ABC Again Refuses to Cover Hsu Case; CBS and NBC Offer Brief Updates

CBS and NBC on Thursday night aired brief updates on how the Justice Department filed a criminal complaint against Norman Hsu, the captured fugitive Democratic/Hillary Clinton campaign donor, for bilking $60 million from investors -- but ABC was once again absent on the story. ABC's World News hasn't uttered Hsu's name since its one and only story the Friday night of Labor Day weekend while Thursday's mention was the fifth for NBC and fourth for CBS. (Coverage details below.) On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams read this very short item: “Norman Hsu, that Democratic fundraiser indicted today by federal prosecutors -- accusations of a massive Ponzi scheme. Hsu funneled a lot of money to Senator Clinton's campaign.”

Over on the September 20 CBS Evening News, Katie Couric relayed a bit more expansively:
Serious new charges tonight against Norman Hsu, the so-called fugitive fundraiser who evaded authorities for 15 years before surrendering last month. Federal prosecutors are now accusing him of bilking investors out of $60 million and using some of it to make illegal donations to political campaigns, most notably, Hillary Clinton's. Senator Clinton has promised to return $850,000 donated by Hsu.
An excerpt from a September 21 Washington Post article, “Hsu Broke Election Laws, FBI Charges: Reimbursements, Threats Allegedly Used in Fundraising,” by Matthew Mosk:
Prominent Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu violated federal election laws by reimbursing several donors for the political checks they wrote, and extracted campaign donations from others by threatening to cut their ties with a highly lucrative Ponzi scheme he oversaw, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department yesterday.

A federal fraud case that the U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District unsealed against Hsu suggests for the first time why he in a short period of time became one of the nation's most prolific bundlers of campaign funds. He passed $850,000 from multiple donors to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), a Democratic presidential candidate, and tens of thousands of dollars to other Democrats.

The 16-page complaint, signed by an FBI agent, says that Hsu "pressured victims" into making the contributions "in an effort to raise his public profile and thereby convince more victims to invest in his fraudulent investment scheme." That scheme defrauded people across the United States of more than $60 million, it says.

At a news conference in New York, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said that although the scheme's overall purpose was to support a "lavish lifestyle," Hsu gave money to political candidates in an apparent attempt "to purchase a place on the celebrity campaign circuit," the Associated Press reported.

Neither Hsu, his attorneys or a publicist he has hired replied directly to the government's allegations. Spokesman Robert Emmers said only that Hsu is eager, first, to dispense with the legal entanglements stemming from Hsu's 15-year-old guilty plea to theft charges in California that arose from a similar investment scheme.

Hsu was apprehended at a hospital in Colorado last week after he fled a warrant demanding that he serve a prison sentence from that conviction. Yesterday, he was returned to California under guard....
So far, including Thursday night September 20, the ABC and CBS evening newscasts have each run one full story on the Hsu scandal while NBC has aired two. CBS and NBC have aired three additional 20-second or so anchor-briefs. In sum, over the past three-plus weeks, that's two full stories on NBC, plus three brief updates; one full story and three brief items on CBS; and just one full story on ABC which hasn't mentioned Hsu on World News since Friday, August 31. The rundown:
♦ NBC Nightly News featured a full story, by Lisa Myers, on Thursday, August 30 (NB item)
♦ ABC and CBS caught up with full stories the next night, Friday, August 31 (NB item)
♦ A week later, on Friday, September 7, CBS and NBC aired brief items on how Hsu was captured in Colorado after failing to appear for a bail hearing in California (NB post)
♦ On Tuesday, September 11, the news that the Clinton campaign decided to refund the largest amount ever, $850,000 solicited by Hsu, led CBS's Katie Couric to give the development barely 20 seconds -- about half the time she devoted to the death of “Alex the Parrot” -- and NBC allocated 25 seconds, but only after a three-minute piece framed around how Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 image “stirs angry resentment.” (NB item)

♦ Last Thursday, September 13, NBC Nightly News uniquely ran a full story on Hsu's court appearance following his capture in Colorado. Andrea Mitchell highlighted “new accusations” of “$73 million in alleged Ponzi schemes in California and New York,” then asked: “So how did Clinton not know Hsu had been a fugitive for 15 years?” (NB posting)
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center