NPR and the Nina Totenberg Problem

NPR doesn’t have a Juan Williams problem.  It has a Nina Totenberg problem.

As everyone who hasn’t been vacationing on Mars knows by now, NPR fired Mr. Williams for his honesty – telling Bill O’Reilly that “when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

According to the liberal elites who run NPR this was nothing less than disgraceful and bigoted.  Who cares if millions and millions of other Americans feel the exact same way as Juan?  The simple fact, according to an NPR internal memo, is that “news analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation.”

This is where Nina Totenberg comes in.  She’s not an analyst nor a commentator.  She’s NPR’s Supreme Court reporter.  The key word there is “reporter.”  If analysts “may not take personal public positions on contorversial issues” than a straight, hard news reporter certainly can’t.

Yet Ms. Totenberg is a regular on a syndicated Sunday morning talk show called “Inside Washington” and on that show she lets everyone know how she feels about all sorts of subjects.

Her most famous opinion was delivered back in 1995, when she said of then Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative from North Carolina:  “I think he ought to be worried about the–about what’s going on in the good Lord’s mind, because if there’s retributive justice, he’ll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.”

She later apologized for that remark, but didn’t slow down when it comes to giving her opinions.

Just last month she opined on the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. “This is the next scandal. It’s the scandal in the making. They don’t have to disclose anything. And eventually, this is the kind of thing that led to Watergate.”

This from a journalist who covers the Supreme Court for NPR.

A few weeks ago Ms. Totenberg said that Michelle Obama is “an incredibly graceful surrogate” for her husband and gives people “warm and fuzzy feelings.”

And on one Inside Washington show, Charles Kratuhammer, another panelist, pointed out that 31 Democrats in the House had notified Speaker Pelosi saying Democrats should extend the Bush tax cuts.  To which Ms. Totenberg replied:  “When a party actually has a huge majority, it has a huge diversity. And that is part of the problem that Democrats have. But would I like it to be otherwise? Of course.”

Oh, and there’s the time she characterized those Bush tax cuts as “immoral” and once she described then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as “some white guy.”

So let’s see if we have this right:  Juan Williams made a “controversial” remark that I have no doubt a majority of Americans agree with, and lost his job.  Nina Totenberg makes controversial, partisan, anti-conservative, pro-liberal remarks all the time, and she’s still working at NPR.

How can this be?  If I were cynical I’d say it’s because NPR has no problem with any of Nina Totenberg’s left-wing opinions, because the elites who run the radio network don’t think they’re controversial at all.  But what they simply cannot get beyond is that one of their analysts has the incredibly bad judgment to give his opinions on the hated FOX News channel.

As I said at the outset, NPR doesn’t have a Juan Williams problem.  But it sure has a Nina Totenberg problem.

Stay tuned.

Bernie's Next Column.

Enter your email and find out first.

  • Kjus Pants

    hi!,I really like your writing so so much! proportion we keep in touch more about your post on AOL? I require a specialist on this space to unravel my problem. May be that is you! Looking forward to peer you.

  • Rick007

    Nina Totenberg missed the whole point of terrorism. It has no regular wartime purpose, but rather is supposed to make everyone afraid of the terrorists. The terrorist who chant “Allah Akbar!” and who clearly identify their terrorist organization with either radical (Al Qaida) or leftist (PLO) Islam want everyone to be afraid of Muslims. It’s great that Ms. Totenberg herself is not afraid of Muslims, but that does not give her the right to punish Juan Williams or any other secondary victim of terrorism. People who are part of a group that is repeatedly attacked by terrorists, such as Americans or Israelis, are going to be fearful or angry until all of the terrorist are stopped. These are often unavoidable emotional reactions that were deliberately provoked by the terrorists and the people who defend terrorists. The best way to allay fears would be to remove Ms. Totenberg and any other people who coddle terrorists from public life in America. Above all, don’t blame the victims. They have a right to be afraid, especially when so many journalists fight the propagandakrieg against the Jews and any non-Jew who dares to side with them.


    ENOUGH !

  • Chief

    We need to stop funding NPR. In the real world they would be on Bankruptcy Court.
    I have no problem allow their voice to be heard, just don’t use my hard earn tax dollars.

  • Dan Farfan

    I wonder what Nina said about NPR firing Juan.
    I wonder what Nina thinks about NPR firing Juan.

    Isn’t it a shame that NPR has established (for every single employee) that those are 2 different lists.

    One of the troubles with disconnecting “thoughts” and “says” for an analyst is that suddenly saying what they don’t really think is on the table — which is not that far from it being expected or required.
    What a shame.

    I’d love to read Adams and Jefferson dissect this one.

    – “The Next 10 Amendments”

  • Ron Kean

    Wasn’t she the one that got the woman to testify against Clarence Thomas?

