NPR's Ombudsman Seeks Listener Reaction on Liberal Bias -- From Ralph Nader

NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos is just making a cartoon out of himself in trying to be responsive after the Juan Williams firing and the Meet-a-Radical-Muslim-for-Lunch scandal. He went to discuss the idea of liberal bias on NPR with....Ralph Nader. "Nader, a five-time presidential candidate, has been calling me in recent months to hold my feet to the fire, and so I went to meet with him."

Naturally, Nader claims NPR is the home of capitalist pigs: "While the political right has been beating the drum for years that NPR is too liberal, Nader says that is not the true picture at all. He says that it is progressives on the political left, like him, who are being excluded from NPR's airwaves." Obama and Nancy Pelosi? They're in the middle.

"Progressive voices are not heard on NPR with the frequency of voices representing more corporatist and conservative opinion," Nader said. "And progressive voices should not be confused with liberal voices and lumped into the same category for any frequency analysis."
 
According to Nader, what NPR considers a liberal perspective is really middle-of-the-road. Among his examples are well-known Democrats like President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Progressives, he said, exist farther to the left on the political spectrum. They support things like a Medicare-type single-payer system for all Americans, and not the health care compromise passed by Congress.

A quick Nexis search shows Nader's name came up 17 times in the last six months, which doesn't exactly sound like he's been forgotten. Nader also listed his idea of progressives who've been ignored, and he named (among others) Cornel West. Not only does West have his own weekend show on many NPR stations, Nader must have missed the NPR encomium to West last October where he compared himself to an Old Testament prophet.

Nader does make at least one good point. Academic studies in recent decades have repeatedly shown that the country's political right, more than the left, is so peopled by true believers driven by principle that they reject political compromise and stay on message with such a strong voice that it attracts great media attention and exaggerates their real weight in the populace.

"Most of the Liberals in Congress voted for the Patriot Act and its renewal," Nader said, citing another policy differentiator. He said progressives more than liberals also want to dramatically increase minimum wage and decrease the country's military involvement abroad.

By the Nader standard, we could say that NPR is ignoring the real conservatives by saying that everyone that voted for a current congressional spending bill does not qualify, since none of them are serious about the deficit, and then claim we were woefully underrepresented. To Nader, conservative bias is established in every story on the Republican primaries:

He said that in listening to the radio, it seems to him that NPR is increasing the diversity in its coverage when it comes to gender and race, which he applauds. But he said it is overlooking a diversity of political ideas. Coverage of the current Republican primaries is particularly assuring that what he calls both the more moderate "corporatist" right and the more hard-core conservative right are getting plenty of air time.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis