American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt yesterday denied a claim before a legislative committee by Jason Yuan (袁健生), Taiwan’s de facto ambassador in the US, that he had complained about being misquoted by the Taipei Times on more than one occasion.
On Wednesday, Yuan told the Foreign and National Defense Committee that Burghardt had “specifically mentioned the Taipei Times as misquoting him a few times and he felt he needed to clarify his stance.”
Speaking via BlackBerry message from Vietnam where he is traveling, Burghardt told the Taipei Times that he had “never mentioned the Taipei Times,” but that he had been critical of reports in Chinese-language newspapers, including “the relentless efforts of the Liberty Times [the Taipei Times’ sister paper] to ‘prove’ that the US is worried about [cross-strait] rapprochement.”
Yuan’s claim before the committee followed a question by KMT Legislator and committee chair Justin Chou (周守訓) on why Burghardt had spoken on camera during his meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last month, and whether Burghardt felt dissatisfaction with any particular media outlet.
In a separate message yesterday, Burghardt told the Taipei Times that “On speaking in front of the cameras when meeting Ma, there was nothing new. I did it more than once with [former president Chen Shui-bian, 陳水扁].”
It was not immediately clear if Yuan had confused the newspapers, but there was evidence that he did have the Taipei Times in mind. Yuan had told the committee that in response to “biased media reports,” his office was translating Taiwan-related news into English for daily distribution to US officials, and he argued that the government-funded Central News Agency (CNA) should cover all of Taiwan’s activities in the US to “balance out other reports.”
Wednesday was not a happy day for Yuan in the legislature. In addition to possibly misleading the committee over the “misquoting” of Burghardt, he contradicted himself on the number of US officials that had allegedly told him — off the record — that signing an economic cooperation framework agreement would facilitate a free trade agreement between the US and Taiwan.
When the discrepancy was raised by DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德), Yuan denied that he had just claimed “more than one” US official had made the comments.
Lai then requested that a tape of Yuan’s speech from a few hours earlier be replayed, which established that Yuan had said this.
Yuan could not be reached for comment yesterday.