John Huang's strange career at the Commerce Department took center stage yesterday at the hearings, but not on TV. Of the Big Three networks, two did nothing at night, and two aired zero in the morning. (NBC skipped both.) One boss found Huang "totally unqualified" for his post. The Senate also investigated how he received top-secret intelligence briefings, even though he never had a full background check.
Evening shows, July 16:
Neither ABC's World News Tonight or NBC Nightly News told viewers a syllable about the hearings. ABC did take the time for three Versace murder stories, the NAACP convention, an FDA-approved implant for epilepsy, a bank robber who stuffed dollars in his pants and fled in his underwear when the dye ignited, and a fly-fishing program for breast cancer victims.
Only the CBS Evening News ran a story. After two stories on Versace and serial killer suspect Andrew Cunanan and a piece on the Dow Jones stock index hitting 8000, Bob Schieffer opened his story: "The committee bored in on how Huang wound up in a sensitive Commerce Department job that gave him access to highly-classified trade secrets. His old boss conceded Huang didn't get there on expertise."
CBS ran a soundbite of Jeffrey Garten declaring Huang "totally unqualified" for his job. Schieffer also reported "Huang got plenty of trade secrets in his government post," and that the Senate committee is investigating a handwritten note then-DNC chairman Don Fowler faxed to Mack McLarty in 1995 which said the party had to raise $4 million in 14 days. The fax "listed a group of oil company executives and asked McLarty to call some of these people and ask them for $25,000. Federal law prohibits such fundraising by White House employees," Schieffer noted, adding McLarty denies getting the memo.
CNN's Prime News (at 8pm ET) carried a full report from Candy Crowley reviewing all the main points about Huang at Commerce, including his lack of a full background check when he was hired..
Morning shows, July 17:
ABC's Good Morning America aired a full story - in the last half hour. Bob Zelnick noted Huang's boss at Commerce walled him off from China duties, but the CIA briefers were not informed of this, and Huang retained a security clearance while he worked as a DNC fundraiser.
CBS This Morning produced nothing for the sixth weekday morning in a row, but did air a Bill Plante report on President Clinton protecting children from porn on the Internet and Mexican cooking of soft-shell crabs.
NBC's Today ignored the hearings again. Claire Shipman filed a report in the 8 am half-hour on Clinton speaking to the NAACP convention: "Whatever their frustrations, most leaders on the race issue understand that for now the President may be their best, certainly their most visible advocate." Today also found time for the Leno-Letterman billboard battle in New York and cooking with citrus. Juicy scandal revelations were not on the menu. - Tim Graham & Brent Baker