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Why were those CPB memos leaked?
Sheila Tate, former board chair, took them to the White House to get a rival off the board. Who sent copies to the newspapers, and why?

Originally published in Current, Dec. 18, 1995
By Steve Behrens

Who was the intended victim when someone dumped reams of embarrassing internal CPB documents in the laps of reporters this month?

Most directly injured was the reputation of Martha Buchanan, a CPB Board member accused of chasing after and giving an unbidden kiss to CPB Senior Vice President Fred DeMarco almost four years ago. Based on more than 400 pages of leaked documents, the story of her failed courtship and/or sexual harassment of DeMarco got big play in the Washington Post Dec. 12 [1995].

Buchanan and DeMarco

Another victim may be CPB President Richard Carlson, a frequent opponent of Buchanan's. A Wall Street Journal editorial Dec. 14 speculated that the leak "is part of an effort to force out" Carlson.

Indeed, the leaker may have been trying to frame Carlson, because some observers were sure to suspect that he or an ally had leaked the documents to damage Buchanan.

Then there are CPB and public broadcasting. The leaker may have intended to embarrass them, giving the Post more than 400 pages of material for its tragicomedy of high-priced lawyers, dueling faxes and unreciprocated romantic interest.

And there's DeMarco, who, according to the leaked memos, just wanted to forget Martha Buchanan and the events of 1992, and may not be enjoying his new celebrity. "I have no comments to make about this," he said last week, "and I really don't want to discuss this matter at all."

The weapon that inflicted this latest damage to Buchanan, Carlson, DeMarco and public broadcasting was a blunt instrument: more than 400 pages of CPB documents, including some apparent originals, left anonymously at the front desk of the Post on Dec. 9, according to reporter Marc Fisher. Copies also were given to Rupert Murdoch's London Sunday Times, which rushed a Hillary Clinton angle into print the next day. Fisher followed on the 12th. Copies of some of the documents also were obtained by Laurence Jarvik, a prominent critic of public broadcasting, who provided copies to Current.

Jarvik denied that he released the documents to the newspapers, but said he wishes that he had. "It couldn't have happened at a better time," he said. "Everyone had forgotten about my issue."

Who gave the memos to the newspapers and to Jarvik isn't known. The memos once were private among Carlson, former chairman Sheila Tate and Cauthen, and somehow left the building.

"Between the members of the board, the outside attorneys and the White House, there were many copies of the documents floating around," said a CPB official.

Buchanan, Carlson, Tate and present chairman Ritajean Butterworth and others were not available for comment. [Buchanan later denied that her relationship with DeMarco was anything but social, and that she had ever forced her attentions upon him.] A CPB statement Dec. 12 declined to comment on "personnel matters" and regretted that someone "whose only intention appears to be to cause harm to the corporation" had revealed confidential information.

"Vendetta" against Buchanan

One theory to explain CPB's pursuit of the Buchanan case and the leak comes from Vic Gold, the only member of the board during its recent contentious months who is willing to discuss events in detail. Gold resigned from the board Dec. 5, before the leak put the Buchanan affair in the public realm.

"It is quite obvious that if Richard Carlson was not behind it, he is president and was responsible for it," Gold said last week. "It was a personal vendetta with Martha Buchanan." Carlson didn't like Buchanan's "bulldog" questioning of budgets and handling of projects, including the DeMarco-managed balance-and-objectivity hearings in fall 1993, Gold said.

For months, most of the board, including Buchanan, knew nothing of the allegations; she was not permitted to "face her accuser," Gold said. She did not know about the blizzard of memos about her, he said, until the White House called to discuss her appointment.

Carlson and his board supporter Sheila Tate moved to discredit Gold and his theory.

Tate denied any involvement in the leak. "Vic Gold has spent his life making irresponsible comments," said her statement.

"This is nuts, but I'd expect nothing less from a guy who campaigned for Bull Connor and flacked for Spiro Agnew," said a Carlson quote released by a CPB spokesman.

(Gold said Carlson's quote was "a typical Carlson smear." Gold was proud to work for Agnew, along with William Safire and Pat Buchanan, he told Current, but never worked on behalf of Connor, the segregationist police commissioner of Birmingham, Ala. Carlson had missed the point of one of Gold's favorite political anecdotes, he said.)

