Networks Continue to Avoid Major Print Scoops
What Proof of a DNC-China Connection?
1997, Republican Sen. Fred Thompson committed what many in the media
believed was a mistake. He began hearings into the Democratic
fundraising scandal by suggesting that intelligence reports showed the
Clinton-Gore campaign had a China connection. ABC’s Linda Douglass
reported, "Senator Thompson is clearly tired of taking a beating from
Democrats, who every single day point out the fact that he’s failed to
prove there is any Chinese plot in connection with the Democratic
On Easter Sunday this year, the
Democrats found a most unwelcome bee in their Easter bonnet. Los
Angeles Times reporters William Rempel, Henry Weinstein, and Alan
Miller reported a 3,500 word story that began: "The chief of China’s
military intelligence secretly directed funds from Beijing to help
reelect President Clinton in 1996, former Democratic fundraiser Johnny
Chung has told federal investigators... Chung says he met three times
with the intelligence official, Gen. Ji Shengde, who ordered $300,000
deposited into the Torrance businessman’s bank account to subsidize
campaign donations intended for Clinton."
In other words, "Chung’s
testimony has provided investigators the first direct link between a
senior Chinese government official and illicit foreign contributions
that were funneled into Clinton’s 1996 re-election effort. It is the
strongest evidence – in two years of federal investigation – that the
highest levels of the Chinese government sought to influence the U.S.
Now that evidence of a Chinese
connection began to arrive, did the networks apologize for their
dismissive laxity toward the Thompson probe and get up to speed? No.
None of the broadcast networks presented these facts on their morning or
evening shows. ABC’s Sam Donaldson came closest five days later on April
9, reporting that Chinese premier Zhu Rongji "said he had no knowledge
that the Chinese government had contributed money to Mr. Clinton’s 1996
campaign." CNN gave it 29 seconds on the April 5 The World Today.
The networks couldn’t argue the
story didn’t bring interesting details to the table. The Times
reporters disclosed that the FBI feared at one point last year that a
"hit squad" had been sent from China to kill Chung and assigned 40
agents to protect the Chung family for three weeks. They also reported
that the FBI taped a "San Gabriel Valley businessman" advising Chung to
say nothing about his funding from Chinese officials: "The businessman
advised Chung to go to jail if necessary, assuring Chung that friends in
high places would support him. The businessman even suggested that Chung
could expect to be pardoned by the President."
The ongoing pattern – print
outlets break new investigative ground, networks yawn – wasn’t limited
to the Los Angeles Times scoop.
Newsweek. Submerged across the bottom of two pages of the March
29 issue, John Barry and Gregory L. Vistica reported on a CIA probe of
the compromised nuclear labs. Top nuclear experts "practically fainted"
at how Chinese scientists routinely used U.S. lab phrases and concepts.
One official announced: "The penetration is total...they are deep, deep
into the labs’ black programs." They also learned "Beijing recently got
hold of two U.S. cruise missiles that failed to detonate during last
fall’s relaliatory attack on Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan," and
officials want to know if the Chinese are copying that sophisticated
technology. Network coverage? Zero.
Investor’s Business Daily. On March 30 and April 9, Washington
Bureau Chief Paul Sperry reported on the missing manifest of former
Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary’s big-donor trade mission to China, and
O’Leary’s efforts to open the nuclear labs, trimming the number of
guards and loosening background checks on workers and visitors.
Revelations didn’t just come in
the news pages. IBD’s lead editorial on March 31 revealed the FBI
requested a wiretap on suspected Chinese spy Wen Ho Lee. "Justice denied
it, arguing it did not have sufficient grounds to take to a federal
court to get the tap approved. But a look at the Justice Department’s
record on wiretaps calls that argument into serious question. From 1993
to 1997, federal officials requested 2,686 wiretaps. For all its concern
for probable cause and legal standards, the Justice Department turned
down one request in those four years – Lee’s in 1996." Network coverage?
The New York Times. After repeated administration claims that
nuclear espionage happened only in the mid-80s, Times reporters
Jeff Gerth and James Risen found espionage happening in 1995. On April
8, they began a front-page article: "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."
Network coverage? In a press
conference with Clinton and visiting Chinese premier Zhu Rongji, both
the AP and Reuters reporters asked about the New York Times
charges. Still, the CBS Evening News ignored the story, except
for one vague reference by Bill Plante: "Did China steal U.S. nuclear
technology? Zhu Rongji said he didn’t know a thing about it." ABC and
NBC covered the charge, though NBC did not give credit to the paper and
concluded by stressing the White House spin that "there’s no evidence
China’s neutron bomb was improved as a result." CNN’s Pierre Thomas
filed a full report.
The next morning, CBS This
Morning ignored it. ABC’s Good Morning America gave the
Times story two updates totaling 30 seconds, and NBC’s Today
awarded one 38-second brief. But NBC spent two minutes and 43 seconds on
beavers gnawing down cherry trees along Washington’s Tidal Basin.
The Washington Times. Reporter Jerry Seper found Johnny Chung
"has, for the first time, linked Charles Yah Lin Trie and John Huang
directly to a massive fundraising 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 fundraising scheme with cash secretly
routed out of Beijing." Network coverage? A story on FNC, but no where
CBS on Trulock. CBS Evening News reporter Sharyl Attkisson
reported from the Senate on April 12: "In his first public statement the
man largely credited with breaking the Chinese espionage case at U.S.
nuclear labs gave an extraordinary account of what happened when he
first sounded the alarm to his superiors at the Department of Energy."
DOE’s Notra Trulock declared: "Beginning in early 1997 senior DOE
officials, including my direct supervisor, urged me to cover up and bury
this case. These officials argued that this case was of historical
interest only and not relevant to the contemporary missions and
objectives of the national laboratories."
Attkisson continued: "In fact,
some intelligence officials now regard the theft of design plans for
America’s most sophisticated nuclear warhead, the W-88, the most
important spy case in recent history, but Trulock says his efforts to
fix security breaches at the weapons labs were blocked at every turn,
even when he identified suspects in early 1996." Other network coverage?
FNC delivered a full story the next day, but the others aired nothing.
Appearing on the April 11
Fox News Sunday, Sen. Thompson wouldn’t promise new hearings into
the China connection: "Nowadays, the ability of Congress to really find
out anything substantive in congressional hearings has been very, very
limited. The media’s short attention span, the partisanship that we have
and all of that makes it so that you can kind of lay out and demonstrate
what you already have, but finding something out is very, very
difficult." The networks don’t have a short attention span. They appear
to have no attention span.
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