Far-right media outlet targets L.A.’s Asian business leaders. They’re fighting back

Walter Wang stands in a blue shirt next to a glass top table.
Walter Wang, CEO of Los Angeles-based pipe manufacturer JM Eagle, has lived in the U.S. since he was 9 years old.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
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Walter Wang was headed down Interstate 5 to a family get-together on March 13 when his phone dinged. A WhatsApp message flashed across the screen from an old friend in Taiwan posing a puzzling rhetorical question: Weren’t he and his wife, Shirley, American citizens?

“Can you read this?” he said, handing the phone to Shirley. She clicked the link included in the message. After a couple of minutes, she looked up at her husband. “This is wrong.”

For the record:

9:08 a.m. April 17, 2023An earlier version of this story stated that the Daily Caller email sent to Walter Wang arrived two hours before the article’s publication on March 13. The email was sent on March 11. This story has also been updated to clarify that the Daily Caller articles were produced by the nonprofit Daily Caller News Foundation and published on the for-profit Daily Caller website.

The friend in Taiwan had spotted a story published that day by the nonprofit Daily Caller News Foundation and picked up by the far-right-wing site the Daily Caller, both co-founded by Fox News showman Tucker Carlson. It focused primarily on former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti but featured Wang as a supporting character. In a hit piece devoid of damning facts, heavy on innuendo and liberally sprinkled with the words “alleged” and “allegedly,” the article painted Garcetti and Wang as dangerous stooges of the Chinese Communist Party.

Wang, a Taiwanese immigrant, is chief executive of Los Angeles-based pipe manufacturer JM Eagle and a longtime American citizen. He moved to the U.S. with his mother when he was 9 years old. “This is ridiculous,” he thought — but also alarming.


His friends and close business associates know better than to believe the story, he said, “but the people who are not close to me and don’t know me well are going to think of me now in a negative light. It could really hurt my reputation.”

The Garcetti piece also lit into Dominic Ng, chief executive of Pasadena-based East West Bank. And previous Caller stories have taken aim at the president of Queens College, City University of New York, and Asian Americans involved with the mainstream news outlet the China Project.

As tensions rise between the governments of the United States and China, the Daily Caller has leaned into narratives with a similar theme: Chinese and Taiwanese Americans with any connections to China are probably up to some very un-American activities. Though the attacks so far have focused on politicians and high-profile business leaders, Wang and others fear the repercussions could trickle down to Asian Americans in general.

Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S. rose dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even as the pandemic abates, Asians continue to face race-based hate that takes the form of everything from verbal slurs and face-punching to mass murder.

“We are increasingly concerned that the anti-China fear mongering and rhetoric are inflaming tensions,” said Cynthia Choi , co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate in Los Angeles. “It’s leading to anti-Asian scapegoating. We see an increase in everyday Americans being perceived as a threat, purposely, for political gain.”

The accusations

The Daily Caller story appeared March 13, two days before the U.S. Senate was to vote on President Biden’s nomination of Garcetti as ambassador to India. The piece was headlined “‘Huge Red Flag’: Inside Biden Nominee Eric Garcetti’s Ties to Members of Alleged Chinese Intel Front Groups.”


(The Senate voted to confirm Garcetti. In a follow-up story, the Daily Caller then attacked “The Seven GOP Senators Who Voted to Confirm Biden Nominee With Ties to Alleged Chinese Communist Intel Groups.”)

The story noted that Wang, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist, donated a lot of money to the Mayor’s Fund of Los Angeles — $200,000 in 2014 and $1 million in 2020.

The Mayor’s Fund is a charitable organization that donates to community groups. The fund has been criticized for blurring the line between charity and politics, but no one has accused it of channeling money to political campaigns. Wang said the $1-million donation was spent helping poor families that lost jobs during the pandemic.

The fund was created by Garcetti in 2014 but continues under new Mayor Karen Bass, who replaced Garcetti on the fund’s board of directors.

The story also noted that Ng, of East West Bank, donated money to the Mayor’s Fund, and similarly insinuated a connection between Ng and the Chinese Communist Party.

Ng became an American citizen in 1988. His family had left Shanghai in 1949 to seek more freedom in Hong Kong, where he was born, Ng said. East West Bank was recently ranked in first place for U.S. bank performance by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Ng was appointed by Biden last year to represent the U.S. as chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council. Ng was hosting an APEC meeting and reception in New Zealand on Feb. 13 with the country’s newly elected prime minister when an aide told him about a Caller article attempting to tie him to Chinese communists, a piece that preceded the Garcetti story that went after him and Wang.


Both Wang and Ng acknowledge they have been photographed in group shots that may have included members of the Chinese Communist Party. Most business leaders in China are members of the party. Any American in a high-level position doing business or diplomacy connected with China — Asian, Black, white or any other race — inevitably will come into contact with Communist Party members.

“If every Chinese American in a photo with any Chinese official is suspect, you’re talking about every successful Chinese person,” said Frank Wu. Born and raised in Detroit, Wu is president of Queens College, City University of New York. “This isn’t just about Walter and Shirley, this isn’t just about me, this is about whether or not you have an Asian face,” Wu said.

Wu himself became a target of accusations by the Daily Caller last December. That story went after an English-language news site called the China Project, claiming that the operation is sponsored by or has partnered with 20 organizations that “may be” headed by members of the Communist Party or may be “members of alleged Chinese influence operations.” No solid facts underpin the innuendo.

The article named Wu and other ethnic Asians who sit on the China Project’s advisory board. They “appear to belong,” the Caller said, to a group called the Committee of 100.

