NPR Reporter Upset by Republicans 'Shunning Mainstream Press' for Their Liberal Bias

August 7th, 2022 7:27 AM

On Friday night, NPR’s All Things Considered finally considered something they would normally avoid: their own leftist bias. The topic was the shocking idea that Republican candidates are “shunning mainstream press.” As if National Progressive Radio is in the “mainstream” of political life. Anchor Ailsa Chang began:

CHANG: For decades, conservatives have perceived the mainstream press as biased against them. [Whaaat?]  Donald Trump dubbed reporters the enemy of the people, and this year a lot of Republicans running for office are simply shunning mainstream press on the campaign trail. NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben has more.

In a recent trip to Wisconsin, two Republican candidates for governor refused to talk to her. So gosh, why would a Republican shun Danielle Kurtzleben? I would start by showing them this item: A year ago on the NPR Politics Podcast, she said she was “pumped” to promote an “excellent” book about how black rioting against police brutality should be called a “rebellion.” But these people call themselves the “mainstream press.” Refusing to talk to them is a “rebellion,” too.

Perhaps because I have been criticizing NPR's leftist bias since the 1980s, I have never been interviewed for an NPR news show. This would have been a golden opportunity. I'm even a native of Wisconsin. But I've been "shunned," perhaps because we talk about taking away NPR's tax dollars. They did turn to Scott Jennings, the only CNN analyst who dares to say Republican-sounding stuff. He made the obvious point that submitting to NPR could damage your campaign:

JENNINGS: The possibility that you might end up saying something that winds up in $10 million worth of ads from the other side -- you know, it's like the benefit of doing the interview does not outweigh the risk. And so you just don't do it.

KURTZLEBEN: And in this cycle, that can mean avoiding any number of tough questions about January 6 or abortion, for example. 

She acknowledged that yes, Democrats can also shun press scrutiny on occasion. But charges of media bias? Well, they're a tactic.

The question of liberal bias isn't something we can settle in a few minutes. And coming from a legacy media outlets, a claim that we aim to be unbiased would inevitably come off to some as, well, biased. But regardless, claims of liberal bias are themselves a political tactic -- case in point, Donald Trump. [Then soundbites from Trump rallies.]

Yes, Kurtzleben was preparing a story on Wisconsin Republicans and abortion. She also talked to Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel and mischaracterized a press shunning: "Recently, the Florida GOP barred many mainstream outlets from the party's Sunshine Summit but allowed in conservative outlets." Define "barred." Some conservative outlets were inside the event. The liberal ones like Weigel were outside the event, but on site at a cafe.

This is how it ended: 

KURTZLEBEN: That kind of question is important for reporters to consider, says Khadijah Costley White, a professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University.

KHADIJAH COSTLEY WHITE: Is it important to have voices, regardless of whether or not they're using that opportunity as a way to distribute disinformation or misinformation? Is that valuable to democracy?

KURTZLEBEN: All of this may come off as, boohoo; the GOP won't talk to reporters. But many, including Jennings, are concerned about what this all means for accountability.

JENNINGS: You know, I'm a Republican communications guy and engage with the traditional media. And I'm on CNN. So I say this with all sincerity. We have to have a trusted press, and it's necessary. Like, it's necessary to democracy.

KURTZLEBEN: However, candidates aren't incentivized to talk to the press because democracy. They talk because it serves their interests. The question is where this all leads. Here's Weigel again.

WEIGEL: Look. I'm not saying, how dare they do this? I'm interested in where this is going. If we're returning to the days when Democrats have one newspaper, Republicans have another newspaper, we might not like that, but there's precedent for it. 

KURTZLEBEN: At any rate, I never did do that piece on Wisconsin Republicans. I simply didn't have enough people to talk to me. If that's true for enough outlets, it means uneven coverage of the two parties and an electorate that has to work ever harder to be fully informed. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News.

NPR provides "uneven coverage of the two parties" on a regular basis. This is a July story Kurtzleben did on the Wisconsin Democrats and abortion. There is not hint in it of:

-- a Republican viewpoint

-- any criticism of the extreme/potentially damaging abortion advocacy by Democrats

-- or any mention of leftists throwing Molotov cocktails inside a Madison pro-life group's headquarters in May. But hey, maybe she's "pumped" because that's a "rebellion."

NPR is paid for in part by -- you, the American taxpayer. Feel free to contact NPR Public Editor Kelly McBride to tell her your view of this NPR story.