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National Pathetic Radio

CEO Vivian Schiller can’t get her story straight.

Nov 1, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 07 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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The truth Schiller won’t admit is that Juan Williams wasn’t fired for expressing his views. He was fired for violating NPR-think—for having the “wrong” views and expressing them in the “wrong” forum. For years, NPR executives have grumbled about their reporters and analysts appearing on Fox News. In 2008, they changed Williams’s role at NPR from that of a staffer to a contract employee to give themselves more distance from Fox.

On its website, NPR proudly touts the fact that Totenberg is a panelist on Inside Washington, a talkshow distributed to public broadcasting stations. But the bio for Mara Liasson, NPR’s national political correspondent, doesn’t mention the fact that she is a Fox News contributor.

Why the double-standard? Mostly because NPR execs disapprove of Fox. But there’s something deeper, too.

Schiller and other NPR executives don’t see liberal views as opinion but as analysis supported by facts. So when Juan Williams was defending the Obama administration from partisan Republicans or criticizing the Bush administration for misleading about the Iraq War, he wasn’t expressing opinions, he was stating facts. Within the NPR mothership, who doesn’t get “warm and fuzzy” feelings from Michelle Obama? Totenberg’s opinion comes across to her bosses as no more controversial than saying that water is wet.

NPR’s audience for the most part shares the ideology and the clubbiness. In a recent survey of NPR listeners conducted for the network by Smith-Geiger, 50 percent said its “progressive” politics was one of NPR’s strengths. (Only 18 percent of those listeners found it “too liberal.”) When NPR surveyed nonlisteners, 37 percent said NPR “takes itself too seriously,” 33 percent said it is “elitist,” 29 percent said it is “too pretentious.”

This insularity leads to bad and cowardly decisions. And worse. Addressing the press from the friendly confines of the Atlanta Press Club, Schiller chose a particularly colorful way to suggest that Williams should have kept his mouth shut. “His feelings that he expressed on Fox News are really between him and his, you know, psychiatrist or his publicist. Take your pick.” (A spokesman later said Schiller was sorry for this dig.)

As she no-so-subtly questioned Williams’s sanity, Schiller allowed a smirk to appear on her face, as if she were telling an inside joke in the NPR boardroom. It was a telling moment. It was a disgrace. NPR terminated the wrong contract.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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