NPR Regrets Interviewing Republican Who Called Out Schiff and Democrats on ‘Political Impeachment’

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Committee Chairman of U.S. House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks to members of the media as he arrives at a House Democrats meeting at the Capitol May 22, 2019 in Washington, DC. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi held the meeting with …
Alex Wong/Getty Images

National Public Radio (NPR) regrets a live radio interview with a Republican lawmaker who called out Democrats and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is overseeing investigations against President Donald Trump, for what he called a “political impeachment.”

NPR sent out its public editor, Elizabeth Jensen, to defend the taxpayer-funded left-wing media outlet for it “journalistically strong” coverage of the impeachment effort after its supporters criticized an interview with Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN):

Unlike some of the critics, I think that overall the coverage has the handling of misinformation in an interview on Wednesday’s All Things Considered with Rep. Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican, raised journalistic concerns that I don’t think are explained away as purely partisan posturing (although there has also been plenty of partisan pushback from both sides about the interview). And once again, the journalistic challenge resulted from a format choice: the decision to interview a politician on live radio.

Live interviews have increased greatly on NPR’s newsmagazines in recent years. As readers of this column well know, listeners (and I) have raised many concerns about their execution.

When they work, live interviews are a valuable way to hear the point of view of a newsmaker in their own words. An interview runs into problems, however, when the guest says something that is provably inaccurate or seriously misleading. At that point the host is obligated to push back to correct it, which to some listeners sounds partisan (and it can be unpleasant and unproductive when an interview turns argumentative).

Even before Jensen was tapped to defend NPR, host Michel Martin added commentary at the end of the transcript of the interview on NPR’s website.

“We feel we must note that Congressman Banks did not accurately describe The New York Times reporting about Congressman Schiff and the whistleblower’s complaint,” Martin said. “The Times quoted a spokesman for Congressman Schiff who said Schiff never saw any part of the complaint or knew precisely what the whistleblower would deliver.”

This despite, as Breitbart News reported, that the Washington Post called out Schiff for his dishonesty:

The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column hit House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) with four Pinocchios Friday for falsely claiming that his panel had “not spoken directly” with the partisan CIA officer behind a so-called “whistleblower” complaint about President Donald Trump.

Jensen’s defense included that NPR has gotten “regular complaints” about its coverage of the impeachment story, which critics say is  “heavily tilted toward Democratic viewpoints.” But Jensen blamed Republicans for that: “Republicans have been ducking interviews with NPR.”

And Jensen doubled down on Schiff being honest about how the whistleblower complaint unfolded, despite the fact that it was confirmed by his own staff that the whistleblower was in touch with the Intelligence Committee before he or she filed their complaint.

In fact, one NPR staffer defended the Banks interview.

“We invited the Congressman on” to represent the defense of the president, Terence Samuel, NPR’s deputy managing editor said, “and I think he did a good job of it.” 

And he backed the decision to “correct” Banks interview “rather than pulling the whole thing.”

But Jensen disagreed: “I respectfully disagree with how this was handled. Letting the statements stand on rebroadcast, with only an unlabeled correction at the end, in effect retained the original misinformation and thus could not help but confuse listeners. Even the transcript of the interview on the website can be confusing for the same reason.”

Jensen concluded by advocating for less live interviews in favor of pre-taped interviews, which can be edited.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter @PennyStarrDC


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