Commentary Magazine


Topic: Free Mara

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?

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?

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RE: They’ve Got a Friend

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR – gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR – gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

Read Less




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