Juan Williams Firing Prompts Jim DeMint Bill to Defund NPR

News analyst Juan Williams appears on the "Fox & friends" television program in New York, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. Williams, who has written extensively on race and civil rights in the U.S., has been fired by National Public Radio after comments he made about Muslims on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," on Monday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Richard Drew

News analyst Juan Williams appears on the "Fox & friends" television program in New York, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. Williams, who has written extensively on race and civil rights in the U.S., has been fired by National Public Radio after comments he made about Muslims on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," on Monday.
Richard Drew

Updated 12:47 p.m. Eastern Time

Conservative Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina today announced plans to introduce legislation stripping federal funding from National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.

The move comes following the firing of NPR contributor Juan Williams for comments about Muslims. Williams said among other things that he gets "nervous" when he sees Muslims on his airplane flights.

The firing prompted calls from Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabeeand others on the right to strip NPR of funding, and now DeMint, who is beloved in the Tea Party movement despite his Senate perch, has taken up the call.

"Once again we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree. The incident with Mr. Williams shows that NPR is not concerned about providing the listening public with an honest debate of today's issues, but rather with promoting a one-sided liberal agenda," he said in a statement.

The release said U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a California Republican, is putting forth legislation matching DeMint's in the House. He previously put forth such legislation in June. If Republicans take control of the House in the midterm elections they could bring the matter to a vote in the next Congress. (The same is true in the Senate, though a GOP takeover there is less likely.)

NPR and PBS get funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which got a $422 million total allocation from the federal government in FY2010. Much of that money goes to member stations, not NPR or PBS directly, though the member stations pay dues to NPR and PBS.

While NPR does not get any direct money from CPB, it does get grants as well as funding indirectly through member stations. Hotsheet dug into the numbers yesterdayand calculated that between the two sources it gets less than ten percent of its budget from the federal government.

"Since 2001, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds programming for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service, has received nearly $4 billion in taxpayer money," DeMint said in his statement. "The country is over $13 trillion in debt and Congress must find ways to start trimming the federal budget to cut spending. NPR and PBS get about 15 percent of their total budget through federal funding, so these programs should be able to find a way to stand on their own. With record debt and unemployment, there's simply no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize a liberal programming they disagree with."

"We can't keep borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars from China each year to fund public radio and public TV when there are so many choices already in the market for news and entertainment. If CPB is defunded, taxpayers will save billions," he added. "This is just one of the many cuts Congress should make next year."

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor put out a separate statement today arguing that Williams' firing and the incident in which two of the hosts walked off the set of "The View" over comments by Bill O'Reillyreflects the fact that "over-reaching political correctness is chipping away at the fundamental American freedoms of speech and expression."

"NPR's decision to fire Juan Williams not only undermines that, it shows an ignorance of the fact that radical Islam and the terrorists who murder in its name scare people of all faiths, religions, and beliefs," Cantor added. He announcing in the release that he was adding the termination of federal funding for NPR as an option on the GOP's YouCut site, where people vote for what programs they want to see cut.


Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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