Regardless of how the presidential election turns out, National Public Radio (NRP) is poised to be one of the biggest losers.
NPR, which calls itself an independent, non-partisan media organization, for years has been harshly criticized by Republicans for lack of impartiality. NPR poured fuel on the fire last month by declaring that it wasn’t covering the Hunter Biden laptop scandal because it’s a waste of time.
Partisanship is risky business for an organization that is on the public dole.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which distributes taxpayer dollars to NPR and other public media outlets, received $465 million in federal funds for the 2020 fiscal year, about one percent of its budget. Congress threw in another $50 million to upgrade CPB’s “interconnection system.” This despite President Donald J. Trump’s call to slash CPB’s funding to a paltry $30 million.
NPR may have destroyed whatever goodwill remained among key Republicans who kept the spigot flowing.
Waste of Time
The New York Post ran a series of articles alleging that, at the least, the family of Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden engaged in influence peddling while Joe Biden was vice-president and, at worst, he was directly involved. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliff said there is no evidence the story is Russian propaganda. A former business partner of Hunter Biden’s, Tony Bobolinski, said he had face-to-face meetings with Joe Biden about a proposed China deal.
A listener asked why NPR has “apparently not reported on the Joe Biden, Hunter Biden story in the last week or so that Joe did know about Hunter’s business connections in Europe that Joe had previously denied having knowledge?”
On Oct. 21, Kelly McBride, who became NPR’s public editor in April, answered the question on NPR’s website: “[T]he biggest reason you haven’t heard much on NPR about the Post story is that the assertions don’t amount to much.” She quoted Terence Samuels, NPR’s Managing Editor for News, as stating NPR wasn’t covering the story because “we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.”
McBride’s pronouncement led to immediate backlash on social media, where #DefundNPR and #BoycottNPR are now trending.
Republican legislators were incensed.
The House Judiciary GOP tweeted: “Defund NPR.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., sent a letter to NPR president and CEO John Lansing, condemning NPR’s refusal to cover the story. “[O]ur nation deserves outlets that report the news – not outlets who believe they are the arbiter of truth,” said Duncan, who also accused NPR of working to defeat Trump since 2016.
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., called NPR’s blackout on the story “appalling” and said his staff is preparing proposed legislation to defund NPR.
In a tweet, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-PA castigated NPR for “ALARMING BIAS — Taxpayer-funded NPR poured into Steele Dossier and Russia hoax, now refuse to cover real corruption scandal… .”
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-NC, tweeted: “NPR had no problem covering the Russia hoax, but THIS is where they draw the line? #DefundNPR.”
Too Important To Ignore
Several newspaper outlets wrote stories condemning NPR’s refusal to cover the story.
Richard Grenell, a senior fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Policy and Strategy, wrote in The Hill the Hunter Biden story is too important for the media to dismiss. “[W]hat should worry Americans most is the extraordinary financial leverage that Hunter Biden’s investment activities, if they are as reported, could potentially give the Chinese government over the family of the man who now wants to be our next president — and why the media isn’t rushing to prove or to disprove it,” he wrote.
The National Review, a conservative publication, wrote: “Taxpayers have every right to expect organizations such as NPR to hold the powerful accountable without partisan favor – and that goes for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden.”
The Washington Examiner, a political news site, tweeted: “Is NPR helping Biden win?”
It is not surprising that NPR prefers Biden to Trump, a declared foe of NPR’s public funding. But it is baffling the degree to which NPR was willing to showcase the partisan views of its staff. Republicans voted to allocate funds to NPR for years, despite believing it to be biased. Has NPR finally gone one step too far?