No Conflict? NPR's Nina Totenberg Takes on John Edwards Daughter As Summer Intern

Here's another sign that public broadcasters aren't worried about the appearance of Democratic favoritism. National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg -- legendary (or infamous) for championing Anita Hill's unsubstantiated sexual harassment charges against Clarence Thomas, and then yawning at all harassment claims against Bill Clinton -- is hiring the daughter of liberal Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards as a summer intern, and her NPR bosses "gave the green light, since the election is still 18 months away."

The Washington Post gossip column that broke the story couldn't even get word from NPR as to whether Cate Edwards will stop making campaign appearances during the internship. Here's what the "Reliable Source" column by Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger passed along:

NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg narrowed hundreds of summer intern applications to a dozen promising candidates and began phoning the finalists, but swears it wasn't until after she interviewed Harvard Law School's Catharine Edwards that she realized the 25-year-old -- better known as Cate-- is the daughter of presidential candidate John Edwards.

"I said to myself, 'Oh, you idiot,' " said Totenberg, who wanted to offer Edwards the job and appealed to her bosses; they gave the green light, since the election is still 18 months away. Totenberg's new intern starts later this month; no word on how much time she'll spend in Washington and how much on the campaign trail.

Now that's one way to get in good with major sources in the rare chance that there's a President John Edwards. Meanwhile, Totenberg is still being honored by liberals for trying to take town Thomas and helping take down Reagan Supreme Court nominee Douglas Ginsburg. In April, she joined a long list of liberals in being honored with the Joseph Rauh Lecture at the University of the District of Columbia Law School. One account of the April 9 speech reported:

Moderating the lecture was Wade Henderson, the school’s Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Professor of Public Interest Law, who asked Totenberg questions that focused on her long and esteemed journalism career, including her award-winning work on the sexual harassment allegations of Anita Hill against then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and the revelation of Supreme Court nominee Douglas Ginsburg’s marijuana use, which in 1987 led him to withdraw his nomination.

Speaking about the 1991 Hill–Thomas story (which Henderson said “forever altered the landscape of judicial appointments”), Totenberg said she had heard rumors about possible misconduct on the part of Thomas, but for a while was unable to pin down anything definite.

“The amazing thing to me is that it stayed secret as long as it did,” she said. “It really was extraordinary to me how many people knew about this but didn’t tell.”

Update (14:18 | Matthew Sheffield) I really have to mention here a little semi-encounter I had with Totenberg during the day I covered the Scooter Libby trial. When I arrived, I sat down in a random spot and discovered that Ms. Nina had apparently managed to convince all the journos covering the trial that a certain portion of the court bench was her personal property.

Sadly, the trial did not go on further. I really wanted to sit in her chair!

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