Conservatives have long criticized National Public Radio (NPR) for its perceived liberal bias. With Juan Williams’ recent firing — for comments about Muslims he made Monday on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” — NPR critics are again highlighting the government-funded radio network’s left-wing tilt.
“Juan Williams has done nothing wrong. What he said echoes what the vast majority of Americans believe,” Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, said in a statement. “It’s their tax dollars that fund NPR. But NPR is ignoring them. Instead, they are kowtowing to the agenda of radical anti-Americans like CAIR, and doing the bidding of George Soros, who hates Fox News with a passion.”
Conservatives have long been disturbed with NPR, which they perceive as having a left-wing bias, for both the choices of their stories and for the manner in which they cover divisive topics.
One of the more recent, visible instances of NPR programming that inspired conservative angst regarded an animated cartoon called “Learn to Speak Tea Bag,” which disparaged the Tea Party.
Even more politically liberal commentators have noted the liberal bias of NPR. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting notes that in 2004, when there was a debate over the launch of Air America, the sentiment of many pundits was, “wait, don’t we already have a liberal station: NPR?”
On “The Chris Matthews Show,” for example, the Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, who has veered in the direction of the political left in recent years, asserted that Air America was redundant because NPR already represented the liberal point of view. “I have three letters for you, NPR . . . . I mean, there is liberal radio,” he said.
In 2009, in an incident some viewed as hypocritical, executives at NPR requested that their correspondent, Mara Liasson, reconsider her frequent appearances on Fox News due to what they felt was the network’s partisan coverage.
Joe Scarborough voiced the feeling of many at the time. “Well I just want to say, I love NPR and I listen to NPR, but I’ve been listening to reformed, pot-smoking hippies for the past thirty years on NPR with a very substantial left-wing bias — and I don’t care that they eat tree bark like Euell Gibbons, and I don’t care if they are still smoking pot in their sixties,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “They put on great radio. But for NPR — for NPR, the leadership at NPR to question the bias of Fox News is a joke.”
Interestingly, a 2006 Pew Study found that the audiences of notable right of center programs, like “The Rush Limbaugh Show” and “The O’Reilly Factor,” were more knowledgeable than NPR listeners.