Connie Chung's Life And Career Through The Years

Connie Chung is a Chinese-American newswoman who dominated the broadcast journalism industry with her hard-hitting interview style. She paved the way for women in the industry as a female journalist navigating a field primarily led by men and has never shied away from discussing the obstacles she faced. In an interview with Los Angeles Magazine, she described how she and other female reporters often worked harder to grab impactful stories. "The men refuse to grovel. 'We're too good. We're above groveling. My name is Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace and Morley Safer, and we don't grovel, we don't beg people for interviews. We don't try to endear ourselves to them,'" Chung said.

Determined to someday occupy the same position as her idol, Walter Cronkite (per NPR), she had major achievements, including being the first woman co-anchor at "CBS Evening News" (per Chinese American Museum). Rising in the ranks at many major news networks, from CBS to ABC, landing interviews with big names like President Richard Nixon to Magic Johnson, Chung is heralded as one of the most influential journalists to hit the air.

Here, we take a look at the course of her life both professionally and personally, learning that Chung's honest demeanor spans decades.

Connie Chung was driven from a young age

Connie Chung was born in Washington D.C. in 1946, with her family having come from China only a year prior. Chung's father was a diplomat, and she was youngest of 10, her family losing five children during wartime, per NPR. Chung elaborated on the Chinese ideals of prioritizing the males in families, and how she wanted to break that barrier. "And then when I was born in the United States and I was the 10th and I was yet another girl, it was well, oh, my poor parents," Chung said to NPR. "So the fact that my father didn't have someone to carry on the Chung name, I really felt I wanted to make the name something."

She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a B.A. in journalism, and she described how it felt to take the plunge into the world of broadcast journalism in 1969 after she discovered that print journalism was already a dying industry. "I don't know, I was mighty driven. And for a small, diminutive-size Chinese person who grew up in a very loud family and never spoke up in my life, it was dramatic," Chung said.

She served as correspondent on CBS in the 1970s

Connie Chung often wondered if her intersectional identity as a Chinese woman meant that she would face obstacles in becoming a reporter at "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite," as the industry was primarily made up of white male journalists.

"Early on when I worked at CBS, I worked at a local station in Washington, D.C. first for just a couple of years, from copy person to on-air reporter," Chung said to NPR. "And then suddenly in 1971, CBS News, to make up for all the years of discrimination against women and minorities, decided to hire four of us: Leslie Stahl, Sylvia Chase, Michelle Clark and me." She further explained that she leaned into humor to combat naysayers who did not believe in her. "I wouldn't let them get my goat by taking it seriously even if they meant it seriously," Chung said.

Everything changed when she got promoted from reporter to correspondent, and her newfound friendship with her idol — Walter Cronkite -– blossomed. "One time he asked that I put together a -– what we call 'think-piece' — on Nelson Rockefeller when I was covering him as vice president. I worked on it pretty hard, and then when I aired it, he called me up afterwards and said, 'You did a good job Connie.' It was just marvelous," Chung said in an interview.

She worked at NBC News from 1983 to 1989

Connie Chung's tenure at NBC involved anchoring for segments such as "Nightly News," "NBC News at Sunrise," and occasionally taking over for Jane Pauley on the "Today" show with co-anchor Bryant Gumbel, who Chung said she did not particularly get along with, amongst others (via NBC). "I didn't have a very good experience with a lot of male co-anchors, because they suffer from something called bigshot-itis, and it's sort of delusions of grandeur and sort of narcissistic behavior and a feeling of inability to stop talking," Chung said to Los Angeles Magazine. She stated she felt invisible next to him, including the times she would see him at celebrity events like golf tournaments.

While Chung left NBC for CBS in 1989, Gumbel's feelings toward Chung were brought to light after she was fired from CBS in 1995 due to controversial interviews. "I don't want to speculate what happened in their shop, but I am a big Dan Rather fan," Gumbel told TV Guide (via LA Times). "It's a better program with him alone. He's the one with credibility."