This was not standard Republican vs. Democrat antipathy; Gold, Carlson and Tate are all Republicans. Buchanan is a Democrat appointed by President Bush. But there's little doubt about the personal antagonisms that figure in his theory.

Gold has been on Buchanan's side, questioning Carlson and Tate publicly on a number of issues, so his suspicions are not surprising and some people won't give them much credibility. But he does point to a consistently antagonistic relationship between Carlson/Tate and Buchanan.

photo of Sheila TateIn repeated matchups, Tate has sided with the half of the board that backs Carlson, and Buchanan and Gold have led the criticism. The board split almost evenly over the election of Tate's successor as chairman in September 1994, electing South Carolina ETV President Henry Cauthen, who was then backing Carlson. Early this year, Buchanan, Gold and allies balked when management hired Gingrich friend Vin Weber to provide "strategic advice" on CPB's future funding. The deal was leaked to the Washington Times and undone.

And in May they reacted with outrage when they learned that Cauthen had privately extended Carlson's contract for three years and given him a $296,800 golden parachute without a formal review of his performance and without telling the board.

In the memos and the Post's report, Tate was the strongest voice for protecting CPB from legal liability in case DeMarco filed a sexual harassment suit involving Buchanan. On Sept. 18, 1994, nine days before the bitter board chairmanship election in which she opposed Buchanan, Tate learned about the allegations against Buchanan and informed CPB Executive Vice President Bob Coonrod.

Tate later insisted on taking the problem to White House Counsel Abner Mikva, seeking to prevent Buchanan's reappointment, though outside attorneys had advised against that course of action. The attorneys warned that the affair could go public if CPB went to the White House.

On Sept. 8, over the objections of Chairman Henry Cauthen and with the support of Carlson, Tate took the Buchanan matter to Mikva at the White House. Administration sources later told the Post there was a consensus "approved by Chief of Staff Leon Panetta" that Buchanan would not be reappointed.

Carlson likewise pressed to protect CPB from liability, though Gold contended Buchanan's alleged complaints never seriously threatened DeMarco's job. "There is only one person who can hire and fire Fred DeMarco, and that is Richard Carlson."

Gold alluded to his own career as a political speechwriter. "I have been involved in politics for a long period of time," said Gold. "I've come from Louisiana, and it's been a rough sport at times. The thing that's almost frightening and chilling about this is that it's so gratuitous. [Buchanan] has been defeated, she's been crushed ... and someone still has so much venom for her."

How liable and what to do?

The whole megillah, if the memos and the Post report are to be believed, began in a series of station-relations meetings held by CPB in hotels around the country. Station relations was DeMarco's job, and Buchanan was an active board member. At a grant review meeting in Dallas early in 1992, Buchanan, a stylish 61-year-old former TV anchor, allegedly had the hotel gift shop send a gift to DeMarco, a sociable 53-year-old former NBC station manager--a night shirt with the slogan, "I only sleep with the best." DeMarco later returned it to Buchanan.

Outside attorney Stephen B. Forman ordered an identical shirt for CPB to have on hand.

Buchanan was said to have made other invitations and overtures to DeMarco, and once allegedly kissed him goodnight, on the mouth, in a hotel lobby during the spring 1992 Public Radio Conference in Seattle. Later that year, DeMarco became engaged to marry Pat Hunter, now a PBS program administrator, and they married in February 1993.

Buchanan stopped chasing DeMarco three years ago and her attitude toward him charged drastically, he wrote in a memo that CPB gave to attorneys. He recalled hearing from Carlson in November 1993 that Buchanan had problems with his performance, and from Coonrod, several months later, that she wanted him fired. The discomfort had an "adverse affect on my health," contributing to hospitalizations in June 1992 and March 1993, according to the memo.

Two attorneys hired by CPB, Forman and June Kalijarvi, concurred in a June 1995 report that there was "reasonable cause" to believe that DeMarco's rejection of Buchanan "prompted her to speak poorly" about him. While DeMarco's job hadn't been hurt, "the facts may be sufficient to state a claim for hostile environment sexual harassment," the lawyers concluded. "If CPB does not take prompt and effective measures to remedy the situation, it likely would be liable if further sexual conduct occurs or unfounded criticism continues."

