Two weeks after NBC Nightly News was the first broadcast evening newscast to air a story on Norman Hsu, the fugitive donor to Hillary Clinton's campaign, on Thursday the show uniquely ran a full story on Hsu's court appearance following his capture and new accusations about the extent of his fraud. Noting that Hsu is now being held on a $5 million bond, anchor Brian Williams asserted “he is at the center of a series of alleged money scams that are becoming a serious embarrassment now for the Democratic front-runner.”
Over video of a frail Hsu at a court appearance in Grand Junction, Colorado, Andrea Mitchell cited his “remarkable fall” from “once hobnobbing with the Clintons and other top Democrats, then on the run, escaping a sentencing hearing on an overnight train” from California heading east. 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?” After a soundbite of Senator Clinton claiming “obviously we were all surprised by this news,” Mitchell noted “the campaign is scrambling to control the damage. It has returned more than $850,000, a record amount, from 260 donors solicited by Hsu, an average of $3,300 each. Experts say that alone should have been a red flag.”
Since a Wednesday Wall Street Journal article about the Ponzi scheme is behind a paid wall, check this Thursday Washington Post story
for a pretty good summary of the latest revelations about Hsu.
So far, including Thursday night, the ABC and CBS evening newscasts have each run one full story on the Hsu scandal while NBC has aired two. CBS and NBC, but not ABC, have aired two additional 20-second or so anchor-briefs. In sum, over the past two weeks, that's two full stories on NBC, plus a brief update; one full story and a brief item on CBS; and just one full story on ABC. The rundown:
♦ NBC Nightly News featured a full story on Thursday, August 30 (NB item).
♦ ABC and CBS caught up 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).
♦ Then 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)
NBC's second full story on Hsu, on the September 13 Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: In Colorado there was a hearing today for a major Democratic fundraiser who's now behind bars. Norman Hsu, whose story we've been following, is being held on $5 million cash bond. He is at the center of a series of alleged money scams that are becoming a serious embarrassment now for the Democratic front-runner. The story tonight from NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
ANDREA MITCHELL: On a courtroom monitor from jail, Norman Hsu, one of Hillary Clinton's top fifteen fundraisers, appeared frail, shaky, after writing what read like a suicide note.
PETE HAUTZINGER, MESA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I have seen a copy of the letter. And it certainly indicated that the defendant was considering harming himself.
MITCHELL: It is a remarkable fall. Once hobnobbing with the Clintons and other top Democrats, then on the run, escaping a sentencing hearing on an overnight train.
JOANNE SEGALE, TRAIN PASSENGER: They had to take a crowbar and jam the door and get it out. And after that, he was -- he could not walk.
MITCHELL: And in court today, new accusations: $73 million in alleged Ponzi schemes in California and New York. Among the alleged victims, Joe Rosenman, a New York businessman and an original organizer of Woodstock in 1969. So how did Clinton not know Hsu had been a fugitive for 15 years?
HILLARY CLINTON, ON AUGUST 30: Well, obviously we were all surprised by this news.
MITCHELL: In fact, the campaign is scrambling to control the damage. It has returned more than $850,000, a record amount, from 260 donors solicited by Hsu, an average of $3,300 each. Experts say that alone should have been a red flag.
LARRY NOBLE, CAMPAIGN FINANCE EXPERT: It also shows you the pressure that they're under to raise all of this money. That basically they'll -- they'll take the money from people who come in and say, I can raise all of this money for you.
MITCHELL: Pressure because Barack Obama has been out-raising Clinton so far this year. Now the Clinton campaign says it will do criminal background checks on major donors. But critics say the campaign had plenty of warnings that Hsu was trouble and ignored them. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.