Connie Chung married Maury Povich in 1984

Connie Chung met husband Maury Povich in Washington D.C. while they worked together at news station WTTG-TV. Povich was one of the main reporters, while Chung handled copy and an unreciprocated crush. "I would rip the wire copy off the machine and give it to Mr. Povich. He was very gruff and very matter-of-fact. He never looked up," Chung said to People. "I kept thinking, 'Maybe someday he'll acknowledge that I'm a human being.' I worked there for two years and then I left to launch my career — and I left him in the dust."

The two served as co-anchors in 1977 at KNXT Los Angeles, but Povich was ousted after six months. "Because Connie was the only person I actually knew in Los Angeles, I always said the way to get to Connie's heart is first, she pities you, and then she can love you. She pitied the fact that I was fired," Povich said.

The two did not marry until 1984 after seven years of unofficial dating, and a year after Chung started anchoring at NBC (via Los Angeles Magazine) According to CBS, the couple never lived together throughout this period, and frequent traveling kept them distant. "But we were living in two different cities," said Chung, "and that made it the perfect marriage."

She had controversies at CBS in the 1990s

Connie Chung's popularity rose after moving from NBC to CBS, landing a $2 million contract as co-anchor of "CBS Sunday Evening News" with Dan Rather (via Los Angeles Magazine). But with more attention came more scrutiny, and her soft yet blunt interviewing style landed her in hot water several times over.

One of the major controversies occurred in 1995 on a separate CBS segment hosted by Chung called "Eye to Eye with Connie Chung," where she persuaded former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's mother, Kathleen, to reveal Gingrich's supposed opinion of Hillary Clinton — the first lady at the time. Kathleen was reluctant to respond, but once Chung gave her the green light to whisper an answer, Kathleen's microphone picked up the harsh words. "She's a b***h," Kathleen said. Newt disapproved of Chung's journalistic methods. "I think it's despicable that Connie Chung would ask that question of my mother, or anybody else's mother," Newt said (via The New York Times).

The final straw arrived when Chung made a comment regarding the Oklahoma City bombing, asking an official if the city was capable of handling the tragedy (via The Washington Post). She was met with major backlash from residents and viewers, who perceived her question as insulting. She was removed from her position at "CBS Evening News," and even after being offered another segment as a substitute, she left the network altogether (via Entertainment Weekly).

She worked at ABC from 1997 to 2002

In 1997, Connie Chung ventured over to ABC News and claimed it was a more cutthroat environment due to her relations with Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer. In an interview with Los Angeles Magazine, Chung expressed how she wrongly assumed working in a female-oriented environment would be a nice change of pace from her previously male-dominated workplaces. "I was always playing a game of whack-a-mole. I popped my head up and one of them would have a hammer and go whack, and put me down back in my little hole," Chung said.

She also felt excluded from getting the best, most hard-hitting stories and claimed ABC prioritized Walters and Sawyer over her. "But when I tried to go after them, I was told I could not. That Barbara and Diane were the only ones who could compete for the interview and I had to stand down," Chung said. 

Nevertheless, one of Chung's most prominent stories on the network's "Primetime Thursday" segment transpired in 2001 when she interviewed U.S. Representative Gary Condit about his role in the disappearance of 23-year-old intern Chandra Levy. With skillful tact, Chung pressed Condit about whether or not he had an affair with Levy, if he impeded the investigation to find her, and even if he could have murdered her. Condit denied all wrongdoing and was absolved of the crime in 2009 after the perpetrator was found, but his interview with Chung solidified his political end (via Public Apology Central).

Connie Chung had a brief stint at CNN

In 2003, after less than a year, Connie Chung's show "Connie Chung Tonight" was suspended and subsequently canceled amid the escalation of the U.S.'s involvement in the Iraq War. According to The Washington Post, Chung was originally brought onto the network in an effort to upgrade journalistic talent and compete against Fox News.

The network offered her the opportunity to stay on-air in another sector, but she declined, having left CNN in the middle of her $2 million contract. A source closest to Chung told The New York Times about how Chung grappled with the cancellation of the show. "She did the show she was asked to do even though she argued that she wanted to do a different kind of show," the source said. "But the management changed, and the new management said, 'We don't want that kind of show.' She was not given a chance to do something different for them."

