KUHF Head Mocks GOP

As if NPR wasn't in enough trouble.


KUHF Head Mocks the GOP
As if NPR wasn't in enough trouble

By John Nova Lomax

John Proffitt, the head of KUHF (Houston's home to NPR) thinks you are a moron.

Well, that's what you could say if you saw his Facebook page recently.

With NPR dealing with the fallout from its recent right-wing sneak attack, you'd think everyone even remotely in a position of power in public broadcasting would be in duck-and-cover mode when it came to their personal politics, especially if those views are somewhat, shall we say, non-populist.

The right has shown it will resort to trickery to try to confirm its suspicions about public radio — that it stands as a preserve for effete elitists, cocooning themselves against the baying of the great unwashed mob that is their fellow Americans.

And honestly, that's the way we feel when we tune in to KUHF. We'll cotton on to a little subconscious smugness when we're laughing along with the eggheads on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me or Garrison Keillor's homespun Wobegonisms, and don't even get us started about how brainiac we feel when we turn off the TV, dial up KUHF's classical programming and pick up Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.

But then again, we try not to be a dick about all that.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for John Proffitt, KUHF's CEO and General Manager. On the public wall of his Face­ook page, he quoted H.L. Mencken in such a manner as to confirm every fanatical right-wing zealot's preconceptions of a public broadcasting muckety-muck. (Don't look now — it's probably already been taken down, but we did grab a screencap first.)

To wit, Proffitt parroted two of the Sage of Baltimore's most unabashedly and definitively elitist declarations, namely "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican," and "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

(The second quote appears to be mistaken. What Mencken actually said wasn't as much of a shotgun blast to the entire country as Proffitt's version. In the Chicago Tribune in 1926, Mencken wrote, "No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.")

We asked Proffitt if he deemed it wise to be so bluntly condescending to over 300 million people in so public a forum, especially if his job was funded by the donations of those same people, some of whom are even Republicans, and thus insulted twice.

"Mencken was an extremely well-known, famous writer for the Baltimore newspaper," he told Hair Balls, more than a little pedantically. "And he is quoted oftentimes for his acerbic commentary on American society. That's the reason those quotes are there. Not really any other particular reason."

But, we pressed, this is a fraught world for public broadcasters. After what happened to the two Schillers, posting those quotes seemed to us downright punk-rock, reckless as a raised middle finger to the whole entire world. We told Proffitt that we feared this blog item might be received "explosively" in some quarters in this post-Schiller environment.

"Well, I don't know what to say about that," he told us. "If you think it would be a good idea to remove that, I certainly will. I've changed the quotations on my Facebook page probably ten or 15 times since I've been doing Facebook. There's not any real significance of Mencken over Teilhard de Chardin, another person I quote frequently. Jeez!"

He went on to wonder why we were singling out Mencken and we told him that in all honesty he was a hero of ours as well. (We've sported other Mencken quotes on our own Facebook page for years.) But it's not that it's Mencken, it's the Menckenisms he chose to quote. We believed he was making the rabid right's case for them — that all those in power at public radio view all but the well-heeled, college-educated, classical-loving as slack-jawed, dull-eyed mo-rons.

We told him that we didn't take money from donors, and if we did take money from donors, we wouldn't post insulting quotations about the entire American public. (And insults that were apparent misquotes at that, we would have added had we known that wasn't exactly what Mencken said.)

"I take your point," Proffitt said. "I honestly did not follow that line of reasoning before."
_____________________ DOING TI DAILY

There’s tons of stuff each day on the Houston Press blogs; you’re only getting a taste of it here in the print edition. Head to blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs (or “/rocks” or “/eating” or “/artattack”).


A woman embezzled $1.5 million from a company (takes brains), then lost it all at a convenience-store poker machine (takes no brains at all). A Texan decided to settle an argument with his stepdaughter's boyfriend by taking a samurai sword to the dude's lip. The New York Times took another crack at the Cleveland gang-rape story after botching its first try. Oh, and County Commissioner Jerry Eversole skated away again from corruption allegations.

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David Broadus
David Broadus

After months of anticipation of the new all classical station, I tried to tune in this morning and got nothing but static. I live inside the beltway and listen on a BOSE Home Theater which picks up KUHF loud and clear. Haven't been in my car yet, but I am sure the story will be the same.Once again Houston has effectively NO CLASSICAL station. I moved here in 1968 and enjoyed KLEF until they sold out, then K-ARTS until they went away. Dallas can support a great classical station for over 50 years, but not Houston. Sad.I will now only tune in to KUHF for my Saturday morning ritual of Car Talk and Wait Wait Don't Tell. I notified them to not expect further contributions until they get the signal strength on KUHA up to a par with KUHF. In my humble opinion, they should have made KUHF all-classical and put all that talk talk babble babble on KUHA.


So much for me EVER contributing $$$$$$$$$$$$$ to KUHF again.

Don John
Don John

An entire article about how the local NPR head doesn't like Republicans? I was touched by your "fear" that Proffit's quoting Mencken would be received "explosively" (once you had published a sensationally-written column about it). It's a shame that there's been no reaction to your bullshit hit-piece article -- maybe if you could get Drudge Report to link it?

You may not know this, but disdain for modern Republicanism is widespread among people that read Village-Voice owned alternative papers, people who listen to KUHF, and people in the arts, in general. So no, I don't think Proffitt's offending anyone anywhere near his sphere of influence. And if you've checked the top 10 movies at the box office or paid attention to the political discourse lately, I think you can see how there's an argument to be made about not underestimating the intelligence of the masses. Read the Federalist Papers, Mark Twain, or yes, Mencken, if you'd like to see how esteemed and far back the tradition of questioning the intelligence of the masses go.

I'm more curious about who tipped you off on this story. It's doubtful that you were just randomly scrolling through the quotes on Moffett's FB page, and the entire article is obviously designed to stir up anger at NPR, so my question is, are you writing troll articles on behalf of Republican anti-NPR interests, or because you're angry about the whole KTRU/KUHF deal, and you're just looking for ways to get back at the perceived bad guys?

So who was it that tipped you off, Lomax? And do you enjoy playing a role in intimidating anyone in the public sphere from voicing personal (and well within the mainstream) political beliefs on their goddamn FB page? In all seriousness, you should be ashamed of yourself. Leave the intimidation tactics to Bush-era relics and Fox News.

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

John Proffitt is listing a degree from Oberlin College in Ohio on his FB page; one of the most prestigious small liberal arts colleges in the World.

He must be their only graduate to misquote H.L. Mencken.

Another first for H-Town.


What is it about the political left that attracts these yahoos all ooey-gooey with smarter and more virtuous than thou self regard? Talk about people who lack any sense of what it really means to be--dare I say it--an American.


oh please! He's not done anything worse than what this very publication has done. And they do it without ads for strip clubs, masseuses, escorts, and trannies. Go get some real journalism.

Don John
Don John

Yes, cause I'm sure up till now you were a dedicated listener and donor.

Oh Brother
Oh Brother

blah blah blah>too long, didn't read.


Well said, though I'm sure the three Republicans who read the Houston Press are applauding.

npr sux
npr sux

1) The net is full of stories about people getting fired because of what they posted on Facebook. 2) KUHF's head pays himself a salary of $150k. 3) Houston Press isn't tax payer subsidized and doesn't pretend to be unbiased.

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