Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition aired an extraordinary story about U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on Friday. The story was not about the ongoing wave of illegal aliens from Central America–many of them children–crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Rather, it was about the rules on when deadly force may be used by Border Patrol agents in the course of their duties–with a view to making it harder for them to do so.
In the course of an interview with newly-appointed U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, Inskeep does not even try to hide his bias: he sides against the Border Patrol and with those who have been shot by officers. He acts as the unofficial advocate for the family of a Mexican teenager who was killed in 2012 and is suing the officer responsible, urging Kerlikowske to denounce the officer’s conduct as “troubling.”
Inskeep accuses the Border Patrol of firing on “civilians” at the border, failing to note that a drug smuggler or human trafficker is also a civilian. The timing of the story is also a sign of bias. Though NPR has been covering the issue of deadly force for years, the decision to air this kind of story now almost seems calculated to hurt the agency and provide a distraction for the White House by making the agents the focus, not immigration policy.
In the story that aired Friday, Inskeep does not even mention the ongoing border crisis at all. In the transcript of the full interview with Kerlikowskie, posted at NPR.org, Inskeep does ask about it, but only at the very end, and in a cursory manner, about “the complexity of the job that the Border Patrol has to do.” That complexity includes fielding adversarial queries from journalists uninterested in what is actually going on at the border.