While Georgians were preparing for the Christmas holiday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal was already passing out one of his gifts. Then State Senate Majority Leader, Chip Rogers, was the recipient of that gift. He was being appointed as the executive producer of Georgia Public Broadcasting, and, at the same time, resigning his recently won State Senate seat. While the story may seem like one of ordinary cronyism, this particular version has a couple of twists and turns.
The story hit local Georgia news outlets when Georgia Public Broadcasting received word that a 15-year news veteran was quitting in protest of the hiring. Senior Producer Ashlie Wilson Pendley stated in her resignation letter that she was leaving out of disgust at the compensation that Rogers would be receiving: a $150,000 salary… after she and others had weathered four rounds of layoffs and furloughs.
Once news of the reason for Pendley’s resignation got out, a public relations nightmare ensued. Donors to Georgia’s public broadcasting service started to get wind of the news and some started to pull their donations. Despite reassurances by GPB Vice President Yvette Cook that salaries were paid out of public monies, donors continued with their cancellations.
The governor tried to backtrack and say that he was never involved in the appointment. He said that Teya Ryan, the President of Georgia Public Broadcasting, had hired Rogers. In a radio interview with WABE published on Better Georgia, Rogers confirms that the Governor had, indeed, appointed him to the newly created position.
(ROGERS) This appointment comes from the Governor.
(WABE) Did you approach the Governor, or did he approach you?
(ROGERS) Ah, we…they approached me. And it was not something that I was seeking, but it was something I know the Governor feels like needs to be done. Ah, I’m honored he would be consider me, ah, the right person for that. I really appreciate not only his confidence in me, but Director (Teya) Ryan and GPB; both their confidence in me being able to do this important job. So, um, you know, it was one of those things that, ah, one of the best things in life are not those you are searching for but those things that are revealed to you. So this is certainly one of those opportunities.
It’s understandable that Pendley would be frustrated by the appointment by the governor of a fellow elected official. After all, his $150,000 salary was two to three times what others were getting in similar positions. The real twist comes in the connection that the Governor has to Rogers. Not only are both from the same party (Republicans), but Governor Deal supported and promoted a very strange project of Rogers.
While Rogers might seem like an ordinary corrupt politician, one who believes in things being “revealed” at the right time, the fact is there’s a rather embarrassing reason why Rogers quit the Georgia State Senate. He believes in a conspiracy. Specifically, he believes in the Agenda 21 conspiracy. He believes in it so much that, during his tenure in the Georgia State Senate, he held an educational meeting on the ‘dangers’ of Agenda 21. In other words, he spent Georgia taxpayer money to share his paranoia in a public forum.
What exactly is Agenda 21? It is a 20-year-old U.N. Resolution that suggests ways for metropolitan areas to deal with issues of growth. Conspiracy theorists believe that the Obama administration is working with the U.N. by using mind control to force people to move from their current rural homes into large cities. To prove the point, the meeting included a PowerPoint presentation of the conspiracy theory, as well as a 90-minute showing of an anti-Agenda 21 documentary called Agenda – Grinding America Down.
Now that you know the real story, the real objection should not be based solely on Rogers salary, nor should it be based on the fact that he got the position through his connection to the Governor. The real concern should be whether or not Rogers and his fellow conspiracy theorists will be taking over Georgia Public Broadcasting so as to exert mind control over the consumers of GPB. Is Rogers trying to turn the liberals in Georgia to mindless followers of the Georgia Republican Party? I suppose it depends on if you think a tin foil hat works to block those sinister radio waves.