NPR's 'Mutual Respect' Claim Doesn't Extend to Trump and the Birthers

NPR anchor Steve Inskeep denied NPR’s liberal bias in The Wall Street Journal in March: "Most listeners understand that we're all figuring out the world together, calmly and honestly, in an atmosphere of mutual respect. NPR's audience keeps expanding because Americans want more than toxic political attacks. They want news." But that’s not really the case. On Tuesday, the Journal’s James Taranto cited an April 28 All Things Considered interview with former Washington Post reporter David Remnick, now editor of The New Yorker, where mutual respect wasn’t on the menu:

Donald Trump, who wanted to make a name for himself yet again, and to - he's the kind of exhibitionist, a moral or immoral exhibitionist. And he was willing to play this really ugly game and he got exactly what he wanted -- higher TV ratings, attention, lots of microphones in front of him. And he's a clown.

Remnick sounded like a garden-variety left-wing radio talker like Randi Rhodes or Ed Schultz. He was furious that anyone would attempt to "delegitimize" his hero Obama. Taranto mined this interview for his theory that "The Left Needs Racism":

[W]e wouldn't say we "deny" that the birthers are racist. Some of them may be. Our position is simply that it is wrong to throw around such accusations without evidence.

Yet prominent liberals have been doing just that. Last week in an interview with NPR, David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker and author of the Obama hagiography "The Bridge," had this to say about Donald Trump's birtherian antics:

He's race-baiting. He's hatemongering. It's very clear what he's doing. He's trying to arouse half-buried feelings in many people that are unfortunately still there....Just as everybody thinks that they have a sense of humor, no one ever thinks that they're a racist. But I--my concern here, my fiercest words are for the people who do the active arousing of these feelings, that there are latent racial anxieties or feelings about otherness, or whatever they may--we know that.

"No one ever thinks they're a racist"--including, it is safe to surmise, David Remnick. For him, white guilt is directed outward; he is certain that other people are racist. His "evidence" is the assertion that they have "feelings" that are "half buried" and "latent." Could we get The New Yorker's storied fact-checking department to confirm that, please?

Baselessly accusing their political foes of racism is a way in which today's liberals attempt to incite fear and loathing of "the other." As we argued last year, this serves a political purpose in that it helps persuade blacks not to consider voting Republican. But it serves a psychological purpose as well. It reinforces white liberals' sense of their own superiority.

Yet that sense of superiority is not as secure as it once was. Here is Remnick's most telling quote from that interview: "Really, I'm not in the habit of screaming racist at every turn. I don't think you [interviewer Michele Norris] are and I don't think most people are."

It used to be that people expressing politically incorrect views about race felt compelled to preface their statements with a defensive denial: "I'm not a racist, but..." The editor of The New Yorker, speaking to an NPR audience, now has a similar compulsion to deny that he is "in the habit of screaming racist."

The tables have turned. Now it is the left that is on the defensive over "racism." Their outdated attitudes about race put them in the absurd position of arguing that the most powerful man in the world is a victim of oppression because of the color of his skin. Men like David Remnick turn out to be the ones who aren't ready for a black president. 

Here's some of the emotional Remnick editorial in The New Yorker that drove "Mutual Respect Radio" to rush Remnick on the air -- not for a "calm and honest" debate, but for a chance to restate his racism thesis:

What is there to say anymore about Donald Trump? That he is an irrepressible jackass who thinks of himself as a sly fox? That he is a buffoon with bathroom fixtures of gold? Why bother, after so many decades? There is no insulting someone who lives in a self-reinforcing fantasy world....

Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the President himself is reluctant to say): these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. Obama, as a politician, is clearly not a radical; he is a center-left pragmatist. If anything, he believes deeply in his capacity to lead with subtle diplomacy and political maneuvering, with a highly realistic sense of the possible; in fact, to many he is maddeningly pragmatic.

The one radical thing about Barack Obama is his race, his name. Of course, there is nothing innately radical about being black or having Hussein as middle name; what is radical is that he has those attributes and is sitting in the Oval Office. And even now, more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him.

Let’s be even plainer: to do what Trump has done (and he is only the latest and loudest and most spectacularly hirsute) is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering. And if that makes Donald Trump proud, then what does that say for him? Perhaps now he will go away, satisfied that this passage has sufficiently restored his fame quotient and television ratings. The shame is that there are still many more around who, in the name of truth-telling, are prepared to pump the atmosphere full of poison.

NPR doesn't have to show respect to unproven theories like birtherism -- but in this case, it absolutely showed respect to unproven theories like all birthers are racists, and, by extension, that all who insist Obama is a radical ideologue at heart are also exploiting race.  Because urbane liberals who run NPR can't help but put on other urbane liberals to call their opponents "clowns."

Steve Inskeep was remarkably insincere to insist "calm and honest debate" is what defines NPR.

Tim Graham's picture

Sponsored Links