Still Inventing Bias: Right-wing Media Cheer House Vote To Defund “Liberal” NPR

Right-wing media have been cheering the House vote to defund NPR, continuing to call the organization “liberal” and “biased.” Yet even conservative commentators have admitted that NPR's coverage is “fair.”

House Votes To End All Federal Funding Of NPR

House Votes To End Funding For NPR. On March 17, the House voted on a standalone measure to end all federal funding for National Public Radio (NPR). According to the New York Times blog The Caucus:

The House voted on Thursday to cut off funding for National Public Radio, with Democrats and Republicans fiercely divided over both the content of the bill and the manner in which it was brought to the floor.

Under the measure, sponsored by Representative Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, stations could not buy programming from NPR or any other source using the $22 million the stations receive from the Treasury for that purpose. Local NPR stations would be able to use federal funds for operating expenses, but not content.


The bill is almost certain to fail in the Senate, should it even reach the floor there. In that chamber, which is controlled by Democrats, members of both parties have expressed skepticism about cutting off NPR because it remains popular among many of their constituents. [The New York Times, 3/17/11]

Right-Wing Media Cheer House Vote To Defund NPR

Kilmeade: If NPR Receives Public Funding, “It Should Be Fair And Balanced” And “Not Have An Agenda.” On the March 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, the co-hosts discussed the House vote to end federal funding for NPR. During one segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade said: “In the House yesterday, they voted on defunding NPR. It's not going to balance the budget. It's not going to get rid of the deficit. It sends an important message that if you're going to have public radio, the Republicans would say you really should be fair and balanced -- and not have an agenda.” Co-host Steve Doocy responded, “Sure. Exactly right.” [Fox & Friends, Fox News, 3/18/11]

Hannity: “We Can't Afford” The “Hyper-Political” NPR. On the March 17 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity began a segment on the House vote by saying, “The House votes to defund NPR. Finally. Thank God.” Hannity was mocking Rep. Anthony Weiner, who delivered a speech on the House floor following the vote in which he sarcastically said, “We finally found out our problem....It's Click and Clack. The Tappet Brothers [of NPR's Car Talk]. Thank God we solved this problem for the country!” After airing a clip of Weiner's speech, Hannity discussed the House vote with a panel of guests. He and NY Post columnist Kirsten Powers then debated the legislation:

POWERS: I think [Weiner is] making a great point, which is, why are we spending our time on this, this is ridiculous.

HANNITY: Because we can't afford it.

POWERS: Because that is -- no --

HANNITY: And they're hyper-political.

POWERS: This has nothing to do with the budget. This is completely ideological.

HANNITY: It does so have to do with the budget.

POWERS: It is a tiny, tiny little thing. And if they're spending their time on this --

HANNITY: You know what? Then if it's a tiny thing, let them go public. Let them make their money off Sesame Street and let's cut somewhere, because we're not going to have any money left, and the country's headed down the tubes.

POWERS: Why don't we cut funding for Afghanistan and bring everybody home? There's some real money.

HANNITY: Because that's called security, liberty, freedom, and we have al-Qaeda, Islamic radicals --

POWERS: And we're losing, and Al-qaeda is not there anymore, and they're in Pakistan.

HANNITY: Uh, excuse me. They're -- they're everywhere.

POWERS: The point is, you know, why are you able to say, oh, let's spend money on Afghanistan, but I can't --

HANNITY: You don't want to cut NPR?

POWERS: No, I don't want to cut NPR. I think NPR is great --

HANNITY: So how much money do you -- are you willing to cut?

POWERS: My taxpayer money has been paying for two wars that I don't support.

HANNITY: It's called freedom.

POWERS: Okay, it's not called freedom. It has nothing to do with our freedom. And it's been paying for that. And if I want to have NPR paid for, can I just have that tiny little, tiny little bit of money.

