President Obama’s diversity czar at the Federal Communications Commission has spoken publicly of getting white media executives to “step down” in favor of minorities, prescribed policies to make liberal talk radio more successful, and described Hugo Chavez’s rise to power in Venezuela “an incredible revolution.”
Mark Lloyd’s provocative comments - most made during a tenure at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank - are giving fodder to critics who say Mr. Obama has appointed too many “czars” to government positions that don’t require congressional approval. They are also worrying to some conservatives who fear the FCC might use its powers to remove their competitive advantage on talk radio and television.
Many of the remarks have been unearthed by conservative-leaning writers and bloggers and discussed on cable television amid a broader critique of Mr. Obama’s penchant for czars that exploded with the ouster this month of “green jobs czar” Van Jones.
In one of his more eye-opening comments, Mr. Lloyd praised Mr. Chavez during a June 2008 conference on media reform, saying the authoritarian Venezuelan president had led “really an incredible revolution - a democratic revolution.”
In a video clip of the conference that has been aired by Fox News personality Glenn Beck and others, Mr. Lloyd seems be siding with the anti-American leader against independent media outlets in his own country, some of which supported a short-lived coup against Mr. Chavez in 2002.
“The property owners and the folks who then controlled the media in Venezuela rebelled - worked, frankly, with folks here in the U.S. government - worked to oust him,” Mr. Lloyd said. “But he came back with another revolution, and then Chavez began to take very seriously the media in his country.”
Mr. Chavez in fact forced the nation’s oldest television network, RCTV, off the air in 2007 by refusing to renew its license, replacing it with a state-run station that showed cartoons and old movies while protesters marched in the streets against the shutdown. His government has also threatened to shut down Globovision, one of two TV channels that continue to criticize Mr. Chavez.
Mr. Lloyd said in a formal statement provided to the Washington Times through the FCC that his comment was being misinterpreted.
“The point I was trying to make was that there was dramatic social change in places like Rwanda and Venezuela and that media played an important part in that. I am not a Chavez supporter. I do not support any political leader other than the president of the United States. I do believe all Americans would benefit from more opportunities to participate in media and that the answer to ugly speech is not censorship, but more speech.”
At another conference, Mr. Lloyd spoke about the need to remove white people from powerful positions in the media to give minorities a fairer chance.
“There’s nothing more difficult than this because we have really truly, good, white people in important positions, and the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions,” he said.
“And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem. But we’re in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power.”
He added: “There are few things, I think, more frightening in the American mind than dark-skinned black men. Here I am.”
Andrew Breitbart published the audio of the conference on his Breitbart.com Web site on Monday. Mr. Breitbart said the recording was made during a conference on media reform and racial justice in May 2005.
Other bloggers are questioning Mr. Lloyd’s commitment to free speech based on a line in his 2006 book, “Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America.”