Journalistic Malpractice and NPR

The recent firing of NPR's Juan Williams is only the tip of the iceberg regarding NPR's journalistic malpractice. For example, on the January 22 broadcast of "All Things Considered," Nina Totenberg and Madeleine Brand hosted a segment that excoriated the day's Supreme Court decision on the Citizens United case. As part of the report, they interviewed Mr. Fred Wertheimer -- whom NPR's website describes as a "campaign reform advocate." Not surprisingly, NPR failed to divulge that Mr. Wertheimer is also the husband of NPR Senior National Correspondent Linda Wertheimer and the president of Democracy 21. NPR thought this fact inconsequential and failed to ascertain the political philosophy of Democracy 21. More importantly, NPR deemed it necessary to inform the listener that the court is more "conservative," that the case was brought about by a "conservative nonprofit," and that the nonprofit advocates for "conservative ideals" and a "conservative perspective."

Interestingly enough, the words "constitutional" and "constitutionality" each appeared only once. The Supreme Court's mandate is to uphold the Constitution of the United States, so one would think the idea of "constitutional" would play a larger role than "conservative."

Search the website and you'll find that Mr. Wertheimer has appeared more than seventy times on NPR! Responding to my call, NPR's Ombudsman Alicia Shepard e-mailed the following:

... Linda Wertheimer is indeed married to Fred Wertheimer, who was quoted yesterday. Linda has worked at NPR since its inception in the early 1970s, and been married as long, so this is not a new problem. But as a newcomer to NPR I asked Nina [Totenberg] about it.

'We have long since dealt with this and concluded that Linda does not cover Fred, but the rest of us do,' she said. ‘He is a leading voice on campaign reform. We live in Washington. Everyone's spouse does something.'

If this were a new conflict, then I might be concerned. And I would be concerned if Linda interviewed her husband and did not disclose the relationship. But this does not rise to the level of concern for me -...

That's the problem. Outside the Beltway, this is a concern. Outside the Beltway, everyone's spouse doesn't make a living as a political advocate or lobbyist. Outside Washington, D.C., such incestuous media access is frowned upon because there's an appearance of impropriety and bias. Not properly disclosing Mr. Wertheimer's relationship paints a very dour image of NPR's balance and integrity.

Though partially funded by our tax dollars, NPR continues to practice a long history of bias. For example NPR labels one "conservative" and "right-wing" at a staggeringly higher rate than "liberal" or "left-wing." Search their website and a pattern emerges:

"conservative activist"        118 results              "liberal activist"                  51 results

"conservative justice"         23                          "liberal justice"                   17 results

"right-wing"                        1,680 results          "left-wing"                          450 results

NPR's choice of stories is also revealing. 

"Joe Wilson"                      190 results              "Charlie Rangel'                 158 results

Charlie Rangel has been in Congress since 1970 and has been under ethics investigations for nearly two years. Joe Wilson has been in Congress only since 2006 -- yet for some reason Mr. Wilson seems to have garnered more attention from NPR than the graft, greed, and blatant corruption of the man who writes the tax code for the entire country. Why?

Another search includes abortion provider George Tiller, who was murdered in Kansas in 2009 -- and James Pouillon, the pro-life activist who was murdered in Michigan during that same year.

"George Tiller"                    69 results                "James Pouillon"                1 result

Tiller has become the poster boy for "choice," while NPR has deemed Pouillon's murder unworthy to discuss or report. Why? The disparity in the attention each of these topics received is revealing.

For those who don't regularly listen to NPR, the bias runs deep. Juan Williams is no exception. After the September 12 Tea Party events of 2009, Juan Williams suggested that anyone who went to a Tea Party protest on 9/12 or anyone who protested President Obama's agenda was somehow racially motivated. Williams failed to report that the objection to Mr. Obama addressing the nation's "SchooChildren [sic]" was based upon the Department of Education issuing an accompanying lesson plan that clearly advocated the president's agenda. Such advocacy is in direct violation of the DoE's charter.

Ironically, Williams laughed off Joe Biden's blatantly racist remark during the campaign when Biden stated, "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American presidential candidate who is articulate and bright and clean-cut and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

Take the time to listen, and you hear Williams actually laughing at the remark. In Williams's worldview, one is racist for opposing policy -- and true racist remarks are laughed off.

As the American Thinker pointed out, NPR bashed the Tea Party movement with an insulting video titled "Learn To Speak Tea Bag." NPR's use of language regarding the Second Amendment is also significant. Frank James reported on the protester who was legally carrying a firearm outside Mr. Obama's Phoenix town hall event. Within the report, Mr. James says, "So there's no constitutional way to ban those who would cling to their guns outside Obama's town halls."

In the same report, James also referred to protesters as "gun-toters" -- a term more at home in the Wild West than in the news. NPR and most other news outlets omitted the fact that the man carrying the firearm in protest happened to be black. The media is usually obsessed with race -- but conveniently thought race of no consequence here.  

NPR reports that those who actually practice both First and Second Amendment rights -- unalienable rights set forth by our Constitution -- are "clinging to" and "toting" their guns. The network's language echoes the divisive words candidate Obama used in August 2008 when he stated,

... So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Since September 2009, I've regularly contacted NPR about these and other biases, but I have yet to receive a response that addresses my concerns. I wish to know why the murder of James Pouillon is ignored, why the tax-cheating of Charlie Rangel is dismissed, why the bumbling incompetence of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd remain unquestioned during numerous interviews. I want to know why White House Communications Director Anita Dunn's quoting of Mao Tse-Tung was ignored. I would like an answer as to why it was not reported that President Obama's Green Jobs "Czar" Van Jones was a 9/11 truther and a self-avowed communist. Why does NPR continue to ignore the ACORN corruption?  I would like to know what NPR policy could possibly explain the disparity of labels such as "conservative" or "right-wing" compared to the terms "liberal" or "left-wing."

The media, including NPR, have been culpable in their lack of coverage and slanting of facts. I can readily provide many more instances of this blatant disparity. Each of us should challenge NPR, a tax-funded entity, to answer why they've treated these and other stories in such a questionable and partisan manner. As a tax-funded entity, NPR owes us that.

Paul in Portland is a producer of radio and television commercials in the People's Republic of Portland, Oregon. To avoid being blackballed in a very liberal profession, he writes under his Nom de Plume. E-mail him at