Bozell Column: Time to Cut Off NPR

October 25th, 2011 10:18 PM

National Public Radio continues to define itself in every way as a taxpayer-funded nest of leftism. NPR couldn’t just supportively report on the Occupy Wall Street protests. A fire-breathing spokeswoman for the "Occupy DC" protests against capitalism was also an NPR host.

Lisa Simeone was an NPR anchor for their weekend version of the newscast "All Things Considered" for a year and a half, from late 2000 to early 2002. Now this radical was leading protests as she hosted a radio documentary series called "Soundprint" and an arts show, "The World of Opera."

Liberals have focused on the opera show so as to dismiss criticism from conservatives. Time TV writer James Poniewozik joked "Have you long worried that your station was undermining capitalism through its broadcasts of the Ring Cycle? Tired of having your children brainwashed by the socialistic messages of La Traviata?"

Okay, so put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine an NPR opera host working the weekends for the Tea Party. Time magazine writers would require smelling salts.

They are focusing on the opera angle in order to dodge the much larger issue. In an era of trillion-dollar deficits, how much longer are we going to pretend that it is an essential function of government to prop up the wholly unnecessary NPR to spew on the air the same warmed-over Sixties bilge the OWS rabble spews on the streets? It’s time for Congress to cut the umbilical cord and stop bankrolling this rogue political operation.

The narrower question about Lisa Simeone was whether NPR was going to live up to its own ethics rules, which forbid attending protests, let alone organizing them and serving as public-relations staff for them. The "Soundprint" series, which is not produced by NPR but is a current-events show, fired Simeone. That decision was a no-brainer.

But the opera show, also not produced by NPR, but by an affiliate station in North Carolina, arrived at a different solution. NPR announced it would no longer distribute the program to the 60 stations which air it. Instead, the local station would. That’s merely solving an appearance problem, and nothing more.

It is inexcusable that NPR didn't fire Simeone long ago. It did nothing to stop Simeone before the story blew up in their faces. There was Simeone in a YouTube video uploaded three months ago, declaring with an angry face that, "The time has come to stop these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other places we're now bombing with our drones and other equipment, and to demand that money that's being spent and wasted on slaughter come home here to spent in the U.S. on human needs."

Simeone promised she and her gang were going to sit on the cold ground for months to demand radical "reforms" in American government. A quick Google search found Simeone was all over the news as a spokeswoman in the first weeks of the protests. It was only when The Daily Caller exposed this radical that NPR acted.

In this atmosphere of controversy, one of NPR’s current news anchors, Michele Norris, announced that she would temporarily step down from the anchor chair (and political reporting) for a year while her husband, Broderick Johnson, works as a senior advisor to Obama’s re-election campaign. She’ll still report, just not fry the political hot potatoes.

This is hardly shocking. The former NPR news boss Ellen Weiss – the one that hastily fired Juan Williams for his Fox News appearances – had a husband who served on President Obama’s advisory council on faith-based issues. The notion that NPR is attached at the hip to ultraliberal Democrats isn’t just something you hear on the air. It’s an attachment that includes marriages and deep friendships and long-standing quiet political alliances.

It’s natural that in this spotlight, NPR would try to avoid appearances of a conflict of interest. But the entire enterprise is a massive conflict of interest – created by Democrats and funded by Democrats and protected from scrutiny of its "news" product by Democrats. With today’s massive debt, the government could not only remove the subsidies, but sell off all the property and fancy equipment it’s subsidized for decades. It’s a compromise to merely turn off the spending spigot and call it...uneven.