Chung's slot initially focused on pop culture-centered news at 8 p.m. on weeknights and garnered a million viewers during airings, but the network catered to war coverage after bombings in Iraq ensued (via People). She attempted to get her slot back after the suspension, but CNN reportedly told Chung they would not be continuing with her show even after the war coverage stopped.

She had her own viral internet moment

Connie Chung and husband Maury Povich had their own show on MSNBC called "Weekends with Maury and Connie" for only six months in 2006, and they had originally planned on making it more lighthearted than their previous ventures. But Chung was subject to ridicule during the last episode after singing a parody of "Thanks for the Memory" on top of a piano.

More than 400,000 people viewed the clip on YouTube, with many viewers expressing mixed feelings, finding the performance both entertaining yet confusing as they did not expect a journalist of Chung's caliber to partake in such goofy antics. Asian-American Web site TripmasterMonkey skewered Chung's performance, going to far as to "mourn the death of Connie Chung's journalism career" (via CBS).

But Chung had no regrets and explained how she had always wanted to let loose after her experiences at previous networks, namely CBS. "Once I left the network and took the straight jacket off, I went a little nuts. It was like, they can't make me do this. They can't make me do that. They can't say you got to go cover Tonya Harding or OJ Simpson," Chung said to Los Angeles Magazine. "You can do whatever you want. I have this crazy stand-up comic screaming to get out of me."

Connie Chung and Maury Povich started their own local newspaper

Connie Chung and her husband Maury Povich had owned property in Montana for nearly two decades when they decided to create a newspaper called "The Flathead Beacon." Povich told Parade that he had always wanted to venture into print journalism after his father, Shirley Povich, had worked as a reporter for The Washington Post. As Chung said in an interview, "I really think, as an homage to his father, [Maury] started a newspaper. 

They were adamant about creating the platform even if the print journalism at the time was waning since there were other avenues to share the news. Povich said his and Chung's journalistic backgrounds contributed to his need to be community-oriented and contribute as needed. "So I talked to Connie about it, and we thought that maybe a new weekly newspaper could survive here and find stories that were not being covered on a regular basis," Povich said (via The Flathead Beacon).

She made a cameo in Fresh Off the Boat

Always a champion of diversity, Connie Chung has embraced her Asian heritage as a means of breaking boundaries in the field of broadcast journalism. Her ideals made her the perfect guest star on the show "Fresh Off the Boat," a comedy show centered around an Asian-American family in the 1990s and inspired by the life of famous food personality Eddie Huang (via IMDb).

Chung made her appearance on the show for its Lunar New Year episode in 2018, where she reprimanded a news network for not covering the holiday, setting off the storyline of the hosts attempting to add diversity into their story lineup (via USA Today). As the first Asian person to co-anchor a major news program, it only made sense that Chung was chosen to make a cameo on the show, especially because the episode made the impactful move to have half of its dialogue in Mandarin (via The Hollywood Reporter).

She is focused on being a mother

Connie Chung has been mostly out of the spotlight, having focused her attention on being a mother. She described how difficult it was to find a work-life balance after getting married and wanting to start a family via in-vitro fertilization (via Mamalode). Chung had also been candid about the reasons she chose in-vitro fertilization as well. "But that's what it ended up being because I had a miscarriage problem. And so we were trying to figure out a way to overcome that," Chung said (via NPR).

She and husband Maury Povich had also been focusing on adoption, and the day after getting fired from CBS in 1995, Chung was hit with a stroke of luck and a new journey ahead. "The very next day, Maury and I got THE CALL. Our adoption was going through," Chung said. "We could embrace Matthew immediately after his birth, in the next week or two or three, our less-than a-day old Matthew would be in our arms! Serendipitous right?"

In 2018, Chung said she did not plan on returning to work, as the teenage years are the most important for a parent to be around. "I think these years are the ones in which kids can take the wrong path. I want to keep my radar extended so I know what's going on!" Chung said.