Calls for Congress to defund National Public Radio went into overdrive Friday, with commentators and congressmen alike criticizing the broadcast network of improperly firing one of its reporters. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina acted on those calls by introducing legislation Friday to defund NPR as well as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) is offering similar legislation in the House.
On Thursday, Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee were among the first to call for the defunding of the broadcast network. But Williams himself got the ball rolling Friday, when he appeared on ‘Fox and Friends’ saying Congress should defund his former employer.
“They don’t need public funds. I think that they should go out there,” said Williams “They think their product is so great, go out and sell the product.”
The publicly-funded news outlet abruptly fired analyst Juan Williams earlier this week after he made comments about Muslims on the O’Reilly Factor.
DeMint’s office released a statement Friday, harshly criticizing NPR for its one-sided agenda.
“Once again we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree. The incident with Mr. Williams shows that NPR is not concerned about providing the listening public with an honest debate of today’s issues, but rather with promoting a one-sided liberal agenda,” said DeMint.
According to the press release, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds NPR and CBS, has received $4 billion in taxpayer dollars since 2001. But noting that the country is currently $13 trillion in debt, DeMint went on to say, “I plan to introduce legislation to defund CPB and force a vote on it as well as other measures to start getting our fiscal house in order.”
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor released a statement Friday morning saying that the NPR fiasco is another example of “political correctness chipping away at the fundamental American freedoms of speech and expression.”
“In light of their rash decision, we will include termination of federal funding for NPR as an option in the YouCut program so that Americans can let it be known whether they want their dollars going to that organization,” said Cantor.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), also spoke out against public funding of the network while the country is grappling with massive debt. “Considering Washington now runs annual deficits of $1.3 trillion or more, funding a radio network whose executives care more about political correctness than honest and open discussion sounds like a poor use of taxpayer money,” said Price.
Brent Bozell, President of the Media Research Center, also sent a letter to Reps. Henry Waxman and Joe Barton, Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Energy and Commerce Committee, asking for an investigation into NPR.
“I suspect the vast majority of Americans feel the exact same way as Mr. Williams,” said Bozell’s letter. “There is nothing extreme or extraordinary, or inflammatory or offensive, in his statements. Yet the radical group CAIR complained and NPR buckled, and fired Juan Williams.”
The letter continued: “We’re formally calling on you and the Committee on Energy and Commerce to investigate this matter. Juan Williams deserves to be re-instated immediately, and with an apology. Or, if he’s going to be fired, then NPR should be prepared to fire half its staff for having participated in far more egregious behavior…”
Bozell also pointed out inconsistencies with NPR’s policy when it comes to controversial remarks made by its commentators.
He specifically mentioned Nina Tottenberg, who said the late Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) should be worried that “If there’s retributive justice, he’ll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.”
Another NPR commentator, Michel Martin, when discussing the Ground Zero mosque on CNN said, “Did anybody move a Christian church after Timothy McVeigh who adhered to a cultic, white supremacist cultic version of Christianity – bombed the Murrah building in Oklahoma?”
Then there’s Andrei Codrescu, another NPR commentator, who according to Bozell’s letter, once said of the Christian belief of the rapture, “This happily-volatilized mass of the saved were born again in Jesus Christ…the evaporation of four million people who believe this crap would leave the world an instantly better place.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner also jumped on the defund bandwagon, telling the magazine National Review on Thursday, “I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network – and in the wake of Juan Williams’ firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is.”
DeMint’s press release also noted that for fiscal year 2010, the CPB received $420 million from the federal government. That number went up to $430 million for FY2011. Public financing of CPB, in fact, has steadily increased every year since 2001.
Furthermore, according to a Washington Examiner report, while approximately two percent of NPR’s total budget comes from the federal government, the station’s lobbying efforts went up dramatically in 2008. According to filings obtained by the Examiner, NPR has spent more than $300,000 this year alone on lobbying Congress for appropriations, among other things.
Now, it appears NPR’s lobbying efforts will have been in vain.