A June 18 New York Times article reported that newly released email messages prove Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), "extensively consulted a White House official shortly before she joined the corporation about creating an ombudsman's office." This new evidence directly contradicts Tomlinson's repeated denials that he had any contact with White House officials regarding public broadcasting.
On numerous occasions in recent months, Tomlinson has been questioned about his hiring of Mary Catherine Andrews as a "special adviser" to design and oversee CPB's two ombudsman positions with the responsibility to monitor and critique Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) programming. At issue was whether Andrews began work on the project while still employed by the White House, where she served as director of global communications until March.
A May 20 Washington Post article reported that Tomlinson "vigorously denies published reports that the new adviser, Mary Catherine Andrews, helped draft guidelines for the ombudsmen's job while she was working at the White House." According to the June 18 New York Times article, in an April 2005 interview, Tomlinson was asked if he had instructed anyone to send material to Andrews while at the White House, to which he replied, "I don't think so." When asked if Andrews had worked on the ombudsmen project while still employed by the White House, he again answered, "I don't think so."
Beyond denying that Andrews performed work for CPB while on the White House payroll, Tomlinson has repeatedly claimed that he had no contact with White House officials concerning public broadcasting matters. A May 9 Los Angeles Times article quoted Tomlinson: "There has been absolutely no contact from anyone at the White House to me saying we need to do this or that with public broadcasting." On the May 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Tomlinson said it was "true" that he never had any conversations with the Bush administration about PBS.
But a broad inquiry by the CPB inspector general has uncovered a series of emails proving Tomlinson's statements false. A "senior corporation executive who is concerned about its direction under Mr. Tomlinson" leaked the emails to the Times, which reported that they show:
- "Ms. Andrews worked on a variety of ombudsman issues before joining the corporation, while still on the White House payroll."
- Tomlinson instructed then-CPB president Kathleen Cox to send materials to Andrews' White House email address regarding ombudsman issues.
- Tomlinson discussed Andrews with White House officials who insisted the title of her new position at CPB be "senior adviser to the president."
Media Matters for America runs the Hands Off Public Broadcasting campaign, an effort to ensure that public broadcasting remains independent and free from political pressure and to highlight conservative misinformation in and about public broadcasting.