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Counting the Reasons to Defund

The 20 Most Memorable Leftist Excesses of Public Broadcasting

Executive Summary

Countingthereasons    Congress has debated this year whether taxpayers should provide a half-billion dollars for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which in turn, funds PBS and NPR). House Republicans  proposed on September 29 that the federal funding for CPB should end. Fiscally, it’s an obviously non-essential expense in an era of trillion-dollar deficits – not to mention hundreds of programming choices on cable TV, the Internet, and satellite radio.  But there is another reason for defunding: the absolute refusal of the taxpayer-subsidized public-broadcasting empire to attempt balance and objectivity in all “programming of a controversial nature,” as it says in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Instead, PBS and NPR programmers continue to lurch hard to port to please liberal Democrats and radical-left activists.

     To underline how dramatically PBS and NPR have tried to shift the American political discussion to the left, Media Research Center analysts have assembled a list of the 20 most obnoxiously biased stories or statements from public broadcasting stars and stories over the last 25 years, including this top-ten list (Click here for PDF):


1. PBS host Tavis Smiley insists America has a terrible Christian terrorist problem. In 2010, he told an author that Christians blow up people “every day” in the United States.

2. The narrator of a PBS series on Africa praises Moammar Qaddafi. In his 1986 series The Africans, Muslim professor/activist Ali Mazrui insisted Qaddafi offered “supreme ideals” to make Africans and Arabs “masters of their own destinies” against the West.

3. NPR reporter Nina Totenberg wishes Jesse Helms death from AIDS. When Helms insisted in 1995 that AIDS drew a disproportionate amount of federal funding, Totenberg was disproportionately mean-spirited.

4. PBS regular Julianne Malveaux hopes Clarence Thomas dies young of heart disease. On the talk show To the Contrary in 1994, panelist Malveaux proclaimed, “I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease.”

5. NPR’s foreign editor vows to “smoke out” American troop locations in Afghanistan. Weeks after 9/11, Loren Jenkins told the Chicago Tribune he had no desire to aid a lying Pentagon. He represented “history.”

6. Andrei Codrescu wishes evangelical Christians would disappear. Days before Christmas in 1995, the NPR commentator read a pamphlet on the Rapture and said “The evaporation of four million who believe this crap would leave the world an instantly better place.”

7. Longtime PBS host Bill Moyers proclaims GOP officials wearing flag pins after 9/11 remind him of communist China. On his weekly show Now in 2003, Moyers ranted, “When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao's Little Red Book.”

8. Bill Moyers insists the Nicaraguan dictators were better Christians than their American critics. In a 1987 program, Moyers proclaimed that in a child’s painting, the “black birds” represented America, and the “white birds” were the Sandinistas who revered freedom, George Washington, and Jesus Christ.

9. NPR reporter Nina Totenberg tries to destroy the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas by breaking the story of Anita Hill’s unproven sexual-harassment claims. Totenberg later downplayed or ignored sexual-assault claims by Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick against Bill Clinton.

10. PBS airs NEA-funded “Tongues Untied” documentary celebrates black gay sex with explicitly pornographic talk and anti-religious overtones. In 1991, the documentary series P.O.V. championed the advocacy of conservative-bashing Marlon Riggs.

      Unlike NPR’s unceremonious firing of Juan Williams last year, none of these offenses ever resulted in punishment. In exchange for the long-standing tilt of public broadcasting, liberal politicians have reliably voted and lobbied for CPB funding increases, and liberal activists have rallied to “save” their subsidies. In the discussion over defunding CPB since the dramatic Republican landslide in the House in 2010, PBS has worked hand in glove and explicitly thanked the hard-left activists of MoveOn.org and FreePress against a defunding push from conservatives.

     The MRC analysis concludes that because of its taxpayer subsidies and ideological stance in opposition to commercial TV and radio, it’s natural that public broadcasting would become a liberal playground. Careful analysis of PBS and NPR content from news executives or CPB officials could offset this tilt. But all the evidence since Congress acted in 1967 shows the idea of any official seeking balance is strictly forbidden. Instead, long-standing CPB policy holds that Congress should be ignored and walled off from raising any objections about bias. Defunding CPB would not stop liberal bias, but it would stop the outrage of conservatives (and Americans in general) being forced to fund fervent attacks on them with their own taxpayer dollars.