No TV Detectives for the Huang Mysteries

ABC and NBC Skip Hearings Again Thursday Night; All Morning Shows Are Missing in Action

Senate investigators focused yesterday on John Huang's practice of leaving his Commerce Department digs to retrieve faxes and make phone calls across the street at the offices of Stephens Inc., an Arkansas brokerage firm with ties to the Lippo Group, Huang's former employer. Paula Greene, a Stephens receptionist, testified she was instructed to speak directly to Huang and not leave detailed messages when something arrived for him. Committee lawyers also laid out circumstantial evidence that Huang raised funds from at least four donors during his Commerce tenure. But ABC and NBC again avoided the hearings last night, and the morning shows were silent.

Evening shows, July 17:

ABC's World News Tonight ignored the Senate, but found time for two House hearings, including one on "road rage." A "traffic psychologist" explained: "Expressing your rage at the other driver by beeping your horn or flipping them off or putting your headlights up and down, that's a pathological condition of an adjustment reaction disorder."

NBC Nightly News covered no hearings, but reporter Claire Shipman presented Clinton as a problem-solver at the NAACP convention. Tom Brokaw suggested: "Out on the road tonight President Clinton is trying to put some muscle behind his promise to lead this nation toward some racial healing." After soundbites from Roger Wilkins and Kweisi Mfume, but no conservatives, Shipman used the same formulation as yesterday's Today: "Most people of color today in this country understand that despite his perceived shortcomings, Bill Clinton is still realistically their best advocate."

Once again, only the CBS Evening News covered the hearings. After Dan Rather summarized the day's Senate findings, reporter Phil Jones offered a rare sympathetic look at Congressman Dan Burton, head of the House committee investigating fundraising violations. Jones noted that days after Burton sent a subpoena to the Justice Department for information, an FBI agent presented him with a subpoena for his campaign finance records. Burton told Jones "It may be a retaliatory move...because I'm pushing pretty hard in my investigation." Jones even provided the first evening-news mention of probes into late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, whose business partner Nolanda Hill told ABC's Prime Time Live last month that Brown met with Vietnamese officials about taking a bribe.

CNN's The World Today (at 10 pm ET) only aired a 39-second anchor brief.

Morning shows, July 18:

ABC's Good Morning America aired nothing on the fundraising hearings for the first time this week.

CBS This Morning ignored the hearings for the seventh weekday morning in a row. Hearings never came up in a long interview with former Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley, their new commentator. Their full coverage so far: an anchor brief on the morning the hearings opened, and a full story and two anchor briefs the next day.

They didn't note the hearings, but NBC's Today noted the Senate passed a ban on computer games in government offices. What computer games are the networks playing? None of the morning shows offered a single interview segment on the hearings this week. - Tim Graham & Brent Baker