NPR Needs To Clean Up Their House

What happens when the news media stops covering news objectively - and instead becomes a source of very specific opinions that serve a very narrow agenda?

For example - in the case of the democratic primary - consider the news coverage of the mere possibility of Vice President Joe Biden challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party's nomination for president.

Biden, of course, would be the sixth candidate in that race - one of whom who's beating Hillary in New Hampshire - and is within 7 points of her in Iowa.

That candidate, of course, is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

But if you've been listening to National Public Radio - or you've been reading the New York Times - you might not realize that Bernie Sanders isn't just a 'longshot socialist hopeful with unkempt white hair'.

And you might not realize that he's filled up and overflowed nearly every venue that he's spoken in since he announced - or that as his crowds are growing - so is his standing in the polls.

Which raises the question: why are two of the nation's most trusted news outlets largely ignoring - or marginalizing - Bernie's candidacy?

In the case of commercial media like the New York Times or the big TV networks, it could be that they're simply hostile to Bernie's message - that he wants to weaken corporate control over American democracy - and the corporate media really doesn't want voters to know about that.

But that doesn't explain how NPR - supposedly "public" radio - has managed to mischaracterize or ignore the biggest challenger to Hillary Clinton.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - the law required that Corporation to operate with a "strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature."

Tragically, NPR appears to have forgotten that part of their charter.

Take a listen to this short clip of Rachel Martin interviewing NPR's national political correspondent - and Fox so-called News contributor - Mara Liasson.

Did you catch that?

In her analysis of Joe Biden potentially challenging Hillary Clinton for the democratic nomination, Fox News Contributor and NPR National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson completely ignored Bernie Sanders. During the entire 4 and a half minute interview - she didn't mention Bernie Sanders a single time.

In fact, just listening to the interview, an NPR listener might not even know that Bernie Sanders is running in the primary at all.

It's worth noting that back in October, Fox and NPR's Liasson went on the air and spread mistruths and/or half-truths to help out Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner in Colorado with his problem with women voters.

Gardner won that election - despite the fact that his "pro-woman" positions are virtually non-existent: Gardner co-sponsored a federal personhood bill that would de facto ban abortions by recognizing personhood at conception.

And even though Liasson said that Gardner and Planned Parenthood shared a position on making birth control pills available over the counter - she failed to point out that Planned Parenthood called his position on birth control both "insulting" and an "empty gesture." It was essentially a scam, which was pushed by both Fox and Liasson on NPR.

Increasingly, NPR listeners are wondering why Liasson is allowed to use National Public Radio to push an objectively false message about a candidate that she and Fox News want to win.

The simple fact is that NPR's code of ethics clearly says that NPR reporters and commentators are to "avoid speaking to groups where the appearance itself might put in question our impartiality."

Which is why - for the same reason that Juan Williams was terminated by NPR for giving his opinions on Fox on the side - NPR should seriously review their relationship with Liasson so long as she continues to comment on Fox.

But it shouldn't stop there.

National Public Radio needs to make a serious effort to clean house and to make sure that their reporters and commentators are actually reporting - accurately - fairly - completely - honestly - and impartially.

National Public Radio - started under the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - is supposed to maintain a "strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature".

And the fact is - elections are inherently controversial - and we need our Public Media to be covering them objectively.


JackieO's picture
JackieO 7 years 38 weeks ago

I'd like to comment on the marihuana and wine subject although I don't see it here..please that is the most unsafe ridiculous thing to do...this concoction would be great before surgery ??!!!!! I did that once mixed alcohol and a bong and I passed out off my girlfriend was talking to me then she looked over at me again and I was on the floor...don't mix alcohol and pot..its your show Thom


katvan's picture
katvan 7 years 38 weeks ago

I would suspect it's a matter of self-preservation for NPR and similar orgs: the establishment. Even if Mr. Sanders is elected as president, the funding goes through two very red houses of legislators, and that may now be their target audience - not us.

delster's picture
delster 7 years 38 weeks ago

So Jackie, Was it the mixture or one specifically one over the other. I've been smoking pot since 1965 when most pot from mexico was laced with opium for added kick. Almost all of it was back in the day along with annoying seeds so the argument that pot is stronger today is not necessarily true. Fortunately you fell off your bar stool instead of hitting a telephone pole with a car. I work in viticulture today and I must say, frankly wine kicks my ass and makes me fall off bar stools. Not pot. In fact, at my age, I really don't feel that much impact from todays pot. In terms of driving I will ride comfortably with someone who is stoned over someone who is drunk or sleep deprived from working to much.

