Andrea Mitchell joined Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer in sticking up for NPR as the NBC correspondent, on her MSNBC show, declared: "Nobody is suggesting that their journalism has been at all biased."
On Wednesday's Andrea Mitchell Reports she regretted that outgoing NPR executive Ron Schiller's controversial comments about its own funding and the Tea Party were going to make it harder for Hoyer and his ilk to keep funneling tax dollars its way. Mitchell whined: "We're talking about pennies on the budget, so this isn't really a cost-saving move, but now it's become so politically fired up" and then added, "Nobody is suggesting that their journalism has been at all biased."
(video, audio and transcript after the jump)
Hoyer joined in Mitchell's assessment as he praised NPR's journalists, "provide an excellent service to the American people" adding that while he thinks the "proper action was taken...it should not affect the debate with reference to the importance of having the National Public Radio and its affiliates, CPB as well, giving the kind of information and unbiased view, that I think they give."
Later on in the show, Mitchell continued her defense of NPR, this time with Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as she pleaded: "We're talking about only two percent of the NPR budget and journalism that has really not been criticized. It's unimpeachable, in terms of the work that's being done in war zones around the world." To which Cantor fired back: "Well obviously there are some differences, Andrea, with your statements about there's never been any criticism about their reporting. I think that there are many Americans who, perhaps, may differ with you."
However, by the end of the segment, even the liberal Mitchell was forced to admit: "No argument, they certainly gave you a loaded pistol and just said, 'please fire.' It's obviously a big embarrassment for National Public Radio. "
The following exchanges were aired on the March 9 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
ANDREA MITCHELL: I wanted to ask you, briefly, about the NPR controversy because the, the CEO has quit under fire. There was a sting, a video. We know, you know, the, the controversy over how some of these stings are done, especially by this man James O'Keefe. But, at the same time, do you have a problem, now, with trying to defend NPR? We're talking about pennies on the budget, so this isn't really a cost-saving move, but now it's become so politically fired up. And what's gotten lost in this, is the fact that National Public Radio journalists are in, in war zones all over the world, particularly in the Middle East. That nobody is suggesting that their journalism has been at all biased. But you've got, you've got an executive fundraiser, who isn't even involved in the journalism, is now making it even more difficult.
REP. STENY HOYER, MARYLAND-D: Yeah I agree with your premise that NPR and its, its reporters, its journalists provide an excellent service to the American people and indeed to the international community in terms of the news and information that they are able to gather and to transmit to the American people and to the international community. Obviously every organization has, within its ranks, some people who make mistakes and, and who say things that are clearly not justifiable, paint with a very broad brush and are inaccurate because of that broad brush nature. I think the proper action was taken, but it should not affect the debate with reference to the importance of having the National Public Radio and its affiliates, CPB as well, giving the kind of information and unbiased view, that I think they give, on the state of affairs in our country and around the world.
MITCHELL: I wanted to ask you about NPR. You made comments earlier today about NPR. This was one fundraiser, a hidden video. We know that the guy who took the, the video is actually pleaded guilty on another charge. So there is a lot of controversy, let's just put it, about the way this video was taken. That said, we're talking about only two percent of the NPR budget and journalism that has really not been criticized. It's unimpeachable, in terms of the work that's being done in war zones around the world. So why go after NPR, even with this current embarrassment?
REP. ERIC CANTOR, VIRGINIA-R: Well all I can tell you, Andrea, it's, it's the statements that were made that NPR doesn't need taxpayer funding. I mean that sort of makes the case in of itself. And so that's what we're concerned about. We're trying to figure out, finally in Washington, how to do more with less. And they're gonna have to be programs, laudable perhaps in their intent, that are gonna be cut. We just don't have the money. We're trying to be honest with the taxpayers here. And given the fact that, that we've, we've heard now from the people at NPR that they don't need government taxpayer funding I think that sort of makes, sort of makes the case.
MITCHELL: This is one person who has, it's one person who had already quit. Now he's moved up, obviously he's, moved up his, his exit. He was supposed to leave in May. He's a fundraiser, he's not a journalist. He's not, you know, directly involved in the management. And we're talking about $89 million, two percent of their budget. So do you really think, isn't this really a symbolic fight? A political fight? It has nothing to do with dollars and cents.
CANTOR: Well obviously there are some differences, Andrea, with your statements about there's never been any criticism about their reporting. I think that there are many Americans who, perhaps, may differ with you. And the point really is it's about government taxpayer dollars being spent. What are our priorities right now? Again going back to the formula we're under, 40 cents being borrowed out of every dollar we're spending. It's unsustainable. We don't have the money. So everything is going to have to be cut here. But we're doing this so we can create an environment for the private sector to grow. That's the imperative right now. That's the priority. Again, a lot of laudable goals around Washington but we need to start setting priorities and being honest with the people.
MITCHELL: I just want to point out that NPR and the radio stations are, are saying that the elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting would, would be extraordinarily damaging to what, to the services that they provide in rural America, on Indian reservations. Not in the big cities, perhaps, as much where other kinds of fundraising is possible, private fundraising. But in a lot of poor communities its their only news service.
CANTOR: Well Andrea, as you say, it's a very small percentage of their budget. And again, I would just resort back to the statement, we've got to start prioritizing and learning how to do more with less just as every American is having to do under these very tough economic times. And again we've seen consistently that if it's a small percentage of the budget, they ought to be able to absorb it. And if you've got individuals, within NPR, saying they don't need government funding then okay. I mean, you know, again it's about making choices here. That's what we've got to do, again, like most Americans are having to do right now.
MITCHELL: No argument, they certainly gave you a loaded pistol and just said, "please fire." It's obviously a big embarrassment for National Public Radio. Thank you very much, good to see you, the Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here