The day National Public Radio canceled me

It had to happen sooner or later, and it just happened to me.  After six years of dutiful volunteer unpaid participation as a panelist on a monthly hour-long political roundtable show on an NPR affiliate located in a community college in Santa Fe, N.M., I was told to hit the bricks for daring to question the merits of NPR's "pronoun policy," off air, in a private conversation with the show's producer.

It all happened like this...

On Monday, after the taping of our show, in a remote conference call (because the station still insists that no more than two people can be in the studio in person, and both of them must wear masks), the producer told me and the other panelists that he would soon meet the station's new "content manager" (C.M.) for a one-on-one to discuss our show and future plans.  I asked him if he had met the C.M. before, and he said "no" and didn’t know anything about him, so I suggested that he look at how the C.M. signed his email and if he indicated personal pronouns.  If he did, it would give the producer some insight to his openness or politics.

He chuckled and said he didn't see any indication of that on the email but that the program's sound engineer did indicate his preferences.  We said nothing more about the subject and ended our call.  The very next day, the producer called me and said he was contacted by the C.M. and told that the sound engineer had been listening in and felt offended that his name was mentioned and that the C.M. felt that both the producer and I owed the sound engineer an apology.  The producer felt that he ought to say he was sorry because it was he who had mentioned the sound engineer's name and chuckled about it.  I told him that nothing disparaging was said by me and that instead of an apology, I would write out a statement for the C.M.

To make a long story short, I did.  I made clear that I meant no criticism of the sound engineer but that the NPR policy on pronouns was an example of creeping wokeism and "word tyranny," and that no one should expect people to remember which person was "identifying" as one thing or another, and that there is a big difference between a person's actual sex based on a XX or XY chromosomes and an individual's gender identity and that we cannot discard over a thousand years of English language precedents.  Furthermore, I stated that everyone has the right to his own sexual or gender-based proclivities and that I would not judge them or expect them to judge me for mine.

That obviously wasn't enough for the C.M. who fired off a scathing email to the producer in which he basically said that I was, in his words, "persona non grata" and would not be allowed to participate in any of the station's programs from this day forward.

At this point, I must be honest and say I'm actually surprised that I lasted so long (six years without a single negative listener comment) as a panelist on a program that is aired in one of the hardest of hardcore left-leaning strongholds: Santa Fe, not known for its tolerance of views that challenge Progressive orthodoxy.  But I must also admit that this approach (abrupt cancelation of people without confronting them in person) has become the norm rather than the exception when it comes to corporate politics, at least at National Public Radio.  It should not become the standard, especially when the organization is funded by our tax dollars.

I sent a letter to the NPR ombudsman and CEO describing the above situation.  In it, I stated that I accept the fact that each station has a certain level of autonomy when it comes to management and programming and that I'm not challenging their right to exercise that power, nor do I want reinstatement on the program.  What I do want is for corporate NPR to be aware of how this specific station (mis)handled this particular issue and that their policy of "personal pronoun choice" is being used as a social justice weapon to strike down or muzzle free speech.

As an occasional NPR listener, I am pleasantly surprised when I hear programs that are inspiring and informative, and I praise stations that carry them and the hosts that introduce them.  Conversely, I also feel that it is my duty to constructively criticize when criticism is warranted.  In these days of rampant doxxing, cancelations, blocking of content, and social media account suspensions it's imperative that all of us push back at every attempt to misuse or abuse power or authority and challenge the processes and people that deserve it.  NPR is no exception.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired career U.S. diplomat who lived and worked in 30 countries for 25 years during the Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush administrations.  He is the author of twelve books, six of which are on American politics, and has written over 1,300 articles on politics, economics, and social trends.  He operates a political news story aggregator website:  He can be reached at

Image via Pxhere.

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