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Pubcaster accused of partisan hiring

Igsitt, Levy, Mobley hires bring fire from watchdog groups

WASHINGTON — Watchdog groups accused Corp. for Public Broadcasting topper Patricia Harrison of hiring fellow partisans for senior jobs. Groups also demanded CPB make public a soon-to-be-released Inspector General’s report about possible malfeasance and political interference with programming.

Free Press, the Center for Digital Democracy and Common Cause issued a joint statement Monday charging that Harrison, a former chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, has recently stacked three key CPB positions with administration and party loyalists from the State Dept., where Harrison worked before coming to pubcasting.

Two came from State’s public affairs and public diplomacy division.

“‘Public diplomacy’ is simply a euphemism for propaganda,” Free Press campaign director Timothy Karr said in the statement. “The Corp. for Public Broadcasting was created to shield public broadcasting from political interference, not to be a megaphone for the Bush administration. Harrison’s latest hires prove that the Republican operatives at the CPB haven’t been deterred from their quest to turn our treasured public broadcasting system into a partisan echo chamber.”

The players

According to groups, CPB has recently hired:

— Tom Igsitt as CPB’s VP for government affairs. “Under Igsitt’s direction, the State Dept. produced Arabic-language television and radio ads that were widely ridiculed for attempting to package U.S. policy as a commercial brand,” statement said.

— Mike Levy as CPB’s new VP communications. “At the State Dept., Levy developed ‘pro-active media strategies’ to increase support for U.S. counter-narcotics initiatives in more than 100 countries.”

— Helen Mobley as a senior communications exec. “Mobley … 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.'”

“The packing of the CPB with individuals more comfortable with selling the United States overseas than with honest criticism of their government sends a not-so-subtle signal to those working in public broadcasting that truth is out and spin is in,” Common Cause prexy Chellie Pingree said in the statement.

Statement also alleges the CPB IG report, which is focused on controversial moves made by chairman Kenneth Tomlinson in the past two years, will be presented today in a closed-door meeting of the CPB board of directors.

“The CPB is being governed more like a private, secret society than an agency supported by taxpayers,” said CDD exec director Jeff Chester in the statement. “Rather than hiding, once again, behind closed doors, the board must hold an open, public meeting on the forthcoming (IG) report.”

“The entire statement is filled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies,” responded CPB’s Levy, noting org officials dispute that Igsitt was even hired. “We’re still looking for him around here,” Levy said.

Levy added that the IG report will be made public around the middle of this month, at which time the CPB board will hold a public meeting about it.

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