HANNITY: I'll tell you what -- all you and your liberal friends can raise all the money and go out on the street and say, donate to NPR and Big Bird, and they'll donate to you. [Hannity, Fox News, 3/17/11]

Jedediah Bila: “NPR Needs To Be Defunded...They've Shown That They Are Ideologically Driven.” Later during the segment on Hannity's show, Human Events columnist Jedediah Bila said: “NPR needs to be defunded. First of all, they've shown that they are ideologically driven. They always say, 'Well you know, we're objective, we're objective.' Not true. Not happening.” [Hannity, Fox News, 3/17/11]

O'Reilly: “It Is Just A Matter Of Time Before NPR Becomes Defunded. ... No Question The Radio Network Should Stand On Its Own.” Leading up to Thursday's vote, host Bill O'Reilly declared on the March 15 edition of his Fox News show The O'Reilly Factor, “It's just a matter of time before NPR becomes defunded. There's simply no question the radio network should stand on its own in the private marketplace.” [The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, 3/15/11]

Krauthammer: “NPR Is A Ministry Of Information For The Polite Academic Left In America.” Later on during the show, O'Reilly invited Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer on the air to comment on the upcoming vote to defund NPR. Krauthammer said, in part:

KRAUTHAMMER: I think when it comes to things like NPR, there is this inherent arrogance that they are the ones who see the true world the way it is. You know, there's this axiom I have that conservatives think that liberals are dumb, sweet, naive and dumb. But liberals think that conservatives are evil. That's the difference between how they look at each other. And they think that conservatives, Fox News, Limbaugh whatever, Wall Street Journal editorial page see the world as agents of the greedy, you know, the Wall Streeters, people who care only about the bottom line.

This is the self-righteousness. That's why they say we give you on NPR an incomparable product and, therefore, it should be subsidized.

The principle I believe in is that government shouldn't be in the news business at all. There are countries in which it is: Cuba, Zimbabwe, where you have a Ministry of Information. Well, NPR is a Ministry of Information for the polite academic left in America. And they are entitled to have any propaganda arm they want but they shouldn't ask for a subsidy. There is no reason why a steel worker in Pittsburgh should be with his taxes subsidizing the salaries of the various Schillers who used to inhabit the upper echelons of the executive suites of NPR, and who make a lot more than your average steel worker in Pittsburgh or anywhere else. You know, liberals believe in redistribution of income. Well, this is doing that in reverse. From ordinary Americans -

O'REILLY: Yeah. I mean, it's feeding --

KRAUTHAMMER: -- to a pompous, arrogant, liberal elite. [The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, 3/15/11]

But Conservative Media Figures Have Defended NPR's Reporting As “Fair”

Blankley: NPR is “fair.” Media Matters interviewed Tony Blankley, a conservative syndicated columnist and former Newt Gingrich press secretary:

“I've been on NPR regularly for a very long time,” [Blankley] said. “From a personal perspective they have always given me plenty of access, I am clearly a right-wing commentator so I cannot complain. There's a conservative on and there's a liberal on, so that's all fair.”

He added, “It is what their view is on what constitutes news. They are much more concerned with what is going on in the third world. That is a news judgment. For every story they run on conditions in some third world country, it is space not used for some story that we conservatives think is relevant to a conservative audience.”

Still, Blankley stressed the ability of conservatives to appear on NPR and speak their mind: “No editor or host has ever suggested, 'Could you not be quite so conservative on this show?' I have been open and free to express my opinion.” [Media Matters, 3/11/11]

Medved: “NPR Tries Harder To Be Fair Than Just About Any Other Media Source.” Media Matters interviewed conservative radio host Michael Medved:

“I think NPR tries harder to be fair than just about any other media source. It doesn't mean they succeed. They do give evidence of trying,” said Michael Medved, a syndicated conservative talk radio host. “I listen almost every day to Morning Edition and All Things Considered. I think that they do as good a job as anybody in media in reporting the news.”

Medved said he opposes federal funding for NPR and added that he might donate to the network if it gave up government funding.

