CPB Report Details Ex-Chairman's Wrongdoings
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
An internal investigation has found the former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting exceeded his authority and violated ethical rules. The former chairman did so during a push to make public broadcasting more receptive to conservatives. NPR's David Folkenflik has the story.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK reporting:
Kenneth Tomlinson stepped down as CPB's chairman in September, but he resigned from the board altogether earlier this month after reading the inspector general's report. The report, released today, didn't paint a pretty picture. Inspector general Kenneth Konz said Tomlinson sought to hire executives at CPB based on political considerations.
Mr. KENNETH KONZ (Inspector General): There's no question that he was looking for Republicans to fill in on some of the vacancies.
FOLKENFLIK: And Konz said that's not right.
Mr. KONZ: You don't hire anybody for their political ideals. Also, you don't automatically reject anybody for their ideals.
FOLKENFLIK: CPB is a private, not-for-profit entity that distributes federal money to PBS and NPR member stations. By law, it's supposed to insulate broadcasters from political pressure, but it's also supposed to ensure standards are met for balance, objectivity, quality and diversity. Inspector General Konz's inquiry found Tomlinson broke the law creating CPB by pressuring PBS to create a show featuring the conservative editorial writers of The Wall Street Journal.
Tomlinson charged that shows on PBS and NPR were slanted toward liberals, a claim the organizations reject. Tomlinson rejects Konz's findings as, quote, "malicious and irresponsible," but did not respond to requests from NPR for comment.
Among the Republican candidates Tomlinson pushed for CPB to hire was Patricia Harrison. She's a former US assistant secretary of State and a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. She was hired to be CPB's president and CEO. Konz's report says Tomlinson discussed Harrison's prospects with senior White House staffers in e-mails. But Konz also says he has no evidence the rest of the Republican-dominated board was influenced by politics. Harrison took over in July. She says she's going to have to be judged on her merits.
Ms. PATRICIA HARRISON (President, CEO, CPB): Are you a political operative, Pat Harrison, in the CEO-presidential position? That's a fair question. I would say look at my entire background.
FOLKENFLIK: The inspector general's report says Kenneth Tomlinson also broke rules by failing to consult the board in hiring two ombudsmen to field listener and viewer complaints. And the inspector general said the way Tomlinson hired a consultant to monitor the ideologies of guests on news shows violated the corporation's ethical guidelines. The moves alienated executives at NPR and PBS and caused dissent within CPB. And Harrison told reporters that Tomlinson's legacy has made her job more difficult.
Ms. HARRISON: I think there's been a rip in trust, so I don't--I can't give you a deadline. `Next Wednesday at 4:00, trust is restored. Here's a press release.' It's going to take a long time, and this is not the way I like to start a job.
FOLKENFLIK: But Harrison struck a conciliatory tone. She promised to keep politics at bay.
Ms. HARRISON: What we have to do is take our personal views out of it and say, `Are we fulfilling the mandate?' So if you're going to look at balance and objectivity, you also have to look at excellence, you also have to look at diversity and quality and innovation.
FOLKENFLIK: In responding to the inspector general's report, former CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson wrote that Konz decided to, quote, "opt for politics over good judgment." Tomlinson said he acted appropriately and within the law to bring balance and objectivity to public broadcasting. But Tomlinson's resignation was forced by the rest of the board earlier this month, and the CPB board adopted a series of reforms that it said would help prevent any similar episodes in the future. David Folkenflik, NPR News, Washington.
NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
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