
Burton, Cameron, unlike the other networks, actually passed along the
Democratic spin: "But because Chung first denied funneling any
contributions for the Chinese and now has changed his story to offer vivid
details, the top committee Democrat questioned his credibility."
Viewers heard from Congressman Henry Waxman
before Cameron added: "But another Democrat laid into China as a
ruthless dictatorship that used Chung."
Congressman Tom Lantos asserted: "You are a
very minor and insignificant puppet in a vast global drama orchestrated by
the communist regime in Beijing."
Cameron ended by reporting how Chung "said
that the Democratic National Committee has smeared him and that they were
aware of his contacts with the Chinese and still pressured him to make
Asked about other
developments by Fox Report anchor Paula Zahn, Cameron informed viewers
that senior counter-intelligence officials told Fox News that China has
obtained data on a wide array of warheads, including the W56, W57 and W72
warheads taken out of service in 1970s, the W78 used to arm Minuteman III
missiles, W87, the MX Peacekeeper payload, and the W88 for the
submarine-launched Trident missile.
During the day Tuesday FNC covered Chung live for several hours and CNN
showed him live for 20 minutes, but MSNBC never showed his testimony live.
C-SPAN2 picked him up during a Senate lunch break, but otherwise showed
the Senate whiled C-SPAN offered the House session. But C-SPAN did put
Chung onto its third channel, C-SPAN Extra, and replayed his testimony
from 8:30pm to 1am ET Tuesday night on C-SPAN2.
-- CNN stuck to
its regular schedule most of the day while Chung appeared from about 12:20
to 5pm ET, running a Burden of Proof on Littleton from 12:30 to 1pm ET.
CNN showed Chung live from 1:39pm to 1:55pm and offered an update at
2:13pm followed by a live report at 2:51pm by Bob Franken on Capitol Hill.
The 3pm TalkBack Live focused on the embassy bombing and CNN had Showbiz
Today at 4pm ET and repeated Burden of Proof at 4:30pm before Chung led
the 5pm Inside Politics.
-- MSNBC. With a
couple of exceptions, MSNBC avoided Chung during the day on May 11.
Here's a brief rundown of their news judgment, all times Eastern:
12-12:30pm: Judge & Jury on Jon Benet Ramsey.
12:40pm: replay of Today interview with George
12:50pm: replay of Today interview with actress
Camryn Manheim about being fat.
1pm half hour: Dana Plato death. Interview with
child actors Johnny Whitaker (Jody on Family Affair) and Danny Bonaduce.
1:30pm: reducing your cancer risk.
1:40pm: Linda Vester with a live report on crowds
forming for singer Ricky Martin's appearance at Tower Records in
2-3pm: Watch It with Laura Ingraham. Did include
a brief Chung update from Bob Windrem of NBC News in New York City,
interview about espionage with Senators Jim Bunning and Bill Frist and an
end of the hour segment with John Fund, Mona Charen and David Bossie on
3-4pm: military targeting, Riverside protests
against police brutality, Dana Plato, Littleton, George Lucas interview
replay again, Linda Vester live again with Ricky Martin crowd.
4-5pm: A 3:30 update from Tim Russert in the
studio on Chung, more live from Tower Records, replay of a Dateline piece
about a sting at a pawnshop and a "Where in the World is Matt
Lauer" replay from Today.
Not a syllable Wednesday morning, May 12, on Today or Good Morning America
about Johnny Chung's Tuesday testimony. Today spent most of its show
with Matt Lauer aboard an aircraft carrier in he Mediterranean and ABC's
GMA broadcast live from Biloxi, Mississippi. (I did not see today's This
May 11, only CBS's This Morning actually mentioned Chung's name,
making the first broadcast network utterance of his revelation about the
$300,000. On the May 11 show, MRC analyst Brian Boyd observed, Bill Plante
previewed Chung's appearance:
"U.S. investigators say that in the fall of
1996, Chung took $300,000 from the head of Chinese military intelligence,
money intended for the Clinton campaign. Six months later Chung began
cooperating with a federal investigation into campaign finances. Now,
Senate investigators say that Chung spent most of the $300,000 on himself,
paying his mortgage. The FBI can only trace no more than $30,000 to the
Democratic National Committee. The Democrats gave that back and all of the
rest of the money he contributed as well, Thalia."
Anchor Thalia Assuras: "Still this is highly
politicized, isn't it?"
Plante: "Well, it certainly is, because
Republicans want to make a link between this and the charges that China
was stealing U.S. nuclear technology. The Democrats, on the other hand,
say that Chung has told inconsistent stories throughout, that he has
contradicted himself many, many times."
