Katherine Maher

VGrigas (WMF)/Wikipedia (CC-BY)

‘As blobby as it gets’: Why NPR CEO’s resume has conspiracy theorists convinced she’s in the CIA

Maher's background was scrutinized—but not everybody bought it.


Marlon Ettinger


Posted on Apr 16, 2024   Updated on Apr 16, 2024, 4:03 pm CDT

NPR’s new Chief Executive Officer Katherine Maher, who was hired in January, came under fire this week when right-wing activists resurfaced tweets she made about the Black Lives Matter protests movement, white privilege, President Joe Biden, and other liberal issues.

Those tweets, where she discussed campaigning for Biden in Arizona in 2020 and supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, as well as talking about her “cis white mobility privilege” and desire to fight the “spectre of tyranny” facing the country, were quickly jumped on by Republican activists and politicians who saw her recent elevation to the top of NPR as clear evidence of liberal bias in the media.

Now, some critics are saying that while she’s clearly got a case of “progressive bias,” the tweets don’t tell the whole story—which goes deeper.

“Without any digging, her Wikipedia … page [tells] … a more interesting story,” tweeted @Mod_Infequency on Monday, pointing to job experience at a variety of international institutions and NGOs like the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Democratic Institute, the World Bank, Access Now, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Atlantic Council.

That resume is “as blobby a resume as it gets,” @Mod_Infrequency commented.

Obama’s National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who occasionally clashed with “the Blob,” coined the term to describe the D.C. foreign policy community, which he viewed as too hawkish.

That Blob has also come under some criticism in recent years by some conservatives aligned with former President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the “deep state,” where Trump claimed that the foreign policy establishment embedded in intelligence agencies opposed his candidacy.

Posters criticizing Maher pointed in particular to Mike Benz’s research about U.S. funding of foreign organizations which he claims meddled in foreign elections to support candidates who supported NATO, an Atlantic military alliance that Trump claimed to oppose (though he may have actually increased funding for it).

Benz, a former Trump State Department official who once posted videos pushing racist conspiracy theories under the pseudonym Frame Game, according to reporting by NBC, posted on Monday that Maher had been on his “Blob radar” for “a very long time” saying explicitly she worked for a CIA cutout.

“Short story: Atlantic Council, CFR, State Dept, NDI (CIA cut-out), and World Bank,” Benz commented. “Golden Resume as Soft Power Hitman for the Blob.”

Maher’s experience in global institutions quickly attracted the ire of isolationist conservatives, who called her an elitist globalist who was implementing “totalitarian controls” of the media.

“You literally couldn’t put together a better globalist résumé than this,” posted @nater79a.

Another pointed to her involvement with the secure messaging app Signal.

“I’m going with the theory that Katherine Maher is CIA,” they wrote above a screenshot of an article about her work there. Although Signal is an encrypted messaging app designed to avoid government snooping, recent reporting revealed that the government has built its own encrypted apps specifically to snoop, causing some to question Signal’s independence.

Added @delecto4pierre, “Deep state CIA cut out…..@NPR is a total CIA propaganda front.”

Said another, “The Wikipedia of Maher legit reads like a Pokémon collection of CIA covers: Learned Arabic, CFR. Some technology thingy, World Bank, UNICEF, a bunch of others.” 

But others questioned whether the “Blob” comparison and accusation was fitting, given that it was coined by a liberal Obama administration appointee.

“This woman is an outright communist,” posted @nikfuc. “I thought the blob works for our corporations to open up markets around the globe. How can someone like this be welcome with that kind of ideology?”

Accusations Maher is in the CIA previously cropped up when she was appointed interim executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, prompting her to reply to one of them, made by someone she said she once knew.

“Katherine Maher is probably a CIA agent. She’s been in Tunisia multiple times since 2011 under multiple affiliations,” wrote Slim Amamou, a Tunisian blogger.

“Seriously, Slim?” Maher replied. “You’ve welcomed me in your home … I’m not any sort of agent. You can dislike me, but please don’t defame me.”

Controversy has swirled around NPR in the past week, with Maher’s tweets resurfacing after the Free Press published a piece by Uri Berliner, a senior business editor who’s been at the outlet for the past 25 years. In it, he said that NPR was no longer an unbiased newsroom, overrun by liberals.

Instead, he wrote, NPR “[doesn’t] have an audience that reflects America,” and lacks “viewpoint diversity” saying the staff had no registered Republicans anymore.

NPR announced today that Berliner had been suspended. 

NPR didn’t immediately respond to questions about what Maher thinks about people linking her to the deep state, or her characterizing her as a member of “the Blob.”

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*First Published: Apr 16, 2024, 3:53 pm CDT