Quite rightly the Washington Post noted that the departure of Ellen Weiss, the top NRP editor who fired Juan Williams for making politically-incorrect remarks, comes at a time when the GOP has just taken control of the House of Representatives. NPR’s chief executive Vivian Schiller, who indicated that Williams needed a shrink, suffered a lesser punishment: loss of her bonus.
Williams, whose offense was to say that he became nervous when he encountered people in Muslim garb in airports, responded by saying that Weiss represented the “incestuous culture” of NPR and, if I remember correctly from the news last night, Williams also said that Weiss was something of a PC enforcer inside the public radio station. Meanwhile, Ms. Weiss’s colleagues are reported as being in a state of shock:
Weiss’s resignation was met with shock inside NPR. Several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly said that Weiss was given little choice but to resign, given the tone of NPR’s board and the pressure from Congress. Weiss was unavailable to comment. Schiller held a series of meetings with NPR’s staff Thursday, during which several people expressed dismay at Weiss’s resignation, saying it was too severe under the circumstances.
All this is interesting. But the real questions are: Would Ms. Weiss have been forced out if the GOP, which is far less NPR-friendly than the Democrats, hadn’t won the House? And, more basic, what on earth is the government doing funding a radio station? Of course, NPR has long maintained that only 2 percent of its funding comes from the federal government and that most of its revenue is derived from fees from member stations. This is disingenuous: the government contributes greatly to member stations, which in turn pay their NPR fees.
I’m delighted that Weiss lost her job, but that doesn’t change my view that NPR should not be supported by taxpayers. The Constitution was read aloud yesterday in the House chamber: nowhere in that document was there justification for a government radio station. The problem isn’t the incestuous culture of NPR-it’s the incestuous culture of Capitol Hill that somehow thinks we’re supposed to have public radio.