He also told Media Matters: “NPR is not like ABC or CBS or NBC. I think they make a genuine, constant attempt to try to play it up the middle. They have gotten much better. There were very, very serious complaints from the Jewish community some years back about coverage of Israel and I think the coverage of Israel is much more fair ... They have improved.” [Media Matters, 3/11/11]

Reynolds: “I Have Found Them To Be Fair ... I Think NPR Does A Good Job.” Media Matters interviewed conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds:

In comments to Media Matters, Reynolds added:

“There is no question that NPR generally has a leftist slant and attitude, but I have certainly gone out of my way to praise them on a number of occasions. They have done some Tea Party coverage that has been good.”

Reynolds said: “I have praised their coverage on the Nidal Hasan story, and they were ahead of the curve on that. They were on top of that. I think they do a good job, they are conscientious.”

“My own interaction with them has been fine, ” he added. “I have found them to be fair. I think their coverage is often quite good. I think NPR does a good job.” [Media Matters, 3/11/11]

Brooks: “I Thought It Was Really Biased Ten Years Ago, But Now I Think It's Pretty Straight.” Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks Appeared on the March 13 edition of NBC's The Chris Matthews Show to discuss NPR. From the broadcast:

I think NPR's done a good job over the last ten years of reducing that bias. I thought it was really biased ten years ago, but now I think it's pretty straight, and the federal money for NPR doesn't so much go for the big stations. It goes so they can go out to the rural parts of the country which wouldn't have those stations otherwise. [NBC's The Chris Matthews Show, 3/13/11]

Tea Party Activists Call NPR's Coverage Of Their Group “Fair”

Tea Party Activist Katrina Pierson: NPR's Coverage Of Our Group Was “Fair.” Media Matters interviewed Dallas Tea Party official Katrina Pierson, who said that she thought NPR was generally biased but that its 2009 profile on her particular group was “fair”:

[Media Matters] How would you describe their interactions with DTP and what are your thoughts on the reporting they produced?

[Pierson] I think NPR was very cordial to our group. They actually came to TX and spent a few days with us visiting our homes, and our work places. They attended meetings and asked questions. I enjoyed having them here. I think the reporting that they ended up using for All Things Considered, it was fair. It could have been more inclusive of the actual diversity of our group. Our founder is married to a Columbian that speaks very little English. They speak Spanish in their home. I'm an African-American woman that does the neighborhood training and media appearances. And with race having been an important issue with regards to Tea Parties, I was shocked that they didn't much reporting on that topic.

The story that they did, however, we believe was as fair as we would get from such a liberal organization. [Media Matters, 3/11/11]

Tea Party Activist Lisa Davis: “We Are All Very Pleased With” NPR's Story On Dallas Tea Party. In a December 11, 2009, post, conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds published a note from “Lisa Davis of the Dallas Tea Party”:

Robert Siegel, host of NPR's “All Things Considered,” was in the Dallas area last week and attended several DTP gatherings. He'd called and stated he'd like to do a story and asked if we would agree to let some of the “happenings” be recorded. “Of course” we said. “As long as you are fair.” WELL...he was! The story was on Mr. Siegel's “All Things Considered” this past Wednesday (December 9). Here's the link.

He attended our neighborhood Tea Party, Sarah Palin's book signing, a Tea Party coordinator meeting, and interviewed the founders and steering personnel. It turns out he understood that we are not only protesting and rallying, we are also educating our community. Considering that NPR has a history of being liberal organization, word is that we are all very pleased with the representation! [, 12/11/09]

Tea Party Activist Toby Marie Walker: “The Two Interviews I've Done” With NPR “Were Both Fairly Reported.” Media Matters obtained a statement from Waco Tea Party president and co-founder Toby Marie Walker, who said that NPR “is not unbiased,” but “the two interviews I've done with them were both fairly reported”:

NPR also ran a series of stories about the tea party movement after the elections, and I the two interviews I've done with them were both fairly reported. NPR staff treated me kindly; I wasn't treated any different by them than I would have been by a local radio station. I can only speak to how they have treated me, not others or other groups or individuals.

Overall, I would say that when working with individuals in the movement they have been fair, but they have overall treated the tea party movement unfairly (would they post a sexual slur about OFA on their website?). I hope I can do other interviews or segments on NPR in the future, it helps us to reach a different demographic. [Media Matters, 3/14/11]