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National Public Censorship

5:21 PM, Feb 12, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Juan Williams has been attacked by the ombudsman at National Public Radio for comments he made while appearing in a segment on Fox's O'Reilly Factor along with our own Mary Katharine Ham. The quote that got him in trouble:

"Michelle Obama, you know, she's got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going. If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine [Ham, a conservative blogger] is suggesting, her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross"

Williams appears frequently on Fox News and is typically identified as "NPR News Political Analyst," which is precisely what his job title at NPR is. Williams is not on staff at NPR, rather he is an independent contractor -- and thus presumably free to sell his services wherever else he pleases. Which raises the question: does NPR even have the right, as a government-funded network, to publicly condemn an independent contractor for the manner in which he describes the First Lady while on his own time?

At the end of a long explanation, complete with bowing and scraping to NPR's liberal listeners and supporters, the ombudsman declares that the network has asked Fox to stop identifying Williams as having an affiliation with NPR when he appears on their network. NPR's Washington editor explains to the ombudsman, "What [Williams] says when he is not on our air is not within our control." So under what logic does NPR believe that it can and should prevent Williams from affiliating himself with NPR when he is not on their air?

If NPR were not government-funded, this would hardly be alarming -- just another liberal media organization unable to tolerate any criticism of Barack and Michelle Obama. But a government-funded media organization can't censor its own contributors when they are on another network and expect no complaint from those taxpayers who haven't yet pledged allegiance to Barack Obama.