In my opinion, NPR’s David Folkenflik does an excellent job covering the media beat for NPR. He tries extremely hard, usually successfully, to be fair to all parties in a controversy. He was particularly good covering the Juan Williams story, which could not have been easy. Last night he tackled the latest NPR controversy. I must say I thought it came up short. For instance, there was zero mention of the Zionists-control-the-newspapers bit. And Betsy Liley, the other NPR executive at the table, wasn’t even mentioned. But what bothered me most was the way Folkenflik seemed to buy the network’s version of what was, and wasn’t the news here.
I can understand the headline “NPR Exec: NPR Would Be Better Off Without Federal Support.” After all, the area where this controversy most directly touches on public policy is the question of federal funding. When someone on their own team concedes the conservative argument, that’s news.
But then there’s NPR’s main attempt at self-defense. It boils down to this: We didn’t accept the check because we figured out — after the lunch — that this group was probably bogus.
Folkenflik ends the piece on this point as if it is arguably exculpatory in some way. He says:
At NPR, Vivian Schiller said the vetting process after the lunch raised the right questions, and officials denied the ostensible donors’ repeated requests to be photographed delivering a check.
Ms. SCHILLER: Their address was a UPS store with a post office box. We couldn’t find any records of their 5013 status. We could not find any records of their tax exempt status. We could find none of their 990 reports.
FOLKENFLIK: I obtained and verified emails, though not through Schiller or her aides, that support her claim.
But damage may ensue, nonetheless. Republicans on Capitol Hill intensified their calls to eliminate all federal funding for NPR today.
All day yesterday, NPR was insisting that this was somehow a huge point in their favor that they didn’t accept the check.
Seriously, who cares?
The point of the video is that these two NPR executives had no problem talking with quasi-emissaries of the Muslim Brotherhood about the racist Republicans, racist and stupid tea partiers, the Zionist-controlled media and, in Liley’s case, the views of other donors (a huge no-no in philanthropy), etc. A second, equally important point, is that NPR muckety-mucks talk exactly the way critics suspect they do.
But NPR wants us to believe that they’re somehow off the hook because after their leisurely lunch at Cafe Milano, they figured out the check might not clear. Woop-dee-friggin’-doo. So if O’Keefe had set up a better sting, with a better website, they would have accepted a giant cardboard check for $5 million from these guys? This is a defense . . . how?
NPR is defending itself against a charge no one really cares about — their “vetting process” for donors. Sure, if they took the check things would be worse. But that’s a point Vivian Schiller can make to her board when she’s trying to save her job. Offering it as a defense here is just a useful distraction. And Folkenflik bought it.
For the record, I like NPR. I also like ice cream, sunny days, and action movies. I don’t think they should be federally subsidized either.