November 14, 2017

AP Barely Recognizes Trump’s Role in Freeing UCLA Basketball Players Held on Shoplifting Charges in China

On Tuesday, three UCLA basketball players who were arrested in China last week on charges of shoplifting and who potentially faced 3 to 10 years in prison were released, thanks to intervention on their behalf by President Trump and the U.S. State Department. In sharp contrast to how other wire services have handled the news, two stories at the Associated Press, which almost certainly would have heralded presidential involvement if it had occurred during the previous administration, waited eight and ten paragraphs, respectively, to recognize Trump’s role in freeing them.

The AP’s headline writers are already working on minimizing the situation’s seriousness.

Earlier stories the AP filed on the players’ return carried the following headline: “3 UCLA players return to US after China shoplifting incident.”

That story by the wire service’s Beth Harris waited eight paragraphs to recognize Trump’s role:


A more recent story carried at has watered down the headline to “3 UCLA players face punishment at home after China incident” (the same headline on a story with a 3:18 p.m. Eastern Time stamp is also present at That story, also by Harris, first mentions Trump in Paragraph 10.

Imagine how mortifying and humiliating it had to be for Trump and his delegation to have to spend precious time with the president of the world’s most populous country trying to get him to give three overprivileged college basketball players breaks they from all appearances didn’t deserve.

Although its own headline is pathetic, a late Tuesday morning dispatch from CNN, which competes with AP as a wire service, at least recognized Trump’s role appropriately in its opening paragraph (bolds are mine throughout this post):

LiAngelo Ball, 2 other UCLA basketball players heading back to US after China incident

Three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China last week were flying back to Los Angeles on Tuesday, the commissioner of the Pacific-12 athletic conference said, hours after US President Donald Trump said he asked his Chinese counterpart to help in the case.

Reuters also noted Trump’s role in the first paragraph of its story:

UCLA players depart China after Trump asked for Xi’s help

Three UCLA basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting were headed back to the United States on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he had sought the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the case.

Last week, those who researched Chinese law found that the players could have been forced to remain in the country for months, or even years, as seen at Reuters:

… Police are requiring the University of California, Los Angeles, players to remain at their luxury Hangzhou hotel until the legal process is done, which could last days, weeks or even months, ESPN reported, citing unnamed sources.

Chinese authorities have up to 37 days to decide whether to pursue official approval for an arrest, Margaret Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey who researches China’s legal system, told the Los Angeles Times.

An arrest would prompt an investigation that could take up to two additional months before prosecutors bring formal charges, Lewis told the newspaper.

In China, the conviction rate is more than 99 percent …

Ever at the ready to criticize Trump, the Los Angeles Times held out for the idea that Trump really didn’t accomplish much, and that he was pointing the finger of guilt at the players for no reason:

The players are not facing any charges in China, according to a person close to the situation not authorized to comment publicly because of the sensitivity of the situation. However, it was not clear whether the resolution of the case came as a result of insufficient evidence or a negotiated deal.

President Trump, speaking to reporters Air Force One on Tuesday before the trio’s release was known, implied there had been some type of impropriety. “What they did was unfortunate,” he said of the players. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences.” He added, referring to the Chinese, “They do not play games.”

Trump credited Chinese President Xi Jinping with intervening. “President Xi has been terrific on that subject. But that was not a good subject,” Trump said. “That was not something that should have happened.”

Chuck Schilken at the Times apparently wants us to believe that the Chinese police arrested these players for the heck of it.

Getting back to AP, the wire service’s determination to minimize, downplay, and when possible (which it wasn’t in this instance) completely deny Trump any credit for any kind of positive accomplishment whatsoever could not be more obvious.

Cross-posted at


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