Pixel Tracker

Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 1:57 am | Fair 50º


Joe Conason: What’s So Scary About National Public Radio?

Republicans' attempt to defund NPR would deprive constituents of a straight news source

While there is much stupid behavior to be found among politicians on both sides of the aisle during the embarrassing budget debate, few incidents have been more revealing than the latest Republican attempt to defund National Public Radio.

The NPR budget line is miniscule and meaningless; the current “scandal” surrounding NPR is fake and a diversion; and the repeated complaint that public radio is “liberally biased” is likewise false and fraudulent.

It has been decades since NPR — one of the least-slanted and best-reported news sources in the country — depended for a significant part of its revenue on federal funding. The amount that congressional Republicans suddenly decided to ax on an “emergency” basis, about $5 million, represents not only a tiny fragment of the network’s own financing but obviously an even more infinitesimal fraction of the federal deficit. So when Republican leaders claim that they are trying to be fiscally responsible by cutting NPR, while they insist on funding defense projects that the Pentagon doesn’t want, the lie detector jumps off the table.

Those cuts aren’t going to touch any of the “elitists” at NPR headquarters in Washington, who may or may not respect the deep wisdom of the Tea Party. Nor will they injure the big-city NPR journalists in New York, Chicago, Boston or St. Paul who are responsible for so much of the network’s superb content. No, those cuts are much more likely to harm the hundreds of rural stations — and their listeners — that rely on the federal subsidy for their network dues.

Still, the Republicans could not resist reviving Richard Nixon’s old grudge against public broadcasting as soon as an excuse presented itself — in this case, yet another heavily edited “sting” video from James O’Keefe, producer-provocateur of the infamously faked ACORN videos. Posing as a Muslim philanthropist with $5 million in “secret” cash for NPR, O’Keefe’s minions elicited off-color comments about the Tea Party and NPR’s budget from a hired network fundraiser.

At this point in O’Keefe’s career, it might occur to almost anyone, even a right-wing member of Congress, to hold off from rushing to judgment based on his latest emission. Indeed, a member of Congress might want to keep in mind that O’Keefe actually violated the law by invading Sen. Mary Landrieu’s, D-La., office to try to tamper with her phone system — in other words, that he committed a crime against one of their colleagues.

But even that weirdly slimy history didn’t provoke much hesitation among the ranks of the right, many of whom jumped aboard O’Keefe’s latest defamation campaign against NPR executives. He collected a couple of scalps, as he often does, before the gaping flaws in his journalism and methodology were exposed — this time, by the conservative watchdogs on Glenn Beck’s Web site, TheBlaze.com. Dopey as the NPR official’s remarks were, the Blaze investigation showed how O’Keefe had distorted them with deceptive cutting and framing.

Somehow nobody asked the most obvious question: If NPR were truly slanted toward the liberal side, why would a phony tape of a private conversation be needed as proof? Wouldn’t the conservatives in Congress be able to prove bias in a day of hearings with tapes from NPR itself?

They’ve never even tried — and the reason is they can’t, because NPR works so hard to keep its news straight and its ideologues balanced. The last time anybody looked hard, about five years ago, the network was using slightly more conservative than liberal sources.

What makes conservatives in Congress so eager to deprive their constituents of a straight news source that reports accurately on what they are doing in Washington? Why should they want to ensure that the radio coverage in their districts is dominated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh? Why are they afraid of NPR?

Joe Conason writes for Creators Syndicate. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.