Tags: Congressional | Uproar | Over | NPR | Smear

Congressional Uproar Over NPR Smear

Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM

Additionally, the federally subsidized National Public Radio is about to receive a barrage of criticism from Congress, which routinely provides it with a significant part of its budget each year.

The uproar began Jan. 22 when NPR reporter David Kestenbaum suggested that Traditional Values Coalition, a Christian political action group, was responsible for the anthrax letters sent to Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

In an interview with NewsMax, the Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), said, "When we realized we were being accused of murder – because several people died [postal workers who delivered the letters to the Senate building] – when we realized this is what NPR was saying, [that] we were potential murderers, I was outraged."

A transcript of the broadcast in question shows that Kestenbaum’s mention of TVC was, by any standard, gratuitous.

Because Traditional Values previously criticized Sens. Daschle and Leahy for trying to remove the phrase "So help me God" from the oath before Senate hearings, the NPR reporter elected to drop a mention of that fact in the midst of a discussion of the FBI investigation of the anthrax letters.

The mention came out of the blue, leaving the impression the coalition was suspect, without actually coming out and saying so.

The broadcast reporter added: "The Traditional Values Coalition, however, told me the FBI had not contacted them, and then issued a press release saying NPR was in the pocket of the Democrats and trying to frame them."

That release apparently stemmed from a phone call Kestenbaum had made in early January to TVC's executive director, Andrea Sheldon Lafferty, daughter of the organization's chairman, asking her if Traditional Values had been contacted by the FBI "yet."

That led to an indignant denial. "I just blew up," Lafferty says.

In the broadcast, the mention of Traditional Values was sandwiched between a discussion of the Unibomber and the anthrax letters.

After the Rev. Sheldon protested the smear to NPR, the broadcaster's attorney sent three letters offering to "resolve this matter permanently on terms that are mutually acceptable."

Sheldon described these communications as "a wet noodle" without "any substance of repentance or recanting in them."

At the moment, TVC attorneys are trying to determine legal action and, if the case goes to court, exactly what Traditional Values should seek in the form of restitution.

Money? Perhaps. But there is another possibility.

"One thing we definitely think we should ask for," Sheldon told NewsMax, "is that they need to undergo sensitivity training concerning conservative Christian philosophy and conservative Christian political activism. They do not understand our mind or heart. And for them to accuse us of this outrageous murder and being the perpetrators definitely shows that they are insensitive to a leading minority group in America called conservative Christians."

This would be breaking new ground.

Sensitivity training, thus far, has originated from the left. Black activist Jesse Jackson routinely demands and gets corporations to spend hours of company time lecturing employees in mandatory "sensitivity training" sessions dealing with the minorities favored by the left: blacks, Hispanics, gays – whatever.

Corporate employees who feel they were brought up to observe ordinary good manners and courtesy are resentful and insulted at having to attend these meetings.

"Diversity" is another word favored by the liberal elite.

The Rev. Sheldon thinks this might be the time to call in "qualified clinical people in diversity training to come in and, under our guidance and leadership, show these folks that they need to understand what the heart and message of the Christian is."

Speaking of diversity, does NPR hire any conservative Christians on its staff?

Sheldon believes that point might figure into the equation when considering options, or perhaps "a 15-minute broadcast ... to talk from a Christian perspective [as to] what the National Education Association is doing, what Mr. Daschle is doing [regarding the oath] and things like that."

The damages to be demanded in any lawsuit are still being considered, Traditional Values Coalition emphasizes.

The Rev. Sheldon says NPR went on the air with a "repulsive" retraction that "they may have overstated the situation." That is not a retraction, as the TVC chairman sees it.

Sheldon says NPR gets federal funding to the tune of "8 or 9 percent of their total budget," which he says comes out to about $50 million in a given year.

And how does that compare with the monetary value Sheldon places on the damages done to Traditional Values Coalition?

"I would say that a court of law, in reality, if they gave us a quarter of a million dollars, that would be a fair and reasonable settlement," Sheldon said. Some in Congress have estimated the suit is actually worth "several million dollars," he added.

The TVC/NPR flap is sparking an uproar that will soon be heard in the halls of Congress.

A group of lawmakers will call for a hearing on the question: "Is National Public Radio not public radio, but propaganda radio with "an ax to grind for liberals"?

Says Sheldon: The First Amendment does not entitle anyone to accuse Traditional Values of being "the potential perpetrator of the anthrax episode at the Hart [Senate Office] Building."

It is hoped any such an investigation will lead to public de-funding of NPR, Sheldon says.

On Wednesday, Feb. 27, the TVC chairman says, a dozen House members will take to the floor and denounce the NPR smear. The list includes Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; John Boehner, R-Ohio; Ed Bryant, R-Tenn.; Richard M. Burr, R-N.C.; Ken Calvert, R-Calif.; Christopher Cox, R-Calif.; David Dreier, R-Calif.; Sam Johnson, R-Texas; J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz.; Donald Manzullo, R-Ill.; and Van Hilleary, R-Tenn.

Efforts on Monday to get a comment from NPR were unsuccessful.

The uproar over this issue on Capitol Hill is just beginning. It's not about to go away.

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Additionally, the federally subsidized National Public Radio is about to receive a barrage of criticism from Congress, which routinely provides it with a significant part of its budget each year. The uproar began Jan. 22 when NPR reporter David Kestenbaum suggested that...
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Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM
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