A high-ranking radio executive is caught on tape making potentially anti-Semitic and other disparaging remarks about large groups of Americans — never mind his station is getting federal money. That might seem noteworthy, especially in this age of toning down the discourse.
However, after an undercover camera caught then-NPR Vice President Ron Schiller making such remarks, and disclosing that the organization could survive without government funds, which ultimately cost the organization its chief executive, Vivian Schiller, the cast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” minus usual host Joe Scarborough, collectively turned its nose up to the story. On Wednesday’s broadcast, Carl Bernstein, co-host Mike Barnicle and New York magazine’s John Heilemann immediately dismissed the significance:
BERNSTEIN: This has been going on for 40 years, this cultural warfare. It’s time to desist.
BARNICLE: Could this story be any more tedious, John Heilemann?
HEILEMANN: Only if it involves Charlie Sheen.
BARNICLE: Why doesn’t NPR just sign up along with every other federal agency, whatever – everybody receiving federal funding to take a 15 percent-to-20 percent haircut across the board and end it?
Heilemann said it wasn’t necessary for House Republicans to make a case against funding NPR, despite aggressive campaigns to defend the funding in recent days.
“Look, I actually agree with Schiller, what he says, that it probably would be better for NPR to not take public subsidies,” Heilemann said. “It would be better for all of us because as soon as that happened we wouldn’t have to listen to this totally mind-numbing debate over and over again. Eric Cantor does not need any video to make the point that he is making.”
Heilemann added it wasn’t even clear if there was a liberal at NPR.
“His argument is NPR should not have any funding,” Heilemann continued. “The video is a convenient prop for him to use in this argument. Now, the video has nothing to do with NPR’s journalism. All we really should care about is there bias in the journalism or not? I don’t really care what some development VP thinks. What’s the difference? Is the journalism bias, is it not? If it’s biased, there’s an argument. If it’s not, there’s not an argument. End of story.”
According to Bernstein, the incident is a distraction from the real political debate in the country and conservatives should be happy because NPR plays country music.
“We have got to come to some kind of consensus in this country in our political debate about what’s important. This is not important,” Bernstein said. “NPR has a real function. It plays more country music than almost anything for the red state folks. Let’s get on with it.”
MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan reasoned that with a wide array of choices available to listeners, it is time to end government funding.
“You got to ask yourself, why is the government funding radio when we have hundreds, if not thousands, of stations – conservative broadcasting, you have XM/Sirius satellite,” Buchanan said. “Some of my friends on the left have their own programs. If we’re going to cut somewhere, I’m talking about Bill Press, for example. What are we doing funding NPR? You know, when I was in Reagan’s White House we used to call it ‘Radio Venceremos.’ You know down in Central America, it was on the other side quite frankly. If it’s liberal, fine but get rid of the government funding and let them go out on their own. There are excellent programs. They got excellent country music. I agree with that. I listen to it occasionally coming home from church.”
Barnicle lamented that the NPR debate was getting so much attention from the media, and argued more time should be devoted to Afghanistan.
“One of the things it does, it occupies air space and print time,” Barnicle said. “I mean, yesterday Secretary of Defense Gates in Afghanistan spoke to the 3rd Marine Division in Afghanistan and told him how he felt personally responsible each time he had to sign a letter of condolence to the next of kin to a young marine who was killed in Afghanistan. It takes that off the table in terms of what we deliver for news, both in print and on the air. Talking about NPR, it’s ridiculous. It’s tedious. Take the 15 percent to 20 percent haircut from federal funding and leave us alone.”