May 24 2000

On Eve of China Vote, Nightline Airs Only One Side

On the night before Congress was to vote on Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for China — the most important trade vote of the year – ABC‘s Nightline devoted its broadcast to a discussion of that issue. That discussion, unfortunately, was one-sidedly partisan: All three of Nightline‘s guests were Republican proponents of PNTR.

Nightline‘s guests were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Senator Alan Simpson and Nixon-era ambassador to China Winston Lord. All argued strongly in favor of establishing permanent trade relations with China. In a remark that reflected the unanimity on display, Lord quipped, “You needsome hard-headed strategic-engagers like Lord, Gingrich and Simpson to get this just about right.”

No guest presented an anti-PNTR view. This is the first show that Nightline has aired this year on either China or trade, so there has been no recent opportunity for the opposing case to be presented.

Given the wide diversity of views held by critics of PNTR — ranging from conservative anti-Communists to labor organizers to human rights activists– it’s especially unfortunate that Nightline chose to air such a one-dimensional treatment of a vital issue. (Some progressive critics of the China bill are featured on the Institute for Public Accuracy’s website at

ACTION: Please write to Nightline and ask them to explain why they chose to air only one point of view on the eve of such a hotly contested vote. Call on the program to make at least some effort at balance when covering such issues in the future.

CONTACT: Tom Bettag, Executive Producer, ABC-Nightline. 1717 DeSales St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036(202)

Please cc with your correspondence.