Jaws dropped across America as people learned about the Los Angeles Times Easter bombshell. "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." Then jaws dropped at how much time broadcast network news shows devoted to this scoop through Wednesday night. Other than a question on Fox News Sunday and one on Meet the Press, nothing.
Reporters William Rempel, Henry Weinstein, and Alan Miller reported: "Chung says he met three times with the intelligence official, Gen. Ji Shengde, who ordered $300,000 deposited into the Torrance businessman's bank account to subsidize campaign donations intended for Clinton."
The Times also revealed the FBI monitored groups of Chinese visitors in California regarded as a possible hit squad: "The agency responded by imposing extraordinary measures to protect its key witness: more than 40 agents were assigned to guard Chung, his wife and three children for three weeks." The FBI taped a meeting between Chung and a man who said he was an associate of his Chinese business partner Liu Chaoying. The man advised Chung to keep quiet about General Ji: "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."
None of these details, or the arrival of Chinese premier Zhu Rongji in Los Angeles on Tuesday (or the upcoming state dinner at the White House tonight) has spurred media interest. But this is only the latest Chung media shrug:
November 28, 1996: The Los Angeles Times filed its first story on Johnny Chung, located on the front page, which noted he donated $366,000 to the DNC and made 49 visits to the White House. TV coverage? Zero.
July 27, 1997: The Los Angeles Times reported Chung said he gave a $50,000 check to Hillary Clinton's chief of staff on the White House grounds, and said the White House was "like a subway, you have to put in the coins to open up the gates." TV coverage? Only NBC aired a full evening story. None of the morning shows followed.
August 19, 1997: NBC aired an exclusive interview with Chung, who explained that he arranged a $25,000 check to then-Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary's favorite charity as a bribe to get a meeting. TV coverage? Nothing on ABC, CBS, or CNN.
May 15, 1998: The New York Times reported Chung said most of the $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. TV coverage? ABC gave it 75 seconds, CBS 27, and NBC 15.
June 20, 1998: The Washington Post relayed that Chung said Democratic officials knew they were accepting illegal Chinese money. TV coverage? CNN had a story, CBS gave it 19 seconds, and nothing aired on ABC or NBC.
July 2, 1998: The Washington Post reported DNC Chairman Don Fowler helped Chung arrange a meeting at the Treasury Department for a state-owned Chinese oil conglomerate. TV coverage? Zero. - Tim Graham