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Buchanan denies story leaked to newspapers

Originally published in Current, Jan. 16, 1996
By Karen Everhart Bedford

Martha Buchanan, the CPB Board member accused by political opponents in the corporation of sexually harassing a CPB executive, responded to the Washington Post's account of the affair by denying that her relationship with Senior Vice President Fred DeMarco was anything more than professionally social.

"I at no time, as claimed by the memos anonymously furnished to your paper, 'kissed him on the mouth'; nor did I, as further set forth in titillating tabloid detail, 'force' my attentions on him,'' Buchanan wrote to the Post last month. [Full text of her letter and response to Current.]

Though neither CPB nor DeMarco have filed charges in connection with the alleged incidents dating back to 1992, Buchanan last fall retained the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld to represent her in the event of a suit, she told Current. Her attorneys' requests for copies of CPB memos about the case have so far been rebuffed.

"At this point they're trying to get the same documentation that's been circulated to media,'' said Buchanan in an interview. Her lawyers are "just trying to find out 'where's the beef?' ''

Buchanan was out of town in mid-December and unavailable to comment when the Post, Current and other newspapers reported on the contents of more than 400 pages of internal CPB documents detailing the alleged harassment and CPB's handling of the matter.

Concerned that CPB would be liable if it took no action in response to the allegations, President Richard Carlson and board member Sheila Tate consulted attorneys and ordered a confidential investigation during the year beginning September 1994. To limit CPB's liability, presumably by preventing Buchanan's reappointment, Tate, a frequent opponent of Buchanan's, eventually took the allegations to the White House over the objections of then-Chairman Henry Cauthen, according to the CPB memos. Memos by Carlson, Tate, Cauthen and others were leaked to the newspapers.

"The fact that my side of the story was not sought by the 'investigators' and that no complaint has in fact been filed after three years, would seem to be indication enough that there was less to those 'hundreds of pages' than met the eye,'' Buchanan wrote to the Post. She said her social relations DeMarco were "simply that--social.''

Her unhappiness with DeMarco's job performance--portrayed in CPB documents as a personal vendetta after he rejected her overtures and married--was part of her role as a board member of a publicly funded institution, Buchanan said. "My chief criticism of Mr. DeMarco's work ... related to his stewardship over CPB's $750,000 'Open to the Public' campaign of two years ago.''

As a board member, she noted, she lacked the authority to fire DeMarco. "One person and one person alone, CPB President Richard Carlson, has that power.''

Diane Blair, another member of the CPB Board and close friend of President and Mrs. Clinton, also released a memo regarding the incident. Blair denied reports in the Sunday Times of London and the Washington Times, citing anonymous sources, that the First Lady had intervened in White House handling of the incident at her behest.

"I hope you and everyone at CPB realizes that the story that I involved Mrs. Clinton in this case is a total and complete fabrication,'' Blair wrote to Carlson. "I have never spoken one word to Mrs. Clinton about this, and she has no involvement whatsoever with it.''

Buchanan responds: 'At no time was I questioned'

In response to Current's Dec. 18 [1995] article, "Why were CPB memos leaked?,'' CPB Board member Martha Buchanan submitted a letter to the Washington Post (published by the Post on Dec. 23) and a supplementary statement to Current:

To the Washington Post

I was out of town when your report on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's "sexual harassment panic'' appeared and have only now had an opportunity to read it in full. . . .

As the alleged "harassing'' villain in this piece, I read through it, quite frankly, not knowing whether to be outraged, to laugh or to cry. Did it occur to your reporter, as he read through those voluminous memos, how odd it was that at no time in that "investigation'' was I, the accused party, questioned or even informed of the investigation?

Obviously not. The fact that my side of the story was not sought by the "investigators'' and that no complaint has in fact been filed after three years would seem to be indication enough that there was less to those "hundreds of pages'' than met the eye.

It would take twice that number of words to reply to the many inaccuracies and hurtful innuendos contained in the article. Let me, however, in the interest of not further inflating an already overblown story, respond by simply stating:

Finally, along with my personal feelings about this story, I regret the damage it may do to public broadcasting, an institution I deeply believe in and have conscientiously worked for over the years. The fact that so much time and energy--not to mention a great deal of public money--were spent in pursuit of a nonexistent "sexual harassment'' claim has not only made the Corporation for Public Broadcasting appear ridiculous but raises serious questions about its overall stewardship.

To Current, Jan. 4, 1996

Regarding the story "Why were CPB memos leaked?,'' I do not wish to speculate as to the motives of Mr. Carlson, Ms. Tate or others concerning this matter. Current Editor Steve Behrens referred to the Post's story, wherein reporter Marc Fisher writes, ". . . someone at CPB dumped hundreds of pages of internal memos and investigative reports on the Washington Post and the Sunday Times of London.''

Other than the statement contained in my letter to the Washington Post, I would simply note that all of this has occurred without any CPB official (or anyone acting on behalf of CPB) ever informing me of the nature of any of the allegations, ever asking me about the allegations, or ever giving me copies of any of the hundreds of pages of documents generated by CPB in connection with this matter and that now appear to have been widely disseminated to the news media.

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.


Accusations against Buchanan went to the White House and then to the press. But why?