Commentary

After It Has Permitted Employees to Protest, Can We Finally Defund NPR?

By Bill Donohue | August 3, 2021 | 12:22pm EDT
Featured are Black Lives Matter in a road. (Photo credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Featured are Black Lives Matter in a road. (Photo credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

The time has come to defund National Public Radio (NPR). Its latest policy directive to employees removes any pretense of its objectivity. 

In July, NPR rolled out its revised ethics policy. Its public editor, Kelly McBride, said it "eliminates the blanket prohibition from participating in 'marches, rallies and public events,' as well as vague language that directed NPR journalists to avoid personally advocating for 'controversial' or 'polarizing' issues."

What changed? The riots of 2020. 

Kelly cites several examples of the kind of activism that fuels NPR. Black Lives Matter is mentioned, along with other references to racially charged news events. Indeed, in anticipation of questions from NPR reporters, she rhetorically asks, "Is it OK to march in a demonstration and say, 'Black lives matter?' What about a Pride parade? In theory, the answer today is, 'Yes.'" (Notice she did not choose a pro-life rally as an example.)

"Protests organized with the purpose of demanding equal and fair treatment of people are now permitted," Kelly says, "as long as the journalist asking is not covering the event." 

In practice, however, this is untenable. Even if a journalist who joins a Black Lives Matter or Antifa protest does not write about it, who is going to stop this person from writing about counterprotesters? Moreover, if an employee has had an abortion, would that stop her from covering the subject?  

To show how utterly void of professional journalistic ethics NPR is, consider what its chief diversity officer, Keith Woods, had to say about conflicting opinions held by NPR employees about this issue. He says the views range from "people who would go so far as to use the word 'objectivity,'" to those who are the "burn-it-all-down kinds of folks."

Those who would "go so far as to use the word 'objectivity'"? Wow. That's really pushing it. Apparently, there are still some dinosaurs at NPR who believe it is their professional duty to be as objective as they can! They have obviously been crowded out by the "burn, baby, burn" folks. 

Then there is the nagging issue of NPR's anti-Catholic history. Here are some examples.

  • 1997: On July 5, the Weekend Edition aired a segment with host Scott Simon and musical satirist Tom Lehrer that featured Lehrer singing "The Vatican Rag." It disparaged Catholicism and the Eucharist, including the doctrine of Transubstantiation. 

  • 2005: NPR questioned the religion of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. NPR's Lynn Neary wondered that since he is a Catholic whether "that might affect the way he views an issue like abortion, for instance." Nina Totenberg of NPR even went so far as to say that his wife was "a high officer of a pro-life organization. He's got adopted children. I mean, he's a conservative Catholic." 

  • 2006: During the Easter season, NPR twice took aim at the divinity of Jesus.

  • 2006: Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey was used by NPR as an occasion to lecture the pope on being sensitive to Muslims by not making any overtly Catholic comments or gestures. It cited prayer and kneeling as examples.

  • 2007: When Samuel Alito was nominated to the high court, NPR's Dahlia Lithwick said, "People are very, very much talking about the fact that Alito would be the fifth Catholic in the Supreme Court if confirmed." 

  • 2008: Utah's NPR station, KCPW, featured a skit, "Fair Game with Faith Salie," that mocked Jesus and the Eucharist.

  • 2012: Barbara Bradley Hagerty did a piece that was posted on NPR's website that said a Philadelphia priest accused of raping a minor was "not that unusual" for a member of the Catholic clergy. 

  • 2013: A movie, "Paradise: Faith," depicted a "devout" Catholic woman who masturbates with a crucifix as she is making love to Jesus. It was highly recommended by NPR.

  • 2014: An NPR game show, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!" made fun of Jesus dying on the Cross. Sexual references to Jesus were also made. 

  • 2019: Wisconsin Public Radio ran a story on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church that gave the impression that nothing has changed, even though practically every "new" case involves allegations from decades ago. It also reported as factual information taken from a grand jury report, never telling listeners that these were all allegations, not proven instances of abuse.

  • 2019: NPR's new style guide instructed reporters to stop using terms such as "fetal heartbeat," "partial-birth abortion," "abortion doctors," and "abortion clinics." It even went so far as to ban the word "unborn," claiming that "Babies are not babies until they are born." 

This is the kind of bias that NPR evinced before its new ethics policy was promulgated. We can only guess how bad things will become now that its reporters can engage in direct activism with impunity.

We are contacting all members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees asking that they defund NPR. 

Bill Donohue is president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of eight books and many articles.

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