(Update: Tomlinson is shown the door)
Since taking up her post as CPB President in June, Patricia de Stacy Harrison -- the former co-chair of the Republican National Committee -- has brought in senior officers from the State Department's "Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy" division, the group that oversees efforts to "advance U.S. interests and security and to provide the moral basis for U.S. leadership in the world."
Each of the new hires had previously served under Harrison when she was assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs and acting undersecretary for public affairs and public diplomacy.
"Public diplomacy" is gov-speak for propaganda. The packing of the CPB with individuals more comfortable with selling U.S. propaganda than with honest journalism sends a not-so-subtle signal to those working in public broadcasting that truth is out and government spin is in. Harrison's CPB hires include:
Tim Isgitt, now CPB’s vice president for government affairs, was a driving force behind the campaign to place pro-American propaganda in Arabic media worldwide to win Arab support for the war on terror. Before joining the State Department, Isgitt was a manager for international public relations giant Burson-Marsteller; the firm has a history of placing key players in George W. Bush's presidential campaigns into top public relations jobs across the industry.I have posted extensive profiles of these three at Free Press.
Mike Levy, the new CPB vice president of communications, served as Harrison's chief of staff when she headed the RNC. At the State Department, Levy developed "pro-active media strategies" to increase support for U.S. counter-narcotics initiatives in more than 100 countries as part of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. He also previously worked as special assistant to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and as press secretary to several GOP congressional campaigns.
Helen Mobley, hired as CPB’s senior director of corporate communications and planning, worked closely with Harrison to manage the State Department's efforts to bring Afghan women to America to showcase new freedoms after the downfall of the Taliban regime. Mobley also was deputy director of scheduling during George W. Bush's first presidential run and has been active in GOPUSA.com, Bobby Eberle's Texas-based campaign "to spread the conservative message throughout America." Eberle became known earlier this year for having hired J.D. Guckert -- aka Jeff Gannon -- as his White House corresondent.
The CPB was created to shield public broadcasting from political interference, not to be a megaphone for the White House. Harrison's actions have made it clear that she and her right-wing cronies at the CPB will not be deterred from their quest to turn America's treasured public broadcasting system into partisan echo chamber.
Harrison got her own position at the CPB through her political connections to then-Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, who also heads the Broadcasting Board of Governors -- which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, al-Hurra, Radio and TV Marti and other government-run international broadcasting. Tomlinson's successor, current CPB Chairwoman Cheryl Halpern, is another big GOP fundraiser who spent seven years as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Inspector General Kenneth Konz is expected to present his findings -- which reportedly included ethical and procedural violations as well as misuse of funds -- on Tuesday to a closed-door meeting of the CPB board of directors, of which Tomlinson remains a member.
"CPB is being governed more like a private, secret society than an agency supported by taxpayers,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "As the hiring of former State Department propaganda colleagues by Patricia Harrison illustrates, the CPB has been ideologically hijacked."
Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause have repeatedly called for greater openness and accountability at the CPB. Earlier this year, we delivered more than 150,000 petitions to the CPB, demanding Tomlinson step down and boardmembers end their partisan interference with public broadcasting.
To add your name to the petition visit the Free Press action page.