CyberAlert -- 05/27/1997 -- Huang's China Sport

Huang's China Sport; Journalists Aid the Enemy; Why Brokaw's Leaving

  1. The latest stories ignored by TV: Huang aided Chinese Olympic effort; another Clinton buddy got a high-paid "job" for Hubbell.
  2. The Executive Editor of The Washington Post would not let a reporter deliver a message that could prevent China from using a biological weapon.
  3. CBS schedules Gumbel's show as CNN tries to nab Brokaw, prompting Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons Tom Brokaw May Be Leaving NBC."

1) The guilty plea of the Lums generated network stories last Wednesday, but the networks have ignored two other Clinton scandal developments involving John Huang and Webster Hubbell.

-- "Riady, Huang Aided Chinese in Bid for Olympics, Documents Show," announced a May 21 Washington Post headline over a story that revealed how, before joining the Clinton team, Huang worked to assist the communist regime. The lead to the Post story:

"James Riady and John Huang...worked together in March 1993 to arrange a trip to Atlanta for a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official involved in Beijing's bid to win the Olympics in 2000, documents show. Huang and Riady arranged the visit for Zhang Baifa, the First Executive Vice Mayor of Beijing..."

-- As noted in the May 21 CyberAlert, the networks skipped a May 20 Los Angeles Times story disclosing how Mickey Kantor arranged for a federal job for Webster Hubbell's son. The ever- growing list of Hubbell "jobs" remains a story the networks rarely touch.

"Clinton Pal Jordan Got Hubbell Job," read a front page USA Today headline on Thursday, May 22. In addition to all the other previously disclosed deals for Hubbell, reporter Edward Pound discovered: "Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan, a close friend of President Clinton, helped land a lucrative job for Webster Hubbell with a holding company controlled by billionaire financier Ronald Perelman in the weeks after Hubbell resigned from the Justice Department. Hubbell was paid more than $60,000 by Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings after Jordan introduced him to the firm in April 1994, according to people familiar with the arrangement."

Coverage. MRC news analysts Clay Waters, Steve Kaminski, Gene Eliasen and Geoffrey Dickens informed me: Not a word about either revelation on the Wednesday or Thursday ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today or NBC Nightly News.

2) More evidence that some journalists see themselves above international differences -- as being too petty to concern them. At least a few see themselves as even too important to help preserve the security of the nation which guarantees freedom of the press and thus allows them to be so selfish.

The latest proof appeared in a "Notebook" item in the May 26 New Republic:

"Still wondering why journalists are such suspect citizens? Consider a scene at Nora, a trendy Washington restaurant. Fifty or so media and political chummies gathered to discuss a dilemma raised in A Firing Offense, a new spy novel by a Washington Post editor, David Ignatius.

"In the book, a Washington Post reporter cultivates sources at the CIA, who later ask him for a favor. Will he, while traveling in China, pass a message to a scientist that could not only save the scientist's life, but possibly prevent China from developing a horrific new biological weapon?

"At the lunch, Ignatius asked Bob Woodward what he would do. Considering the extraordinary circumstances, Woodward said he would pass on the message, as long as his Washington Post bosses approved. It just so happened that one of those bosses, Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., was also at the lunch, and Downie rather passionately announced that, far from approving Woodward's secret mission, he would resign from the paper rather than allow it to go forward.

"Downie, who doesn't vote in order to prevent himself from having political opinions, apparently sees journalists as a priestly class above national security, citizenship, even life and death -- as if we didn't have a high enough opinion of ourselves already.

"What if it were not the Chinese, someone asked, but the Nazis? Downie held to his position, if wiltingly: 'Usually we look for alternatives...' Usually? How often does this question come up at the Post?"

The New Republic report reminded me of a story in the April 1989 MediaWatch on a PBS show on how journalists should cover war. Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace argued that the story should come before saving American lives, a position that justifiably disgusted a Marine Colonel. Here's an edited version of the 1989 MediaWatch article:

Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace Agree

In a future war involving U.S. soldiers what would a TV reporter do if he learned the enemy troops with which he was traveling were about to launch a surprise attack on an American unit? That's just the question Harvard University professor Charles Ogletree Jr, as moderator of PBS' Ethics in America series, posed to ABC anchor Peter Jennings and 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace. Both agreed getting ambush footage for the evening news would come before warning the U.S. troops.

For the March 7 installment on battlefield ethics Ogletree set up a theoretical war between the North Kosanese and the U.S.-supported South Kosanese. At first Jennings responded: "If I was with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans."

Wallace countered that other reporters, including himself, "would regard it simply as another story that they are there to cover." Jennings' position bewildered Wallace: "I'm a little bit of a loss to understand why, because you are an American, you would not have covered that story."

"Don't you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?" Ogletree asked. Without hesitating Wallace responded: "No, you don't have higher're a reporter." This convinces Jennings, who conceded, "I think he's right too, I chickened out."

Ogletree turned to Brent Scrowcroft, now the National Security Adviser, who argued "you're Americans first, and you're journalists second." Wallace was mystified by the concept, wondering "what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by North Kosanese on American soldiers?"

A few minutes later Ogletree noted the "venomous reaction" from George Connell, a Marine Corps Colonel. "I feel utter contempt. Two days later they're both walking off my hilltop, they're two hundred yards away and they get ambushed. And they're lying there wounded. And they're going to expect I'm going to send Marines up there to get them. They're just journalists, they're not Americans."

Wallace and Jennings agreed, "it's a fair reaction." The discussion concluded as Connell said: "But I'll do it. And that's what makes me so contemptuous of them. And Marines will die, going to get a couple of journalists."


3) Where will you be Wednesdays at 9pm ET in the fall? Probably not watching CBS. That's the scheduled time CBS announced last Thursday for Bryant Gumbel's new, yet to be named, magazine/ interview show. When Gumbel cut his deal with CBS in March, media reports on his annual take pegged it at $5 million to $7 million. If Ted Turner has his way NBC's Tom Brokaw will be pulling in a similar amount, but for five times more hours. CNN is courting Brokaw with an offer of $7 million a year for nightly prime time hour, the New York Times reported last Wednesday.

The news inspired David Letterman's Top Ten list on Thursday night. From the May 22 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Reasons Tom Brokaw May Be Leaving NBC." (Copyright 1997 by Worldwide Pants, Incorporated.)

10. Those drunken, late night phone calls from Katie Couric

9. Can't handle grueling 30-minute-a-day schedule

8. NBC rejected his new situation comedy, Seinkaw

7. Network had petty objection to his making up the news as he went along

6. Ratings war causing friction with his live-in companion, Dan Rather

5. Network won't let him wear his lucky sombrero on air

4. Whenever he eats lunch at the NBC Commissary, Willard's toupee rubs against his leg and begs for table scraps

3. Heard that if you move from NBC to CBS, you get a boatload of cash

2. Ted Turner's offering $7 million a year and a night with Jane

1. Decided that the NBC Peacock is just "too creepy"

-- Brent Baker