By TIM DICKINSON
Ken Tomlinson may be America's most accomplished propagandist. He got his start as an intern for Fulton Lewis Jr., who ruled right-wing radio when Rush Limbaugh was still in diapers. In the early 1980s, Tomlinson ran Voice of America, promoting the policies of Ronald Reagan to the rest of the world. As editor in chief of Reader's Digest in the early 1990s, he published the most reliably reactionary magazine in the country. Now, as President Bush's handpicked chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Tomlinson is in a position to spread the Republican message to Sesame Street.
As head of the board that doles out $400 million in federal funds for public broadcasting, Tomlinson is actually required by law to provide PBS and NPR with "maximum protection from extraneous influence and control" by meddling politicians. But in recent months, Tomlinson himself has been the one trying to alter PBS programming. A close friend of Karl Rove since they worked together overseeing Voice of America, he hired a right-wing consultant to secretly monitor Bill Moyers for signs of "liberal bias." He collaborated with the White House to hire two "ombudsmen" to keep an eye on Frontline and All Things Considered. And after President Bush was re-elected in November, Tomlinson warned a gathering of PBS executives that the country had moved to the right -- and that their programming should reflect that.