Greenthumb's picture
Greenthumb 7 years 38 weeks ago

Thom - was there supposed to be a short clip of the Rachael Martin/Mara Liasson interview? Seems to be missing from your comment.

Bernie Sander's message to supporters is that they MUST stay engaged and that they MUST demand that our governmental representatives represent "the people" not the corporations and that media outlets report the facts and not lies, half truths and infotainment. A Sanders presidency will require an active, involved electorate. So wake up Sanders supporters and give your Reps and Reporters a call (many calls) to let them know how you think and what type of government and news you want. We don't have lots of money, but we can shut down the Senate's and Congress's phone systems (and that WILL be news).

liz banker 7 years 38 weeks ago

It's not that "NPR appears to have forgotten that part of their charter. "

They know and conveniently and intentional marginalize candidates, and in particular Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, who really mean what they say about deconstructing the corporate media and corporate America in general.

Alan Lunn's picture
Alan Lunn 7 years 38 weeks ago

I wondered if NPR would change when they started getting generous funding from the Kochs -- at least that was the story two years ago.

That was when the Kochs were thinking about getting into the newspaper business, a decision on which they apparently backed down.

Snopes has said the report of the funding was false. Still, since Reagan, public broadcasting has experienced less federal funding which would tend to make corporate funding more attractive and necessary for survival. So, yeah, in that development, they would become less public and more private, losing some of their original freshness and journalistic integrity. Kinda like what's happening to our government in what Carter recently called "unlimited political bribery."

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 38 weeks ago

I heard on a Sunday talk show last week, "Both Sides Now" aired on WCPT, some pundit, whose name I didn't catch, say that Joe Biden had to run because "of course, Bernie Sanders can't be the Democratic Party nominee!" like there would something SOOO improper about it, like he was a well known child molester or something.
I guess following the will of the people instead of the will of big money is now a perversion.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 38 weeks ago

NPR started to change when Newt Gingrich took it over in 1995.

Edward505 7 years 38 weeks ago

I think NPR is under threat from the billionares and have to toe the line or their funding will be cut. As FDR said: Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

DFMM's picture
DFMM 7 years 38 weeks ago

Did I miss an announcement, will there no longer be a toll free number for calling in to the radio show?

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 38 weeks ago

Soon as Congress voted to de-fund NPR some years back, I saw this coming. NPR used to be a great station with lots of progressive programming... now it's just another corporate noise machine.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 38 weeks ago

'What happens when the news media stops covering news objectively-and instead becomes a source of very specific opinions that serve a very narrow agenda?"

The general public....those who try to pay attention anyway, become less and less informed, to the point where Trump is the biggest story....lmao

This of course makes it easier and easier for the Fascists to concentrate the wealth and thus wield the same type of tyrannical power our founders fought and died to break away from.

stopgap's picture
stopgap 7 years 38 weeks ago

I said it before and I'll say it again; I gave up on NPR and PBS at the run-up to the last Iraq war. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Had it not been for Amy Goodman, I would have thought I was going crazy... for it seemed that the rest of the nation had gone crazy. I just couldn't believe how gung-ho that the US was. Although I also couldn't believe how gung-ho the country was for the first Iraq war.

I'll give you a little hint…the support for the Middle East wars was all about racism. Anti Arabic-Islamic racism. Now, Trump is showing us just how racist the US really can be as "The South" seems to be rising out of the ashes of its Confederate past, dragging along with it those numerous pockets of racists from The North that people generally discount as a tiny minority.

True, to the powers that be, the Middle East wars were all about oil. But for the public, the sell job was all about anti Arabic-Islamic racism. NPR and PBS dutifully did their part by never interviewing those that had real facts to contradict the rightwing war machine and often allowed those that supported the wars to blather on as if they were the only ones that could be truly believed.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 38 weeks ago

DFMM, the program has been gentrified, it seems, and "trailer trash" like us, with our government, welfare phones, can't participate any more.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 38 weeks ago

That's okay, riff raff like us couldn't possibly have anything worthwhile to say anyway.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 38 weeks ago

JackieO, I don't know why you were affected that way but I assure you it's am anomaly. Perhaps holding your hit in deprived you of oxygen and if you'd had enough to drink it overtook you, or perhaps there was something in the weed, or perhaps you're somehow, unfortunately, "allergic" to it but people have been mixing liquor and weed forever and it NEVER seemed to cause anything like that.
On the contrary, sometimes it even seemed to mitigate drunkenness by adding a pensive perspicacity to one's condition. You can be sure your assertion is incredible news to millions of frat rats and barflies huddling outside the tavern for a toke.

