Wash. Post repeated baseless claim that CPB ombudsman is a "liberal," failed to question contradictory claims by Tomlinson


In a May 20 article on the controversy surrounding Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi furthered the baseless claim that Tomlinson has appointed both a liberal and a conservative to act as the agency's ombudsmen. In fact, both ombudsmen have conservative ties. Farhi also reported without challenge two claims by Tomlinson that earlier reports in the Post and The New York Times contradict: that a White House adviser Tomlinson hired did not begin working for CPB until after leaving the White House, and that Tomlinson never said that PBS should reflect the country's rightward political shift.

Referring to Tomlinson's appointment of Ken Bode and William Schulz, Farhi reported that CPB announced in April 2005 the decision to hire "two ombudsmen -- one a conservative, the other liberal -- to monitor and critique NPR and PBS news programs." But while Schulz is clearly a conservative, Bode is hardly a liberal. He endorsed Indiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels in 2004, and he is an adjunct fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, as Media Matters noted in response to an identical claim by Roll Call Washington executive editor Morton M. Kondracke.

Additionally, Farhi failed to note that two significant denials by Tomlinson appear to contradict previous reports.

On the controversy stemming from Tomlinson's hiring of a White House official to help draft guidelines for the new CPB ombudsmen, Farhi reported: "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." But Farhi ignored a May 2 New York Times article quoting Andrews herself acknowledging that she was doing both jobs for a time. "I was careful not to work on [the CPB] project during office hours during my last days at the White House," she said.

Farhi also noted allegations that in November 2004, Tomlinson "told a gathering of PBS and station executives in Baltimore that the country had moved rightward and that public broadcasting should reflect that," further stating that "in the interview Tomlinson denied saying it, even in jest." But that contradicts two previously published statements attributed to Tomlinson. A May 12 Post article asserted that Tomlinson had admitted making the comment, albeit in jest. "Tomlinson has said his comment was in jest," the Post reported. In addition, the May 2 Times article reported: "Mr. Tomlinson said that his comment was in jest and that he couldn't imagine how remarks at 'a fun occasion' were taken the wrong way."

Public Broadcasting
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