Your Democratic Media Bias Comparison To Libby: Gore Aide Maria Hsia Convicted in 2000

As we prepare for a network TV onslaught on the Scooter Libby conviction today, remember that on March 2, 2000, an aide to the Vice President was convicted of illegal funneling foreign money to Democrats, crimes that benefited the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign. Her name was Maria Hsia (pronounced like Shaw). Vice President Gore at that time was the all-but-certain Democratic nominee for president. Coverage was minimal. ABC gave it 19 seconds and CBS gave it 23 seconds. On NBC, Tom Brokaw skipped it.  A few days later on the "Imus in the Morning" show, Brokaw had this telling exchange on Gore.

Imus jumped in: "He acted like he barely knew that this Maria Hsia, didn’t he? Like he was ready to drag her up out of a park someplace." Brokaw agreed: "Oh, I know, yeah, it was: ‘Did I miss that?’ It was as if he were saying, ‘Did she get convicted?’ He said, ‘It's still in the courts.’ It's no longer in the courts! The jury has ruled! Guilty! Five counts! Imus shot back: "Well, if he's watching NBC News he missed it."  Brokaw conceded: "Yeah, well that's true." Imus: "And he only saw 19 seconds of it with Dan [Rather]." Brokaw: "Yeah, I know."

Brokaw did eventually raise it briefly with Gore in a Dateline NBC special on March 7, but only in terms that Gore was "vulnerable" to criticism since he and Clinton were "every bit as guilty in the soft money area" as Republicans. Earlier that day, Brent Bozell's column summed it up:

In a shocking victory for lackadaisical Justice Department prosecutors, Democratic fundraiser, Gore associate, and communist Chinese agent Maria Hsia was convicted on March 2 of illegally funneling $100,000 to Democratic candidates, including the Clinton-Gore campaign, in 1996.

In a much less shocking development, the major so-called "news" networks and so-called "news" magazines promptly ran and hid under rocks.

Okay, U.S. News mentioned it briefly, and ABC and CBS gave it a sentence or two before the throwing the story in the trash. But these acts of criminal wrongdoing are clearly much less exciting to the average reporter than groundbreaking political events, like, say, the quality of candidates’ performances on late-night comedy shows. And apparently, they’re far less newsworthy than who was nominated for what at the Oscars.

Newsweek devoted a whole story to how the Republicans want to capitalize on the Buddhist temple event, and even reported that new Secret Service documents show the temple fundraiser was listed as a "fund-raising luncheon" -- yet somehow managed to leave out even a mention of Hsia!

In between sobs over the disintegrating McCain campaign, the magazine’s Jonathan Alter groused: "As they chow down on soft money, neither Gore nor Bush will pay more than lip service to confronting the dangers of money in politics." How Newsweek can pontificate on such matters while simultaneously refusing to cover the lawbreaking exploits of the Clinton/Democratic machine is simply amazing.

This marks a new low for America’s so-called mainstream press. Up until now, they’ve refused to investigate criminal wrongoding. Now they’re refusing to report the convictions. Conservatives across the country were perplexed. How can they ignore this? Can you imagine a Reagan fundraiser facing the possibility of 25 years in jail and the press staying quiet? The media continue to play the DNC fundraising scandal by Lanny Davis rules. Despite that troublesome conviction thing, their attitude is dismissive, that this is "old news."

Think of the fundraising scandal as a rolling snowball of ignorance with its own momentum. When you haven’t explained to people anything about John Huang, or Johnny Chung, or Charlie Trie, who’s going to care about Maria Hsia? Who can even pronounce it? It’s precisely what the DNC is banking on.

What really ought to anger the public about this media blackout is the media’s very politicized approach to the topic of hypocrisy. When Dan Quayle supported the Vietnam War, but served in the National Guard, the media were a 76-piece brass band noisily blasting away at the hypocrisy. When a TV preacher is caught in an extramarital affair, the media can’t get enough of the word hypocrite. But when Democrats support campaign finance "reform" while breaking present campaign finance laws, the networks are nowhere to be found, hypocritically AWOL on the story.

Speaking of hypocrisy, where is Common Cause, Public Campaign, the Center for Public Integrity, or the Center for Responsive Politics? They, too are silent, and with their silence, these "reform" groups are embarrassing themselves the way the feminists embarrassed themselves over Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. If you can’t comment on Chinese agents buying influence in a presidential election, it speaks volumes about your real "reform" agenda on campaign finance.

Those liberals who are commenting are playing the "everybody does it" game. On PBS’s "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," Mark Shields commented: "In a week...where Maria Hsia, principal fund-raiser and friend of Vice President Al Gore, is convicted of violation of election laws, George Bush, disables himself to use this issue by coming out for unlimited soft money expenditures." By this logic, you have no right to condemn Hsia’s crimes unless you buy the entire the socialist mindset against money in politics.

With all this organized inaction, forget any breakthrough on the Hsia story -- unless a major candidate or political party speaks out. Bill Bradley’s had every chance, but he has no guts. John McCain only has courage to tear the entrails out of the Republicans, not the Democrats. Did anyone hear McCain jump on the Hsia story at the Thursday night debate in Los Angeles? He’ll "beat Al Gore like a drum" on campaign finance. Blah, blah, blah.

But the Republican National Committee has shown some resolve in taking on the blackout. RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson is pointing out the absurdity of the major media spending more time on Jennifer Lopez’s Grammy getup than on Hsia’s criminal actions. This is the only way this story gets traction. And if it does, expect these networks to whine about the horrendous "negativity" of it, all the way to Election Day.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis