Had Bloomberg had snagged the Democratic nomination his overseas entanglements would have left him deeply compromised – much like sleepy Joe.
The story of one Bloomberg reporter and his wife showcases the widespread use of such legal restraints at the company — and how far their reach can extend.
Six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into the wealth of Communist Party elites in China, fearful of repercussions by the Chinese government. The company successfully silenced the reporters involved. And it sought to keep the spouse of one of the reporters quiet, too.
“They assumed that because I was the wife of their employee, I was the wife,” the author and journalist Leta Hong Fincher tells NPR. “I was just an appendage of their employee. I was not a human being.”
Fincher is married to the journalist Mike Forsythe, a former Beijing correspondent for Bloomberg News who now works at The New York Times. In 2012, Forsythe was part of a Bloomberg team behind an award-winning investigation into the accumulation of wealth by China’s ruling classes.
The Chinese ambassador warned Bloomberg executives against publishing the investigation. But Bloomberg News published the story anyway. Afterward, Forsythe received what he and Fincher considered death threats relayed through other journalists. He and Fincher moved their family to Hong Kong, believing it to be safer.
Even so, the reporting team pursued the next chapter, focusing on Chinese leaders’ ties to the country’s richest man, Wang Jianlin. Among those in the reporters’ sights: the family of new Chinese President Xi Jinping. The story gained steam throughout 2013.
In emails sent back to Bloomberg’s journalists in China seen by Fincher, senior news editors in New York City expressed excitement.
And then: radio silence from headquarters. That story never ran.
“Mike and some of the other reporters and editors who had been working on this story just were asking for answers about … why was this story killed?” Fincher says.
Report: Bloomberg News Killed Story On China’s Elite To Save Business Ties
By Tim Pearce, Daily Wire.com
Bloomberg News killed an investigation into a Chinese aristocrat, reportedly over concerns that China’s authoritarian regime would cut ties with billionaire businessman (and former New York City mayor) Michael Bloomberg if the story ran.
Bloomberg News founding editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler blocked an investigative piece into China’s wealthiest man, Wang Jianlin, in 2013 over fears that the article could bring retribution from the Chinese government, according to recordings obtained by NPR. The piece was set to run as a follow-up to an award-winning investigation of Chinese President Xi Jinping and China’s elite.
The revelation comes as United States political leaders are ramping up pressure on US businesses to sever ties with China, especially in the wake of the coronavirus that originated in China and has effectively shut down huge swaths of the world economy. As the Daily Wire has previously reported, China has powerful influence not only over US supply chains and entertainment, but apparently over US media as well, through its business ties.
At the time, Winkler and other Bloomberg News editors said the second installment was tabled because it needed additional reporting. In a 2013 conference call with the reporters who worked on the story, Winkler gave a different rationale.
“It is for sure going to, you know, invite the Communist Party to, you know, completely shut us down and kick us out of the country,” Winkler said. “So, I just don’t see that as a story that is justified.”
“The inference is going to be interpreted by the government there as we are judging them,” Winkler said, expressing worry about publishing reporting on Wang Jianlin and his connections to President Xi. “And they will probably kick us out of the country. They’ll probably shut us down, is my guess.”
The recordings, obtained by NPR, confirm comments made during the 2013 conference call that were reported by the New York Times in part at the time.
NPR’s reporting also backs up accusations made by Intercept journalist Leta Hong Fincher, the wife of former Bloomberg News Beijing correspondent Mike Forsythe, one of the reporters who worked on the investigation into China’s elite. Fincher said that Bloomberg L.P. “threatened to devastate my family financially” if she did not sign a non-disclosure agreement over her husband’s work.
After the first article ran in 2012, China cracked down on Bloomberg’s operations within the country. The regime refused to renew reporter visas and raided Bloomberg News offices. The Chinese government also began cutting business ties with Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of Bloomberg News, owned and controlled by Bloomberg.
Bloomberg L.P.’s chief product is one-year leases on its Bloomberg terminals, which contain a host of finance monitoring tools as well as early access to Bloomberg News articles. An annual lease for a terminal costs at least $20,000.
Bloomberg viewed China as a priority for marketing the terminals and expanding business, three former Bloomberg executives told NPR. After the Bloomberg News article on Xi dropped, the Chinese government ordered state-owned companies not to renew their leases for Bloomberg terminals.
In the 2013 conference call, Winkler did not kill the second story outright but suggested that the reporting team come up with a unique way of covering it that did not alienate the Chinese Communist Party leaders that controlled the government.
“It has to be done with a strategic framework and a tactical method that is … smart enough to allow us to continue and not run afoul of the Nazis who are in front of us and behind us everywhere,” Winkler said. “And that’s who they are. And we should have no illusions about it.”
A Bloomberg News spokesperson declined to comment. Bloomberg L.P. did not immediately return a request for comment.
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