WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — The former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, under fire for promoting conservative programming, resigned Nov. 3 from the corporation’s board after the panel reviewed an investigative report on his activities.
Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, whose term as board chairman ended two months ago, left the board after the third day of closed-door meetings by the board of directors to review the findings of the agency’s inspector general about his tenure.
In a statement e-mailed to reporters and interest groups, the board said “both the board and Mr. Tomlinson believe it is in the best interests of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that he no longer remain on the board.”
The move did not quiet critics of Tomlinson’s nearly two-year tenure, who called for public release of the investigative findings and for the board to repudiate his policies.
The board’s statement did not detail the inspector general’s findings, which are expected to be released later this month but said “Tomlinson strongly disputes the findings.”
Tomlinson did not respond to a voice mail message left on his home telephone Nov. 3 seeking his comments.
The investigation was begun after Reps. David Obey, D-Wis., and John Dingel, D-Mich., called in May for CPB Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz to look into reports that Tomlinson used questionable tactics and corporation funds to exert political influence over public broadcasting.
The board said it “does not believe that Mr. Tomlinson acted maliciously or with any intent to harm CPB or public broadcasting” but it “expresses its disappointment in the performance of former key staff whose responsibility it was to advise the board and its members.” Corporation spokesman Michael Levy could not be reached Nov. 3 for elaboration.
Finally, the board commended Tomlinson “for his legitimate efforts to achieve balance and objectivity in public broadcasting.”
Obey and Dingell asked the inspector general to investigate a consulting contract that, according to The New York Times, was initiated by Tomlinson to review the “Now With Bill Moyers” public television show for political content. They also asked for an inquiry into CPB’s decision to hire two ombudsmen to review public programming.
“Tomlinson’s resignation should be used to bring people together, not divide them as he and the administration have done,” Obey said.
Dingell called the resignation “long overdue.”
“We will need to determine how to stop this kind of misbehavior in the future,” Dingell added. “We hope today’s action is the first step by the board to operate in a more professional, nonpartisan manner.”
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said he expected to see the inspector general report shortly. He said a conservative political consultant that Tomlinson, a Republican, hired to conduct an analysis of political bias in programming had no professional standing as a media analyst. He said there were complaints that Tomlinson had acted without board approval and outside CPB bylaws.
The Times reported that the consultant kept track of “anti-Bush,” “anti-business” and “anti-Tom DeLay” guests on Moyers’ show. Moyers, who served in the Johnson administration, has left the show.
Tomlinson has said public broadcasting shows were too liberal and didn’t give equal treatment to conservative views.
“Tomlinson’s legacy at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a negative one,” Dorgan said. “He has done far more harm to the CPB than good.”
On its Web site, Common Cause, a private watchdog group, called it “distressing” that “the board’s statement … fails to reflect any regret that Tomlinson’s methods were unacceptable and unethical.”