The lawyers laid out five ways CPB could take remedial action, and recommended Option 1: monitoring the situation and taking action only if Buchanan resumes "unsupported criticism" or if DeMarco suffered "adverse employment action" because of her complaints.

"Fraught with risk"

Option 4, which Carlson and Tate chose to follow, was to take the problem to the White House, since Buchanan and other CPB Board members are presidential appointees. The White House could ask her to resign or could dismiss her. "By reason of the political nature of this approach," Forman and Kalijari cautioned, "it must be noted that it is fraught with risk, including the probability of public disclosure of the matter."

Two weeks later, according to the CPB memos, Carlson, Coonrod and General Counsel Lillian Fernandez briefed Cauthen on the attorneys' report, though they did not give him a copy that day. Carlson rejected an alternative advanced by Cauthen--approaching the White House through Cauthen's friend, Don Fowler of the Democratic National Committee.

At that July 16 briefing in Cauthen's Washington hotel room, they agreed that going to the White House was the only reasonable option, Fernandez summed up in a memo to Cauthen later that week.

Cauthen later complained to Carlson that the briefing had been "very misleading." When Fernandez sent him the attorneys' June report, he adopted their recommended Option 1: monitoring the Buchanan-DeMarco situation.

"As far as the implications that have been made in newspapers," he told Current last week, "I am very comfortable with what I did with any matter that may have arisen. I followed specifically the recommendations of the legal counsel hired by CPB."

Cauthen began opposing the White House option after he had read the outside attorneys' recommendations. In early August when he found out that Fernandez was moving ahead to make an appointment with the White House, he objected angrily.

On Aug. 8, Tate wrote to Cauthen, insisting that he meet with the White House within 10 days, or she would brief presidential counsel Mikva herself.

Cauthen replied the next day: "Making a decision to go against the advice of both private attorneys as well as against the request of Mr. DeMarco is not one that I am willing to make at this time." He advised Fernandez that she should not go with Tate to the White House and on Sept. 7 phoned Carlson at home to stop her from going.

On Sept. 8, the Post reported, Tate went without Fernandez, but brought along Fred Fielding, a former presidential counsel who, like Tate, worked in the Reagan White House. Later, with Cauthen's reluctant approval, Fernandez returned to the White House with former Nixon aide Leonard Garment, who was at least the fifth outside attorney CPB had hired to protect itself from one of its own senior vice presidents.

The story told by the London Sunday Times Dec. 10 diverges somewhat from the one in the memos. The newspaper alleges that CPB Board member Diane Blair, a good friend of Hillary Clinton's, brought the First Lady into matter. "There is simply no other explanation for the delay which has left all of us vulnerable," said an unnamed "official close to the investigation." Blair did not return a call from Current.

On Sept. 19, Cauthen was succeeded as chairman by Ritajean Butterworth.

By then, Cauthen's relationship with CPB management had deteriorated. Fernandez had hired an attorney in September to advise Cauthen that he was not her boss. And Cauthen unsuccessfully sought board funding so he could hire his own lawyer, according to the Post.

Carlson and Cauthen exchanged memos in which Carlson accused Cauthen of "disingenuity" and Cauthen charged Carlson with deviousness. On Oct. 26, Cauthen produced a 12-page catalog of 30 "misleading, distorted or inaccurate" statements in a single Carlson memo.

Whether the leak was meant to sabotage Carlson or Buchanan or a bigger target, it may have wounded both CPB officials. Carlson appears to have lost at least Cauthen's support on the divided board, and his future with the corporation may be further threatened by board turnover next March, when terms end for Tate, Buchanan and two other appointees of Reagan or Bush: Honey Alexander, wife of presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, an ally of Tate's, and Dallas foundation executive Carolyn Bacon, a friend of Buchanan's.

Web page originally posted Nov. 14, 1996
Current: the newspaper about public TV and radio
in the United States
Current Publishing Committee, Takoma Park, Md.

Tate insisted on taking the problem to  the White House counsel, though CPB's outside attorneys had advised against it. They warned the affair could go public if CPB went to the White House. It did.


Board divided over secret renewal of Carlson contract with golden parachute, 1995.

A Republican board member accused Tate of engineering the defeat of Buchanan for chairman, 1994.


Buchanan denies that she forced her attentions on DeMarco, and contends that she had never been notified of allegations against her.

Democrats assert control of CPB Board.