TV news outlets focused on Clinton fundraiser Hsu but ignored Romney finance co-chair Fabian's indictment for fraud


In recent days, NBC, CNN, and Fox News have all aired reports or discussed the case of Norman Hsu, who The Wall Street Journal suggested may have funneled illegal campaign contributions to Sen. Hillary Clinton. However, when Mitt Romney's national finance committee co-chairman Alan Fabian was charged with mail fraud, money laundering, bankruptcy fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice, the three networks did not report or discuss it during programs available in the Nexis database.

Between August 28 and August 31, NBC, CNN, and Fox News all aired reports or discussions on Norman Hsu, the Democratic donor known for being a top contributor and fundraiser to the campaigns of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). The Los Angeles Times reported on August 29 that, in 1991, Hsu "pleaded no contest to grand theft, agreed to serve up to three years in prison and then seemed to vanish. 'He is a fugitive,' Ronald Smetana, who handled the case for the state attorney general, said in an interview." The previous day, The Wall Street Journal had suggested that Hsu may have funneled illegal campaign contributions to Clinton by reimbursing people for contributions made to Clinton under their names. However, there is no evidence that any candidate or committee who received money from Hsu knew anything about the controversies surrounding him, and many campaigns that received money from Hsu -- including Clinton's -- have since said they will donate it to charity. On August 31, Hsu turned himself in to authorities in California. The August 29 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, for example, teased the story with a picture of Clinton with the caption: "Fugitive Link."

By contrast, when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's national finance committee co-chairman, Alan B. Fabian was, according to an August 9 Associated Press article, "charged in a 23-count indictment unsealed Thursday [August 9] with mail fraud, money laundering, bankruptcy fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice," NBC, CNN, and Fox News did not air reports or discussions about it during programs available in the Nexis database. The AP reported that Fabian "allegedly ran a scheme to make $32 million in false purchases of computer equipment, spending the money instead on beach real estate and private jet travel." Fabian resigned from Romney's finance committee shortly after being indicted, and the Romney campaign said it would return Fabian's $2,300 contribution, but not, however, "contributions from donors who were recruited by or have ties to Fabian," as The Boston Globe reported. While Fabian's indictment has generated some print coverage, it has resulted in no television coverage on news shows airing on NBC, CNN, or prime-time shows broadcast on Fox News, according to a Nexis database search conducted by Media Matters for America on August 31.

Fabian, a former Bush Pioneer, has also made donations to other Republican candidates and committees, including to Rudy Giuliani, according to the Federal Election Commission's searchable donor database. Giuliani's campaign said it would return Fabian's contribution. At least one other campaign did not immediately return the money. The Hill reported on August 15: "'We have no intention of returning the contribution,' said Matt Leffingwell, spokesman for [Rep. Jon] Porter [R-NV], who received nearly $1,500 from Fabian in 2004. 'Until the individual is convicted in a court of law, we don't return contributions.' " Fabian's arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 28.

According to Media Matters' review, the following shows included reports on or discussions about Hsu, but none reported or discussed Fabian:

  • CNN Newsroom, August 31
  • CNN's American Morning, August 31
  • CNN's The Situation Room, August 30
  • NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams, August 30
  • CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, August 30
  • Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, August 30
  • NBC's Today, August 30
  • American Morning, August 30
  • Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, August 29
  • Special Report, August 29
  • Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, August 29
  • The Situation Room, August 29
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