Williams firing, Soros donation spark new calls to end NPR taxpayer subsidies

Chris Moody Contributor
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The firing of National Public Radio news analyst Juan Williams for comments made about Muslims, combined with leftwing billionaire George Soros’ recent $1.8 million donation to the organization, have reignited calls to end NPR’s taxpayer subsidies.

In June, Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn introduced legislation that would end government funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the entity through which subsidies to NPR flow) after 2012. The bill’s passage did not stand a chance in the Democratic-controlled Congress, but the measure could gain momentum in a Republican-led House next year.

Lamborn told The Daily Caller that there is no reason taxpayers should continue to subsidize an already-flush media company.

“This is an organization that can stand on its own. Why in the world, in the era of trillion dollar deficits, should the taxpayer have to subsidize it? It doesn’t make sense,” Lamborn said. “Under Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats just throw money at anything that’s moving. But if we have the honor of retaking Congress, we’re going to have to do things differently. I would love to defund NPR completely. Not because I don’t like it – actually there are things on NPR I do like – but because it can stand on its own.”

NPR receives grants from the quasi-governmental Corporation for Public Broadcasting and dues from local member stations, which are largely government-funded. In an environment in which traditional news media outlets are heavily cutting back and even closing down, public radio is enjoying tremendous growth and adding new reporters to member stations across the country. Open Society Foundations, a Soros-funded organization that donates to liberal causes, announced this week an initiative to fund 100 new NPR reporters.

Lamborn’s bill is currently stranded in committee and almost certain to be ignored for the duration of this congress. But the firing of Williams could revive it. NPR announced it was dropping Williams late Wednesday for comments made earlier this week on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” in which he said he feels “nervous” when he sees people in Muslim garb boarding an airplane with him.

“[W]hen 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,” Williams said, adding that he wants people to move beyond their prejudices so Americans no longer have to feel nervous when they see Muslims in airports.

NPR released a statement saying that Williams’ remarks were “inconsistent” with the organization’s “editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

Williams’ firing comes as little surprise to longtime media observers. It was reported last year that NPR had asked Williams to stop mentioning his public radio affiliation when he appeared on Fox News, and that NPR officials had pressured Mara Liasson, a top political correspondent who appears regularly on Fox News, to stop appearing on the network all together.

A number of media personalities have condemned NPR for firing Williams, saying that his comments were deliberately taken out of context.

“NPR has shown the world that the organization is close-minded and narrow-visioned, having all but abandoned the original charter to be an unbiased public service,” said Lurita Doan, a commentator for Federal News Radio. “Consider me one of the first to now demand that no more federal money (currently about 6 percent of their budget comes from taxpayers) be used to support NPR.”

In a discussion about Williams’ firing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” liberal co-host Mika Brzezinski chimed in, and expressed fear that anyone could be fired for having “a peaceful conversation” about an issue.