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NPR Lets Funders Call the Tune

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Co-Authored by Tim Graham

Socialist media critics always insist that the commercial media cannot be trusted because they are funded by the likes of Kellogg's and Campbell's and McDonald's -- a capitalist advertising structure. Noncommercial media are inherently much more trustworthy. They are funded by liberal politicians, liberal foundations and interest groups.


This bizarre stance came into stark relief on Friday when the Associated Press reported that the Ploughshares Fund, "a group the White House recently identified as a key surrogate in selling the Iran nuclear deal," gave National Public Radio $100,000 last year to help it report...on the deal.

In his boasting profile in The New York Times Magazine, White House foreign-policy aide Ben Rhodes explained: "We created an echo chamber. ...We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else."

The Ploughshares Fund's 2015 annual report explained that the grant to NPR supported "national security reporting that emphasizes the themes of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and budgets, Iran's nuclear program, international nuclear security topics and U.S. policy toward nuclear security." Ploughshares reports show at least $700,000 in funding over the last decade or so, and the AP also reported that "all grant descriptions since 2010 specifically mention Iran."

This foundation is not neutral. Its president, Joe Cirincione, previously worked for the liberal Center for American Progress, where the Board of Directors includes George W. Bush-hating Valerie Plame -- who's no one's idea of a nonpartisan. The foundation boasted that its "high-impact grantmaking" created "the conditions necessary for supporters of the Iran agreement to beat the political odds."


Ploughshares' money comes in part from other large left-wing funders of NPR. Ploughshares' 2015 annual report lists more than $100,000 in donations from George Soros' Open Society Policy Foundations, as well as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. NPR's underwriting announcements have proclaimed the foundation is "committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world."

There is no transparency. Ploughshares representatives appeared twice on the NPR evening newscast "All Things Considered" over the last year and a half, and neither appearance came with a disclosure of the NPR grants. In 2012, NPR's "Talk of the Nation," host Neal Conan did offer a disclosure: "We begin with Joe Cirincione, now president of the Ploughshares Fund, an advocacy group that has underwritten NPR programs in the past." As if the grants stopped?

NPR interviewed pundits from other groups that received Ploughshares money (without disclosure). The 2015 annual report highlights "selected radio interviews" about the Iran nuclear deal, all of them on NPR: president of the National Iranian-American Council on "The Diane Rehm Show," a research associate of MIT's Security Studies Program on "Here and Now," and the vice president of Government Affairs of J Street on "All Things Considered."

The most high-profile display of NPR's Iran deal support occurred in an August 2015 interview that NPR's "Morning Edition" anchor Steve Inskeep offered President Obama. It was more of a narration than an interview. "The president says his critics are ignoring the idea that it's good to buy time," he robotically announced. "It would be more honest, (Obama) contends, if his critics admitted they don't favor any diplomacy with Iran."


The only argument NPR can make about its "independence" from Ploughshares' win on the Iran deal -- with its "high-impact grantmaking" to supposedly objective media outlets -- is that its liberal tilt toward Iran was always guaranteed. Therefore, NPR's millions of left-wing foundation money are gifted from its natural allies, with no need for a special request for favoritism. It's already baked into the vegan cake.

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