Wu says he is in fact a proud member of the committee, which was founded in 1990 by noted architect I.M. Pei and famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and comprises prominent Chinese Americans who work together to address political, cultural and economic issues between the U.S. and China.

Wu says he finds it ironic that he and Wang are being accused of bedding down with the Communist Party, given that both their families are from Taiwan. “If you know anything about this stuff, you know China had a civil war and [my family] was on the anti-Communist side. That’s why we ended up in Taiwan,” Wu said.


All three men said if the Caller articles were isolated attacks they’d be relatively easy to shrug off. But they see the articles as part of a poisonous campaign to smear political opponents, an approach that pairs McCarthy-era Red Scare tactics with anti-Asian racism.

Relations between the U.S. and China are growing increasingly tense, whether the subject is TikTok or Taiwan or any number of issues that have arisen under the authoritarian regime of China’s leader, Xi Jinping. Wu, Ng and Wang say it’s dangerous to drag loyal American citizens into concerns about China’s government, whether the fear is justified or not.

American history is stained by waves of anti-Asian racism. They include the incarceration of at least 125,000 American citizens of Japanese ethnicity during World War II and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, when Chinese workers instrumental in the construction of the nation’s railroads were denied citizenship and legal rights after they began competing with white people for jobs.

At the same time, all three say they enjoy powerful positions that protect them to some extent from the worst forms of racism.

“The good thing for me is that I’m getting so much community support,” Ng said. “I’ve lived in L.A. for 30 years. But what if I was a brand-new PhD professor working quietly at UCLA or USC and suddenly get accused of something like this? This kind of thing may cause people to say maybe every Chinese American should be suspect. It can create a shadow that can affect a person’s ability to move up in their career. That, to me, is not American.”

The number of hate crimes in California rose for the third year in a row, according to an annual report from the state Department of Justice.

June 28, 2022

‘We have to fight this’

The Times asked the Daily Caller for comment. Neil Patel, publisher of the Daily Caller News Foundation, responded by email. (Patel co-founded the organization with Carlson in 2010. Carlson sold his stake to Patel in 2020.)


Patel said, “We asked Mr. Wang to comment or tell us if we were wrong before the piece ran and never heard back from him, even after publication. We have received no communications from anyone alleging any error in our reporting, and as such, we stand by our story.

“Accuracy is always our goal,” he added.

Patel said reporters tried to reach Wang by phone and showed The Times an email sent to him March 11 via a general contact address for JM Eagle. The spokesman said the employee who monitored that inbox, who is no longer with the company, did not alert Wang, who was unaware of it until Friday. Ng’s office acknowledged it received calls and messages from the Caller but did not answer. “We do not respond to outlandish claims, rumors or speculations,” a spokesperson for East West Bank told The Times.

In a separate email, Patel said, “As the article lays out clearly, China has organized influence operations present in the US. Mr. Wang is listed as an ‘executive director’ on the websites of two alleged fronts for the United Front Work Department.” Wang said that’s false, that he’s never been a member of the organizations in question.

Someone with Wang’s name does appear on a 2019 roster purportedly created by the China Overseas Exchange Assn., identifying him with a company called Formosa Plastics. That company was started by Wang’s father, and Wang said he has not been employed by the company since 1990. He said he has no idea why he was put on the list, if indeed it’s meant to be him.

The deeper question, he asked, is what is anybody supposed to make of that? What does that have to do with a donation intended to help COVID victims that he made to a charitable organization started by Eric Garcetti?

Asian Americans in general have been known to keep a low profile in politics, the Wangs and Ng said, but they say it’s time to speak up.


“We can’t just be talking among ourselves in the Asian community, the outreach has to be broader. I’m worrying about being the silent majority,” Ng said.

“We have to fight this,” said Wang, who is contemplating a lawsuit. “If we don’t fight it, who will?”

“We need to band together to do something,” said Shirley Wang, who is afraid anti-Asian hate will continue to spread.

While the motives of the perpetrator are still being investigated, Asian Americans remain a population forced to live on high alert.

Jan. 23, 2023

Events beyond the Daily Caller story justify those fears. Right-wing campaigns against Asian American politicians are becoming more common, including one targeting Southern California Congresswoman Judy Chu, the first Chinese American to serve in the House of Representatives. A Texas Republican questioned her loyalty to the U.S., with no facts that back up his claims.

Last September in Orange County, U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel, an incumbent Republican, sent out Photoshopped fliers depicting Democratic opponent Jay Chen in front of a classroom of children, holding a copy of “The Communist Manifesto” and surrounded by fabricated wall-hung images of Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin and Ho Chi Minh. Whether that cost Chen votes or not, Steel was reelected.

In February, U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden, a Texas Republican, went after Ng, asking the FBI to investigate him for ties to the Chinese Communist Party — citing stories in the Daily Caller.


The anti-Chinese rhetoric is not limited to right-wing Republicans. In Ohio last year, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan campaigned for a Senate seat but drew harsh criticism from fellow Democrats for running TV commercials that blamed China for woes facing U.S. workers. He lost to Republican J.D. Vance.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who attacked his former transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, who happens to be Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s wife. On Jan. 23, he sent this out on his social media platform, Truth Social:

“Does Coco Chow have anything to do with Joe Biden’s Classified Documents being sent and stored in Chinatown? Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and, of course, China. He gives them whatever they want.”

“I’m sure most Americans don’t feel this way,” Ng said. “But today this is politics, and it’s causing us to move in the wrong direction. We cannot continue to live like this.”