Published October 22, 2010
Juan Williams may be gone from National Public Radio's line-up of commentators, but billionaire liberal icon George Soros has donated $1.8 million to hire 100 new reporters for 50 of its member stations.
The money will go to launch a project called Impact of Government, which Soros' Open Society Foundation says will "bring greater transparency and accountability to the workings of state capitals across the country."
The group, which describes its mission as building "tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens," calls it a response to the decline in news coverage of state legislatures.
"A strong democracy requires a diverse, independent, and highly functioning watchdog press to help people hold the government and private sector accountable," Ann Beeson, executive director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, said in a statement earlier this week.
Vivian Schiller, NPR president and CEO, said the boost puts the public radio stations in a better position than other news outlets to cover the impact of state government on local communities.
"Our network provides a perfect vehicle for cross-state, cross-region, and national analyses of the most critical issues facing our country," Schiller said in the statement.
Schiller is one of two NPR executives who announced Wednesday that the network was firing national analyst Juan Williams over remarks he made Monday on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News.
In his appearance, Williams admitted that he gets nervous when he flies on airplanes with individuals wearing "Muslim garb." During the segment on jihad and angst toward Muslims in America, Williams also warned against suggesting all Muslims are extremists.
Schiller issued an internal memo on Thursday saying that Williams was fired for violating an NPR principle that states that on other networks "NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist,” reads the memo obtained by Fox News.
"News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what's happened in this situation," she added.
Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center, said the turn of events regarding Williams looks like a Soros-inspired outcome.
"His investment has paid off well," Bozell told Fox News. "This is Orwellian stuff."
While Williams has said he was expressing an honestly held belief, the timing comes as Soros also announced that he has decided to donate money -- for the first time, he says -- to the Fox News-bashing Media Matters for America, a watchdog group that spends its time issuing blistering commentary on Fox News hosts and guests.
Soros said he decided to support Media Matters after claiming to see evidence suggesting that the "incendiary rhetoric" on Fox News "may incite violence."
He called his unspecified contribution part of "an effort to more widely publicize the challenge Fox News poses to civil and informed discourse in our democracy."
Besides his two latest outlets, Soros has funded liberal movements like the Fund for America, America Votes, Young Democrats of America, MoveOn.org, Air America Radio and America Coming Together, the latter two of which are now defunct.
Media Matters' donation was announced on the same day that the Center for Responsive Politics issued a report on college students that noted the top giver to Democrats among college students is Alexander Soros, George Soros' son.
Alexander Soros has donated $73,800 this election cycle to primarily Democratic federal candidates and political committees so far this election cycle.
Soros wrote in an e-mail to CRP that while the Democratic Party has "disappointed" him lately, it's better than voting Republican.
"There is no question in my mind that the country -- and the world -- will be better off if Democrats keep control," Soros reportedly wrote in an e-mail to OpenSecrets blog, which is run by CPR.
“The Republicans have become so extreme in their rhetoric," Soros said. "For me, the Tea Party is a movement of intolerance … My donations will help to combat this intolerance, I hope."
Meanwhile, NPR said it will use the Open Society Foundation donation to solicit applications for "pilot projects" among member stations that will be selected in December and launched in March 2011.