Two moments stand out for me from a lifetime of listening to
taxpayer-funded National Public Radio.
The first was a commentary by Daniel Schorr one day before the
1990 elections in Nicaragua. Schorr was certain that the Sandinistas were on
the cusp of a historic victory that would crush, once and for all, the
arguments of the Reagan and Bush administrations about that tyrannical
communist regime. In the event, of course, Violetta Chamorro won a
The other NPR moment also stands out. I was driving home from
the White House (where I worked for the Reagan administration), listening to
a story about the Yalta Conference. The year was 1985, and NPR was
commemorating the 40th anniversary of the conference. After some
scene-setting, the host interviewed various historians and others with light
to shed on the event. One of those was Alger Hiss, the convicted perjurer
and notorious communist spy, whose trial was the O.J. phenomenon of the
1950s. How did NPR identify him? "Alger Hiss was a State Department official
who was present at the conference." I nearly drove off the road.
But let's not dwell on memories. NPR continues to serve as a
reliable voice of the left, and in no area is this more glaring than in
coverage of the Middle East. How so many American Jews can fail to notice
that liberal equals anti-Israel these days remains a mystery.
A watchdog group called Camera (www.camera.org) has kept tabs on
NPR. Here are some examples from the recent past:
On July 27, 2001, two stories from the Middle East bid for
attention. The first concerned the funeral of Saleh Darwazeh, a Hamas leader
responsible for the deaths of numerous innocent Israeli civilians. He had
been killed by the Israelis. The second was the death of a 17-year-old Ronen
Landau, an Israeli who was shot to death by Palestinian gunmen in front of
his father and brother. A few minutes before the murder of Landau, the
Palestinians had shot up an Israeli playground full of children.
In an 1,141 word story, NPR devoted just 26 words to Landau, and
here is how reporter Linda Gradstein put it: "Israeli tanks shelled
Palestinian security posts in the West Bank early today after Palestinian
gunmen killed an Israeli teen-ager at the entrance to a Jewish settlement."
The rest of the story, 1,115 words, were devoted to Darwazeh.
Grandstein quoted Hassan Ayoub, a "Palestinian activist" from
Nablus, who described the killing of Darwazeh as an "act of aggression that
produces more anger and more demands to take revenge for the people who have
been killed by Israeli forces." Gradstein also interviewed Mahmoud Aloul,
the governor of Nablus, who told NPR's audience, "They are killing our
children every day, so we have no choice but to resist and to struggle."
Ironic. Darwazeh was not a child. But Ronen Landau, whose death
NPR did not even deign to dignify by mentioning his name, was.
Camera finds that only Arabs, never Israelis, are labeled as
"moderates" by NPR. (This is reminiscent of the CNN tendency to label Yasser
Arafat a "moderate," which is appalling -- but then again, probably true,
considering the Arab spectrum.) Israelis, by contrast, often carry the label
"hard-liner," though members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad never do.
Between March 27 and April 10, a period that included the
Passover Massacre of 29 people in Netanya, the restaurant attack in Haifa
that killed 14 and countless other attacks on civilians, including children
in strollers, NPR presented the views, complaints and accusations of 62
Palestinians and only 32 Israelis. And some of the Israelis heard from were
radical leftists sympathetic to the Palestinian side. (Has NPR never
reflected on the fact that while there are many Israelis who will criticize
their country and some -- NPR is adept at finding these -- who even take the
Palestinian side, there is not a single Arab who ever expresses support or
sympathy for Israel?) During that harrowing time, NPR did not air a single
story identifying the Israeli terror victims by name or interviewing their
NPR doesn't receive a huge amount of federal money, but the
amount is irrelevant. Nor is it the principle that the government should not
do what private entities are perfectly capable of accomplishing. Running
radio networks is certainly one of those things. No, what is most obnoxious
is that American taxpayers are being forced to subsidize a network that is
highly political, tendentious, consistently leftist and quite influential.