Connie Chung’s Interviews Range from Soft to Combative to Sneaky
Connie Chung attends New York Women's Foundation 25th Anniversary Celebration at Alice Tully Hall on October 23, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
For the most part, Connie Chung earned her reputation as a fair reporter, respected anchor, and controversial interviewer during her years as a broadcast journalist for ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN. She was the second woman to co-anchor a network news show. Although she was often accused of being too soft during interviews, she drew criticism and reprimanding for some of her interviews that became combative and sneaky.
Connie Chung Was a Groundbreaking Television Journalist
Connie Chung was one of the first Asian-American reporters on television. She hopped from network to network and eventually became the second female co-anchor, after Barbara Walters, for a major network news show when she joined the CBS Evening News. She secured some noteworthy interviews with people involved in some of the biggest news events of the 1980s. She was the first journalist to interview U.S. Representative Gary Condit following the disappearance of intern Chandra Levy. She was also one of the first reporters to interview Earvin “Magic” Johnson, legendary basketball player, after his HIV diagnosis. She also landed an interview with Claus von Bulow, a member of the British elite who stood trial for the attempted murder of his wife.
Connie Chung Developed Her Signature Interview Style
Throughout her career, Connie Chung was able to hone her interviewing skills and develop her own interview style. Her interviews would start out soft and gentle. The interviewee would become relaxed, trusting Chung and letting their guard down. Then Chung would flip a switch from soft to hard-edged questions. She often assaulted her subject with a series of harsh questions delivered in rapid-fire manner that would throw her subject off guard. In several of her interviews, Chung carried to questioning too far, damaging her reputation as a journalist and costing her her job.
Chung Was Sneaky When She Interviewed Newt Gingrich’s Mom
Connie Chung, then the anchor of Eye to Eye, interviewed Kathleen Gingrich, the mother of political candidate, Newt Gingrich, a Republican, on January 5, 1995. Chung asked Mrs. Gingrich what her son, Newt, really thought of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Gingrich diplomatically stated that she couldn’t say what her son thought on the air. Chung then said to Mrs. Gingrich, “Just whisper it to me…just between you and me.” Mrs. Gingrich then whispered to Chung, confiding in her that her son, Newt, considered Hillary Clinton to be a bitch. Instead of keeping this information private, as was implied with her request, Connie Chung broadcast it. The backlash on Chung was swift and fierce. She had broken an unwritten journalistic rule by betraying her source.
Connie Chung Drew Fire For Offending An Oklahoma City Firefighter
Just a few months after her controversial interview with Kathleen Gingrich, on April 19, 1995, domestic terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, detonated a bomb just outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The attack killed nearly 170 people and injured more than 650 more. In the wake of the attack, Connie Chung interviewed a spokesperson for the Oklahoma City Fire Department. At one point in the interview, Chung rudely and sarcastically asked, “Can the Oklahoma City Fire Department handle this?” Many people in Oklahoma City and across the county felt that the question…and the tone in which it was asked…was insensitive and condescending, given the unusually circumstances of the bombing. Thousands of upset viewers called the network and wrote letters of complaint about Chung. The network gave Chung the option of resigning or moving to a weekend anchor job. Chung chose to resign.
Connie Chung Criticized Martina Navratilova
Connie Chung interviewed tennis great, Martina Navratilova, in July of 2002. At the time, Navratilova, who had been a naturalized citizen of the United States for more than two decades, had been speaking out publically to voice her opposition to some aspect of the government and the political system. In the midst of the interview, Chung criticized that athlete for using her celebrity status to promote her political beliefs and stated that Navratilova’s outspokenness was both “un-American and unpatriotic”. She noted that the tennis star should just “go back to Czechoslovakia”. Navratilova reminded Chung of the First Amendment’s right to free speech and questioned why it was un-America to share her opinions about the government to which Chung shrugged and said, “You know the old line, love it or leave it.” Many viewers felt as though Chung crossed the line in her criticism of Navratilova and accused her of using the interview to chastise the tennis legend.
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