War of Words: Republicans Target NPR Funding Amid 'Nazi' Claims

Photo: War of Words: Republicans Target NPR Funding Amid Nazi Claims: Republican Measure to Yank Public Radio Funding Lost But Conservatives Arent Letting Go

House Republicans' attempt to cut federal funding for National Public Radio fell flat on Thursday, but the war of words against the publicly-funded radio network continues to fester.

On Thursday, Democrats defeated a proposal by House GOP members to terminate NPR's federal funding, a move prompted in part by the recent firing of Juan Williams for comments he made about Muslims.

"While the network has the right to present whatever point of view its executives wish, taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize it," Republican Study Committee chairman Tom Price of Georgia said in a statement. "Without taxpayer funding, NPR will simply compete for listeners on a level playing field, just like any other media organization."

Under the Republican proposal, NPR would not be allowed to apply for grants issued by federally funded agencies like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and National Endowment for the Arts, which, in the last fiscal year totaled $2.5 million or 1.5 percent of the network's operating budget. Moreover, local public radio stations would not be able to use money they receive from CPB to buy programming from NPR. That funding constitutes, on average, about 10 percent of a station's budget.

Conservative ire toward NPR isn't a new phenomenon. In fact, Republican lawmakers for decades have attempted to yank public funding away from both NPR and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), citing liberal bias.

When Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in 1994, one of the first tasks he immediately took up -- albeit unsuccessfully -- was eliminating federal funding for CPB, and calling for the privatization of public broadcasting.

Kenneth Tomlinson, who served as CPB chairman for two years until he resigned in 2005 because of an internal investigation, vigorously pushed for a more conservative point of view on public stations.

"They pick on it and by 'they' I mean primarily the GOP because it's perceived to be a leftist voice or a liberal voice and it does receive government money," said Christopher Sterling, a professor of media and public affairs and public policy at George Washington University. "There's widespread misunderstanding about how much money that supports PBS or NPR is tax money and the answer is actually a small and declining percentage, especially federal money. They get a fair bit of state money."

But the recent war of words has escalated to a level unseen in recent history.

Fox News' chairman Roger Ailes went as far as to liken NPR executives to Nazis.

"They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism," the conservative media heavyweight said in an interview with The Daily Beast. "These guys don't want any other point of view. They don't even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda."

Ailes later apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for the use of the word, but issued no apology to NPR and instead said that "nasty, inflexible bigot" would have been a more choice option for the radio network.

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