The lies of Ken Tomlinson


Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), faces growing criticism from supporters of public radio and public television who argue that his leadership has compromised CPB's charter to protect public broadcasting against political interference. Sixteen U.S. senators have called on President Bush to remove Tomlinson as head of CPB, charging that Tomlinson "seriously undermines the credibility and mission of public television." In the wake of a May 2 New York Times article detailing the controversy surrounding Tomlinson, he has repeatedly defended himself against allegations that he has exerted political pressure on CPB. But new documents, along with increased scrutiny of his actions, have proved several of Tomlinson's prior statements false.

Tomlinson said CPB president approved, signed contract to monitor Moyers show

The Times reported that, in a May 24 letter to Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), Tomlinson stated he saw no need to consult the CPB board of directors about hiring an outside consultant to monitor bias on PBS' NOW with Bill Moyers, because, he wrote, the contract was "approved and signed by then CPB President, Kathleen Cox."

But the Times reported on June 22 that a copy of the contract obtained by the paper shows that Tomlinson signed it on February 3, 2004 -- five months before Cox became CPB president. Tomlinson declined to comment to the Times on the apparent discrepancy.

CPB paid the consultant, Fred Mann, $14,170 to monitor bias on NOW. Mann worked for 20 years at the National Journalism Center, an organization founded by the American Conservative Union and M. Stanton Evans, a conservative columnist, that counts among the alumni of its training programs Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter.

In a June 20 speech on the Senate floor, Dorgan said that he had received the "raw data" Mann provided Tomlinson and was "struck and disappointed" by the methods he used in conducting the study. For example, Mann labeled certain segments of the show "anti-Bush," "anti-DeLay" and "anticorporation." In addition, Mann classified all the guests appearing on NOW as either "conservative" or "liberal," labeling Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as "liberal." Dorgan inferred that Hagel had "apparently said something that wasn't completely in sync with the White House" and concluded: "That is not the prism through which someone should evaluate whether something makes sense."

Tomlinson denied that Mary Catherine Andrews had done work for CPB while still at White House

Tomlinson has repeatedly been questioned regarding his hiring in March of Mary Catherine Andrews, then-White House director of global communications, to design and oversee the new ombudsmen office at CPB. At issue was whether Andrews began work on the project while still employed by the White House. According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, Tomlinson denied that Andrews's work for the Bush administration overlapped with her work for the impartial CPB.

But a broad inquiry by the CPB inspector general has uncovered a series of emails proving Tomlinson's above statements false. The Times reported that the emails show that Andrews "worked on a variety of ombudsman issues before joining the corporation, while still on the White House payroll" and that Tomlinson instructed then-CPB president Kathleen Cox to send materials to Andrews' White House email address regarding ombudsman issues.

Tomlinson claimed that he had had no communications with Bush White House regarding public broadcasting

The leaked emails also disprove Tomlinson's broader assertions -- put forth in a May 9 Los Angeles Times article and on the May 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor -- that he had no contact with White House officials concerning public broadcasting matters. In his correspondence with Cox, Tomlinson wrote that he had discussed Andrews with White House officials who insisted the title of her new position at CPB be "senior adviser to the president." And, according to the May 2 Times article, last year Tomlinson enlisted presidential adviser Karl Rove to help kill a legislative proposal that would change the composition of CPB's board of directors by requiring the president to fill about half the seats with people who had experience in local radio and television. The proposal was dropped after Rove and the White House criticized it.

Tomlinson said he publicly released public broadcasting polls

On the May 18 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Tomlinson asserted that he had made public the results of two CPB-commissioned polls on perceptions of public broadcasting:

REHM: You hired, I gather, polling firms last year and the year before to talk -- to learn about public perceptions about the service provided by public radio and TV stations. What were the results and have they been made public?

TOMLINSON: Oh yes, they've been on our website from the moment they were made official. And we've distributed them throughout the system.

In fact, CPB has yet to release the full results of the two separate public polls it commissioned.

While some data from a July 2003 poll is available on the CPB website, the data is incomplete. The July poll's general finding -- that "the majority of the U.S. adult population does not believe that the news and information programming on public broadcasting is biased" -- is cited on the "Objectivity and Balance" page. In addition, a memo prepared by the polling firms The Tarrance Group and Lake Snell Perry & Associates, titled "Public perceptions of public broadcasting," is attached to the CPB's 2003 Objectivity and Balance report to Congress. But the memo appears to include only selected findings from the 2003 poll. Neither a complete text of the poll questions nor the survey data itself is publicly available.

The memo states that the polling firms conducted an additional survey on behalf of CPB in November 2002 with an identical objective: "to measure the extent to which the American public believes there is bias embedded in the news and information programming on public television and radio." A footnote explains that results from this survey are cited in the memo "when applicable." But additional information regarding the 2002 poll's overall findings is not included, and, as with the 2003 poll, the full questionnaire is unavailable. The memo does not explain why CPB found it necessary to conduct two surveys on the same issue within a nine-month period.

Tomlinson said CPB ombudsman Ken Bode was a "liberal"

A May 15 New York Times article reported: "At a meeting in February [2005], Kevin Klose, NPR's president, was told by Mr. Tomlinson that [CPB] would have a liberal ombudsman and a conservative one, participants in the meeting said." CPB announced the creation of the ombudsmen office in April, appointing former NBC political correspondent Ken Bode and former Reader's Digest executive editor William Schulz to the new positions.

But, while Schulz is clearly a conservative, Bode is hardly a liberal; an adjunct fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, Bode endorsed Indiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels in an October 15, 2004, Indianapolis Star commentary.

Tomlinson has since denied that he had ever said CPB hired the ombudsmen based on ideology. In the Diane Rehm Show interview, he stated: "I didn't choose Ken [Bode] for his, quote, liberal views, but I had seen him as coming from that general part of the spectrum. These people in the end were hired because they are professionals."

Tomlinson denied saying that public broadcasting should better reflect Republican mandate

A May 20 Washington Post article reported that Tomlinson had denied telling "a gathering of PBS and station executives in Baltimore [in November 2004] that the country had moved rightward and that public broadcasting should reflect that." He told Post reporter Paul Farhi that he never made the comment, "even in jest."

But Tomlinson's denial contradicts two previously published statements attributed to him. A May 12 Post article asserted that he had admitted making the comment, albeit in jest."Tomlinson has said his comment was in jest," the Post reported. In addition, a May 2 New York Times article reported: "Mr. Tomlinson said that his comment was in jest and that he couldn't imagine how remarks at 'a fun occasion' were taken the wrong way."

Tomlinson said he had no role in CPB's decision to fund The Journal Editorial Report

In the May 18 Diane Rehm Show interview, Tomlinson said "he did not participate" in CPB's decision to provide $5 million in funding for he PBS program The Journal Editorial Report, hosted by Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul A. Gigot. "The decision to fund the show was done by our professionals within CPB," he said. But a May 2 New York Times article reported that "public broadcasting officials said Mr. Tomlinson was instrumental in lining up $5 million in corporate financing and pressing PBS to distribute" The Journal Editorial Report.

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.

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