CPB chairman Tomlinson failed to refute NY Times ' "false" charges against him

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

In a July 24 interview on C-SPAN's Q&A, Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, a Republican, claimed that "virtually every charge" leveled against him in a May 2 New York Times article had "either been discredited or proven false." The article documented Tomlinson's efforts to correct perceived "liberal bias" in public broadcasting and focused primarily on four broad issues. While Tomlinson didn't identify which of the specific charges in the Times story he is contesting, evidence surfacing since the article's publication backs up its principal assertions and refutes Tomlinson's subsequent statements on those issues.

Times claim: Tomlinson hired a private consultant to monitor PBS' Now With Bill Moyers

The May 2 Times article reported that Tomlinson "contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, 'Now With Bill Moyers,' " a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) program. The Times presented several details regarding the methodology employed by the unnamed consultant (later revealed to be Frederick W. Mann, who worked at a conservative journalism center for 20 years). Tomlinson never denied that he paid Mann in excess of $14,000 to sort the program's guests in such categories as "anti-Bush," "anti-business," and "anti-Tom DeLay" -- as the Times reported and as the raw data compiled by Mann confirmed. But documentary evidence contradicts at least one key statement he made regarding Mann. He wrote in a letter to Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), that the contract to hire Mann had been "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. Asked specifically about this apparent discrepancy, Tomlinson "declined through a spokesman to comment," according to the Times.

Times claim: Tomlinson hire Mary Catherine Andrews had done work for CPB while still at White House

The Times reported that Tomlinson "hired the director of the White House Office of Global Communications [Mary Catherine Andrews] as a senior staff member" and that, while "she was still on the White House staff, she helped draft guidelines" for the new ombudsmen positions created by the CPB. Tomlinson initially denied that Andrews's work for the Bush administration overlapped with her work for the non-partisan CPB. For example, 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 a June 18 Times article, in an April 2005 interview, Tomlinson was asked if he had "instructed anyone to send material to Ms. 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."

But evidence cited in the June 18 Times article substantiated the original claim. It reported that a broad inquiry by the CPB inspector general had uncovered a series of emails proving that Andrews "worked on a variety of ombudsman issues ... while still on the White House payroll." Further, the emails disproved Tomlinson's denial that he "instructed anyone to send material to Ms. Andrews while at the White House." According to the Times, Tomlinson "directed Kathleen Cox, then president of the corporation, to send material to Ms. Andrews at her White House e-mail address."

Beyond broadly condemning the Times' article, Tomlinson now appears to be taking a different tack on the Andrews hire. From the Q&A interview:

TOMLINSON: Mary Catherine Andrews knew she was leaving the White House. She's very capable. I worked with her in international broadcasting for a year and a half. She's an important part of launching the Arabic service to the Middle East. And she was hired by CPB to come over to CPB to work. People move all the time in this town. But she was not ordered. I was not pressured to hire her. No one even suggested I hire her.

Times claim: Tomlinson was "instrumental" in delivering funding and distribution for The Journal Editorial Report

Note: Tomlinson has specifically disputed the following claim, made by the Times in the May 2 article. Media Matters for America has found no other reports either supporting or refuting the Times' assertion.

The Times reported on May 2: "[P]ublic broadcasting officials said Mr. Tomlinson was instrumental in lining up $5 million in corporate financing and pressing PBS to distribute" The Journal Editorial Report, a PBS program hosted by Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul A. Gigot. During a June 18 interview on the National Public Radio (NPR)-distributed Diane Rehm Show, Tomlinson claimed "he did not participate" in the decision to fund the show. In his July 11 testimony before the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee, he asserted that any "press reports" claiming he played a role in the decision were false.

Times claim: Tomlinson "occasionally worked with other White House officials on public broadcasting issues"

The May 2 Times article reported that, in 2004, Tomlinson "enlisted the presidential adviser Karl Rove to help kill a legislative proposal that would change the composition of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board by requiring the president to fill about half the seats with people who had experience in local radio and television." On Q&A, Tomlinson offered a different account:

TOMLINSON: Well, like, for example, I called Karl Rove only after lobbyists for public broadcasting boasted or implied that Karl Rove's office was supporting this board-packing measure. Karl got involved in this in no way, shape, or form directly after that. He just told me, "Of course we're not."

Tomlinson made a similar claim in a May 6 interview on NPR's On the Media. He stated: "I asked Karl Rove -- are you all going to be supporting this? And he said no. End of involvement."

While no new evidence has surfaced to either support or refute Tomlinson's portrayal of the White House's involvement on this specific issue, he has also stated unequivocally that he had no contact with White House officials concerning public broadcasting matters -- a claim that has since been disproved. 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." But the leaked CPB emails regarding Mary Catherine Andrews illustrate that Tomlinson had, in fact, consulted White House officials regarding his decision to hire her. According to the June 18 Times article, the White House even insisted the title of Andrews's new position at CPB be "senior advisor to the president."

Media Matters has documented numerous false claims made by Tomlinson.

Media Matters 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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