Every nonprofit group is ending the year with a pitch for last-minute tax-exempt contributions, and that includes National Public Radio. NPR fans received an e-mail with the subject line "Bold, unbiased journalism." That's pretty funny coming from a network that puts a loving touch on Barack Obama in interviews and never secured an interview with Donald Trump.
NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen pointed out this is a trend with Republican nominees: "the only two previous candidates that NPR did not interview specifically during their candidacy (and who weren't incumbent presidents) were Bob Dole in 1996 and Mitt Romney in 2012." So every GOP challenger in the last 20 years except George W. Bush skipped public radio. Doesn't that speak volumes?
NPR media reporter David Folkenflik was blunt after Trump won. He loosely implied that Trump grabbed the press by the pussy, and added: “Trump, a man who feeds off media, this time devoured it — and various outlets abetted him, contorting, corrupting and even contradicting their own reporting. This was perhaps most true of the three major cable networks, but not limited to them.”
But Michael Oreskes, NPR's senior vice president for news, makes believe the network is fair and even-handed, even NPR's natural supporters are liberal eggheads who think everyone else is too ignorant for the NPR product and who complain vehemently if fairness occurs [emphasis is mine]:
As I said on the radio the other day,* journalism is at the heart of who we are at NPR. Facts matter. We strongly believe in and follow the core journalism values of accuracy, fairmindedness, integrity and independence.
We are the public’s media. That is, we work for you. Our mission is to fill your need for journalism that you can’t get elsewhere — coverage that expands your understanding of the world. Stories that enlighten, enliven and, of course, inspire and inform you.
This has been an extraordinary news year, from Brexit to the Orlando shootings and the most remarkable election in our modern memory. NPR’s network of hundreds of local stations has been there on your behalf. This network is an unmatched journalistic asset for America. Wherever the news is in our country, public radio is there for you.
Then Oreskes wildly claims NPR is far outside of the urban "bubble" of other news outlets:
That local connection is vital to us. It keeps our journalism real. It helps us break out of bubbles that restrict the vision of so many other news organizations. Our listeners and users are farmers and college professors, cab drivers and executives. We serve small towns and the largest cities. We sound like America because we are everywhere in America.
The asterisk was a link NPR sent to its potential donors, without identifying it as an on-air advertisement of sorts that aired on Weekend Edition on November 12, an Oreskes oratory on their principled journalism, including "We must be independent. Our work shouldn't fit a pre-existing partisan or ideological or cultural view. If our reporting doesn't challenge your view of the world, we aren't working hard enough. Our only boss is you." The conservative response, in Twitter: "LOLOL."
And then there was this principle: "Civility is an essential value. If we can't speak to each other respectfully, democracy will disappear. Here at NPR, we believe strongly in the power of public radio to bring people together all over the country to rebuild trust one community at a time, to listen and to hear each other out across lines of race and class gender and religions, to talk to each other not yell at each other. The country clearly needs that."
There were moments where NPR went around the country and interviewed diverse perspectives, including Trump voters. But it was much more likely for NPR to uncork on Trump from their safe space in the urban liberal media elite, where Republicans wouldn't find civility, accuracy, or fair-mindedness. For example:
-- NPR analyst and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne relaying a left-wing joke that Trump's cabinet picks were so contrary to the government's mission that next he would name Mexican drug kingpin "El Chapo" to run the DEA.
-- Washington Post assistant editor David Maraniss kvetching that Trump suggesting in a debate that Hillary belonged in jail he central point of that debate came when Trump said that if he were president, she would be in jail "was against everything about American democracy" and sounded like "a tin-pot dictatorship in which politicians jail the other side - their opponents - without, you know - without going through the rule of law."
-- NPR correspondent Asma Khalid showing her bias in an NPR Politics podcast in declaring it "amazing" that college-educated voters would pick the GOP: "That's amazing to me, is -- that this has historically been a Republican voting bloc, white voters who have a college degree."
-- All Things Considered hammered the Trump campaign for suggesting the Clintons were cruel to Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of rape and Hillary Clinton of pressuring her to stay quiet. Both sides were not considered. That was “nasty” mudslinging in an Instagram video, according to Mara Liasson: "If there was any doubt that the 2016 election would be nasty, it was gone by this week when Donald Trump uploaded an Instagram video with a picture of Bill Clinton chomping a cigar and a voiceover from a woman who, in the '90s, accused Clinton of assaulting her in 1978."
-- NPR analyst Cokie Roberts insisted the Republican Party became racist in the 1960s: "There were more Republican votes percentage-wise for the civil rights bill than Democratic ones in 1964. [She left out that her father, Rep. Hale Boggs, voted No.] And it was a party that was kind of -- had a prairie populism, if you will. But then as you moved to the West, it became much more libertarian, much more conservative. And then, of course, as you move South after the civil rights bill, it became much more racist."
-- NPR wrongly reported gun activist Shannon Watts was one of those accidental activists who were “just regular people....folding the kids’ laundry...who had never done anything political before.” But in reality, Watts was a longtime PR specialist with a record of political contributions to Barack Obama and national Democrats. NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen announced the NewsBusters complaint spurred the taxpayer-supported network to post a correction online.
-- NPR media reporter David Folkenflik grew rowdy when asked about Trump's complaints about the press: "Well, look, boo-hoo! This is the job, man! You know, you're going to run for president. You have to face scrutiny. You've got to take the lumps." (This carries echoes of Chuck Todd's "welcome to the NFL" speech to Chris Christie when they buried him in "Bridgegate" innuendo... and Rand Paul, and Ben Carson, too.)
-- NPR correspondent Tamara Keith, on the trail with Hillary Clinton, didn't exactly sound hard-nosed as Hillary clinched the nomination: “Secretary, last night when you took stage in Sacramento, there was a woman standing next to me who was absolutely sobbing. And she said, you know, ‘It's time. It's past time.’ People here and people just come up to you and they get tears in their eyes.... Do you feel the weight of what this means for people?"
This could go on and on, and this only goes back to June! When you go to the Nexis database and type in the terms "liberal bias" and "pro-Clinton bias," a search of NPR transcripts for the past year says "No documents found." The entire concept cannot be spoken. They're all Folkenfliks: "Well, boo-hoo" if you care about fairness on a taxpayer-funded radio network!
PS: As for civility, we would add On The Media co-host Bob Garfield going on his show and announcing Trump displays "a nuclear recklessness, reminiscent of a raving meth head with a machete on an episode of Cops." But the Folkenfliks of the world protest with the technicality that his show is no longer officially distributed by NPR, although it airs on hundreds of public radio stations.
[NPR Email Hat Tip: Dan Gainor]