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GOP Coming After NPR Money: ‘Taxpayer-Funded’ Censorship

Firing of Juan Williams sparks calls from conservatives for halt to NPR’s funding

It’s been quite a week for NPR.

The taxpayer-subsidized media institution formerly known as National Public Radio finds itself under assault from both conservative lawmakers and, for the sake of argument, bipartisan media critics, two days after firing Juan Williams for comments he made about Muslims in an appearance on Fox News on Monday.

The termination of Williams — for admitting an opinion a lot of people still have, nine years after 9/11 — not only sparked criticism from both left and right pundits who said NPR’s apparent knee-jerk reaction was unwarranted. It inflamed a chorus of conservative critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, who want to cut off NPR’s funding. NPR, they say, is a thinly-veiled left-wing mouthpiece.

First, let’s get to the Fox News faithful, who are leading the catcalls against NPR.

“If NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it's time for ‘National Public Radio’ to become ‘National Private Radio,’” Sarah Palin wrote in a note on her Facebook page. “It's time for Congress to defund this organization.”

"I'm calling for the immediate suspension of every taxpayer dollar going into the National Public Radio outfit," Bill O'Reilly said on his show Thursday, where Williams — the beneficiary of a fat new multimillion-dollar contract from Fox News — was his guest.

Newt Gingrich called for Congress to “investigate NPR and consider cutting off their money.”

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Fox talk show host, said he would no longer accept interview requests from NPR.

“While I have often enjoyed appearing on NPR programs and have been treated fairly and objectively, I will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship,” Huckabee said Thursday. “And since NPR is funded with public funds, it is a form of censorship. It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR.”

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor announced on Friday that de-funding NPR “would be an option that GOP leadership would consider.”

"Whether it's people walking off The View when Bill O'Reilly makes a statement about radical Islam or Juan Williams being fired for expressing his opinion, over-reaching political correctness is chipping away at the fundamental American freedoms of speech and expression,” Cantor wrote in a post on a website called You Cut. “NPR's decision to fire Juan Williams not only undermines that, it shows an ignorance of the fact that radical Islam and the terrorists who murder in its name scare people of all faiths, religions, and beliefs. In light of their rash decision, we will include termination of federal funding for NPR as an option in the You Cut program so that Americans can let it be known whether they want their dollars going to that organization."

Also on Friday, Republican Senator Jim DeMint announced plans to introduce legislation that would eliminate the Public Broadcasting System’s $420 million annual government funding.

"Once again we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree,” DeMint said today in a statement. “The incident with Mr. Williams shows that NPR is not concerned about providing the listening public with an honest debate of today’s issues, but rather with promoting a one-sided liberal agenda.”

DeMint noted that the company that runs NPR “has received nearly $4 billion in taxpayer money” since 2001.

"The country is over $13 trillion in debt and Congress must find ways to start trimming the federal budget to cut spending. NPR and PBS get about 15% of their total budget through federal funding, so these programs should be able to find a way to stand on their own. With record debt and unemployment, there’s simply no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize a liberal programming they disagree with.”

[Photo illustration by TheWrap]