NPR's Schiller Denies Liberal Bias, But Station's Content, Policies, Board Say Otherwise

March 7th, 2011 7:09 PM

National Public Radio chief Vivian Schiller issued a flat denial Monday when asked whether NPR consistently puts a liberal spin on the news.

NPR strains to offer "journalism that presents no particular bias," Schiller claimed in a speech at the National Press Club. And far from being the bastion of liberalism its critics insist, Schiller claimed that NPR gets "a tremendous amount of criticism for being too conservative."

To the former claim, one need only look through the NPR archive here at NewsBusters to find a litany of examples undermining Schiller's denial. She says that presented with the accusation of liberal bias, she always asks for examples, so here are just a few from the archives:

- NPR: If You're Just Joining Us, The Republicans Are Dangerously Extremist

- Totenberg's 'Very Afraid' of These [2010] Elections; Thomas Thinks They're 'A Joke...Political System's a Mess'

- FNC’s Liasson: Send off Pelosi ‘In a Blaze of Glory’ Like Churchill After ‘Historic’ Accomplishments

- NPR Reports On U.S. Liberal Bias -- Tilted to Theorist Who Laments Reporters Aren't Openly Liberal Enough

- NPR Cries Factual Foul on Paul Ryan for Saying 'Failed Stimulus' in SOTU Response

Again, these are just a few relatively recent examples of what can only be described as a trend of liberal bias at NPR.

Beyond the firing of Juan Williams - which Schiller acknowledged Monday was not handled correctly - perhaps the event that most clearly demonstrated NPR's bias was the January shooting in Tucson.

NPR immediately jumped on the "violent rhetoric" bandwagon. Scott Simon, interviewing far-left St. Petersburg Times columnist Eric Deggans, insisted that Tucson-style shootings "didn't happen when 63 million watched Walter Cronkite every night," apparently meaning that major American media were to blame, despite there being no evidence then or now to support that claim.

NPR also lent airtime to one Daisy Hernandez, a magazine editor who heaved a sigh of "brown relief" that Jared Lee Loughner was a white man. "It was only after I saw the shooter's gringo surname," Hernandez admitted, with amazing frankness about her racialist attitude towards the tragedy, "that I was able to go on and read the rest of the news about those who lost their lives on Saturday and those who, like Rep. Giffords, were severely wounded."

But the bias at NPR extends even beyond the specific stories it broadcasts. The station even maintains official policies that necessarily slant the news to the left.

For instance, it is official NPR policy to refer to pro-life Americans as "abortion rights opponents." As I have written, that intrinsically shifts the debate to the left by (a) assuming that there is a "right" to abortion, which is by no means a settled political question, and (b) tacitly rejects the pro-life position that the life of the unborn child, not the preferences of its mother, are the issue at hand.

"Opponents of the rights of the unborn" would certainly not fly in an NPR newsroom, but there is no substantive difference beyond the political position to which it lends intrinsic weight. Neither do we hear NPR referring to gun control advocates, for instance, as "gun rights opponents."

In addition to official editorial policies enacted by NPR, the heavy leftist makeup of its board of directors also suggests a liberal bias. National Review's Matthew Shaffer reported last year:

The governance structure of NPR has Vivian Schiller, president and CEO, at the top, with the chairman of the NPR Foundation, Antoine van Agtmael, serving on the NPR board as her second-in-command. Ten managers of NPR’s member stations serve on the board in rotating three-year terms (as these are local journalists, not power players, I left them off this list). The rest of the seats on the 16-member NPR board are filled by “five prominent members of the public selected by the board and confirmed by NPR member stations” — who are supposed to represent the public, according to NPR. The NPR board “sets the policies and overall direction for NPR management, monitors NPR’s performance, and provides financial oversight,” also according to NPR.

Then, there’s the NPR Foundation. Its board consists 50 members plus a chairman — the members being big donors, fundraisers, and others. Anna Christopher, spokeswoman for NPR, says “the Foundation Board of Trustees has no role in programming, news, or the governance of NPR.” But the Foundation chairman has a seat on NPR board of governors, and the Foundation’s control of funds gives them indirect power at the very least. Requests to NPRfor basic information about how the NPR Foundation handles donations went unanswered.

Why would almost all these people be liberal Democrats? Anna Christopher says, “We don’t have a litmus test for our board members or for our Foundation trustees.” De jure, that’s surely true: Presumably, NPR doesn’t have an official policy that board members must be liberal. But de facto, they have sure done a good job making their boards members indistinguishable from that of an openly partisan organization.

In sum, there are numerous examples of NPR toeing the liberal line on major issues of the day. The station's firing of Juan Williams, despite NPR's post-facto apologetics, appeared a knee-jerk reaction to politically correct forces. NPR joined the media bandwagon explicitly or implicitly blaming political commentators - overwhelmingly conservative - for the Tucson massacre. NPR has editorial policies that inevitably shift coverage contentious political issues to the left. And the station's board of directors is almost uniformly liberal.

All of that seriously undercuts Schiller's flat denial.