The head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting defended his leadership yesterday, telling Congress he is seeking political balance in public-affairs programming and is not bent on silencing liberal voices
Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, a Republican, has come under fire in recent months for complaining about “Now with Bill Moyers.” He said the television show’s “left-wing bias” was unhealthy and jeopardized support for public broadcasting. Mr. Moyers has since left the show.
Mr. Tomlinson’s hiring of Republican lobbyists and a consultant to track the political leaning of guests on the show has raised the ire of Democratic lawmakers and public-interest groups, and it is the subject of an investigation by the corporation’s inspector general.
In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Mr. Tomlinson dismissed accusations that he is angling to turn public TV into a political pawn of the Republican Party.
He said he was trying to achieve political balance by backing the creation of the conservative-leaning “Journal Editorial Report,” hosted by the editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
“If you have a liberal show, have a conservative show. If you have a conservative show, have a liberal show,” he said. “This is, to me, common sense, and it’s good for public broadcasting.”
Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii didn’t seem convinced. Mr. Durbin is one of 16 senators who have written President Bush urging him to fire Mr. Tomlinson.
During the hearing, subcommittee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania mildly scolded Mr. Tomlinson for hiring at least two lobbyists to gain insight on a bill that would have required more representation for public radio and television stations on the CBP’s board.
Mr. Specter said Mr. Tomlinson could have gleaned that information with a phone call, rather than spending $15,000 of taxpayer funds for the lobbyists.
The corporation’s new president, Patricia S. Harrison, also appeared at the hearing. She is a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and has been criticized as too partisan for the new post. She pledged to be impartial.
“I feel confident that I’m a fair person, that I have a great deal of integrity, and that nobody owns me,” she said. “Plus, I come from Brooklyn, New York, and I’m an Italian-American.”
Mr. Specter scheduled the hearing to discuss funding for the corporation, which provides federal money to public broadcasters, including the Public Broadcasting Service.