Published October 21, 2010
From calling Tea Party members “Tea Baggers,” to saying that "the evaporation of 4 million" Christians would leave the world a better place, to suggesting that God could give former Sen. Jesse Helms or his family AIDS from a blood transfusion, NPR's personalities have said some pretty un-PC things in the past. A look at the record reveals no shortage of intolerant statements and unbalanced segments on the publicly sponsored network's airwaves.
Here's an incomplete list of questionable and controversial content that has aired on NPR or has been uttered by its employees:
-- In June, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) said it was easy to see why some refer to NPR as "National Palestine Radio" following a June 2 segment hosted by Tom Ashbrook on the Gaza flotilla incident. The segment featured five guests -- none of whom defended Israel's actions.
Among the five guests, Janine Zacharia, a Middle East correspondent for The Washington Post, was the only one who did not overtly criticize Israel. She also did not defend its actions, CAMERA officials said.
"So there you have it -- five perspectives and not one voice to present the mainstream Israeli perspective," they said in a June 17 press release. "That's Ashbrook's and NPR's version of a balanced discussion on Israel."
-- Last week, Newsbusters, a conservative media watchdog group, claimed that NPR's "Fresh Air" spent most of its hour insinuating that the Republican Party was dangerously infested with extremists.
NPR's Terry Gross hosted Princeton professor Sean Wilentz, who has written that President George W. Bush practiced "a radicalized version of Reaganism," Newsbusters' Tom Graham wrote.
"Can you think of another time in American history when there have been as many people running for Congress who seem to be on the extreme?" Gross asked, according to Graham.
"Not running for Congress, no," Wilentz replied. "I mean even back in the '50s."
-- NPR issued an apology in 2005 for a commentator's remark on the return of Christ following a complaint by the Christian Coalition that the comment was anti-Christian.
On "All Things Considered," the network's afternoon drive-time program, humorist Andrei Codrescu said that the "evaporation of 4 million [people] who believe" in the doctrine of Rapture "would leave the world a better place."
Codrescu, who was on contract with NPR but not a full-time employee, later told The Associated Press he was sorry for the language, but "not for what [he] said."
NPR apologized for the comment, saying, it "crossed a line of taste and tolerance" and was an inappropriate attempt at humor.
-- Also in 2005, NPR apologized to Mark Levin, author of "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America," after a broadcast of its program "Day to Day" falsely accused him of advocating violence against judges. Levin accepted the apology, but said the broadcast was "illustrative of a smear campaign launched by the Left to try and silence" his criticisms of judicial activism.
-- In 2002, the head of NPR issued an apology six months after a report linking anthrax-laced letters to a Christian conservative organization.
-- Also in 2002, during an interview with the Philadelphia City Paper, NPR host Tavis Smiley said he strived to do a show that is "authentically black," but not "too black."
-- In 1995, Nina Totenberg, NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent, was allowed to keep her job after telling the host of PBS' "Inside Washington" that if there was "retributive justice" in the world, former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms would "get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren would get it".