At the end of the
day, as noted in #1 above, CBS decided Chung wasn't worth a story on the
Today, at the end of a story about the embassy bombing, Andrea Mitchell
made this vague reference to Chung:
"And as if U.S./China relations weren't
tense enough today Congress holds hearings on allegations of illegal
Chinese contributions to the Clinton election campaign. With dramatic
testimony expected to contradict China's official denials."
NBC Nightly News finally, vaguely, informed viewers Tuesday night about
some of the developments on the spy front NBC ignored over the past few
weeks. CNN's The World Today ran a piece by Pierre Thomas on Energy
Secretary Bill Richardson's announcement of a security crackdown and the
CBS Evening News delivered a report on how the Clinton administration's
zeal to declassify Cold War era documents allowed rogue nations to gain
valuable knowledge about building nuclear weapons.
-- NBC Nightly
News. Just before Lisa Myers reported on Chung, on Tuesday's NBC Nightly
News Lisa Myers finally informed viewers of the show about what the April
28 New York Times revealed about the legacy codes. But, she never told
viewers about a May 2 New York Times story on how the Clinton team was
informed last November about ongoing spying or Bill Richardson's
admission on Sunday's Meet the Press that Clinton lied when he denied
any espionage took place during his term. In fact, she never mentioned Tim
Russert's Sunday scoop. Instead, she highlighted an expert who
maintained the espionage has not improved China's nuclear capabilities.
She began by
vaguely referring to an item reported in Tuesday's New York Times about
"The question tonight: Did Chinese spies
steal the secret to track U.S. nuclear submarines and the top secret plans
for the nuclear warheads they carry? Intelligence officials say here's
what's been stolen: the design for America's most advanced warhead,
details on five others. Potentially even worse, the transfer of 50 years
of classified code for U.S. nuclear weapons development, everything you
would need to know about their design and testing."
occurred in 1994-95, a point Mitchell skipped over.
from Defense Secretary Cohen and Senator Shelby Mitchell noted that four
years after warnings, sweeping new rules have been implemented now there
is "a major admission." Viewers heard Richardson say: "We
think it's bad. We think it's serious. There was an incredibly bad
Mitchell reported that though Wen Ho Lee is under
investigation his guilt is not certain, then added: "Also unclear,
how has China used these secrets?"
William Arkin, identified as a "nuclear
weapons expert," asserted: "Espionage has gone on but the
reality is that it hasn't changed the complexion of Chinese nuclear
forces in any way."
Mitchell concluded: "And in a twist right
out of a spy novel there's this: NBC News has learned the CIA and the
congressional committee investigating the leaks, now say the Chinese agent
who first tipped them off about spying at the labs was in fact a double
agent working for China, raising even more questions about who is spying
on whom and what is China really doing with America's nuclear
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather failed to relay
Richardson's Sunday concession about spying during Clinton's years,
which contradicts Clinton's claims, but he did implicate Reagan and
"U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
announced several new layers of nuclear security. This was done after
China got stolen U.S. nuclear weapons secrets amid lax security and
bungling at U.S. weapons laboratories. This goes back all the way into the
Bush and Reagan years but possibly has gotten worse during the Clinton
then delivered a full report on something also mentioned by FNC's Carl
Cameron, how Richardson is slowing down the declassification of Cold War
documents. Attkisson explained why: "The policy change comes amid
growing evidence that some of America's fiercest adversaries didn't
even have to steal nuclear know-how. The U.S. gave it to them."
Noting how former Energy Secretary Hazel
O'Leary carried out Clinton's mandate for openness, Attkisson
ominously noted the result:
"Among the millions of pages of old
documents and films about atomic testing were some of the so-called crown
jewels of the U.S. weapons program, engineering knowledge on how to turn
the science into weaponry. Intelligence sources tell CBS News that
information has proven to be a bonanza for rogue nations with primitive
nuclear weapons programs: Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya. And even more
troubling, the declassified data may have helped Pakistan and
India....Former UN weapons inspector David Kay says the large scale
declassification is a blunder that will be felt for years to come."
NBC News may avoid Chinese espionage, with Tuesday's Nightly News story
its first this month and Today having only conducted one interview segment
during the last two-and-a-half months, but there is a NBC show not afraid
to tackle the subject: The Tonight Show.
Geoffrey Dickens picked up these two jokes from Jay Leno's monologue on
Monday's Tonight Show:
-- "I guess
you know the Chinese are very upset with President Clinton for bombing the
embassy. Oh man. That's a huge deal. In fact the Chinese told Clinton
today any damage to the embassy will be coming out of his influence
checks. They are deducting it right out of his sal...boom, take it right
out, right off the top!"
-- "Well you
know the thing that really got the Chinese angry. Their embassy was hit by
one of the few American bombs they didn't already have the blueprints
for. You see they think we're holding out on them."
That's more time on Chinese espionage than
Today has devoted this month. --
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