CPB Bias Inquiry 'Nutty,' Says Dorgan

A controversial analysis of bias in public broadcasting was "a little nutty" and a "complete waste" of $14,000 in taxpayer funds, said Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan Thursday after reviewing 50 pages of raw data he obtained from the study commissioned by Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson.

"It appears to have been cobbled together by an armchair analyst with little or no professional preparation," Dorgan said at a press conference last week.

Dorgan also used the occasion to join others who have called for an inspector general investigate into whether the hiring of CPB president Patricia Harrison, a former GOP party chairman, followed appropriate procedures. An investigation into the bias study is already under way.

The typo-riddled reports prepared by Republican operative Fred Mann included a note labeled "From the desk of Fred Mann," and another was faxed to CPB from a Hallmark store in Indianapolis.

The intent of the analysis was to gauge the political opinions expressed by guests of Now, NPR’s Diane Rehm and TV host Tavis Smiley. The analysis makes clear that Tomlinson’s controversial search for liberal bias in public broadcasting extended beyond his well-publicized concerns about Now with Bill Moyers.

Dorgan derided the criteria used to rate opinions as "utter nonsense." He noted that Republican Senator Chuck Hegel was rated as "liberal" for opposing the Iraq war during an appearance on Smiley's show.

Tomlinson did not volunteer that information during his own appearance on Rehm’s show several weeks back, when his desire for more conservative programming on noncommercial public TV and radio was the topic of conversation.

A CPB spokesman said the organization won’t comment on the study until an inspector general completes an investigation.