NPR and the Nina Totenberg Problem
NPR doesn’t have a Juan Williams problem. It has a Nina Totenberg problem.
As everyone who hasn’t been vacationing on Mars knows by now, NPR fired Mr. Williams for his honesty – telling Bill O’Reilly that “when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
According to the liberal elites who run NPR this was nothing less than disgraceful and bigoted. Who cares if millions and millions of other Americans feel the exact same way as Juan? The simple fact, according to an NPR internal memo, is that “news analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what's happened in this situation.”
This is where Nina Totenberg comes in. She’s not an analyst nor a commentator. She’s NPR’s Supreme Court reporter. The key word there is “reporter.” If analysts “may not take personal public positions on contorversial issues” than a straight, hard news reporter certainly can’t.
Yet Ms. Totenberg is a regular on a syndicated Sunday morning talk show called “Inside Washington” and on that show she lets everyone know how she feels about all sorts of subjects.
Her most famous opinion was delivered back in 1995, when she said of then Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative from North Carolina: “I think he ought to be worried about the--about what's going on in the good Lord's mind, because if there's retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.”
She later apologized for that remark, but didn’t slow down when it comes to giving her opinions.
Just last month she opined on the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. “This is the next scandal. It's the scandal in the making. They don't have to disclose anything. And eventually, this is the kind of thing that led to Watergate."
This from a journalist who covers the Supreme Court for NPR.
A few weeks ago Ms. Totenberg said that Michelle Obama is “an incredibly graceful surrogate” for her husband and gives people “warm and fuzzy feelings."
And on one Inside Washington show, Charles Kratuhammer, another panelist, pointed out that 31 Democrats in the House had notified Speaker Pelosi saying Democrats should extend the Bush tax cuts. To which Ms. Totenberg replied: “When a party actually has a huge majority, it has a huge diversity. And that is part of the problem that Democrats have. But would I like it to be otherwise? Of course."
Oh, and there’s the time she characterized those Bush tax cuts as “immoral” and once she described then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as “some white guy.”
So let’s see if we have this right: Juan Williams made a “controversial” remark that I have no doubt a majority of Americans agree with, and lost his job. Nina Totenberg makes controversial, partisan, anti-conservative, pro-liberal remarks all the time, and she’s still working at NPR.
How can this be? If I were cynical I’d say it’s because NPR has no problem with any of Nina Totenberg’s left-wing opinions, because the elites who run the radio network don’t think they’re controversial at all. But what they simply cannot get beyond is that one of their analysts has the incredibly bad judgment to give his opinions on the hated FOX News channel.
As I said at the outset, NPR doesn’t have a Juan Williams problem. But it sure has a Nina Totenberg problem.