Jan 29 2004

NPR Responds to FAIR Activists

NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin responded (1/28/04) to complaints about a Morning Edition interview with Vice President Richard Cheney (1/22/04), including many emails that were sent in response to a FAIR Action Alert (1/23/04).

In his response, Dvorkin wrote that “FAIR’s suggestion that Morning Edition devote some time to further investigation of Cheney’s statements from that interview would clearly be a service to the listeners and a good follow-up to this interview.”

Responding to some letter-writers who he said wanted interviewer Juan Williams to have taken an “argumentative tone” with Cheney, Dvorkin said that he “thought that the tone was right overall and that Williams was asking tough questions.”

Dvorkin did not address the central point of FAIR’s Action Alert, which was that Williams failed to question Cheney’s bizarre claim that the military trailers found in

Iraq were “conclusive evidence” that Iraq had an ongoing biological weapons program. After initially being described as mobile labs, the trailers were later identified as a system for producing hydrogen for artillery balloons that had been sold to Iraq by the British (London Observer, 6/15/03).

After saying that the BBC‘s “in-your-face” style of journalism was not appropriate for NPR, Dvorkin did say, “That doesn’t mean that NPR should let a guest get away with stating something clearly outrageous or untrue.” That was precisely why FAIR was disappointed with the Cheney interview, and why we put out an Action Alert to encourage NPR to challenge such statements in the future.

You can see the ombudsman’s report at http://www.npr.org/yourturn/ombudsman/2004/040128.html.