CyberAlert -- 05/12/1999 -- CBS & MSNBC Skipped Chung; Morning Chung Blackout; NBC Gets to Spying
CBS & MSNBC Skipped Chung; Morning Chung Blackout; NBC Gets to Spying
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 weapons information.
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.)
Instead of 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 7 bankruptcy.
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 money."
-- 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
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."
"With details 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:
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:
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 Morning.)
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:
At the end of the day, as noted in #1 above, CBS decided Chung wasn't worth a story on the Evening News.
Today, at the end of a story about the embassy bombing, Andrea Mitchell
made this vague reference to Chung:
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
This transfer 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
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."
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.
MRC analyst 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."
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