Tauzin, solons to examine public b'casting's fate

WASHINGTON — National Public Radio topper Kevin Klose dramatically apologized Wednesday to a conservative Christian lobby for a news story mentioning the religious org in connection with the anthrax investigation.

The mea culpa came during a Capitol Hill hearing on public broadcasting, with one Republican member after another accusing NPR of having a liberal bias. They said such leanings were evidenced in the Jan. 22 “Morning Edition” story referencing the Traditional Values Coalition.

TVC exec director Andrea Lafferty testified that an NPR reporter called her in January to ask if the coalition was being investigated for the anthrax mailings to two Democratic senators who the coalition had earlier singled out for criticism on a different topic. Despite her denials, the story aired.

“Ms. Lafferty and TVC, you have my personal and professional apology. I’m sorry about our mistake, and I hope we can move forward from here,” Klose said.

But Lafferty would have none of it.

“A simple apology today is not enough. Eight million people heard this libelous, slanderous report,” Lafferty said following the hearing before the House Subcommittee on Telecom & the Internet.

Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin, influential chair of the full House Commerce Committee, said incidents such as this leave lawmakers conflicted about public broadcasting, which receives government funds.

Taking look at PBS future

In the coming months, Tauzin said he and other solons will take an extensive look at the fate of public broadcasting. Also, the pols want assurances that PBS and other public programming isn’t commercialized through sophisticated underwriting spots.

For the most part, Wednesday’s hearing was split down party lines, with most Democrats extolling public broadcasting and most Republicans raising the issue of a liberal slant.

Lafferty thanked the telecom subcommittee for seeking to “expose the anti-Christian, anti-conservative and anti-traditional values behavior of NPR.”

On Jan. 30, “Morning Edition” ran a correction, with editors agreeing with TVC that it was “inappropriate” to mention TVC in the story about the anthrax investigation. The correction also is posted on NPR’s Internet site.

Correction called ‘pathetic’

But Lafferty termed the correction “pathetic” and said all NPR staffers must have “graduated from the school of anti-Christian bigotry.”

TVC says it is the largest nondenominational, grass-roots church lobby in the country, repping more than 43,000 churches.

“With an emphasis on the restoration of the Judeo-Christian values needed to maintain strong, unified families, TVC focuses on a range of moral and social issues such as education, homosexual advocacy, parental rights, family tax relief, pornography, the right to life and religious freedom,” Lafferty said in her testimony.

Last August, TVC roundly criticized Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for dropping “so help me God” from the oath witnesses take before testifying.

Leahy and Daschle both received letters contaminated with anthrax last winter.

Lafferty said the NPR reporter suggested that this made TVC a possible suspect. The TVC would never commit such an act, she said.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more