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Take the Money and Duck

Networks, News Magazines Slow to Note Chinese Contributions, Improvements to Chinese Missiles

More than six weeks have elapsed since the April 4 New York Times scoop that the Justice Department was looking to prosecute two defense contractors - Loral and Hughes Electric - who may have illegally provided China with space expertise that "significantly advanced Beijing's ballistic missile program." But in February, Bill Clinton "quietly approved the export to China of similar technology by one of the companies under investigation." The Times noted Loral has a number of business ties with China. Its chairman, Bernard Schwartz, was the largest individual contributor to the Democratic National Committee last year.

Last Friday, the New York Times reported that Johnny Chung told investigators that a large part of the almost $100,000 he gave Democrats in the summer of 1996 came from Liu Chaoying, who works on defense modernization for China's People's Liberation Army. On Sunday, the Times added how Clinton overrode then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher's decision to limit China's ability to launch American-made satellites on Chinese rockets. But where are the networks and news magazines who were so dismissive last year of Sen. Fred Thompson's claims of a Chinese connection?

On Friday night, in the midst of heavy coverage of Frank Sinatra's death, ABC devoted 75 seconds to the story, CBS 27, and NBC 15. After Sunday's disclosures, ABC reported one story, but CBS and NBC ignored it. Last night, the networks each devoted a few seconds to Newt Gingrich's announcement of a special committee to investigate the China matter (ABC 17, CBS 18, NBC 23). The news magazines have also been AWOL on this story:

Newsweek matched its 20 pages on Frank Sinatra's death and its 11 pages on the India nuclear test story with a page and a half on the China story. One U.S. official told Newsweek about Liu: "Getting [U.S.] parts and technology is part of her brief." Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff also reported "FBI agents had wanted to use Chung to get more information out of Liu. Now they can't: the news stories prevented that." This is so far the only news magazine mention of the Times scoops.

Time carried eight pages on India, eight on Sinatra, and four on Al Gore's plan to plug schools in to the Internet - but nothing on Liu or Loral. Last summer, Time's idea of covering the Thompson hearings was Jamie Malanowski's fictitious interview with Thompson using lines out of his movies.

U.S. News & World Report carried 11 pages analyzing the drop in the crime rate, three pages on Sinatra, and four on India. They offered nothing on China, but devoted a page to reporters Julian Barnes and Marianne Lavelle breaking down Ken Starr's expenses, titled "Where did all the Starr-bucks go?"

ABC picked up the July 21, 1997 U.S. News story titled "Is the latest Red Peril actually a red herring?" Barnes and David Kaplan quoted a "senior FBI official" claiming: "There was a campaign by the Chinese to infiltrate Congress and a campaign by the Democrats to gain contributions from wealthy Asian Americans. Were the two linked? Where's the proof?" Now that proof has arrived, U.S. News is ignoring it. - Tim Graham