ABC, CBS Trumpet Mrs. Obama's 'Ping-Pong Diplomacy' in China; Omit Press Shutout

Friday's CBS Evening News and ABC's World News both glowingly harkened back to a prominent past example of bilateral exchange between the U.S. and China, as they reported on Michelle Obama's trip to the East Asian country. But they continued their blackout on covering the White House's ban of journalists accompanying the First Lady. During a news brief, CBS's Scott Pelley trumpeted how "education is the focus of her [Mrs. Obama's] week-long trip, but there was also time for a little bit of ping-pong diplomacy."

The ABC evening newscast surpassed their competitor, however, with David Muir touting "the images making headlines out of China... the Chinese president unexpectedly coming out to meet her – the whole thing reminiscent of those iconic shots of President Nixon in his groundbreaking trip to China." Jonathan Karl also raised the air of "ping-pong diplomacy," but noted the current First Lady's departure from her predecessors in her approach to the communist regime: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

KARL (on-camera): Unlike Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, who both pressed human rights on their trips to China, the White House says that Mrs. Obama will shy away from issues that may be controversial with her Chinese hosts.

Besides trumpeting the "images...reminiscent of those iconic shots of President Nixon" with Chinese dictator Mao Zedong, Muir labeled Michelle Obama "a new American ambassador," and underlined the "the moment that surprised even the Chinese." Karl then led with his 1970s historical reference: "It's not quite the ping-pong diplomacy that preceded Nixon's visit, but First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off her trip with a little table tennis at a high school in Beijing."

The ABC correspondent continued by outlining how "the First Lady, along with her daughters and mom, are on a five-day tour – building good will and seeing the sights – trying her hand at Chinese calligraphy, and checking out the Forbidden City." Muir soon added that "their guide for the day was China's glamorous first lady, Madame Peng, herself a longtime Chinese pop star. Madame Peng proclaimed an instant bond with Mrs. Obama." He ended the segment with his reporting about how "Mrs. Obama will shy away from issues that may be controversial with her Chinese hosts."

The full transcript of Jonathan Karl's report from Friday's World News on ABC:

DAVID MUIR: We turn now to the images making headlines out of China tonight. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, and the surprise greeting – the Chinese president unexpectedly coming out to meet her – the whole thing reminiscent of those iconic shots of President Nixon in his groundbreaking trip to China – four decades later, a new American ambassador.

Today, the moment that surprised even the Chinese, and ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl on it all.


["ABC News Graphic: "Inside China: First Lady's Big Trip Begins"]

JONATHAN KARL (voice-over): It's not quite the ping-pong diplomacy that preceded Nixon's visit, but First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off her trip with a little table tennis at a high school in Beijing. The President back home, the First Lady, along with her daughters and mom, are on a five-day tour – building good will and seeing the sights – trying her hand at Chinese calligraphy, and checking out the Forbidden City.

In a surprise, China's president greeted the Obamas – this after their guide for the day was China's glamorous first lady, Madame Peng, herself a longtime Chinese pop star. Madame Peng proclaimed an instant bond with Mrs. Obama: 'Although it is the first time we have ever met,' she said, 'it feels like we are old friends.'

KARL (on-camera): Unlike Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, who both pressed human rights on their trips to China, the White House says that Mrs. Obama will shy away from issues that may be controversial with her Chinese hosts. David?

MUIR: All right. Jon Karl live at the White House tonight – Jon, thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center