WASHINGTON — Amid a crescendo of pleas and warnings not to do it, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting appointed a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee as prexy and CEO.
Patricia S. Harrison, an assistant secretary of state who shared topper status at the RNC from 1997-2001, was selected Wednesday after three days of closed meetings. Board announced the appointment Thursday.
Democrats, liberals and some public interest groups had strongly opposed her candidacy, saying her appointment would further a partisan agenda they claim CPB chairman Kenneth Tomlinson is trying to push onto pubcasting.
However, Thursday wasn’t entirely dismal for pubcasting advocates: The House of Representatives voted to restore the $100 million a subcommittee had cut from CPB’s 2006 operating budget. Almost 90 Republicans crossed over and voted for an amendment offered by David Obey (D-Wis.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa).
But Harrison’s appointment provoked the most responses.
“Patricia Harrison is the wrong person named under the wrong process with the wrong skill sets for this job,” said Chellie Pingree, prexy-chief of Common Cause, one of several groups that contended the CPB board favored Harrison, who has no broadcasting experience, because Tomlinson knew her personally. “It was a drive-by hiring that should deeply offend anyone who cares about the editorial integrity of public broadcasting.”
“Patricia Harrison’s selection as president and CEO of the Corp. for Public Broadcasting is an outrage,” said Josh Silver, exec director of Free Press, in a statement. “Her complete lack of experience and close ties to the leadership of the Republican Party represent a new low in public broadcasting history.”
Rep. Diane E. Watson (D-Calif.) released a statement saying, “Such an outrageous choice of CPB president demands an immediate investigation into the search and selection process that led to this egregious appointment.”
Referring to the search committee commissioned to find candidates, Tomlinson said in a statement, “They reached out to over 200 people and had extensive discussions with more than 80 contacts. Over 50 diversity profiles were developed and 11 diversity candidates were reviewed by the committee.”
A CPB board statement added that a three-member team “reviewed 23 prospective candidates over the course of four committee meetings. The entire CPB board (then) conducted interviews with four finalists during deliberations on Monday.”
Recently, almost two dozen Democrats on Capitol Hill called for Tomlinson to resign. Also expressing “serious concern” about Tomlinson’s leadership was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), whose husband, former President Clinton, appointed Tomlinson to the CPB board in 2000.