NPR's Idea of Balance: A Conservative Trashing Sarah Palin's Book as 'Shooting Blanks'

Last week, NPR president Vivian Schiller took questions briefly on about the taxpayer-funded radio network. When the liberal-bias question came up, she claimed "NPR tilts left! NPR tilts right! Frankly, we hear it equally from both sides -- or should I say from ALL since most issues are not that linear. The fact is, NPR takes NO sides."

When someone discussed the regular commentaries of NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr, she claimed: "Dan Schor [sic] is a liberal commentator. I will not deny that is true. So what do we do about that? We balance his views with those of conservative guest commentators who frequently appear on our airwaves."

But what if those conservative guests just happen to take a stand NPR likes? Case in point: on Tuesday night’s All Things Considered, NPR touted a Sarah Palin book review by "conservative columnist" Rod Dreher, who concluded: "She quotes her father's line upon her resignation this summer as Alaska's governor: Sarah's not retreating, she's reloading. On evidence of this book, Sarah Palin is charging toward 2012 shooting blanks."

Speaking of blanks, did Dreher really read the whole book? On his Beliefnet blog yesterday, Dreher blogged at 12:35 pm that he was 100 pages in. All Things Considered starts airing locally at 4 pm. Did he really finish the book and write a script before the taping?

On Wednesday morning, Dreher blogged more Palin-bashing (and Palin-fan-bashing):

As it is, she's written a screed that will only serve to reinforce some of the worst tendencies of her base to consider all criticism a form of unjust persecution. That's not something limited to the right, of course, but it's a shame to see this mentality having settled in just as strongly on our side as on the left.

Dreher's review suggested he didn't finish the book, since there wasn't much in it worth reading:

She loves God, Ronald Reagan, cutting taxes and serving those she calls ordinary, hardworking people. Who's on Sarah's enemies list? The media, good ol' boys who condescend to her, elites like the Alaskan gadfly she describes as a Birkenstock-and-granola Berkeley grad. Oh, and she really hates cynical McCain campaign staffers who, in her view, sabotaged her vice presidential campaign. That's pretty much everything you need to know about "Going Rogue," the former Alaska governor's breezy new memoir.

The game conservatives could play with this review: what did Dreher say that wouldn't sound weird coming out of the mouth of liberal Daniel Schorr? Not much. This line was funny:

The rap on Palin is that she's too shallow and inexperienced for the presidency, a conclusion that early Palin supporters like me came to during the 2008 campaign. There's nothing in "Going Rogue" to challenge that conclusion. It's like this: Palin spends seven pages dishing about her appearance on "Saturday Night Live," but just over one page discussing her national security views.

Seeing that Rod made ABC's Good Morning America on September 29, 2008 trashing Palin for being in "way over her head," his early support was very short-lived. He was for her before he was against her. This "early supporter" line seems calculated so NPR can lamely claim "we aired a Palin book review by a Palin supporter."

Play the "maybe it's Daniel Schorr" game with this section:

Palin positions herself as a populist, but her populism is entirely cultural. She fires the governor's mansion chef, who is bored because her kids won't eat his fancy-pants food. She swoons over a meal of homemade blueberry pie from hardworking, unpretentious, patriotic Alaskans unlike, one presumes, those uppity Berkeley snobs who prefer tarte tatin at Chez Panisse. A little of that goes a long way, and I wouldn't begrudge Palin a bit of it if her populism had any economic substance.

Early in "Going Rogue," she talks in detail about how Exxon exploited the people of Alaska in the Exxon Valdez disaster, and her experience tangling with oil companies taught Palin about how big business colludes with government to create a crony capitalism that harms the common good. And yet, she's incapable of understanding how the uncritically pro-business economic agenda she touts makes all this possible.

In national politics, some feel that big business is always opposed to the little guy, she writes. Some people seem to think a profit motive is inherently greedy and evil and that what's good for business is bad for people. That's what Karl Marx thought, too.

Karl Marx? Well, say no more. Along these lines, Palin's economic program amounts to nothing more than tax cutting, deregulating and the endless repetition of shopworn GOP talking points. This is the Republican Party's great populist hope?

NPR may have liked Dreher for attacking Palin supporters as "white kids on dope" and declaring "Limbaughism sounds a lot like Leninism."

PS: NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard noted the Vivian Schiller online chat, and found that NPR executive Ellen Weiss wouldn't even admit Daniel Schorr was liberal! Check this out:

"The only way to answer is that Dan is a news analyst - not a commentator - and that he isn't representative of any one side of the debate," said Ellen Weiss, NPR's senior v.p. for news. "In other words, we don't expect him to naturally side with the left. But rather to take a position based on his reporting. In those cases where we are looking for a conversation or commentary that spans left to right, we bring together people who are happily identified with one side or the other."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis