Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda: The ABC’s of the NEA Conference Call


by Mike Flynn

Today, Big Hollywood released a full audio recording and transcript of the NEA conference call. A full review of the call reveals several new and more troubling aspects to what transpired on the August 10th phone call. What is inescapable is that the origin of the call reaches into the highest offices of the White House. It is clear, from the transcript, that the call was orchestrated by the Office of Public Engagement, whose Director, Valerie Jarrett, is among the closest advisors to President and First Lady Obama. It is also apparent that Ms. Jarrett’s office directed the involvement of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for National and Community Service, two independent federal agencies. (This is important, as neither is officially part of the executive branch.)

At the very beginning of the call, the general ‘moderator’ of the call, Michael Skolnik, political director for Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons, explains the genesis of the call:

I have been asked by people in the White House and folks in the NEA about a month ago in a conversation that was had. We had the idea that I would help bring together the independent artists community around the country.

This is important, because in the immediate aftermath of the breaking story, the NEA has tried to state that a ‘third party’ organized the call. This clearly isn’t true. The e-mail invitation to the call was sent from Mr. Sargent’s government-provided NEA e-mail address. In addition, as the transcript reveals, Mr. Sloknik was “asked” by the White House and NEA to organize the call.

Mr. Skolnik goes on to comment to the participants:

…about the role that we played during the campaign for President and also during his first 200 some odd days of his presidency and the President has a very clear arts agenda and has been very supportive of using art and supporting art in creative ways to talk about some of the issues that we face here in our country and also to engage people.

Throughout the call, the speakers, all public officials, except Mr. Skolnik, make references to the campaign work done by call participants. The call is conducted with the presumption that all participants were active supporters during the Presidential campaign. This is troubling since the call was organized by a non-partisan government agency.

Especially since Mr. Skolnik goes on to comment:

And I think all of us who are on this phone call were selected for a reason…You are the ones that, if you create a piece of art or create a campaign for a company, and tell our country and our young people sort of what to do and what to be in to; and what’s cool what’s not cool.

He then adds:

…the goal of this phone call [instigated at the request of the White House and NEA] is to get involved in things that we’re passionate about as we did during the campaign but continue to get involved in those things, to support the President’s initiatives…”

If the call ended here, it would be troubling enough. To recap quickly, there were 21 different artist organizations on the call, all of whom, it seems, were active in the Obama presidential campaign. Sixteen of the organizations had recently—within the previous 150 days—received grants from the NEA. To sum up, the White House and NEA had organized a call of 21 artistic groups who had been active in the presidential campaign, most of whom had recently received federal support, to explore ways they could become involved in supporting the President’s agenda.

Comments are closed.