CyberAlert -- 05/26/1998 -- NBC Finally Got to China

NBC Finally Got to China; NBC News VP Lobbied Clinton for Loral

1) The CIA reported China could use Loral's technology to improve nuclear missiles, but all the networks skipped that Thursday night. NBC finally aired its first China story and FNC uniquely picked up on how another waiver transferred fighter jet help.

2) NBC reporters call the China connection "devastating" and "explosive," but still zilch on Today, nor ABC or CBS Friday morning.

3) Successfully pleading Loral's case for a waiver to the White House: A former NBC News VP turned Clinton aide turned Loral VP.

4) On CNN's Capital Gang Margaret Carlson conceded that Fred Thompson could say "I told you so;" Al Hunt, as usual, blamed the NRA.

5) Newspaper headlines from the weekend: Clinton and China contrast; Blaming Oregon's shooting on budget cuts.

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) All the networks led Thursday night with the Oregon high school shooting. On the CBS Evening News substitute anchor Ed Bradley recounted recent school shooting incidents, then introduced a story by Wyatt Andrews: "These attacks make it perfectly clear that all too often kids and guns mix with deadly results. So, should the constitutional right to bear arms apply to the youngest Americans?"

The May 21 editions of ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening and CNN's The World Today all skipped the China connection though CIA documents released Thursday showed commercial satellite know how could be applied in building long-range nuclear missiles. NBC Nightly News finally got around to airing its first full story on the growing China controversy. FNC's Fox Report featured a story on how another waiver for a civilian aircraft deal gave China technology useful in building jet fighters and missiles.

Of the three cable news networks only FNC carried live coverage Thursday morning of the Senate hearing on the China connection. FNC broke away in the early afternoon to go live with the Oregon shooting.

A May 22 AP dispatch, passed along to me by the MRC's Tim Graham, detailed why the Loral deal concerns so many. The AP's John Diamond explained what Thursday night network viewers never heard about:
"Information China may have gained about improving its commercial satellite-launch rockets likely would be useful in its long-range nuclear missiles, including those pointed at the United States, according to CIA information provided to Senate investigators.
"Amid persistent questions about whether U.S. companies provided missile technology to China, a Senate panel released CIA materials Thursday underscoring similarities between Chinese satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Staging mechanisms, guidance systems, re-entry vehicles and rocket motors all involve identical or similar technology, the CIA said in a rare public disclosure of intelligence that it supplies to congressional committees....
"Weeks earlier, the CIA provided top officials with a classified assessment saying that 13 of China's ICBMs were targeted at U.S. cities...."

Here's what the two shows which aired stories on May 21 offered:

-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. Carl Cameron highlighted a two year Justice Department study which found that in 1994 McDonnell Douglas got Commerce Department approval to export special manufacturing equipment to China. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency, Cameron pointed out, objected. But the Clinton Administration okayed the deal. Cameron warned:
"China was supposed to build commercial aircraft with them, but some went to a Chinese plant that makes jet fighters and cruise missiles for the People's Liberation Army."

Next, co-anchor Catherine Crier made FNC the only network to inform viewers that the House on Thursday passed resolutions calling for release of White House court filings related to executive privilege and asking Clinton to urge the cooperation with Starr by witnesses he knows or employs.

-- NBC Nightly News finally got around to airing its first full report on China, a thorough explanatory piece from Lisa Myers. Her story lasted two minutes and thirteen seconds, more than double the total time NBC's six previous newscasts combined allocated to China. (Total previous NBC Nightly News time devoted to the China connection since the May 15 New York Times story on Johnny Chung: 62 seconds, consisting of 15 seconds on May 15, 23 seconds on May 19 and 24 seconds on May 20. Zero on May 16, 17 and 18.)

Myers began her report: "The allegation is as explosive as the Chinese rockets involved, that campaign money may have influenced the President's decisions to relax controls on satellites to China." After explaining that Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz is responsible for chipping in more to the Democrats than anyone else, $2 million between himself and Loral, Myers got the core of the controversy:
"Here's where the President stepped in. First he overruled top foreign policy advisers, making it easier to export satellites. Then this year he agreed to let Loral launch another satellite in China over objections of the Justice Department, which was investigating whether Loral had improperly helped the Chinese with rocket technology."
Myers showed a clip of Senator Fred Thompson before leading into denials from Clinton and Schwartz by noting: "Did campaign money influence the President's decision? He says absolutely not."
Jumping to the other half of what is driving the controversy, Myers told viewers: "But the story doesn't end here. Another question. Did illegal campaign contributions from the Chinese military play a role in these decisions?"
She the explained how Chung says he funneled $100,000 from a Chinese military officer who stood to benefit from the satellite deal, concluding: "So was national security harmed by any of this? The White House emphatically insists it was not. But an Air Force analysis says Loral's help to the Chinese may have caused moderate damage and helped them make their nuclear missiles more accurate."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Tim Russert called the China connection "devastating" on the May 17 Meet the Press and on May 21 NBC's Lisa Myers tagged the allegation "explosive," but through Friday morning, May 22, NBC's Today had yet to utter a word about the growing scandal. I left Washington Thursday night, but MRC analysts Clay Waters and Tom Roop as well as intern David Bozell checked the Friday morning ABC, CBS and NBC shows for China stories and found none, not even a few seconds during a news update.

