Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Public Broadcasting Monitor Had Worked at Center Founded by Conservatives


Public Broadcasting Monitor Had Worked at Center Founded by Conservatives


WASHINGTON, June 20 - A researcher retained secretly by the chairman of
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to monitor the "Now" program
with Bill Moyers for political objectivity last year, worked for 20
years at a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union
and a conservative columnist, an official at the journalism center said
on Monday.

The decision by the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, to retain the
researcher, Fred Mann, without the knowledge of the corporation's
board, to report on the political leanings of the guests of "Now" is
one of several issues under investigation by the corporation's
inspector general.

At the request of two Democratic lawmakers, investigators are examining
whether Mr. Tomlinson has violated any rules as he has sought, he says,
to ensure that public television and radio provide greater program

His critics, including some lawmakers and executives of public
broadcasting, say he has sought to tilt the corporation, which provides
$400 million to radio and television stations and producers, toward a
conservative agenda.

One of Mr. Tomlinson's Democratic critics, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg
of New Jersey, called on him to resign on Monday.

"As a result of your recent attempts to inject partisan politics into
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I am writing to urge you to
step down as chairman," Mr. Lautenberg wrote. "Your conduct has
undermined the C.P.B. and its mission of quality public broadcasting
free of political interference. Under current circumstances, with
investigations of your conduct pending, it is hardly possible for you
to effectively carry out your duties as chairman of the C.P.B."

Mr. Tomlinson issued a statement saying he would not resign. "While I
respect Senator Lautenberg's strongly held views on this subject, I see
no reason to step down from the chairmanship," he said. "I am confident
that the inspector general's report will conclude that all of my
actions were taken in accordance with the relevant rules and

On Monday the board interviewed candidates for the position of
president. The vacancy was created by the resignation of Kathleen Cox,
who stepped down in April after the board did not renew her contract.

Mr. Tomlinson has said his top choice for the job is Patricia Harrison,
an assistant secretary of state and a former co-chairwoman of the
Republican National Committee. He has said that Ms. Harrison would have
strong credibility with the White House and with Republicans in
Congress, some of whom are threatening to cut the corporation's budget

Public television and radio stations have opposed that choice, saying
it would further inject politics into public broadcasting at precisely
the wrong time. The three Democratic and independent members of the
board oppose her selection, board members said, as do some
Congressional Democrats.

Until last year, Mr. Mann worked at the National Journalism Center,
which for the last few years has been run by the Young America's
Foundation. The foundation describes itself on its Web site as "the
principal outreach organization of the conservative movement" and as
being committed to the ideas of "individual freedom, a strong national
defense, free enterprise and traditional values."

The Young America's Foundation shares some top officials with its
politically active counterpart, Young Americans for Freedom, although
the two are separate entities.

The National Journalism Center was founded in 1977 by the American
Conservative Union and M. Stanton Evans, a syndicated columnist.

Mark LaRochelle, a top official at the National Journalism Center, said
Mr. Mann told him last year that he was working on the Moyers project
for the broadcasting corporation. He said Mr. Mann had run the alumni
relations, job bank and internship program at the center, where he got
to know Mr. Tomlinson. While Mr. Mann worked at the National Journalism
Center, he helped place interns in the Washington bureau of Reader's

The editor in chief of Reader's Digest at the time was Mr. Tomlinson,
and its top editor in its Washington bureau was a friend of Mr.
Tomlinson's, William Schulz. In April, Mr. Tomlinson persuaded the
board of the corporation to appoint Mr. Schulz to be one of two
ombudsmen to monitor public radio and television for objectivity.

There was no response on Monday to voice messages and e-mail messages
left for Mr. Mann.

Mr. Moyers has been a source of agitation for Mr. Tomlinson and other
conservatives. They say that "Now" under Mr. Moyers (who left the show
last year and was replaced by David Brancaccio) was consistently
critical of Republicans and the Bush administration.

Last week Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said that
in response to a request, Mr. Tomlinson sent data from Mr. Mann's

Mr. Dorgan said that data concluded in one episode of "Now" that
Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, was a "liberal" because he
questioned the White House policy on Iraq and that a second "Now"
segment on financial waste at the Pentagon was "anti-Defense." Mr.
Hagel is known as a mainstream conservative member of the Senate and a
maverick who has at times been critical of the Bush administration.

The inspector general at the corporation is now looking at steps taken
by Mr. Tomlinson to ensure what he calls greater balance in
programming, including his decision to approve $14,170 in payments to
Mr. Mann without the knowledge of the corporation's board.