Watchdog Groups Urge CPB’s Harrison to Resign

Nov 15, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Watchdog group representatives urged Corporation for Public Broadcasting President and CEO Patricia Harrison to resign following the release Tuesday of a long-awaited report by CPB’s inspector general alleging that “political tests” played a major role in her promotion to CPB’s top executive position earlier this year, violating “statutory prohibitions against such practices.”

The report also alleged that former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson, who was credited with promoting Ms. Harrison’s candidacy, may have violated the law and CPB’s code of ethics in promoting “The Journal Editorial Report,” a PBS program that Mr. Tomlinson apparently believed was needed to provide political balance for the noncommercial network’s public affairs programming. “Our review of these programs disclosed evidence suggesting the former chairman violated his fiduciary responsibilities and statutory prohibitions against board member involvement in programming decisions,” the report said.

Mr. Tomlinson resigned from CPB’s board earlier this month after privately reviewing the findings in the inspector general’s report. In a brief statement at the time, CPB’s board said Mr. Tomlinson disputed the report’s findings.

“We’re calling on Harrison to resign because it’s clear she got her job through cronyism, not a fair search process,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy. Also calling for the resignation of Ms. Harrison, who previously served as a co-chair of the Republican National Committee and was an executive at the State Department before joining CPB in June, were Common Cause and Free Press.

In a briefing with reporters, Ms. Harrison said she has no intention of stepping down. She added that despite whatever motivations Mr. Tomlinson may have had for promoting her candidacy, she was recommended for the CPB post by an executive search firm and a board search committee after being selected as a top candidate for the job during a similar search in 2003.

“I don’t want to get into the area of the former chairman, because I don’t know what was in his mind,” Ms. Harrison said. “But I went through a professional process.”

Ms. Harrison, who received a unanimous vote of confidence Tuesday from CPB’s board, said she has no political agenda as CPB’s CEO. “My agenda is to strengthen the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and therefore public broadcasting writ large,” Ms. Harrison said.

Mr. Chester said he found it disturbing that the report notes that the Inspector General’s Office was not permitted to interview White House personnel to determine any influence Bush administration officials may have had on CPB’s operations under Mr. Tomlinson’s leadership.

The report says the Inspector General’s Office provided “a separate investigative report, along with specific evidence indicating possible wrongdoing, to the board for their disposition.” Said Mr. Chester: “We’re demanding that [the separate investigative report] be made public.”