Bozell Column: NPR's Religion Double Standard
National Public Radio’s firing of Juan Williams tells you all you need to know about the radical, and thoroughly intolerant, Left. Juan Williams is a liberal, but still, he isn’t liberal enough. The idea that he would acknowledge a mere thought of discomfort at the idea of people in “Muslim garb” on airplanes in a post-9/11 world became a firing offense. It didn’t matter that he prefaced it with all the perfunctory and politically correct disclaimers about not being a bigot and we shouldn’t blame all Muslims for terrorism.
Today’s Left is void of any principles whatsoever. They can be as astonishingly offensive and insulting as they want toward Christians, and no one gets punished. The indefatigable Catholic League provides the documentation.
On April 30 on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” substitute host David Bianculli raved over the leftist musical satirist and Harvard math professor Tom Lehrer for his Catholic-mocking 1965 song “The Vatican Rag.” It has lyrics like this: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional, there a guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original.” Lehrer also sang “So you get down on your knees! Fiddle with your rosaries! Bow your head with great respect, and -- Genuflect! Genuflect! Genuflect!”
The NPR host raved over how on the recording, he loved “how the audience often explodes with joy -- sometimes in reaction to a rhyme, sometimes to the music, and sometimes because of the sheer audacity of the subject matter.”
Now imagine an NPR host raving over the “sheer audacity” of a Muslim-mocking ragtime song mocking all that bowing to Mecca and the ritual prayers – without them getting fired within 24 hours.
On July 19, 1997, NPR weekend anchor Scott Simon was also a Lehrer cheerleader. “I think ‘The Vatican Rag,’ do you mind me telling you, is your most thoroughly brilliant song?” he proclaimed to this anti-Catholic bigot. “There is a combination of shock and horror and laughter on first reaction at that song. It's just extraordinary.”
If that seems like a mild Sixties tune, consider what about 40 NPR stations aired in 2008 on the daily current events/comedy show “Fair Game with Faith Salie,” distributed by the group Public Radio International. They were joking about Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and his “secret” family recipes. "Boring holy wafers no more," one recipe began. "Take one Eucharist, preferably post-transubstantiation, deep-fry in fat, not vegetable oil, ladies, until crispy. Serve piping hot. Mike likes to top his Christ with whipped cream and sprinkles. But his wife, Janet, and the boys like theirs with heavy gravy and cream puffs. It goes great with red wine." The tag line, delivered by host Faith Salie, was, "Now that is just ridiculous. Everyone knows evangelicals don't even believe in transubstantiation."
That Catholic-insulting episode caused a hubbub in, of all places, Salt Lake City, Utah at NPR affiliate KCPW. But our vigilant national guardians against “Islamophobia” never noticed. NPR never expressed horror. The comedy show was canceled several months later for having no major corporate underwriter, although for a time, the supposedly classy magazine The Economist offered financial support. Salie naturally proclaimed she was mocking herself: "I am proudly a Christian and, specifically, a Catholic," she wrote one angry e-mailer in apology.
If satire is “fair game” – for only for some religions – then consider the news reporters. During the John Roberts Supreme Court nomination in 2005, NPR’s Nina Totenberg infamously proclaimed orthodox Catholicism should be a disqualifier for the high court: “Don't forget his wife was an officer, a high officer of a pro-life organization. He's got adopted children. I mean, he's a conservative Catholic…a hardline conservative.”
Adopting children was a frightening stand? But that’s not all. On the since-canceled show “Day to Day” (a collaboration of NPR and the liberal website Slate), Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick was asked if John Roberts would drift left, and she said nope, he’s too Catholic: “I also wouldn't underestimate the influence of his religion, that Scalia and Thomas, one of the reasons they may not have drifted leftward has a lot to do with very, very strong religious views that pull them to the right.”
With the nomination of Sam Alito a few weeks later, Lithwick suggested too many Catholics threatened the vaunted separation of church and state: “People are very, very much talking about the fact that Alito would be the fifth Catholic on the Supreme Court if confirmed.” No one was fired or disciplined for disapproving of “too many Catholics” on the Court.
But Mr. Williams was fired. When, oh when will Congress have the guts to defund this monstrosity called National Public Radio?