Bozell Column: NPR Tackles Tancredo

Tom Tancredo has become well-known as the country’s most energetic Congressman against illegal immigration. He’s now running for president on that issue. National Public Radio also has a deeply ingrained reputation – as a taxpayer-subsidized network of gooey liberals. They speak in tones so sleep-inducing that their programs should be regarded as a potential traffic hazard.

On April 1, these two legends met, and sparks flew. The program was Sunday’s "All Things Considered" broadcast, hosted by Debbie Elliott. The trouble began at hello: Elliott introduced Tancredo as a man who "gained national prominence with his fierce opposition to allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens."

"Fierce" seems to be an adjective NPR reserves for conservatives. (Liberals are "passionate.") There is no denying Tancredo’s aggression on this issue. But the NPR crowd finds it fierce, as if it’s controversial, as in negative, that a strong majority of Americans find it unacceptable that illegal aliens should step in front of a line of people applying legally for citizenship.

NPR could have just as easily as described Tancredo as fiercely opposed to "allowing illegal immigrants to enter America and collect welfare, health care, and education subsidies." Or that he’s fiercely opposed to allowing illegal immigrants to sneak in, demand to vote on ballots translated into 23 languages, and rally on the Capitol steps for amnesty without any immigration enforcement folks present to check documents. That would be accurate.

But this is NPR, and this liberal sandbox thrives on presenting conservative ideas as not just incorrect, but just this side of insane. After a few calm questions about the Iraq war, Debbie Elliott went on the attack: "I'd like to ask you a little bit about -- I'm going to call it the Tancrazy, I think that's what Esquire called you one time."

It’s fitting that NPR would source a liberal glossy like Esquire, whose editor David Granger has celebrated Bill Clinton as a man with an "unmatched capacity for compassion." Granger’s valentine came in the magazine’s "Genius Issue" in 2005, as the cover hailed Clinton as not merely as a genius, but as "The Most Influential Man in the World." It’s hardly shocking the Esquire people would gleefully mock Tancredo.

Elliott wasn’t done fitting Tancredo for a straitjacket. "You are known for speaking your mind in a way that some might consider outrageous. You've compared Miami to a third world country. At one point, you suggested the U.S. should bomb Mecca in respond to terrorist attacks. You were even part of a group of Colorado lawmakers earlier in your career who called themselves The Crazies. Do you think that voters will be able to look at you as presidential material?"

Quick: Ever heard NPR label a single radical leftist as "crazy"?

Tancredo calmly responded by telling Elliott she was mistaken on one point. "Well, first of all, when you said I called ourselves The Crazies, actually the press dubbed us that." Tancredo explained that’s because his conservative bloc of legislators were trying to cut taxes, which seemed crazy to Democrats and their sympathizers in the "objective" press.

Then consider the other "crazy" statements used by NPR. Tancredo said Miami’s a third-world country. That’s typical of Tancredo’s rhetoric on immigration. But when he was attacked by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as naive, he retracted the line a bit, saying Miami could be happy with its cultural and ethnic diversity, but "when diversity is worshipped to the detriment of assimilation," it can undermine the civic culture. All that nuance is lost on NPR in its talent for drive-by journalism.

It also sounds shocking to talk about bombing Mecca "in response to terrorist attacks." But Tancredo was being asked on a Florida radio show how America might respond if Islamic terrorists inflicted a nuclear attack on our country, which is a much more dramatic context than NPR’s short-cut question implied. He talked about "taking out holy sites," which might not be popular. But isn’t that also what Islamic insurgents did to the Shia shrine at Samarra in Iraq a year ago? Back then, NPR didn’t describe the actual bombers of Islamic shrines as "crazy," or even as "fierce" like Tancredo. That would apparently be judgmental. Adjectives were reserved for the "grim" outlook for America.

It would also be unlike NPR to use the "crazy" lines on long-shot Democratic presidential candidates – like moon-orbiting Dennis Kucinich. Imagine NPR recycling his lines, like his calling for a Department of Peace, since "The energy of the stars becomes us. We become the energy of the stars. Stardust and spirit unite and we begin: One with the universe." But NPR has avoided a profile of Kucinich since he declared his run for the presidency in December. The day they do that profile, however, you can bet they’ll call him "passionate."

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center