Public Radio Pay to Play

Ploughshares Fund gives millions to slant coverage on Iran

February 13, 2012

A progressive anti-nuclear foundation has spent more than $5.6 million in 2010 alone to create "a world without nuclear weapons." One of its projects: shift the debate on Iran’s nuclear program away from military action and toward accepting Tehran as a nuclear power.

The Ploughshares Fund opposes military action against Iran and has funded organizations that share this goal, including the Center for American Progress, the pro-Tehran National Iranian American Council, and liberal fringe group J Street.

One of Ploughshares’ highest profile recipients is National Public Radio. NPR was paid $150,000 by the group in 2010. The money was used to fund "increased coverage of U.S. nuclear policy issues and the proliferation risks from North Korea and Iran," according to funding documents publicly available on Ploughshares’ website.

Coinciding with the payment was NPR’s series of articles and reports that closely reflected Ploughshares’ anti-nuclear worldview.

One NPR piece was written by Stephen Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby, a controversial book that accused the pro-Israel community of putting U.S. foreign policy in a nefarious chokehold.

The NPR report by Walt argued that the United States was "too secure," and praised the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, an accord criticized by conservatives in Congress and the private sector as not being in American interests. After data required under the treaty was made public by the State Department last year, figures showed that Russia was already within the treaty limits and thus the United States was the only party to the treaty that is required to cut its nuclear forces.

Days after the Walt piece, NPR correspondent Peter Kenyon delivered an on-air report advocating negotiations with Iran over what U.S. officials say is a covert pursuit of nuclear arms.

"Many analysts believe there’s more time for diplomacy than had previously been thought," Kenyon stated during a November 2010 segment of the NPR program Morning Edition. "But to date, there’s been no evidence that the U.S. or its allies have come up with a diplomatic approach other than the pressure of sanctions, and the threat of military force."

In February 2011, public documents show Ploughshares gave NPR an additional $150,000 to cover "Iran, U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and nonproliferation issues."

When approached for comment last week by the Washington Free Beacon, a NPR spokeswoman said that her organization has never received money from Ploughshares. After being directed to the funding item, however, the spokesperson said that she’d look into it. NPR never followed up.

Ploughshares donates to a lengthy list of additional media outlets, including: Public Radio International, which produces radio programs such as NPR’s This American Life and The Tavis Smiley Show; the Mainstream Media Project, a non-profit organization that coordinates television and radio appearances for policy analysts and other experts; and Link Media, Inc., the parent company of Link TV, a satellite television network dedicated to "providing global perspectives on news, events and culture"

Asked why it contributes to such a large number of media groups, Ploughshares’ Program Director Paul Carroll said that his group just wants to support the news industry during difficult financial times.

"As you know, many media organizations are struggling financially," Carroll said via a spokesperson. "By funding news organizations, we hope to ensure that their coverage of important national security issues, which includes nuclear security, continues to help inform and engage the public."

He added that Ploughshares has "no editorial control on the stories that media groups present."

Ploughshares’ stated mission is to decrease the number of nuclear arms across the world. However, it is actively advocating a policy of nuclear containment of Iran.

Asked about the issue of Iranian nuclear proliferation, Ploughshares’ Carroll said: "We seek to inform U.S. decision makers and the larger public on the status of Iran’s nuclear program, including the costs and benefits of different approaches to addressing the serious proliferation challenge that it presents."

Ploughshares’ grant documents, however, seem to reveal a more specific goal: discrediting the military option against Iran.

Another one of Ploughshares more prominent grantees is the Center for American Progress (CAP), which was awarded at least $150,000 in 2011 "to hire two researchers for an expanded initiative on Iran aimed at countering support for military action."

Last October, Matthew Duss, a policy analyst and director of Middle East Progress at CAP, produced a report that praised the Obama administration for pursuing a diplomatic approach to Iran’s nuclear program.

"It’s worth remembering that Iran was on a roll when President Obama took office," Duss wrote. "This was thanks to precisely the sort of military solutions that many of the president’s conservative critics are now calling for again."

Furthermore, the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Think Progress blog regularly decries what they term neoconservative war mongering against Iran and, per the Washington Post, has been "embroiled in a dispute with several Jewish organizations over charges that some center staffers have publicly used language that could be construed as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic."

In November, Ploughshares gave the dovish Jewish group J Street $25,000 "to support congressional advocacy and education against the use of a military resolution to the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program."

Last month, J Street released a web video and policy campaign that advocated against using military force against Iran.

When approached for comment, a J Street spokesperson declined to reveal whether Ploughshares’ funds were used to produce the video or fund the campaign.

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is another Ploughshares recipient with a track record for pushing against U.S. efforts to keep "all options on the table" regarding Iran, as President Obama himself put it.

NIAC received $125,000 in November, "to shape the debate among policymakers and in the media on credible, non-military approaches to resolving the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program."

Up until 2006, Ploughshares also funded a group called Win Without War, which advocates against all U.S. military intervention abroad.