In a segment on the "growing controversy over political bias and influence in public broadcasting,", the June 21 edition of Public Broadcasting Service's (PBS) The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer hosted a discussion between George Neumayr, executive editor of the conservative American Spectator magazine, and Bill Reed, president of KCPT, a public television station in Kansas City, Missouri. In what was his first appearance on the NewsHour*, Neumayr pushed numerous falsehoods about public broadcasting, and defended Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) president Kenneth Y. Tomlinson against charges that he is attempting to shape public broadcasting to suit a political agenda.
Neumayr's only qualification for appearing on the NewsHour seems to be his authorship of two recent opinion pieces in the Spectator, which in the 1990s oversaw the infamous Arkansas Project, a $2.4 million effort in the 1990s to dig up negative information on the Clintons. In those articles (here and here), Neumayr blasted Tomlinson's critics and alleged liberal bias at PBS, asserting that the "arrogance of the liberal cabal at PBS is incredible."
In his NewsHour appearance, Neumayr denied that Tomlinson was politicizing PBS and claimed that Tomlinson was merely trying to counter longstanding liberal bias at PBS, for which he blamed Bill Moyers, former host of the PBS program NOW, almost exclusively. Neumayr also defended Tomlinson's efforts merely to "ensure philosophical balance in programming" at PBS. But in the same segment, Neumayr also explained that Tomlinson was merely trying to ensure that PBS "reflect[s] the views and values of the majority who voted George Bush into office." So which is it? Either Tomlinson is not politicizing PBS, or he's trying to ensure that the network better reflects the views of the majority who voted for a political candidate.
In fact, Neumayr is defending Tomlinson's efforts to fix what even most Republicans don't think is broken. According to CPB-commissioned polls, only 35 percent of Republicans believe PBS has a liberal bias. And, contrary to Neumayr's claims that "the American people [are] financing with their tax dollars programming that offends them," according to the CPB-commissioned polls, a plurality of Americans indicate that there is no apparent bias one way or the other, while approximately one in five detect a liberal bias and approximately one in 10 detect a conservative bias, according to the CPB-commissioned polls.
While opining that "PBS looks like a liberal monopoly to me," Neumayr falsely conflated one controversial episode of the program Postcards from Buster with the entire series: "You can see it [liberal bias at PBS] in also that recently canceled show Postcards from Buster, which is a cartoon depicting a rabbit that goes to Vermont to stay with a lesbian couple in order to learn about politically correct values," he said. In fact, PBS did not distribute the episode -- in which children of two real-life families with lesbian parents in Vermont show Buster, an animated rabbit, how maple syrup is made -- to its affiliates; the series has 39 other episodes (the canceled episode, missing from the episode list, was #133, "Sugartime"), none of which depict lesbian couples; and the series hasn't been canceled.
Tomlinson himself has contributed to The American Spectator. As part of an "annual list of holiday gift suggestions from distinguished readers and writers" in its December 1998 issue, the magazine published an op-ed from Tomlinson in which he recommended a number of books as holiday presents. Among his suggestions was conservative satirist P.J. O'Rourke's Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics (Grove/Atlantic, 1998):
These are not the best of times for veterans of the Reagan Revolution. ... But just as we were about to throw in the towel, P.J. O'Rourke has delivered a book -- Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics -- that restores focus and Reagan-like optimism to the field of battle. Apostles of the left, no matter where their solutions are applied, are wrong. Stupid. And we are right. Our ideas work. No matter how bumbling our political leadership, we must never allow ourselves to forget that.
Neumayr's own writing in the Spectator demonstrates his disdain for public broadcasting and his support for Tomlinson. He has called PBS a "government subsidy for obnoxious, deep-pocketed progressives and a jobs program for liberal journalists," and in his May 13 column, he wrote:
The arrogance of the liberal cabal at PBS is incredible. They complain in proportion to their lost privileges. They automatically assume that Americans should feel happy to pay higher taxes to finance what amounts to PBS infomercials for the Democratic Party and the ideological cultural left.
Neumayr has not confined his attacks on liberals to discussions of PBS. In the past three months alone, he has written:
- "The only part of human nature that liberalism can appeal to is the part God didn't create -- man's inherited tendency toward irrationality that Western philosophers used to call original sin or concupiscence [strong, usually sexual, desire]." Liberalism, he opined, "is concupiscence intellectualized -- think about how often it ends up telling people to take the low road, feel good about being bad, renames raw selfishness and greed justice, encourages nihilism and cruelty in one form or another and then calls it self-expression." [4/14/05]
- "The evil always have a better chance of surviving under the ministrations of liberalism than the ill. In fact, being evil is a good way to enhance your treatment at the hands of liberalism. Terri Schiavo had no recourse to the Geneva Conventions. But terrorists at Guantanamo Bay do. [6/17/05]
- "Were Terri Schiavo a dog or a terrorist, she would have received a more vigorous defense from Democrats on Sunday night." [3/2//05]
* According to search of Nexis transcripts: "Neumayr" in "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" database for all available dates.