Double Standard: NPR Applies Varying Terminology on Gun Rights vs. Abortion

March 4th, 2010 11:46 AM

One's bias can come out in subtle ways depending on your world view, and try as National Public Radio may to be fair, their leanings are transparent.

In a March 2 story on NPR's "Morning Edition," Nina Totenberg reported on a pending Supreme Court case involving the Second Amendment and how it applies state and local laws. Her story is specifically about a Chicago handgun ban and how those on both sides of this issue view it (h/t Chris Moody at the Cato Institute).

"Gun rights advocates contend that the Chicago handgun ban is unconstitutional, that the Supreme Court already has held that the right to bear arms is an individual and fundamental right, and that means the Second Amendment limits apply to every jurisdiction in the nation," Totenberg said on "Morning Edition."

However, David Boaz, the executive vice president of the Cato Institute, pointed out on the Cato @ Liberty blog in a post on March 2, NPR plays fast and loose on how it describes advocacy based on what so-called civil liberty it is reporting on. Boaz compared how NPR described the proponents of the right to bear arms in this story, traditionally a right-of-center issue, often deemed "gun advocates" or "gun rights advocates," to its reporting on so-called abortion "rights," a left-of-center issue.

"In 415 NPR stories on abortion, I found only one reference to ‘abortion advocates,' in 2005," Boaz wrote. "There are far more references, hundreds more, to ‘abortion rights,' ‘reproductive rights,' and "women's rights.' And certainly abortion-rights advocates would insist that they are not ‘abortion advocates,' they are advocates for the right of women to choose whether or not to have an abortion. NPR grants them the respect of characterizing them the way they prefer."

But as Boaz also shows, and perhaps a more telling sign of a bias, is how NPR handles reporting amendments in the Bill of Rights - particularly the First Amendment versus the Second Amendment.

"Similarly, NPR has never used the phrase ‘pornography advocates,' though it has run a number of stories on the First Amendment and how it applies to pornography," Boaz wrote. "The lawyers who fight restrictions on pornography are First Amendment advocates, not pornography advocates."

Boaz proposed Second Amendment advocates or even "gun rights advocates," but not "gun advocates."