blunt essays with sharp points
Oct 30, 2010 11:12 AM–A friend says yes; the evidence says no.
My blog is syndicated to Facebook. Yesterday’s article on the firing of Juan Williams attracted a comment. One of my friends attached these words:
NPR has a long history of turning a blind eye to leftist opinion from their commentators. In 2002 NPR reporter David Kestenbaum accused the Traditional Values Coalition of sending anthrax powder through the mail to key U.S. Senators and reported the FBI was investigating TVC. In fact none of this was true and Kestenbaum never lost his job for such unprofessional conduct.
But NPR’s liberal bias doesn't end with Kestenbaum either. In 1995 NPR “legal correspondent” Nina Totenberg said that if there is “retributive justice” in the world, the late North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms would get AIDS or his grandchildren would get AIDS. She still has her job at NPR.
In 2005, NPR’s “All Things Considered” aired a segment by humorist Andrei Condrescu, who said that the “evaporation of 4 million [people] who believe” in the Rapture, “would leave the world a better place.” Condrescu was a contract worker for NPR. He has been with “All Things Considered” since 1983. Would he still be with NPR if he had wished for the evaporation of a billion Muslims?
To which I replied:
I had seen some vague comments elsewhere that NPR had applied a double standard in this case. I was curious, so I appreciate you for posting some specifics and goading me into a very interesting investigation. I was unaware of Traditional Values Coalition (TVC, the organization which accused Kestenbaum of unethical reporting).
Do you see the minor irony of making a statement on an issue of journalistic ethics, by posting something without attribution? The text of your comment is an excerpt of a statement that has appeared on several blogs. That statement in turn is a revised, abridged form of a statement released by TVC.
My comments below are directed to the TVC statement.
Did Kestenbaum publicly accuse TVC of sending anthrax powder through the mail, as TVC claim? To me, this is plainly a TVC lie. I have the transcript of the NPR report before me, sourced from TVC’s own website. Kestenbaum reported that two of the anthrax letters had been sent to two Senators who had recently been attacked by TVC. He said he spoke to TVC who told him they were not under investigation. That was it.
Was Kestenbaum’s mention of TVC a breach of ethics? NPR said so at the time. They said it was inappropriate for Kestenbaum to name TVC, because there was no evidence TVC were being or should have been investigated.
But I think this. Kestenbaum’s report was about how investigators try to identify anonymous perpetrators such as the Unabomber or the anthrax terrorist. He reported that one thing you try is to collect and trace critical or threatening writings that were sent to the same targets, seeking to find a lead back to the perpetrator. Kestenbaum illustrated how you would start from something known, like TVC’s attacks on the targeted Senators, and work back through TVC to a possible perpetrator. The TVC attacks on the Senators are what made them relevant to the story. They were the evidence that TVC should have been contacted by FBI—just as FBI contacted Planned Parenthood, also reported by Kestenbaum. Planned Parenthood did not, apparently, denounce Kestenbaum or NPR for reporting this, or claim to have been accused by Kestenbaum or NPR of sending anthrax powder through the mail. Anyway, TVC’s actions say more to me about the ethics and motivations of TVC itself than the ethics and motivations of NPR.
Did NPR apply a different standard to Kestenbaum than to Williams? NPR say they confronted Williams, in a series of episodes over several years, about public statements which did not respect the ethics code, and that this was the last straw. I have seen no evidence for more than the one episode with Kestenbaum. Now if Kestenbaum has a worse history of ethics code violations over the years than Williams, you could make a good case for a double standard.
Having discovered that TVC is a heavily biased and unreliable source, I have not looked into their other claims of a double standard at NPR. But if you find any reliable evidence for it I would be interested.
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Sometimes they fool you by walking upright.
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