Connie Chung born on August 20, 1946, in Washington, D.C . The only person in history (male or female) to have served as a substitute anchor for all three network nightly newscasts , Is an American journalist who has been an anchor and reporter for the U.S. television news networks NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC. The trailblazing Chung became the first Asian and the second woman to anchor one of America’s major network news programs when she co-hosted the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. The Emmy and Peabody Award winner has worked at CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN. Chung is married to talk show host Maury Povich.
Journalist Connie Chung was born on August 20, 1946, and raised in Washington, D.C., as one of five surviving daughters of a Chinese diplomat. Chung received her journalism degree from the University of Maryland in 1969 and immediately launched her journalism career at Washington’s WTTG-TV, ultimately working her way up to reporter. Two years later, she was hired away by CBS News to work as a Washington-based correspondent. There, Chung scored her first big interview: an exclusive sit-down with President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
From 1976 to 1983, Chung worked and lived in Los Angeles as the lead news anchor for local CBS affiliate KCBS. It was in L.A. that Chung began a relationship with Maury Povich, a talk show host and old friend from their days as co-workers at WTTG. After seven years of dating, the pair married in 1984. “One day in the autumn of 1984 she called me up and said we could get married now,” Povich recalled. “When asked how come, she answered calmly, ‘Because I found a dress.’” It would be 18 months before the newlyweds’ careers allowed them to live together in the same city. They settled in New York in 1986.
The youngest of ten children (of whom she and four others, all girls, survived) of a high-ranking Taiwan (ROC) diplomat, she was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, and went on to receive a degree in journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1969. She has been married to talk show host Maury Povich since 1984. Chung converted to Judaism upon her marriage to Povich. Chung announced that she was reducing her workload in 1991 in the hopes of getting pregnant. Together, they have one son whom they adopted on June 20, 1995, Matthew Jay Povich. He attended the Allen-Stevenson School and now attends the Riverdale Country School.
Chung was a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite in the early 1970s, during the Watergate political scandal. Later, Chung left for the Los Angeles-owned and operated station of CBS, KNXT (now KCBS) which was in the nation’s second largest (and highest paying) local market, southern California. Chung also anchored the CBS Newsbriefs for the west coast stations from the KNXT studios at Columbia Square during her tenure there.
She returned with great fanfare to network news as NBC created a new early program, NBC News at Sunrise, which was scheduled right before the Today program. Later, NBC created American Almanac, which she co-hosted with Roger Mudd, after Mudd left the NBC Nightly News, where he co-anchored for two years with Tom Brokaw.
Chung left NBC for CBS where she hosted Saturday Night with Connie Chung, and on June 1, 1993, she became the second woman (after Barbara Walters with ABC in 1976) to co-anchor a major network’s national news broadcast (the solo national news anchor title in the United States goes to Katie Couric at CBS). While hosting the CBS Evening News, Chung also hosted a side project on CBS, Eye to Eye with Connie Chung. After her unsuccessful co-anchoring stint with Dan Rather ended in 1995, Chung jumped to ABC News where she co-hosted the Monday edition of 20/20 with Charles Gibson and began independent interviews, a field which would soon become her trademark.
Chung’s interviews were largely gentle, but often they were punctuated by a rapid-fire barrage of sharp questions. Despite this, her interviews were still widely recognized as being decidedly softer than those of other interviewers, such as Barbara Walters or Mike Wallace. Consequently, her interviews were often used as a public relations move by those looking to overcome scandal or controversy. Some of her more famous interview subjects include Claus von Bülow and U.S. Representative Gary Condit, whom Chung interviewed first after the Chandra Levy disappearance. Chung was the first journalist to interview basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson after he went public about being HIV-positive.
Face to Face With Connie Chung
In 1983, Chung moved to NBC. By the time her contract came up for renewal in 1989, she had become one of the most popular journalists in television news. After a fierce bidding war, Chung signed a three-year deal with CBS. She launched a program called Face to Face With Connie Chung, which mixed hard news with celebrity-friendly feature interviews. The program was popular with viewers, but many media critics questioned whether Chung was focusing on entertainment over information. The New York Times, for example, asked: “The question remains, is this program news? And, if so, what sort of news?”
Just months after starting, Chung quit the program, issuing a statement that she was leaving her grueling work schedule to focus on having a baby. “Time is running out for me when it comes to childbearing,” said Chung, then 44. Her efforts to conceive a child proved unsuccessful. Povich and Chung couple adopted their son, Matthew, in June 1995.
In June 1993, CBS announced to much fanfare that the network would make Chung co-anchor of the nightly news broadcast, alongside longtime lead Dan Rather. Chung was only the second woman ever (after Barbara Walters) to hold one of the main network anchor chairs. At the same time, she launched a newsmagazine called Eye to Eye with Connie Chung. Like the short-lived Face to Face with Connie Chung before it, the program mixed coverage of serious news like the Israeli/Palestinian peace accords with soft, pop-culture stories.
