Bozell & Graham Column: NPR and PBS, the Biggest Sexual Harassment Hypocrites

The swift revolution against sexual harassment is ending the careers of a series of media “icons,” left and right, but perhaps nowhere is this hypocrisy more notable (and deeper) than at PBS and NPR. These were the entities that made sexual harassment the boiling feminist issue during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings of 1991. 

Easy question: Why didn’t this sudden spirit of self-discovery and investigation happen back then? Or in any year since? It could have happened when Bill Clinton settled with Paula Jones in 1998, or even last year, as these networks enjoyed reporting on sex-harassment scandals inside Fox News. All along the way, it appears that very same sexual harassment was alive at both PBS and NPR. 

And mum was the word.

In case you missed the trend – and with all the other scandals breaking, who could blame you? -- on November 1, NPR first forced out its vice president of news Michael Oreskes for accusations of harassment during his tenure at The New York Times. Soon after he stepped down, NPR received five complaints from women inside NPR. Three days later, The Washington Post reported “NPR’s employees unleashed their fury at the organization's top executive [CEO Jarl Mohn] on Friday over his handling of a sexual harassment scandal that appears to have spread.” A few days later, Mohn took a medical leave. 

The TV folks at PBS followed on November 21, when they abruptly ended its broadcasts of longtime late-night talk show host Charlie Rose. On November 29, the taxpayer-subsidized radio network followed that up by firing chief news editor David Sweeney for harassing subordinates, who'd been at NPR since 1993. Minnesota Public Radio cut “all business ties” with public-radio star Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion.

Keillor was especially dismissive of the charges, which came right after he wrote a Washington Post commentary ridiculing demands that Senator Al Franken resign over groping women as “absurd.” Confident of his sex appeal at 75, Keillor boasted “If I had a dollar for every woman who asked to take a selfie with me and who slipped an arm around me and let it drift down below the beltline, I’d have at least a hundred dollars.” 

Indeed, there seems to have been something smarmy about Keillor all along. 

Meet Garrison Keillor, sexual-harassment victim. Howard Mortman of C-SPAN tweeted out an old National Press Club address by Keillor on April 7, 1994, noting he proclaimed “A world in which there is no sexual harassment at all is a world in which there will not be any flirtation.”

This line did not make the press accounts at that time. Instead, the Associated Press reported the part of the speech where Keillor “chided the press” for trying to keep from the American people the "terrible truth ... that the country is actual going along pretty well,” and President Clinton “is a soulful man and he enjoys his work..”

Bill Clinton, soulful harasser....meet Garrison Keillor, soulful harasser. 

The bifurcated public-funding/private-business nature of public broadcasting made men like Rose and Keillor less accountable, where there was no Human Resources Department to send your complaint. They were profit-making multi-millionaire contractors who were their own bosses. Their female employees were sitting ducks. 

In what way then is “public” broadcasting morally superior to corporate broadcasting? And how deep is the hypocrisy on the Left when its own taxpayer-funded ideological sandboxes waited decades to hold their own sexual harassers accountable? They don’t deserve one more red cent from taxpaying Americans. 

 


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