Barton Uses NPR Scandal in Play for Gavel

Posted October 22, 2010 at 11:28am

Rep. Joe Barton signaled Friday that he’s still eyeing the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship, penning a letter pledging to investigate NPR’s decision to fire analyst Juan Williams if given the gavel next year.

The Texas Republican’s letter to Media Research Center President Brent Bozell stated he would probe why a ‘taxpayer-supported entity’ was ‘suppressing one man’s free speech.’ NPR, which receives some indirect public funding, fired Williams on Thursday after he delivered comments on Fox News about Muslims.

‘If voters decide to invest their trust in Republicans and the decision falls to me, I think that a hearing into this business would be valuable to the House Energy and Commerce Committee,’ said Barton, who currently serves as the panel’s ranking member.

Barton has some selling to do with Republican leaders if he wants to lead the committee. He got into hot water earlier this year after he apologized to a BP executive during a hearing on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last spring. Other top Republicans on the panel ‘ most likely Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.) or John Shimkus (Ill.) ‘ appear better positioned to take over if the GOP wins the majority on Nov. 2.

Williams’ firing has ignited a furor among conservative groups and media outlets.

‘NPR calls itself a champion of the First Amendment, but it seems to be something less when it dislikes the content of the free speech,’ Barton wrote. ‘The network didn’t like what Mr. Williams said, so it terminated his paycheck.’

Appearing on ‘Good Morning America’ on Friday, Williams said he believed NPR had been looking for a reason to fire him.