The Washington Post

Don’t blame the press for NPR’s problems

David Folkenflik's report “Weekend Edition Sunday,” about discrepancies between the nearly two-hour video released by right-wing-stingmeister James O'Keefe and the 11-minute edited version that has thrown National Public Radio into chaos, has some saying the press and pundits, including yours truly, were punked again. I beg to differ.

Clearly, the natterers are alluding to the jump-the-gun reaction to the Shirley Sherrod episode last year. That was an all-around failure. No one — not the administration, not journalists — asked relevant questions that would have snuffed out the controversy before it cost a dedicated career civil servant her job. What cost Ron Schiller his job as head of development, which also resulted in taking down now-former chief executive Vivian Schiller (no relation), was a similar lack of curiosity.

Those claiming the press was too quick to judge NPR are focused on the fact that Schiller's comments at lunch were much more balanced than previously reported. See for yourself.

But let me reiterate what I wrote on Friday. The meeting that led to the exchange of e-mails between NPR and the prospective donor should never have happened. Had the due diligence that was done after the lunch been conducted before the infamous gathering, the prospective Muslim donor — the Muslim Education Action Center — would have been revealed to be a fake. So, if anyone was punked it was the development department at NPR.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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