Chung landed in hot water in 1995 after she prompted Kathleen Gingrich, the 68-year-old mother of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, to admit that her son had called First Lady Hillary Clinton “a bitch.” The elder Gingrich made the comment after Chung said, “Why don’t you just whisper it to me, just between you and me?” Though Chung said it was clear she was being playful,
Concerns over her interviewing style, and Dan Rather’s reported resentment at having to share the anchor role, doomed the Chung-Rather on-air partnership. In May 1995, CBS informed Chung that it was removing her from the co-anchor chair, offering the lower position of weekend and substitute anchor. Chung declined, requesting instead to be let out of her contract.
Chung attempted unsuccessfully to launch her own news program alongside Maury Povich before moving to ABC News in December 1997, where she anchored the Friday night newsmagazine 20/20. At 20/20, she scored the first interview with Congressman Gary Condit after the 2001 disappearance of intern Chandra Levy.
In 2002, she moved to CNN to anchor a new show competing with Fox News Channel pundit Bill O’Reilly. The program struggled — CNN founder Ted Turner called it “just awful” — and CNN abruptly dropped her in March 2003. A “very shocked and extremely disappointed” Chung stepped away from television for some time, staying at home to raise her son.
In 2006, she returned to TV with her husband on a Saturday morning show called Weekends With Maury & Connie. The show was quietly cancelled after six lackluster months, but it was hard to miss the viral video clip of Chung wearing a slinky white dress and warbling a parody song with lyrics like, “Thanks for the memories/ We came to do a show/ For very little dough/ By little I mean/ I could make more working on skid row.” Chung later clarified that the whole thing was a joke mocking the show’s cancellation. “All I want to be sure of is that viewers understood it was a giant self-parody,” Chung said. “If anyone took it seriously, they really need to get a life.”
Kathleen Gingrich interview controversy
In a January 5, 1995 interview with Kathleen Gingrich, mother of Republican politician Newt Gingrich, on Eye to Eye, Mrs. Gingrich said she could not say what her son thought about First Lady Hillary Clinton on the air. Chung asked Mrs. Gingrich to “just whisper it to me, just between you and me,” and Mrs. Gingrich replied that her son thought of Clinton as a “bitch”. Many people interpreted Chung’s suggestion that if Mrs. Gingrich would whisper this statement it would be promised that the statement would be off the record. Bill Carter for the New York Times reported, “Ms. Chung had become the object of some of the most ferocious criticism, justified or not, ever directed at any network anchor as a result of her now infamous interview with Speaker Newt Gingrich’s mother, Kathleen.” The interview was also parodied on Saturday Night Live.
ABC and CNN
After making the jump to ABC News as a co-host of the Monday edition of 20/20 alongside Charles Gibson, she had an interview with Gary Condit on his relationship with murdered Washington, D.C., intern Chandra Levy.
She was a guest host of the morning program, Good Morning America. After short-lived host Lisa McRee left the program, Chung declined to take over on a permanent basis, saying she did not want to broadcast 10 hours a week in early morning hours.
Chung briefly hosted her own show on CNN entitled Connie Chung Tonight, where she was paid $2 million per year. Though her arrival at CNN was heavily hyped by the network, her show was panned by critics. CNN changed her show from live to tape-delay to make it flow better. Although it did moderately well in the ratings (a 500,000 increase in viewers), her show was suspended once the 2003 Iraq War began. During the war, she was reduced to reading hourly headlines. Once CNN resumed regular programming, Chung requested that CNN resume broadcasting her show as soon as possible. The network responded by cancelling it, even though her contract had not yet expired. In an interview, CNN founder Ted Turner called the show “just awful”.
Martina Navratilova interview
In July 2002 Chung interviewed tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who at that point had been a naturalized U.S. citizen for more than 20 years, about her recent criticisms of the U.S. political system. Chung labelled these criticisms “un-American” and “unpatriotic”, and suggested Navratilova should “go back to Czechoslovakia” rather than use her celebrity status to gain a platform for her complaints. When Navratilova asked why it was unpatriotic to speak out, Chung replied, “Well, you know the old line, love it or leave it.”
In January 2006, Chung and Maury Povich began hosting a show titled Weekends with Maury and Connie on MSNBC. It was Chung’s first appearance as a television host since 2003. The show was later cancelled and aired its final episode on June 17, 2006. On this episode, Chung, dressed in a white evening gown and writhing atop a black piano, sang a parody to the tune of Thanks for the Memory. Video clips of the bizarre, off-key farewell performance circulated on internet video sites. Connie herself commented, “All I want to be sure of is that viewers understood it was a giant self-parody. If anyone took it seriously, they really need to get a life.” On the June 27, 2006, episode of The Tonight Show, Chung was interviewed by Jay Leno regarding her “Thanks for the Memories” parody. During the interview, Chung poked fun at her show’s low ratings, referring to the musical number as a “private joke for our two viewers.”
Chung accepted a teaching fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. While at Harvard, she wrote a discussion paper titled The Business of Getting “The Get”: Nailing an Exclusive Interview in Prime Time.
- 1983–1986: NBC News at Sunrise anchor
- 1989–1990: Saturday Night with Connie Chung anchor
- 1993–1995: Eye to Eye with Connie Chung anchor
- 1998–2002: 20/20 anchor
- 1999–2000: ABC 2000 Today correspondent
- 2002–2003: Connie Chung Tonight anchor
- 2006: Weekends with Maury and Connie anchor
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