ArmchairNihilist's picture
ArmchairNihilist 7 years 38 weeks ago

It gets worse, Thom: Today (Fri.) on "Morning Edition," NPR's Fox interloper Liasson -- after excerpting Donald Trump's recent call-in to CBS' Face the Nation" in which he decried hedge fund managers' lack of tax liability -- said of the GOP front-runner's economic and immigration-policy "populism":

"On this issue, the real estate mogul and reality TV star is right in sync with Bernie Sanders, and for that matter Hillary Clinton, because sometimes populism does tend to be a mash-up of positions from the left and right.”

That's right -- she compared Bernie's authentic and wholly consistent disdain for Wall Street's abject criminals to the Democrat infamous for $400,000 Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase speaking fees, not to mention hostility to reinstating Glass-Steagall. In a still-young campaign full of inane assertions, Liasson's is one of the worst and most nakedly dishonest.

Also, in describing "populism" as a "mash-up" of left and right positions, then citing Sanders and Clinton in the same sentence means our pal Mara has committed a Kinsley gaffe of accidentally telling the truth: Hillary IS from the right.

pastormustard's picture
pastormustard 7 years 38 weeks ago

I have a music show on an NPR afiliate. NPR is taking a tremendous beating on this issue, if that's what comments negative to Ms Liasson's piece can be called (mine included). It's been 24 hours. Let's see if there's at least a response to the Liasson piece, or radio silence.

casey burns's picture
casey burns 7 years 38 weeks ago

I just commented to NPR the other day - after they said "Hillary is essentially running against herself and her problems"....

Dear NPR,
You are pissing off this listener. How can you ignore the Bernie Sanders campaign? I heard on ATC last night that Hillary is essentially "running against herself and her problems" in the article as to whether Joe Biden should run. Apparently you choose to look the other way regarding the Bernie Sanders campaign. He's ahead in the polls for instance in New Hampshire, and probably every other state. About every Democrat I talk to is rooting for Bernie and loathes Hillary. How can you look away from this phenomenon?

This was their reply:

Dear Listener,

Thank you for contacting NPR.

We appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback regarding “Biden Fuels Speculation Of Presidential Run With College Affordability Speech."

The reference in that conversation to Clinton “basically running against herself” was intended to mean that her campaign is being buffeted in large part by issues related to things she’s done – including using a private email server – rather than by attacks from other campaigns. We understand and apologize that the inference was not clear to some listeners. We did not intend to suggest that Clinton is not facing competition from Sen. Sanders. We also agree that a mention of the challenge posed by the Sanders campaign would have been appropriate and helpful to include.

Sen. Sanders’ campaign, meanwhile, has been the subject of substantial coverage on our air and our website:

Sanders Gaining on Clinton. 2008 All Over Again?
Exactly What Kind Of Socialist Is Bernie Sanders?
Bernie Sanders And The Size And Wisdom Of Crowds
2016’s Campaign War Chests Are Just Jewelry Boxes Next To The Super PACS
Kudos To Sanders, With A Wink To Clinton, Too
Sanders Among The Least Wealthy Presidential Candidates
Bernie Sanders Just Drew A Huge Crowd. How Does It Measure Up?
Small Donors Fueled Sanders’ $15 Million Fundraising Haul
Sanders: ‘My Goal Right Now Is To Win This Election’
Bernie Sanders Walks A Fine Line On Gun Control
Leaving Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders Found Home In Vermont
Bernie Sanders: ‘We Are The Underdog’
Presidential Hopeful Bernie Sanders To Face Test In New Hampshire

Thank you again for sharing your concerns.

NPR Audience & Community Relations

I think that the more people complain to NPR the greater chance will be that they finally get it- and start broadcasting news again instead of propoganda.

paultran's picture
paultran 7 years 38 weeks ago

Regarding NPR's albeit subtle drift to the Right over the last many years, I can't listen to a single report, either locally produced by Phoenix' KJZZ or on the national feed, that fails to get my goat. Here's my $.02 worth regarding a June 25, 2015 Bernie interview conducted by David Green. Link to the audio included here:

To NPR's credit, they were quick with a thoughtful response to my criticism and even followed that up with another email thanking me again for my interest. And note that this predated the subsequent #blacklivesmatter dustups at various venues so my comments here do not speak to that subject matter nor to the gun control issue. I don't even recall that discussion!

