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CyberAlert -- 11/17/1997 -- Only CBS (Barely) Concerned About China $; Arctic Angles

Only CBS (Barely) Concerned About China $; Arctic Angles

1. A report that a Democratic donor is a Chinese operative ignored by all but CBS; Chung skipped by all the broadcast networks and Gennifer Flowers' deposition noted by ABC and CNN. NBC ignored all.

2. China boasted that it thwarted Thompson. Friday night the nets showed how by refusing to report evidence of Chinese activity.

3. A study of arctic ice proved that global warming began in 1840. Or is caused by modern industry. It depends what newspaper you read.


1) A busy news day on the Clinton scandal front on Friday, but you'd never know it if you watched the network news. Network producers were greeted by this Washington Post headline: "FBI Had Overlooked Key Files in Probe of Chinese Influence." But they ignored it as none of the morning shows contained a syllable about the latest Justice Department misstep, a revelation which at least partially vindicated Fred Thompson's charge about Chinese money.

A few hours later on Capitol Hill Johnny Chung met behind closed doors with the House investigating committee. In Dallas, lawyers for Paula Jones deposed Gennifer Flowers.

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's November 14 top of the front page story revealed:

"The FBI has acknowledged overlooking key intelligence information gathered as far back as 1991 that investigators believe shows further Chinese government efforts to buy political influence in the United States, senior U.S. government sources said yesterday.

"Attorney General Janet Reno learned of the new evidence on the night of Nov. 5. A senior Justice Department official said Reno was 'livid' at the FBI foul-up and two days later apologized to Sen. Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) for failing to disclose information that was germane to Senate hearings into campaign fund-raising abuses. Thompson had suspended his committee's hearings Oct. 31....

"The newly discovered intelligence, much of it culled from electronic surveillance conducted by the FBI and other U.S. agencies over the past six years, includes evidence of the magnitude and means by which Beijing hoped to influence U.S. elections, several officials said. The evidence also shows links between the Chinese government and several U.S. citizens, including a Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles whom several officials characterize as an 'agent' for the Chinese. Officials would not provide details of the highly classified intelligence....

"The belatedly discovered files indicate that Maria Hsia -- a Taiwanese American immigrant who for a decade has raised money for Democratic causes -- was 'doing the bidding' of Beijing as a Chinese agent, a senior official said.

"Hsia became significantly involved in Democratic Party fund-raising in 1988 with James Riady, a wealthy Indonesian businessman who once lived in California and whose Lippo Group has been at the center of inquiries over the past year into campaign finance irregularities. Hsia, 46, set up an Asian American fund-raising group called the Pacific Leadership Council with Riady and John Huang, later a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser. The two largest recipients of PLC money in the 1990 election cycle were then-Sens. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Paul Simon (D-Ill.)....

"Hsia worked closely with Huang and was co-chair with him of an April 1996 luncheon attended by Vice President Gore at the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple in California...."

Coverage? Zilch on Friday's morning shows. NBC's Today put a higher priority, MRC analyst Eric Darbe observed, on a first hour interviews with Bill Cosby and a Mir space station astronaut as well as a full report on the "teacher rapist" in Washington state. The second hour featured a segment on how to choose the right sports bra.

So, how about Friday night when the networks had time to put together pieces and explain how they may have to revise criticism of Fred Thompson's claims about Chinese influence? Only CBS mentioned Woodward's story, ABC and CNN each noted the talk with Flowers, but not CBS or NBC, and only CNN uttered a word about Chung. NBC decided to skip all of it.

In full, here's the entirety of Friday night coverage of Woodward's China angle, a 29-second item read by Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News:

"There's new twists today in the investigation of sleazy political campaign fundraising, an alleged China connection and FBI bungling of evidence, if that's what is was. Confirming today's top story by Bob Woodward in the Washington Post, the FBI said it just discovered more counter-intelligence files that were previously overlooked, some going all the way back to 1991. The raw files -- never analyzed -- relate to accusations that communist China sought to buy political influence with U.S. campaign donations."

Gennifer Flowers got 16 seconds of vagueness from World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings:

"In Dallas today Gennifer Flowers has been conferring with lawyers for Paula Jones in her sexual harassment case against the President. Miss Flowers claims that she had a 12 year affair with Mr. Clinton. Paula Jones' legal team is trying to establish a pattern of behavior for Mr. Clinton in their case against him."

Iraq news wiped out Friday's Inside Politics on CNN, but World Toady at 10pm ET ran a full story from Bob Franken on Gennifer Flowers. Afterwards anchor Joie Chen read a 15-second item on the appearance of Johnny Chung before the House committee.

But, you say, the November 14 evening shows were packed with news about Iraq, a developing story far more important than any scandal news. Well, not quite:

ABC's World News Tonight had no time for the China angle or Chung, but did squeeze in a full story on parents in Texas upset by supposedly racy lyrics used by five-year-olds in a cheerleader competition.

CBS Evening News couldn't make time for Flowers or Chung but did make room for Dan Rather's "El Nino Watch" interview with a meteorologist about the winter forecast, region by region.

NBC Nightly News didn't bother with anything about the day's three scandal stories, but did have plenty of time for news beyond Iraq. NBC featured full stories on the teacher rapist, how Carlisle, Iowa is dealing with publicity for the impending septuplets (followed by an In Their Own Words segment from parents of quintuplets) and an Act of Faith series segment on people bilked by those preying on those who pray -- hucksters who fool Christian believers into investing in scams. Plus, an American Spirit piece on a Vietnam hero, a man who won the Silver Star for rescuing another Marine, but never got it. The men in his squad re-submitted the paperwork so he would get the medal. Fine stories, but hardly breaking news.


2) Bob Woodward offered a tantalizing tidbit in the final paragraph of his November 14 story:

"After Thompson announced two weeks ago that he was suspending his public hearings, officials said, the FBI obtained intelligence showing that the Ministry of State Security in Beijing -- the Chinese equivalent the CIA -- boasted it had been successful in 'thwarting' the congressional inquiry."

The Chinese government must be pleased with Friday night network coverage. No time on ABC's World News Tonight or NBC Nightly News for the news about evidence of a Chinese effort to influence U.S. elections even though the news contradicted what the networks suggested to viewers on the day Senator Fred Thompson suspended his committee's hearings.

ABC's Forrest Sawyer, for instance, read this on the October 31 World News Tonight: "In Washington today Senator Fred Thompson announced he is suspending the hearings on campaign finance abuses. Thompson conceded he had not proven his charge that the Chinese government tried to influence the American elections. But he did say the public learned a valuable lesson about the role of money in campaigns."


3) One global warming study, but conflicting spins in two newspapers on Friday.

The Washington Post headline announced: "Arctic Implicates Humans in Warming." Reporter Joby Warrick began her November 14 story:

"Scientists delving through 400 years worth of arctic ice and mud have unearthed more evidence pointing to a probable human link to this century's higher temperatures."

The Washington Times headline declared: "Global Warming Is Nothing New, Detailed New Study of Arctic Finds." Beneath the headline the Times ran a story from Michael Woods of the Toledo Blade. It opened:

"An unprecedented warming in the arctic climate, widely blamed on 20th century industrial pollution, actually began in 1840 as a result of natural factors, scientists reported yesterday."

-- Brent Baker