Tea Party Activist: "The Two Interviews I've Done" With NPR "Were Both Fairly Reported"

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

As the controversy surrounding the undercover sting videos of NPR executives shifts focus to allegations of deceptive editing by filmmaker James O'Keefe, more conservative media figures and Tea Party activists are acknowledging the fairness of NPR's news coverage.

Last week I reported that a member of the Dallas Tea Party, which was profiled by All Things Considered in 2009, considered NPR's treatment of her group to be "fair," even though she believed the network as a whole to be biased. I've since reached out to another Tea Party official who has appeared on NPR, and she offered a similar reaction, asserting that the network demonstrates bias but their treatment of her and other "individuals in the movement" has been "fair."

In a March 11 statement to Media Matters, Waco Tea Party president and co-founder Toby Marie Walker wrote: "NPR is not unbiased, nor are they non-partisans, which is fine, but they seem to have a different set of rules for Conservatives or Moderates than they do the more progressive commentators (Juan Williams)." Regarding her own appearances on the network, Walker wrote: "NPR also ran a series of stories about the tea party movement after the elections, and ... the two interviews I've done with them were both fairly reported. NPR staff treated me kindly; I wasn't treated any different by them than I would have been by a local radio station. I can only speak to how they have treated me, not others or other groups or individuals."

Walker added: "Overall, I would say that when working with individuals in the movement they have been fair, but they have overall treated the tea party movement unfairly (would they post a sexual slur about [Organizing for America] on their website?)." She was referring to a 2009 cartoon satirizing the Tea Party hosted on NPR.org titled "Learn To Speak Tea Bag." In response to the uproar among tea partiers, NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard wrote that the cartoon was "not that funny" and was not in line "with NPR values, one of which is a belief in civility and civil discourse."

Walker's full statement below the jump:

First I'd like to say that there is programming that I'veenjoyed on NPR that is non-political (like Click and Clack and A Prairie Home Companion among others) over the years. I've been a sales rep and have listened to many of their programs while on the road. So I see a benefit in the programming and do not condemn all NPR staff, programming or associates with the actions of others.

As to James O'Keefe's "sting" I would say that it didn't surprise me that Mr. Schiller had made the comments he did, only because so many "progressive" or liberal leaning people also have an attitude like his and have made similar comments in the past.

I believe that James' investigation spotlighted how some liberal/progressive people think of the tea party movement and the people in it. NPR has aired or posted items that were clearly biased against the tea party (for example "Learn to speak 'Tea Bag'"). NPR is not unbiased, nor are they non-partisans, which is fine, but they seem to have a different set of rules for Conservatives or Moderates than they do the more progressive commentators (Juan Williams). Mr. O'Keefe's video only highlighted how Mr. Schiller believed, it did not take him out of context or put words in his mouth, so it wasn't so much of a "gotcha" as it was an "I told you so!" for Mr. O'Keefe. If Mr. Schiller believes what he said in the video he should have no problem standing by it nor should he be embarrassed, he has his right to free speech. If NPR doesn't have a problem with what was said in the video then they shouldn't have a problem with it being aired publicly.

NPR also ran a series of stories about the tea party movement after the elections, and I the two interviews I've done with them were both fairly reported. NPR staff treated me kindly; I wasn't treated any different by them than I would have been by a local radio station. I can only speak to how they have treated me, not others or other groups or individuals.

Overall, I would say that when working with individuals in the movement they have been fair, but they have overall treated the tea party movement unfairly (would they post a sexual slur about OFA on their website?). I hope I can do other interviews or segments on NPR in the future, it helps us to reach a different demographic. Not all tea parties are the same, we're very organic on the ground. We're true tea party and not a front group for another cause or organization using the name. (Now, THERE is a story for you, dig a bit on what a true tea party is or is not and look into the groups/orgs/people who claim the name with no tea party creds). A few of the national groups have fallen prey to the GOB system, and that is a shame, but down here, at the grassroots, we're nothing like them.

As far as them getting federal funding, I do not believe they should receive it. Get the government out of journalism, both in funding and messaging. When the house is about to be foreclosed on you wouldn't keep paying for cable.

Network/Outlet
NPR
Person
James O'Keefe
Stories/Interests
Tea Party
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.