Wednesday, September 26, 2007


A Howard Kurtz story in today's Washington Post:

NPR Rebuffs White House On Bush Talk
Radio Network Wanted To Choose Its Interviewer

The White House reached out to National Public Radio over the weekend, offering analyst Juan Williams a presidential interview to mark yesterday's 50th anniversary of school desegregation in Little Rock.

But NPR turned down the interview, and Williams's talk with Bush wound up in a very different media venue: Fox News.

Ellen Weiss, NPR's vice president for news, said she "felt strongly" that "the White House shouldn't be selecting the person." She said NPR told Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, that "we're grateful for the opportunity to talk to the president but we wanted to determine who did the interview." When the White House said the offer could not be transferred to one of NPR's program hosts, Weiss took a pass....

Juan Williams? You mean this Juan Williams?

...Tuesday evening, [Bill] O'Reilly invited liberal [sic] NPR correspondent Juan Williams on "The Factor" ....

Williams came strongly to O'Reilly's defense...:

It's rank dishonesty, and the troubling thing is that if I hadn't participated in the discussion, if I was just tuning into CNN, or listening to MSNBC, and heard that, oh, Bill O'Reilly said he went to Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem and they weren't using M-F and all this kind of stuff, I'd say, "Oh my god. What is he thinking? Where's that coming from? Why did he say something like that?" Not understanding that that discussion, Bill O'Reilly, I'm telling you, it's so frustrating. They want to shut you up. They want to shut up anybody that has an honest discussion about race. [...]

This is in response, of course, to the remarks O'Reilly recently made on his radio show about going to dinner at Sylvia's in Harlem:

...And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same, and that's really what this society's all about now here in the U.S.A. There's no difference. There's no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment -- people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you're gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody's skin.

... There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea." ...

Juan Williams was also O'Reilly's, er, interlocutor for the Sylvia's remarks, and he responded approvingly to them.

This is the guy who should be interviewing Bush for NPR about race? And NPR shouldn't have a say in the matter?

And I love the fact that Howard Kurtz says the White House "reached out" to NPR. This is "reaching out" in typical Bush fashion: I'm making you a generous offer, but you have to do things 100% my way. As Kurtz notes well into the article,

While it is not unusual for the White House to offer a presidential sitdown to a particular anchor or correspondent, Weiss noted that ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox have all had their anchors interview Bush and that NPR has been requesting such a session for seven years.

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