Judgement error or Illegal? NCPR & Stefanik speak out about email controversy

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CANTON, New York (WWNY) - North Country Public Radio calls it “a huge error in judgement.” Congresswoman Elise Stefanik calls it “illegal.” It all has to do with a retired NCPR news director using her station email for politics.

Congresswoman Stefanik is not only calling for National Public Radio to be defunded, she also wants its Canton affiliate, NCPR, audited.

It all started with Martha Foley Smith. She was the news director at NCPR before retiring in 2019. There was a policy that allowed retirees to keep their station email accounts.

Foley Smith, who is now involved in politics, used her email to campaign for local Democrats and urge recipients to vote yes on statewide propositions.

Congresswoman Stefanik, a Republican, learned about it.

“It’s illegal. NCPR is funded by taxpayer dollars. A portion of their funding is through NPR. And taxpayer dollars should not go towards electioneering and supporting Democrats,” said Stefanik (R. - 21st District).

Foley Smith said using the email account “in this context was careless and wrong. I’m very sorry to put my former employers in such a position.”

NCPR apologized to listeners and says steps are being taken to address what happened.

“We’re gonna shut those legacy email addresses down so that even an inadvertent mistake doesn’t happen again,” said Mitch Teich, station manager, North Country Public Radio.

Stefanik says the email incident calls into question NCPR’s tax-exempt status.

“There needs to be a full audit and a look-back on any communications, work or support that any of the employees of NCPR have conducted with local Democrat candidates,” said Stefanik.

“As an organization that gets money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is a private, non-profit organization that does receive funding from the federal government, we’re subject to an audit every year,” said Teich.

See the most recent audits here and here.

This email incident prompted Stefanik to renew her calls for NPR to be completely stripped of its federal funding, saying tax dollars shouldn’t be used to “prop up a left-leaning media organization.”

Teich says he believes in the integrity of public radio.

Copyright 2021 WWNY. All rights reserved.