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Hard Guys to Love

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I want to be in favor of Federal funding for public broadcasting. I really do.

I believe that a function of society is support of the arts. I choose to include Sesame Street - which premiered on November 10, 1969 - in the category of "the arts." You are free to disagree.

I did a lecture last week to a seminar at Auburn University via Skype. The students were in a room at the university; I was in my office in downtown Washington, DC. It was very … 21st century, but that's not the important part.

What is germane to this discussion was a question from a student who is majoring in Radio-TV and wanted to know what I thought about funding for public broadcasting.

I said that I thought this was going to be a tough sell in the U.S. House. National Public Radio had been abysmally stupid in the way, and the reason for which, they fired Juan Williams.

I know Williams. We're not pals, but we are - in the way of Your Nation's Capital - acquaintances. He is an honest man. Straight in his opinions. Fair minded. And, I like him.

I believe the people involved in firing Williams from NPR have, themselves, since been fired.

I told the students at Auburn, I suspected that in the days of cave dwellers, while all the other men were out hunting a sabre-toothed tiger, the guy who stayed behind to draw the paintings on the wall of the cave was given a portion of meat when dinner was served.

That counts as society supporting the arts. You are free to disagree.

But, just this week another story bubbled up to the surface when the former vice president of development for public broadcasting, Ron Schiller, was videotaped (according to a Christian Science Monitor report) talking about Juan Williams, anti-intellectualism and the tea party, which Schiller called "a weird evangelical kind of move ... seriously racist."

Schiller, who has since left NPR for another non-profit, fund-raising gig said:

There aren't enough "educated, so-called elite" Americans, adding that public opinion is driven by "this very large uneducated part of the population." Of tea partyers, he adds: "I mean, basically they ... believe in sort of white, middle-America, gun-toting. I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."

Schiller was clearly goaded into saying bad things about conservatives by two actors who had portrayed themselves as Muslims willing to donate large bucks to NPR. Unfortunately they were wired with a hidden camera and got Schiller on tape.

Furthermore, Schiller went on to say that it would be better if the Congress cut off funding for NPR:

"Well frankly," he said, "it is clear that we would be better off in the long-run without federal funding. The challenge right now is that if we lost it all together we would have a lot of stations go dark."

Problem is … you can't think Schiller is an ass for saying what he said about the Tea Party and then think he is a genius for saying what he said about federal funding.

Schiller's opinion of Tea Partiers is not so different from what many of the GOP in the U.S. House (and probably all of the Republican freshmen) believe to be the standard coffee cup opinion of most NPR staffers.

I have no idea if that is true, but I would bet whatever is in my wallet that is the prevailing view of most.

I know, like, and respect a significant number of reporters and executives at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and the Public Broadcasting Service. As I wrote at the top of this column, I want to be in favor of some level of public support.

But, they are making it awfully hard to stay in love. You are free to disagree.

On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to Sesame Street, Auburn University, and the Christian Science Monitor piece on Schiller. Also a Mullfoto which validates my double-glasses issue of a couple of weeks ago and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

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