Trump's budget kills public television; Pence's Indiana budget saved it

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Trans Parts and Distribution Center, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. Pence said Obamacare failed the nation and the Trump administration needs the backing of rank-and-file Republicans to pass their health care overhaul.

Story highlights

  • Pence praised the role of public television in a 2014 speech
  • Trump's budget zeroes out funding for it

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund nearly 1,500 locally owned public radio and television stations.

The administration defended the move Thursday, calling funding for the corporation a "hard sell."
But in 2014, Vice President Mike Pence, then Indiana's governor also known for frugal budgets, made a passionate defense for the role of public television.
    "I believe the state has the primary responsibility for educating our children and I will say from my heart through all of my life, one thing has been clear: Public television plays a vital role in educating all of the public, but most especially, our children," he said during an acceptance speech at that year's Public Media Summit.
    But that's not how Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney sees it.
    "It's a simple message by the way: I put myself in the shoes of that steelworker in Ohio, the coal-mining family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit, and I'm saying, 'OK, I have to go ask these folks for money, and I have to tell them where I'm going to spend it,' " he said during Thursday's White House press briefing.
    "Can I really go to those folks, look them in the eye and say, 'Look, I want to take money from you, and I want to give it to the Corporation (for) Public Broadcasting.' That is a really hard sell, and in fact, it's something we don't think we can defend anymore."
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    Funding for public television is often targeted by conservatives at the federal and state levels, but remains popular with the public and generally makes up a fraction of overall spending.
    Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said in a statement the proposed elimination "would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media's role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history and promoting civil discussions."
    Pence, who won the Association of Public Television Stations' "Champion of Public Broadcasting Award" in 2014, called preserving public television's funding an "easy call."
    "Frankly, when we were going line by line through our budget proposal, when we came to deciding whether or not to include funding for public television in our budget, I want to tell you, it was an easy call," he said at the public media summit.
    The then-governor praised his state's nine public television stations, saying: "They enrich our local communities through distinctive programs and services and through collaborations with some of our most cherished institutions."
    "The Hoosier State has now and will continue to find the resources to support public media efforts in our state," he added, name-checking "Super Why," an animated PBS Kids show that aired until 2015.
    And he made sure the public broadcasters knew he was looking forward to that evening's "Downton Abbey" season four finale.
    "Mrs. Pence and I, we have an engagement at the White House this evening, but our DVR is set, and there is to be no discussion or tweeting among our children about what happens with Edith, what exactly Mr. Bates is up to, or whether Mary will pick a new suitor. We intend to learn those things on our own," he said.
    Video of the 2014 speech was first reported by Washingtonian. A spokesperson for the vice president did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.
    America's Public Television Stations president and CEO Patrick Butler called Pence's award "well-deserved" at the 2014 ceremony. But on Thursday, Butler said the proposed budget would "devastate" the missions of public broadcasters.
    Butler told CNN he was "disappointed" in the decision and hopes to change the President's mind.
    "With respect to Vice President Pence, I still think of him as a champion of public broadcasting, but he doesn't get to make the final decision -- the President does, and he made the wrong decision today," Butler said, adding that he has been in touch with Pence over the last several weeks.
    Recent public opinion research, Butler said, found that a majority of Trump voters want to maintain or increase funding for public television.
    "If the president wants to be the president of the forgotten men and women of America, they are saying loud and clear that they would like federal funding for public television to continue."