Controversies dogged Michael Bloomberg’s short-lived presidential campaign from the beginning. Among the more serious were revelations that Bloomberg’s namesake company silenced ex-employees who complained about sexual harassment or an otherwise hostile work environment.
Now, a story has broken that six years ago, Bloomberg News killed an investigation into top Chinese Communist Party (CPC) leaders, fearing retribution from Beijing. The outlet went so far as to silence its reporters and even one journalist’s spouse.
NPR’s David Folkenflik has more:
“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.
Bloomberg senior editors long expressed excitement at the investigation’s continuing progress. Then came something the reporting team never saw coming: radio silence.
Bloomberg’s founding editor-in-chief eventually admitted in a private conference call that Bloomberg News feared the CPC would ban the outlet from the country, and ultimately the story wasn’t worth that.
Behind the scenes, executives worried about the repercussions of losing lucrative business in China.
At the time, Michael Bloomberg had ostensibly relinquished control of Bloomberg News to serve as the mayor of New York City. However, insiders reported to NPR that he remained in frequent contact with newsroom leaders, who all knew he coveted China’s growing market.