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Will Chris Cox Get a Soap Box?

Will The Networks Cover Today's Big Report on Chinese Espionage? Past Pattern Sparks Skepticism

Today, a special House task force on Chinese espionage chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) will issue its report. Will the networks advance this story - or will they continue to bury it?

1. Fumbled First Report. The Cox committee's first report on December 30, 1998, drew next to nothing on the Big Three networks.

The first report noted the bipartisan finding that national security was harmed when the American companies Loral and Hughes Electronics gave the Chinese missile technology while assisting in satellite launches. That night, ABC gave it 22 seconds, NBC 26. CBS did a full story, as did CNN and FNC. But only FNC noted Loral's Chairman donated $100,000 to the Democrats just before his company received a technology-transfer waiver.

2. Morning Malpractice. The network morning shows have aired only two interviews on Chinese espionage in 1999.

NBC's Today interviewed Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on March 9. ABC's Good Morning America interviewed Richardson just yesterday. CBS's This Morning hasn't done an interview. Yesterday its lead 8am interview asked whether action-figure toys cause "compulsive weightlifting" and other male maladies. None have questioned a Congressman or Senator probing Chinese espionage. Tom Brokaw interviewed Cox on Friday's Nightly News, but the MSNBC Web site transcript revealed they edited out questions about what the President knew and whether Chinese donations are linked to Chinese espionage.

3. Koppel Dawdles. Of 55 Nightlines from March 6 (when The New York Times reported China's theft of nuclear warhead technology) to May 21, Ted Koppel has only reported on Chinese espionage once.

On March 12, Koppel threw cold water: "There is probably plenty of incompetence and partisanship to go around, but it is not quite as clear cut as it may seem." Since then, ABC has aired 31 programs on Kosovo, and explored some less explosive topics: autism, genetic testing in Iceland, and the oldest guitar manufacturer in America.

4. Lazy on Lies. TV morning and evening shows have mostly avoided the President's lie about what he knew and when he knew it about espionage on his watch.

In press conferences on March 19 and again on April 8, Bill Clinton denied he'd been told of Chinese espionage on his watch. When The New York Times revealed on May 2 that Clinton was told last November, only ABC noted the Times story (for 40 seconds), but ignored how it contradicted Clinton's claims.

5. Chung-Free Channels. Several network shows have still said nothing to the public about Johnny Chung's claim that the head of Chinese military intelligence gave him $300,000 to give to Bill Clinton and the Democrats.

Despite Chung's May 11 congressional testimony, CBS Evening News, MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, ABC's Good Morning America, and NBC's Today have yet to touch Chung's $300,000 story.

On Sunday, Fox News Channel's Carl Cameron reported for Fox News Sunday on Johnny Chung's orders: "Above all protect Loral Space and Hughes Electronics." Cameron noted a wiretap transcript showed Chung was told, "The important part is not to touch Hughes and Loral.... Matters about Hughes and Loral...they [Chinese superiors] don't want to see any information that is disadvantageous to them." The Chinese should be pleased by the Big Three networks' morning and evening inaction. - Tim Graham