And the Oregon shooting hardly consumed the May 22 broadcasts. Through Tim Graham the shorthanded MRC news team relayed some of the topics the networks considered more important than the CIA analysis of how the Clinton waiver helped China build nuclear missiles to better target the U.S.:
-- ABC's Good Morning America: The shooting and the Irish peace plan vote consumed interview segments in the first half hour, but in the 7:30am half hour ABC aired segments on Powerball and new drugs for breast cancer. In the second hour GMA featured barbecue cooking tips, a talk with Bob Hope's wife, the God Squad and a discussion with gossip columnist Cindy Adams about where celebrities will spend the holiday weekend.
-- NBC's Today devoted the 7am half hour to the shooting, but allocated the 7:30am segments to Memorial Day travel, an interview with Godzilla star Matthew Broderick and a segment on Marines marching through New York City. The second hour included a feature on a high school graduation in an Alabama town hit by a tornado last month and Katie Couric getting a lesson in swing dancing.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) A former NBC News Vice President lobbied the Clinton Administration to grant Loral the waiver now at the center of the brewing China connection scandal, the papers the White House released Friday disclosed. Writing about the efforts made by Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz to secure approval from the President for the deal with China, Washington Post reporters Roberto Suro and John F. Harris relayed May 23 what the papers revealed:
"...The documents indicate that Schwartz, who has given more than $1 million to the Democratic Party since 1995, planned to raise the issue directly with National Security Adviser Samuel R. 'Sandy' Berger at a state dinner for British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Feb. 5.
"However, Loral Vice President Thomas Ross wrote to Berger a week later that Schwartz 'missed you in the crowd' and was not able to make his case. Instead, Ross, who served as a senior National Security Council official earlier in the Clinton administration, pleaded in his Feb. 13 letter for speedy action by the President.
"'If a decision is not forthcoming in the next day or so we stand to lose the contract,' Ross wrote. 'In fact, even if the decision is favorable, we will lose substantial amounts of money with each passing day.' Five days later, Clinton granted his approval, despite what Berger advised him were Justice concerns that the move 'could have a significant adverse impact' on its ongoing criminal investigation...."

As the Post reported, Ross did hold a top position with the NSC, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Public Affairs, a slot he occupied for about a year from 1994 to 1995 when he jumped to Loral as VP for government relations. What the Post failed to note: Thomas served as Senior Vice President of NBC News from 1986-89. Joining the Clinton foreign policy team wasn't his first swing through the revolving door. When President Carter took office Ross left his position as Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun Times to become Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN delivered two quotes of note from liberal journalists: a refreshing admission that a view the media dismissed may have been on target and the usual reflexive blaming of the NRA after a shooting.

Time magazine columnist and former reporter Margaret Carlson had the guts to concede that Senator Fred Thompson was way ahead of the Washington media establishment:
"I think Fred Thompson deserves a note of congratulations. The four most beautiful -- four of the most beautiful words in the English language he did not use this week -- unless he used them on your program Bob [Novak], which I haven't had the pleasure of watching yet. 'I told you so.' He didn't do that. And he said this week, in fact, that it is going to be hard to prove the absolute link between the two things, nonetheless the hearings should be held."

Meanwhile, Al Hunt's Outrage of the Week hit on the usual group targeted by liberals after any violence committed with a gun. The Wall Street Journal's Executive Washington Editor blasted the NRA:
"Jonesboro, Arkansas; Edinboro, Pennsylvania; Fayetteville,Tennessee; Springfield, Oregon -- all towns that live infamy because a troubled teenager with access to a deadly gun went on a killing spree. There are no panaceas to stop such violence but there are too many guns and too many teenagers have too easy access to them. It is an outrage to deny that as too many politicians in the back pocket of the National Rifle Association are too want to do."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Some noteworthy headlines I caught over the holiday weekend I spent in New Hampshire.

-- First, a bit of a contrast in Saturday, May 23, stories on the China waiver documents released by the White House:

The Washington Post -- "Clinton Rejected China Worries: Justice Feared Impact on Satellite Probe; Loral Lobbied for Deal"

The Boston Globe -- "China Satellite Deal Defended: Clinton OK's Plan Despite Security Issue"

-- Second, you can always count on the Boston Globe to blame anything bad on inadequate government spending. Even the Oregon school shooting. Here's the headline over a May 23 news story by Globe reporter Dolores Kong: "School Officials Didn't Order Boy Into Counseling Because of Cuts."

-- Finally, the self-evident headline of the week, over a May 25 Boston Herald story about several shootings in Boston over the weekend as new stats showed a falling crime rate: "Shootings Mar City's Success Against Crime."

Those darn criminals keep preventing crime from going away. -- Brent Baker

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