Timeline: Crossroads and context

The America at a Crossroads series and the 2007 standoff and furor over one of its documentaries, Islam vs. Islamists;, had its roots in the period of Republican dominance of the CPB Board. See related story.

2003

February 2003
CPB President Bob Coonrod names Michael Pack as senior v.p. for TV programming without search or usual hiring process.

September 2003
Staff briefs CPB Board on America at a Crossroads idea. Also: Board elects Kenneth Tomlinson as chair.

2004

January 2004
With Coonrod leaving as president, CPB Board offers the job to Patricia Harrison, assistant secretary of state and onetime co-chair of the Republican National Committee. This time she stays with Colin Powell at State.

January 2004
CPB brings in foreign policy specialist James Denton as consultant to launch the Crossroads initiative under Pack. Also in January, Tomlinson secretly hires operative to analyze political bias of shows including Bill Moyers program.

Jan. 27, 2004
Board says it will promote COO Kathleen Cox to president in July. She is to clash with Tomlinson, leave  in nine months.

March 1, 2004
Before leaving CPB, Coonrod announces first America at a Crossroads RFP.

March 5, 10, 11, 2004
Pack and Denton explain Crossroads plans at public meetings in Chicago, New York and D.C.

June 1, 2004
By deadline, producers send CPB 430 Crossroads proposals.

June 2004
CPB helps PBS select and fund new weekly talk show Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered starring the guy on the right from CNN’s Crossfire.

Aug. 10, 2004
CPB announces a high-profile Crossroads Board of Advisors, plus advisory group of system people.

September 2004
PBS adds Friday-night Journal Editorial Report, promoted by Tomlinson, with first season funded by CPB.

2005

Jan. 21, 2005
CPB announces first batch of 36 Crossroads projects getting R&D grants to refine plans.

April 5, 2005
CPB announces pair of journalists selected by Tomlinson to serve as CPB ombudsmen.

April 8, 2005
Board fires Kathleen Cox as CPB president, names former FCC exec Ken Ferree acting president.

March 10, 2005
CPB announces additional projects getting R&D grants, including Islam vs. Islamists. Project is led by Frank Gaffney, founder and president of Center for Security Policy. More R&D grantees will be named June 27.

May 2005
Public Television Programmers Association publishes the open letter, “Stuck with CPB at the same old Crossroads.”

June 23, 2005
CPB Board hires Patricia Harrison after all, over objections of public station groups. She’ll begin work as president July 5 and will distance her administration from Crossroads.

July 2005
Crossroads docs reveal new facet of balance issue.”

Pack answers questions about Crossroads.

Nov. 3, 2005
Tomlinson resigns as board chair after CPB Inspector General Kenneth Konz briefs the Board on his charges that Tomlinson violated the Public Broadcasting Act, meddling in program decisions and inserting politics into hirings.

Nov. 15, 2005
IG releases report on Tomlinson’s activities.

Dec. 19, 2005
In a Crossroads production meeting with PBS, a network staffer warns of problems with Islamists.

Dec. 31, 2005
Denton’s contract expires, and CPB doesn’t renew it.

2006

January 2006
Twenty of the 36 projects get production grants, among them is Frank Gaffney’s Islamists. CPB assigns WETA to oversee 14 films. The D.C. station’s role expands to cover all films, packaging and outreach, with cost rising from its bid of $616,000 to a series of grants totaling nearly $5.9 million. CPB expects to put Islamists, in first batch to air.

Full list of programs funded and broadcast.

February 2006
WETA hires coordinating producer Leo Eaton.

Pack follows Denton out the door; CPB gives him incentive to quit as v.p. (New York Times coverage of Pack’s departure.)

October 2006
WETA, PBS and CPB agree the Crossroads series doesn’t reflect the experiences of U.S. Muslims post-9/11. WETA recommends MacNeil/Lehrer Productions to create a film for balance.

November 2006
WETA announces Robert MacNeil as Crossroads host.

Current‘s preview of the first batch of Crossroads docs.

2007

January 2007
CPB gives MacNeil/Lehrer Productions a quick-turnaround grant to make The Muslim Americans. The grant is made without an RFP and competing proposals.

February 2007
Having learned Islamists won’t air in the high-profile first batch of Crossroads docs, producers protest to the PBS Board and Harrison, requesting an inquiry into the decision.

March 6, 2007
Islamists producers write to PBS and WETA boards, saying pubTV staffs are doing a “hatchet job” on the film. (PDF of letter.)

“PBS says pundit’s film isn’t done; congressman likes it fine,” March 2007.

March 21, 2007
Briefed by Gaffney, Rep. James T. Walsh (R-N.Y.) speaks up during a CPB funding hearing, sees “concerted effort” to keep the public from seeing “an important and timely” film. Harrison, Eaton and PBS say the producers may still make satisfactory changes.

“Crossroads ‘baby’s going to be beautiful,’” CPB predicts, April 2007.Current watches and summarizes the first batch of docs.

April 2007
Gaffney’s team asks CPB to make sure the film will be viewed on pubTV, as PBS distribution is no longer an option. The producers go public with the dispute, generating newspaper headlines, talk-show debates and right-wing blog furor. For National Review website Gaffney pens a piece, “PBS at a Crossroads: Why is a moderate film on Islam being suppressed?”

“Why is a film on moderate Islam being suppressed?” by Frank Gaffney, National Review online, April 13, 2007.

April 15-20, 2007
PBS devotes much of a week’s primetime to premiere the first 11 Crossroads films.

Tom Shales comments: “With 11-Part ‘Crossroads,’ PBS Looks Many Ways,” in the Washington Post, April 15, 2007.

May 2007
Islamists team members meet with CPB Board insisting the doc was deliberately censored because PBS and WETA did not agree with its central message.

Gaffney writes “To the back of CPB’s bus,” in the Washington Times.

May 7, 2007
Eight House members write to Harrison, asking why Islamists was not shown with the initial Crossroads films, and requesting that CPB allow its producers to distribute the show on other channels. Harrison responded 10 days later, explaining that the producer, ABG Films, did not fulfill its contractual responsibilities.

May 23, 2007
Oregon Public Broadcasting agrees to distribute Islamists to public TV stations interested in airing it. Stations in 121 markets eventually do.

June 28, 2007
Six Congressmen write to the IG, questioning the handling of Islamists by CPB, PBS and WETA. Konz replies July 3 that CPB Board Chair Cheryl Halpern has already requested the IG’s evaluation. His probe will take more than a year.

Oct. 20, 2007
Fox News Channel airs Islamists. (Story on Fox website.)

2009

June 15, 2009
Last completed Crossroads doc airs nationally, The Mosque at Morgantown

Sept. 30, 2009
Date of IG’s “Special Review of CPB’S Overall Project Management, Procurement and Grant Oversight Practices for the ‘America at a Crossroads’ Series.” CPB has 180 days to respond. (PDF of report.)

Compiled by Dru Sefton and Steve Behrens

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