After three decades at National Public Radio, Bob Edwards views the turmoil at his former employer with a mixture of amazement and disgust.
“It seems cursed, doesn’t it?” he says in an interview. “It’s one thing after another.” Likening the network to “that Al Capp character who walked around with a cloud over his head,” Edwards says it has been “seriously damaged” by the mistakes that led to a high-level shakeup this week.
While this might seem like sour grapes from a man who had a bitter divorce from the institution in 2004, Edwards says he still reveres NPR as a media jewel — albeit one that he sees as tarnished by misguided management.
Edwards, who now hosts a satellite radio show for Sirius/XM, says NPR had no choice but to get rid of its top executive, Vivian Schiller: “Even if you can’t say she’s directly responsible, she’s the CEO. Something had to happen, particularly in the face of the threat of losing federal funding on the Hill.”
He has been thinking about the culture of NPR while writing his autobiography (Voice in a Box will be published this fall) and thinks it has deteriorated. And, for Edwards, there are echoes of the way he was treated.
Speaking in the mellifluous tones familiar to millions of listeners during his quarter century hosting Morning Edition, Edwards says that NPR executive Ron Schiller shouldn’t have met with two potential donors who depicted themselves as being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood—even if it had been a legitimate group. Instead, it was an undercover sting orchestrated by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, and Schiller was videotaped describing the Tea Party as Islamophobic racists.
“What was he thinking?” Edwards says of Ron Schiller. “My God, bells and whistles should have gone off immediately. Maybe they don’t care about the rules anymore. They don’t understand that when you work for a news organization, it matters where the money comes from. There has to be vetting before you even have a meeting. The Muslim Brotherhood is a player, and you can’t be funded by a player.” For the same reason, he questions whether NPR should have accepted a $1.8 million grant from a group founded by liberal philanthropist George Soros.