Conservative Group Not Satisfied with NPR Apology

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Conservative Group Not Satisfied with NPR Apology, Plans to Sue
By Jim Burns
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
July 10, 2002

(CNSNews.com) - The head of National Public Radio went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to apologize for a news report the network aired that suggested a conservative lobbying group might have had something to do with the mailing of anthrax to Senate Democratic leaders.

However, the chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) said the apology was insufficient and indicated his organization would proceed with its lawsuit against NPR.

National Public Radio President and CEO Kevin Klose apologized during testimony before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, which was gathering input from him and other Public Broadcasting System and NPR officials about future federal funding of the two taxpayer-supported broadcast mediums.

"Miss [Andrea] Lafferty and the TVC, you have my personal and professional apology. We are sorry that we made the mistake," Klose said. Lafferty is the TVC's executive director.

Rev. Lou Sheldon, TVC's chairman told CNSNews.com he was not impressed with Klose's apology.

"There are many other things he must do in an apology. He is sorry that he was caught," said Sheldon. "That is different than repenting and we must see some acts of full repentance of things on the air and internal changes of philosophy and of (NPR) staff."

He emphasized that Klose's apology is "a crumb from the table and there must be more coming."

The NPR report by newsman David Kestenbaum aired on Jan. 22 of this year and alleged a possible link between TVC and the anthrax-laced letters sent to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

According to the TVC, Kestenbaum unfairly accused the conservative group of being involved in domestic terrorism and the attempted murder of Sens. Leahy and Daschle.

Lafferty said she was called by Kestenbaum and was asked if the FBI had contacted them about the anthrax scares in the offices of Leahy and Daschle.

According to the transcript from NPR's "Morning Edition" program, Kestenbaum said, "Two of the anthrax letters were sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, both Democrats. One group who had a gripe with Daschle and Leahy is the Traditional Values Coalition, which, before the attacks, had issued a press release criticizing the senators for trying to remove the phrase 'so help me God' from the oath" witnesses take when testifying before a Senate committee.

Kestenbaum also reported, "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. But investigators are thinking along these lines. FBI agents won't discuss the case, but the people they have spoken with will."

Later, NPR admitted it was "inappropriate" to name the Traditional Values Coalition in connection with a story it was doing about the anthrax investigation.

The network's statement was read during its "Morning Edition" program, according to NPR spokesperson Jess Sarmiento.

Sarmiento said it was appropriate for Kestenbaum "to learn about the direction of the investigation by talking to individual groups, scientists, and all the different people he talked to. But when he was told by the group (Traditional Values Coalition) that they hadn't been contacted, he shouldn't have singled them out on the air in absence of any evidence."

Lafferty, during her House testimony Wednesday said, "NPR claims they broadcast to an audience of eight million who hear from them everyday. Well, we are still waiting for those eight million listeners to hear an apology and retraction."
 

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