The fight for control of CBS Inc. shows signs of degenerating into a mudslinging contest between the company and Fairness in Media, the conservative group that wants to put an end to "liberal bias" in the news media.
In a lawsuit against Fairness in Media, CBS has pointedly cited the fact that FIM's attorney, Harry F. Weyher, is president of a foundation called The Pioneer Fund, and that Thomas F. Ellis, Helms' chief political strategist and a founder of FIM, served as a director of The Pioneer Fund through at least 1976.
The Pioneer Fund is a tax-exempt foundation created in 1937 for the purpose of funding research into the problems of "racial betterment," according to the group's certificate of incorporation. Pioneer has financed research that attempted to show that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.
R. E. Carter Wrenn, a co-founder of Fairness in Media with Ellis, denounced the CBS allegations concerning The Pioneer Fund. "That's pretty much old-fashioned mudslinging, that's what that is. And I'm really not familiar with The Pioneer Fund per se, but the basic allusion CBS made was that Tom Ellis is a racist. And that's just nothing but dirty, old-fashioned mudslinging."
Weyher, a partner of the Park Avenue law firm of Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O'Donnel & Weyher, has been president of The Pioneer Fund since at least 1973, according to the group's annual government filings, which were reviewed by The Washington Post. Ellis was a Pioneer Fund director from 1973 through 1976. In addition, Marion A. Parrot is a director of both the National Congressional Club and The Pioneer Fund.
In 1983, Ellis was nominated to be a member of the Board for International Broadcasting, which oversees certain U.S. government overseas broadcasting operations, including Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. Ellis withdrew his nomination after several senators opposed him because of his association with The Pioneer Fund and his previously publicized views on race, according to a review of the transcript of Ellis' nomination hearings and other government documents.
In 1983, The Pioneer Fund distributed $271,081 of grants to finance and publish research including studies of eugenics, the scientific theory that the human species can be improved through the control of hereditary factors in mating.
In 1982, The Pioneer Fund distributed $418,974 to finance and publish research including studies of dysgenics, which is the study of the deterioration, over time, of the hereditary qualities of various races.
The Pioneer Fund also gave $10,000 in 1983 to the Coalition for Freedom, a conservative organization controlled by political allies of Helms that tries to influence public opinion by producing television programs and films.
Ellis said in his Senate confirmation hearings in 1983 that he had served as a director of The Pioneer Fund at Weyher's request, and that all he did for the fund was routinely sign documents releasing money for research grants. Ellis testified: "I do not believe in my own heart that I am a racist."
Ellis resigned as a Pioneer director after accounts of his involvement appeared in several newspapers in 1977. Weyher, who is still president and a director of The Pioneer Fund, did not return a phone call from The Washington Post. Ellis also declined to comment.
James P. Cain, another co-founder of Fairness in Media, said Weyher was hired to represent FIM because "he [Weyher] and Tom Ellis have been acquaintances for years, and we were interested in legal counsel [Weyher] who was one, competent, and second, even more importantly, understood what our concerns were philosophically."
Controversy surrounding Ellis' views on race surfaced in the 1976 Republican presidential primary in North Carolina after Ellis, who was supporting then-Gov. Reagan for president, distributed leaflets suggesting that Gerald Ford might select a black running mate if he won the nomination.
Ellis confirmed that he put out the handbill, according to a transcript of his confirmation hearings. The transcript says that Reagan campaign officials put a stop to the distribution of the leaflets once they learned about them.
Ellis also was criticized at the confirmation hearings for a trip to South Africa at the expense of the South African government.
At the hearing, Ellis said he no longer favors segregationist policies he advocated in the mid-1950s after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ordering desegregation of public schools.
In 1955, as a staff member of the North Carolina advisory committee on education, Ellis and another staff member wrote:
"The present integration movement in the public schools is but a part of a planned social revolution in the South, fostered, directed and financed by non-southern whites. . . . The eventual goal of this movement is racial intermarriage and the disappearance of the Negro race by fusing into the white."
He proposed that "there shall be no mixed schools operated in this state and that, upon the integration of any school in a unit, whether by voluntary action or court order, all appropriations, both state and local, for all schools in such unit be immediately terminated."