As a guest on the June 1 edition of the public radio program The Diane Rehm Show, National Public Radio (NPR) ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin repeated without challenge the baseless claim by Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson that the two CPB ombudsmen that Tomlinson recently appointed include both a liberal and a conservative. Tomlinson's description was reported in the May 15 edition of The New York Times: “At a meeting in February, Kevin Klose, NPR's president, was told by Mr. Tomlinson that the corporation would have a liberal ombudsman and a conservative one, participants in the meeting said.”
In fact, while one of the ombudsmen, William Schulz, is clearly a conservative, the other, Ken 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. Dvorkin's comment echoes numerous repetitions of Tomlinson's false statement in the news media.
Even though Dvorkin repeated Tomlinson's baseless claim, he was not defending Tomlinson. Dvorkin's statement came during a discussion of the Organization of News Ombudsmen's (ONO) rejection of the CPB ombudsmen's application to become full members. Dvorkin was president of ONO until late May. The organization recently voted to limit full membership to organizations that -- unlike CPB -- directly produce news programming. In a May 30 article, The New York Times described a possible result of ONO's rejection of the CPB ombudsmen's application:
The move could heighten tensions between Mr. Tomlinson and NPR because of Mr. Dvorkin's role in opposing the corporation's appointees. Mr. Dvorkin abstained from voting on the matter and from presiding over discussions of it, ceding to complaints within his organization that he had a conflict of interest. But he was instrumental in setting the policy.
Rehm noted later in the program that Bode is "an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute."
From the June 1 edition of The Diane Rehm Show:
DVORKIN: Because it's unclear that they're -- of their role. Mr. Tomlinson has said on a number of occasions, and has been quoted widely in the press, that these are political ombudsmen -- one for the left and one for the right. Our concept of ombudsmanship is that we are politically neutral, we are nonpartisan, our aim is to help news organizations be accountable, not to be more partisan.
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.