Pay for Play: NPR Under Fire Over Iran Deal 'Echo Chamber' Revelation

Guy Benson
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Posted: May 25, 2016 10:25 AM
Pay for Play: NPR Under Fire Over Iran Deal 'Echo Chamber' Revelation

The revelation is quite serious: National Public Radio, a supposedly neutral broadcast entity funded by taxpayers, was paid six figures by an advocacy group with an obvious agenda to assist in efforts by the Obama administration and its allies to market the dangerous and unpopular Iran nuclear agreement to the American public.  Details, via the Associated Press' Friday report:

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 pact and related issues, according to the group's annual report. It also funded reporters and partnerships with other news outlets. The Ploughshares Fund's mission is to "build a safe, secure world by developing and investing in initiatives to reduce and ultimately eliminate the world's nuclear stockpiles," one that dovetails with President Barack Obama's arms control efforts. But its behind-the-scenes role advocating for the Iran agreement got more attention this month after a candid profile of Ben Rhodes, one of the president's top foreign policy aides. In The New York Times Magazine article, Rhodes explained how the administration worked with nongovernmental organizations, proliferation experts and even friendly reporters to build support for the seven-nation accord that curtailed Iran's nuclear activity and softened international financial penalties on Tehran. "We created an echo chamber," said Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, adding that "outside groups like Ploughshares" helped carry out the administration's message effectively...Ploughshares has funded NPR's coverage of national security since 2005, the radio network said. Ploughshares reports show at least $700,000 in funding over that time. All grant descriptions since 2010 specifically mention Iran.

This arrangement begs all sorts of questions pertaining to journalistic ethics and the proper relationship between "independent" media outlets and government interests -- some of which may even trouble NPR's notoriously liberal listenership.  Meanwhile, Bloomberg's Eli Lake has been leaked internal documents and emails that reveal key elements and tactics of Ploughshares' spin campaign on Iran, which dates back to at least 2011:

The messaging work from Ploughshares on Iran began long before there was any Iran deal and long before Rhodes convened his regular meetings with progressive groups on shaping the Iran narrative. Beginning in August 2011, Ploughshares and its grantees formed the Iran Strategy Group. Over time this group created a sophisticated campaign to reshape the national narrative on Iran. That campaign sought to portray skeptics of diplomacy as "pro-war," and to play down the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program before formal negotiations started in 2013 only to emphasize those dangers after there was an agreement in 2015.

That demagogic messaging and demonization of critics also emanated directly from the Oval Office. Read Lake's important report in its entirety here. Meanwhile, back on the NPR front, it appears the public radio network may have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it came to shilling for the Iran deal. NPR declined to interview Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), a veteran and leading critic of the controversial accord -- and when they were confronted with this editorial decision, for which there could be any number of explanations, they lied:

The publicly funded National Public Radio declined interviews with Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a leading critic of the Iran nuclear deal. NPR had received funding from the liberal Ploughshares Fund, which has been exposed as being a core part of a White House-backed campaign to push lobbyists, policy analysts, and journalists in favor of the deal. When asked by reporters last week about refusing the interviews, NPR suggested that Pompeo’s office had never reached out to the station. However, multiple emails viewed by the Free Beacon demonstrate that Pompeo’s office had been in two separate talks with NPR producers about scheduling an interview.

When the Washington Free Beacon's Adam Kredo pressed the radio giant "to explain the initial statement to the Associated Press, denying it had been in contact with Rep. Pompeo, NPR stopped responding," writes John Sexton.  NPR appears to be taking its honesty and transparency cues from Ben Rhodes and friends, in addition to its foreign affairs agenda.  Before you go, be sure to read the Congressional testimony of AEI's Michael Rubin, who spells out how the Obama administration misled the American people and misrepresented the facts in its zeal to seal the accord (which was heavily opposed by voters, and a hefty bipartisan majority in Congress).  He shared this analysis at the hearing at which Ben Rhodes refused to appear to defend himself, as the White House gave their lackey cover by lashing out at their domestic political opponents. For what it's worth, National Public Radio's ombudsman says she's actively digging into the matter of her network's financial relationship with Ploughshares, and its subsequent Iran deal reportage.  They were, after all, a key player in the White House-created and Obama ally-funded "echo chamber:"

Parting thought: What isn't for sale in Obama's Washington?  Alas, both major party nominees are enthusiastic and promiscuous participants in the slimy business of transactional power politics.