In the wake of the firing of former National Public Radio news analyst Juan Williams over public comments made about Muslims, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support a bill that ends federal funding for public broadcasting media outlets.
“I’ve voted to cut their funding in the past, and will again,” McConnell said in a statement. “With trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see, I think the federal government ought to be re-examining all of its expenditures to make sure we are focused on creating an environment where the economy can return to health and can begin creating sustainable private-sector jobs.”
McConnell joins a growing chorus of Republican leaders in both chambers, including House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who say they will consider ending federal subsidies for the networks. National Public Radio receives about two percent of its funding from grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts and relies heavily on dues from local member stations, which are largely taxpayer-funded.
Calls for defunding the networks began after Williams, who also serves as a Fox News contributor, said that he sometimes gets “worried” in airports when he sees people who “first and foremost identify as Muslims.” Although he was making a larger point about how he wants Americans to move beyond prejudices against Muslims, NPR ended his contract two days later.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint announced Friday he would introduce a bill to gut public funding of news media outlets like NPR. In the House, Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn put forth a similar bill in June that stalled in committee under Democratic leadership.
With the midterm elections just days away, Republicans are looking to make major gains in both chambers, which could turn the rhetoric over defunding such a longstanding institution a possible reality in 2011.
Jon Ward contributed to this report.