Commentary Magazine


Free Mara and Juan!

It seems that the lively but unanimous conclusion (Let her stay!) of those in Politico’s discussion about NPR’s Mara Liasson appearing on Fox News was duplicated by NPR’s own listeners. NPR’s ombuds-gal Alicia Shepard (h/t Michael Calderone) tells us that she was flooded with calls and messages pleading: Let her stay! There was this one:

“I am outraged that NPR would try to control the appearances of Mara Liasson and Juan Williams on Fox News,” wrote Anna Moore of Amherst, VA. “You are now (and have been for a long time) guilty of the very thing you are accusing Fox News of–bias. Mara and Juan bring a different perspective to the discussions on Fox News, something all the media should welcome instead of stifle. Leave Mara and Juan alone!”

Hmm. So Shepard, being the good ombuds-gal (the primary qualification for which is to deflect real scrutiny from the people who sign your paycheck), pronounces that no one ever “ordered” Liasson off the air. Well, no. The original story didn’t say that, only that she was cajoled and pressured and that Liasson pushed back, noting that she actually had a contract with Fox.

Next straw man: there was no actual conversation between NPR and the White House, which started the anti-Fox crusade:

“NPR has not had any communication of any kind with the White House regarding the status of any of our reporters or their work for anyone outside of NPR,” said Dick Meyer, executive editor for news, in an email. “Any suggestion to the contrary is simply false. Internal discussions about the application of NPR policy to each NPR reporter are just that, internal discussions. That is why we do not comment on them publicly.”

Again, no one ever said that NPR’s execs got on the phone with David Axelrod. The sharp cookies at government-subsidized NPR didn’t need to have a conversation with the Obami to understand that Fox was the target and that the name of the game here was to delegitimize, disassociate, and shun the Fox network. Really, Axelrod’s and Anita Dunn’s comments were quite clear about what was afoot. It was in the news and everything.

Sheppard is plainly irritated with NPR’s fickle audience, however. She sniffs: “It appears ironic that some folks are coming to Liasson’s rescue and defending her right to appear on Fox when I have hundreds of previous emails suggesting she shouldn’t.” Really, can’t these people make up their minds? Well, all’s well that end’s well. Mara — and Juan Williams too! — gets to stay. Fox gets more publicity. Conservatives have newfound allies in the NPR listening audience. And NPR winds up with egg on its face. What could be better?