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Bloomberg News Shut Down Story on China's Elites Due to Fear of Reprisal: Report

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During his 2020 presidential campaign, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D) received scrutiny for his company’s use of non-disclosure agreements.

Now, NPR is reporting that in 2013, Mike Forsythe, a former Bloomberg reporter, was investigating China’s Communist Party’s elites when his story was abruptly shut down by Bloomberg News.

Forsythe first reported on members of the Communist Party’s wealth in 2012. Officials in China reportedly warned Bloomberg against publishing the report. However, the organization went ahead with its story.

After it was published, Forsythe said he received death threats, but began work on a story on the country’s leaders and their connection to the wealthiest individual in the country.

While executives at the company were reportedly supportive of the story, they eventually decided to shut it down.

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In an October 2013 conference call, then-Editor in Chief Matthew Winkler said about the decision to kill the story, “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.”

“So, I just don’t see that as a story that is justified,” he added.

Later on in the call, he returned to the subject, “The inference is going to be interpreted by the government there as we are judging them. And they will probably kick us out of the country. They’ll probably shut us down, is my guess.”

However, he did say that Bloomberg reporters could continue covering China’s leaders but they would have to do so with a “strategic framework and a tactical method.”

“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.”

NPR reports that after the first story ran in 2012, Chinese officials searched Bloomberg offices and delayed visas for its reporters. They also banned Bloomberg’s financial terminal products — which cost $20,000 annually.

Bloomberg denied that the story was killed. 

But, speaking during a town hall in 2014 to Bloomberg reporters, Michael Bloomberg said, “If a country gives you the license to do something with certain restrictions, you have two choices. You either accept the license and do it that way, or you don’t do business there.”

Forsythe was suspended and fired after he was accused of leaking information about the controversy. When he left the company, he also signed a non-disclosure agreement.

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Additionally, Bloomberg executives sought to have Forsythe’s wife, journalist Leta Hong Fincher, sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“They assumed that because I was the wife of their employee,” Fincher said, adding, “I was just an appendage of their employee. I was not a human being.”

Fincher detailed her story of Bloomberg trying to get her to sign the non-disclosure agreement in February in an article published by The Intercept. 

Forsythe eventually put together information that he had gathered before his story for Bloomberg was shut down and published it in The New York Times. 

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