Ever since the funny-money scandal at the Democratic National Committee became public in the fall of 1996, the national media have established an ironclad pattern. National newspapers break new investigative ground. Network TV "news" operations studiously ignore it.
But the greatest outrage yet in the networks' see-no-evil suppression campaign came on Easter Sunday, when the Los Angeles Times reported that "The chief of China's military intelligence secretly directed funds from Beijing to help re-elect President Clinton in 1996, former Democratic fundraiser Johnny Chung has told federal investigators."
No reasonable person, no journalist worth his salt, would ever suggest this wasn't news - big, big news. Network coverage in the first four days after the story? Nothing.
The network news blackout over the China-DNC connection proves conclusively that when forced to choose between reporting a threat to America's security and protecting their fellow Democrats, the networks choose the Democrats over the country.
To underline why this shocking story is important, just read what the Times reporters unearthed: "Chung's testimony has provided investigators the first direct link between a senior Chinese government official and illicit foreign contributions that were funneled into Clinton's 1996 re-election effort. It is the strongest evidence - in two years of federal investigation - that the highest levels of the Chinese government sought to influence the U.S. election process."
If you don't live in L.A. and didn't read the entire 3,500-word Times article, you might have missed that the FBI feared Johnny Chung might be assassinated by a Chinese "hit squad," and assigned more than 40 agents to guard the Chung family for three weeks. Oh, and as if that wasn't enough, the FBI taped a "San Gabriel Valley businessman" advising Chung to say nothing about his funding by the Chinese chief of military intelligence, to be the Asian-American Susan McDougal: "The businessman advised Chung to go to jail if necessary, assuring Chung that friends in high places would support him. The businessman even suggested that Chung could expect to be pardoned by the President."
Then there's the blunt talk from U.S. District Judge Manuel Real when he sentenced Chung to five years probation. He said he was "surprised that the attorney general has eschewed appointment of a special prosecutor." Judge Real also said if the Democrats "didn't know what was going on, they are the dumbest politicians" in his experience.
But wait, there's more. The New York Times followed on April 8 with the scoop that the Chinese stole neutron bomb technology from our nuclear labs - not during the Reagan administration, as the Clintonites wailed when the first Los Alamos leaks came to light - but in 1995. On the same morning, the Washington Times reported that Johnny Chung declared that Charlie Trie and John Huang were also directly connected to China's People's Liberation Army.
Can it get any more dramatic than this? Yet the network morning shows aired no interview segments, no podium-thumping demands for answers for Sandy Berger or any other administration official. The neutron-bomb scoop scared up maybe a half-minute on each network morning show. Whoopee.
The networks might claim they're too mired in the President's don't-call-it-a-war in Kosovo. But they've found time to cover lots of other stories while ignoring China. How Mexicans have adopted a passion for American baseball. How baseball fans will consume more than 26 million hot dogs this season. How high schools are considering later start times to accommodate teenage sleep patterns. How to avoid luggage thefts at airports. Travel tips for New Year's Eve 1999. A strike by submarine builders in Newport News, Virginia. The White House Easter Egg Roll.
Remember back in 1997, when reporters mocked the Republicans for failing hearings on the fundraising scandal? ABC's Linda Douglass reported: "Senator Thompson is clearly tired of taking a beating from Democrats, who every single day point out the fact that he's failed to prove there is any Chinese plot in connection with the Democratic presidential campaign."
Then last month, when the Chinese thefts of nuclear secrets at the Los Alamos nuclear lab first surfaced, Douglass asserted, "Republicans...believe they've finally found an issue that will stick to the President...The charge that Mr. Clinton is soft on China is red meat for conservatives." When will reporters find massive espionage to be an issue for all Americans, all of us who are now more vulnerable to nuclear attack? Or are we going to wake up some awful day after a Chinese nuclear blast, with reporters carping, "That bomb that took out Oregon is really red meat for conservatives who hate the President." How serious do world affairs have to get before reporters stop downgrading everything as a God-forsaken horse race?