When Barack Obama went to war with Fox News, other media organizations eventually rebelled against the heavy-handed attacks. The White House got the message, and began giving interviews once again to Fox, with Obama himself and Gen. David Petraeus over the last couple of weeks. However, it looks as though one news organization attempted to wage a quiet war on Obama’s behalf with its own left flank:
Executives at National Public Radio recently asked the network’s top political correspondent, Mara Liasson, to reconsider her regular appearances on Fox News because of what they perceived as the network’s political bias, two sources familiar with the effort said.
According to a source, Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR’s executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the network’s supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. The NPR executives said they had concerns that Fox’s programming had grown more partisan, and they asked Liasson to spend 30 days watching the network.
At a follow-up meeting last month, Liasson reported that she’d seen no significant change in Fox’s programming and planned to continue appearing on the network, the source said. …
Liasson defended her work for Fox by saying that she appears on two of the network’s news programs, not on commentary programs with conservative hosts, the source said. She has also told colleagues that she’s under contract to Fox, so it would be difficult for her to sever her ties with the network, which she has appeared on for more than a decade.
Give Mara Liasson a big cheer for reportorial independence — and some guts. After all, when network execs tell a reporter to “reconsider” her work with another entity, that’s a big signal to cease and desist. Liasson could have easily folded and taken the easy way out by joining a chorus of Fox critics. Instead, she held her ground and essentially outlasted them.
But what is NPR doing by pressuring Liasson anyway? Unless they want to offer her an exclusive contract and compensation for breaking her pact with Fox, it’s really not any of their business what she does with the rest of her time. Besides, as a taxpayer-funded news organization, NPR also has no business getting involved in government attacks on Fox News. They reveal themselves as the toady of the Beltway, and especially this administration, by attempting to join Obama’s war on Fox.
The choice of Liasson is no accident, either. Her presence on Fox shows that the network welcomes liberal points of view (which no one can doubt Liasson holds), more so than some networks welcome conservatives. The presence of Liasson and Juan Williams demonstrates a balance on its news programming and analysis (apart from the commentary shows, which Liasson rightly pointed out to NPR) that one rarely sees on MS-NBC, CBS, or at times even CNN, although the latter does employ the formidable Bill Bennett.
Liasson demonstrated what independence means. Maybe NPR should observe Liasson more, and learn what that means.
Full disclosure: I have appeared twice on Liasson’s NPR show in the last few years. She’s professional and represented my point of view fairly in the editing process both times.