NPR on its blog today confirmed that Sesame Workshop president and CEO Gary Knell has been tapped as president and CEO of National Public Radio, after the news broke on the network’s Weekend All Things Considered show. He will take over Dec. 1 and fill the spot that was vacated when former CEO Vivian Schiller departed following a couple of high-profile dust-ups: one when an NPR exec was caught on a hidden camera calling the Tea Party “racist” as well as Schiller’s part in the dismissal of NPR and Fox News commentator Juan Williams over his comments about being uncomfortable seeing people in Musilm dress on airplanes. NPR also has come under fire from some in Congress who are looking to cut the public radio network’s funding. From today’s announcement about Knell:

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports that Knell says he hopes to “calm the waters a bit” at NPR after the crises and political controversies of the past year. He also hopes to “depoliticize” partisan debate over the future of public radio. “It’s not about liberal or conservative — it’s about fairness,” Knell told David this evening. “We’ve got to make the case we’re delivering a fair service, not only in the way we do our jobs, but in the way we disseminate the news.”

And David writes us that:
“In 2009, the most recent year for which Sesame Workshop’s tax returns are publicly available, Knell received pay of $684,144 and additional compensation of $62,000. He said he would be taking a pay cut to accept the job. He also currently serves on the board of the for-profit arm of AARP, but said he was leaving it by early next year.

“Three decades ago, Knell served as a counsel for Democrats on several Senate committees and subcommittees. He also pointed to work he had done on child obesity and child health at the behest of Republicans including then-Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”