  • Wil Burns

    Bernie, Are you saying NPR should now fire Nina Totenberg? Will Fox give her a two million dollar pity contract? Ask your buddy Bill O’Reilly.

    • Tim

      I have no Idea how much Totenberg is making now. But who on earth would pay her $2 million if she was fired? You need talent to make that kind of money. Before this issue, I wouldn’t have recognized her if her picture was on a postage stamp! She should probably pay Bernie and Fox two million for PR!

  • Ellie Velinska

    “news analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues”
    Seriously! What is the point in analizing things that everybody agrees with?

    If we are not able to discuss controversial issues how are we going to solve them – by ignoring them? Everything ‘controversial’ is banned so nobody can have the inconvenience to deal with it. Kidding ourselves?

  • Terry Walbert

    The only reason anyone even cares about Ms. Totenberg’s opinions is that they illustrate NPR’s double standard vis a vis Juan Williams.

    But Bernie, how can you attack Nina Totenberg. Speaking of Nina, I once had a job interview with her many moons ago. Even back then, she was arrogant and full of herself. Nina is probably one of Joy Behar’s friends deserving Joy’s special term of endearment.









  • JDO

    Bernie, isn’t this just more of the basic underlying mindset you pointed out in “Bias?” NPR’s bigwigs don’t see it as hypocrisy or a double standard because they all have the same mindset as Ms. Totenburg, and all of their buddies agree with them. Therefore, what she says is “normal” and “unbiased.” Nothin’ to see here, move along …

    Mr. Williams biggest “crime,” as others have pointed out, wasn’t to say what he did, it was to say it on O’Reilly’s show (or, on Fox in general). You know, Juan Williams normall has that “big-eyed” look (not making fun, ’cause basically my eyes aren’t all that different, lol), but the day after he was fired, when he was on O’Reilly talking to Bill, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a shocked, stunned, eyes-as-big-as-saucers look on his face before. Can it be that, forgive the pun, his eyes have been opened a bit wider now? Time will tell.

  • Jay Thompson

    Bernie, absolutely spot on. But alas, NPR, bred of its own insularity, simply cannot get it. When you operate in a bubble of your own devising, what else can we expect from them?

  • Jim Seeber

    The Juan Williams Affair (shouldn’t we give it a snappy name?) merely re-established that double-standards in the liberal world — and especially within the lamestream media — are alive and well. In all honesty, I was a bit surprised when CNN sacked Rick Sanchez; usually, one will only be taken to task for criticizing those on the “Protected Species” list (e.g., females, minorities, Muslims).

    Juan, of course, had already become a marked man simply by appearing on Fox News. I’d venture to say that NPR had long waited for just the right opening to rationalize getting rid of him.

  • Kathie Ampela

    The real reason Juan Williams was fired was because he appears on Fox News. The official reason given makes no sense at all when you look at the Nina Totenberg double standard. Why do NPR and others on the Left hate Fox News so much? Their journalists don’t seem to have a conservative bias to me, Bret Baier, Shepard Smith and Greta seem impartial, although I suspect Shep and Greta lean left. It must be tough to be a hard news journalist over there and just do your job. This is really about the opinion guys, let’s face it. Soros hates Beck, Hannity and probably O’Reilly though not as much, because they are all a threat to his progressive agenda. But they have just as much right to say what they say as do Olbermann, Matthews and Maddow. If the FNC opinion guys are shut down, then I want not only the MSNBC hatemongers shut down, I want Alan Colmes thrown off the air too (oh, wait he’s on Fox News, that’s right)

  • Jason

    Fantastic analysis, Bernie. No clear thinking and honest person can deny NPR’s contradiction in their handling of these two people.

  • CCNV

    Speaking of media… Now that Sarah Palin has a TV show, how long until Obama throws a tantrum and demands a TV show (Cinderfella), of his own? After all, isn’t his ultimate goal to rub elbows with movie stars, ‘play’ to the cameras and stare into a mirror? He has to be good at something – we already know he’s incompetent to run this country.

  • EddieD_Boston

    And they all went to Ivy League universities but are too stupid to realize how hypercrtical they are. Her old man ought to demand his money back.

  • Bruce A.

    Simple solution fire everyone at NPR & disband it or try & sell it to private investors. With all the private choices in radio including satelite, internet, hd radio, cable radio stations ete. etc., why do the US taxpayers have to pay for this?

    • stmichrick

      There is no reason to pay for it except, well….people in important places like it.

      Any campaign to de-fund needs to be complimentary (sic) of the product (for instance, I enjoy the jazz music coverage) but stress the irresponsibility of government supporting ‘certain’ broadcast entities. We should suggest that ‘fairness’ would dictate a government subsidy to the FoxNews Channel (and I hate their preference to cover country music!).