Friday, November 18, 2005

Broadcast ex-chief sent 'bragging' e-mail to Rove


Broadcast ex-chief sent 'bragging' e-mail to Rove

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's former chief e-mailed White House strategist Karl Rove, "bragging" about a push for conservative programming on U.S. public television, the CPB's inspector general said on Thursday.

Kenneth Tomlinson, who resigned as CPB's chairman this month, told Rove of his work to balance the liberal PBS program "Now with Bill Moyers," with a conservative show, "The Journal Editorial Report," Inspector General Kenneth Konz said in a telephone interview.

"There's a few of them to and from Karl Rove," Konz said of the e-mail traffic. "They primarily relate to (ex-)Chairman Tomlinson advising Mr. Rove and his staff regarding his success in getting a program to be put on the air to balance the Bill Moyers program. ... He was bragging on how successful he was being.

"In addition, I saw some general comments relating to how (Tomlinson) was shaking things up here at CPB," Konz said, adding Rove responded with "sort of general congratulations ... very short, very cryptic."

The e-mails show no evidence Tomlinson acted with White House guidance to push for right-leaning programming, Konz said, but they do show Tomlinson failed to keep the CPB board and management informed about what he was doing.

"It went against what the law said he had the authority to do," Konz said.

The Bush administration came under fire earlier this year for trying to influence news coverage, including paying a conservative commentator to praise its new education law and the production by government agencies of video news releases that some television stations aired without identifying their origin.

Konz's office released a highly critical report on Tuesday that said Tomlinson violated CPB policy and federal law by involving himself in specific programming decisions, and by using "political tests" to choose a new CPB president.

The new president, Patricia Harrison, formerly co-chaired the Republican National Committee.

Also on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal released e-mail exchanges between Tomlinson and Paul Gigot, the newspaper's editorial page editor, regarding the PBS program "The Journal Editorial Report."

In one of the e-mails, Tomlinson told Gigot, "I'm trying to pressure Pat Mitchell (PBS president) to produce a real conservative counterpart to Moyers." In another, Tomlinson wrote, "I do not trust Pat Mitchell but I have a deal with others stipulating that you will have access to the same deal Moyers has."

Both Tomlinson and The Wall Street Journal's editorial page accused Konz of being motivated by politics, an accusation Konz denied.

CPB is a federally funded nonprofit corporation and the largest single source of money for U.S. public television and radio programming, including PBS and National Public Radio. It is governed by a presidentially appointed board.