Actually, a pretty decent piece.

That said, there are problems with the Tea Bag animation. Chief among them is it doesn’t fit with NPR values, one of which is a belief in civility and civil discourse.

Fiore is talented, but this cartoon is just a mean-spirited attack on people who think differently than he does and doesn’t broaden the debate. It engages in the same kind of name-calling the cartoon supposedly mocks…

There will be no apology and Fiore’s cartoon is staying up, said Ellen Weiss, senior vice president for news. “Opinion and satire are going to sting some members of the audience and soothe others,” she said, noting NPR has received some positive feedback. “This one satire is not the only coverage on the topic and while it offends some members of the audience, I see no reason to remove it.”…

But if NPR continues using Fiore, it should quickly find a cartoonist to counter his decidedly liberal take. Critics are right to take NPR to task for only representing one side using such a strong visual medium as an animated cartoon with sound and text. Putting it up against conservative National Review articles doesn’t cut it. The near-record response proves that more balance is needed.

Yeah, that was always my problem with it. I don’t care if they apologize; in fact, it’s refreshing to see an editor willing to take the “sorry if you’re offended” line with angry readers in defense of satire. Will they take the same line if Kurt Westergaard decides he’s ready to have another go at a bomb-in-the-turban Mohammed ‘toon, though? Forgive me for being skeptical based on the prior practices of American media.

Probably the most important takeaway from this: A pretty impressive grassroots response driven by righty blogs. 300 e-mails, according to the ombudsman, and phone calls every 10 minutes for two days. Populism-mania!