Either I'm just too suspect of NPR to listen with an open mind, or Mr. Green was demanding a Hillary-Bernie soundbite faceoff instead of allowing Bernie to speak to the bigger picture! Please take a listen and comment on my letter below that is preceded by NPR's reponse. Was I off base?

Thom, you rock!


Dear Paul,

Thank you for contacting NPR.

We appreciate you sharing your concerns with us regarding David Greene's recent interview with Senator Bernie Sanders. We strive to offer the highest quality of news and information available. Listener feedback helps us to accomplish this goal.

NPR's Ombudsman recently wrote a piece evaluating NPR's coverage of Sanders since he announced he would run for the Democratic nomination for president:


Ultimately, we welcome both criticism and praise, and your thoughts have been taken into consideration.

Thank you for listening, and for your continued support of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit

NPR Audience and Community Relations

Original Message: Mr. Green, your interrogation of Senator Sanders this morning was very disappointing.

Your insistence that Bernie respond to WHICH COLOR OF LIVES MATTER, ala the Hillary Clinton criticism, was embarrassing and simply reaffirmed my opinion of NPR's drift to dark side. You were perhaps wanting Mr. Sanders to play the hyperbolic phraseology game vs. allowing him to speak to the larger matters at hand?

Clearly, Senator Sanders is a pragmatist and, regardless your stubborn insistence, was attempting to bring the concepts of employment, economic disparity and just perhaps the little matter of multi-generational racism and indentured servitude to the discussion!

Excuse me, David, if my criticism of the interview sounds ad homonym. I don’t believe you’re a Bernie basher but please review your techniques and steer clear of sound-bite traps that do nothing to inform the citizenry. We all desperately need a more comprehensive participation in this upcoming election that will, in my opinion, literally pass or fail American society into the distant future.

I for one welcome Senator Sanders’ refreshing honesty to this debate and will continue to call out any and all obstacles, intentionally placed or not, to his fair and resounding hearing.

Paul Tranby
Phoenix, AZ

Crispy Popp's picture
Crispy Popp 7 years 38 weeks ago
#21're all getting a taste of what Libertarians got in the last election when they tried to rally to get a qualified, experienced candidate (Gary Johnson) into the show and the duopoly circled the wagons. Bernie's great...but he will get shut out and not taken seriously. He will be marginalized into "lunatic fringe wing" coverage by mainstream media outlets but given some brief debate play where a sound bite will define him. Ultimately, he will play strong in a handful of states but risk playing that Jerry Brown or Ross Perot "spoiler" role and be villified by a Democratic base for doing so...taking precious votes from one of the "annointed ones".

Ultimately, NPR will work where their bread is buttered...and that means into the two mainstream parties who will field the winning candidate that will drive go-forward discourse on philosophical funding discussions. It's pandering, really, but that's where America's at. Don't kill the messenger. I'm as depressed as anyone else.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 7 years 38 weeks ago

The Right made a run on the PBS Board of Directors during the second term of the G.W. Bush administration and replaced some of the long term progressive movers and shakers who backed the original goals established for PBS in the sixties. We saw Jim Lehrer of the News Hour leave along with many behind the scenes producers as standards were changed to deter any future programming that had a Leftist slant ! You'll notice that PBS has increased it's reliance on so-called corporate public service messages that are essentially commercials often showing targeted products, a necessity as contributions from long time PBS supporters fall off reflecting their rejection of the new format and direction. Something else that has fallen off is the ongoing attacks by the Right in Congress to cut Federal Funding for Public Broadcasting, only 3% of the funding required by PBS came from taxpayers at the end of the Bush Administration. It's not surprising that NPR has jumped on the Right's bandwagon now that they control the purse strings !

jefg's picture
jefg 7 years 38 weeks ago

JackieO, are you commenting on the Marla Liason piece? I didn't see marijuana metioned there...Sorry for you unfortunate reaction. Though perhaps "deadly" is a bit of overstatement?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 38 weeks ago

Crispy Popp -- What size crowds was Gary Johnson pulling? Did he have any of those national organizing events with 100,000 people? I think Bernie has a better chance.

Berchten's picture
Berchten 7 years 37 weeks ago

MASS MEDIA IS THE POWER !! OR, MASS MEDIA IS PART OF THE POWER ON THIS EARTH. WE ALL ARE ASKED TO VIEW IT THAT WAY. So what happened to NPR and Fox was a grab of power (over Bernie Sanders). They do NOT want these ideas to spread.

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