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Right-wing ‘Defund NPR’ movement gains steam after new CEO’s old Biden hat tweet resurfaces

Outrage against the organization has been brewing for days.


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Apr 15, 2024   Updated on Apr 15, 2024, 11:26 am CDT

Last week, a senior editor at National Public Radio (NPR) revealed the company didn’t have any registered Republicans working in its newsroom in 2021—criticizing the organization for telling its audience “how to think.”

Now, right-wing activists online have begun a crusade against NPR’s CEO, Katherine Maher, by resurfacing her old tweets about President Joe Biden, Black Lives Matter protests, and white privilege. And they’re saying they don’t want their tax dollars funding “liberal media.”

On April 9, the Free Press published an essay by Uri Berliner, a senior business editor at NPR who has been with the outlet for 25 years. The Free Press is run by Bari Weiss, a conservative journalist who founded the outlet after resigning from the New York Times.

In it, he said NPR used to be a wholly unbiased newsroom but times have changed.

Now, “an open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR” because it has a glaring “absence of viewpoint diversity.”

“We don’t have an audience that reflects America,” Berliner wrote of NPR.

Berliner also wrote he was “rooting” for NPR’s new CEO, Maher, and advised her to not “tell people how to think.”

NPR hired Maher in January.

In response to Berliner’s piece, Maher said Berliner questioning NPR employees “based on little more than the recognition of their identity is profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning.”

“Each of our colleagues are here because they are excellent, accomplished professionals with an intense commitment to our work,” the Hill reported Maher said. “We are stronger because of the work we do together, and we owe each other our utmost respect.”

Former President Donald Trump also responded to Berliner’s piece. In a Truth Social post, he called for “no more funding for NPR.”

“They are a liberal disinformation scheme,” Trump wrote. “Not one dollar!!!”

Of Trump, Berliner wrote that NPR intentionally avoided reporting stories that would “help” him and gave an outsized platform to his adversaries, like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

NPR describes itself as “an independent, non-profit media organization,” but it does receive some federal funding. Most of its funding, though, comes from contracts with federally funded local, public media outlets. Those local media outlets are required by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 to use part of the funds they receive to acquire national programming, like that of NPR.

Right-wing activists online have taken Berliner and Trump’s words and ran with them: Using reposts and screenshots of Maher’s old tweets, they’re declaring NPR overtaken by “liberal bias” and unworthy of any federal funding.

Tweets from Maher in support of Biden and the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, acknowledging her “cis white mobility privilege,” and about Black Lives Matter protests are being targeted most.

In May 2020, Maher tweeted in support of Black Lives Matter protests and in July 2020, she tweeted that even though she has “cis white mobility privilege,” she plans to not move out of the U.S. and is “investing in ridding ourselves of this spectre of tyranny.”

And most damning in the eyes of right-wingers, Maher tweeted that “the best part” of participating in Get Out the Vote efforts in Arizona was wearing her Biden hat in November 2020.

“If MAGA hat wearer became CEO, there would be an absolute uprising at NPR. I am fine with newsrooms doing that … except THIS IS PARTIALLY FUNDED BY MY TAX DOLLARS,” Pradheep J. Shanker tweeted. “NPR has to choose. Either be a nonpartisan, or a traditional private outlet.”

“Reminder: Our taxes fund her salary,” the account End Wokeness tweeted alongside the photo of Maher in a Biden hat. The account also tweeted that Maher’s tweets read like that of an AI-powered chatbot. “They must be trolling us, right?”

Even actor and comedian Rob Schneider got involved: He tweeted that he “gave up on NPR years ago” because of its “illiberal lunacy.”

“Meet the New CEO NPR Mask Wearing Moron Katherine Maher,” Schneider wrote.

Schneider is anti-vaccines and will be hosting a campaign event for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. later this month in Michigan.

Maher hasn’t responded to the backlash—nor has she tweeted about it.

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*First Published: Apr 15, 2024, 11:04 am CDT